Almost everyone around the world have been quarantined at home, and it’s a perfect time to brush up your skillsets. Let’s take a look at this word, 硏磨 (to grind, study, or research). 硏 refers to an inkstone, which is a flat stone. What do you normally do with an inkstone? It’s used to grind ink. Once ink is ground and contained, you would write with it. Writing is associated with studying and researching, therefore you have a process from grinding of ink to writing, where you would be studying or researching, so we have all of these meanings associated with this character 硏.
With 磨 (to grind or rub), we have a compound of 麻 (hemp) and 石 (stone). So, the character was for an act of using a stone-based tool to soften or decorticate hemp stalks. It was done by either grinding or crushing the stalks, so we have both of these meanings associated with this character. When an object is either grinded or pounded, it wears out and it can even disappear eventually. So, 磨 can also mean suffering, being worn down, or disappearing after being worn down.
Combining above meanings we can think of the meaning of 硏磨 as an act of studying and researching until the subject (who would be studying and researching) would disappear from being worn down so much. We can associate a degree of pain with such an act, and there is a sense of constant repetition. Therefore, there can’t be 硏磨 without difficulties and repetition. Such process is needed in order to improve our skills and talents.
Even in English, the informal use of the word grind is associated with working or studying laboriously. So, it’s interesting to see that we have such commonalities both in the East and the West.
Update and English translation by Michael Han (https://michaelhan.net)