Many have been investigating the origin of the quote by translating each word directly and by translating the sentiment, but they’re having a hard time finding the one that makes sense. Here are some leading guesses (link in Chinese) shared on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media site:

The lack of clear origin has some thinking it’s possible Ivanka made up the so-called Chinese proverb. “I wrote a couple of American proverbs in the essay for Chinese language and literature in gaokao [college entrance exam],” one person said (link in Chinese) on Weibo, “the kind of proverbs that no American has ever heard of.”

In 2015, the blog Quote Investigator wrote that the quote Ivanka tweeted seemed to have evolved from a comment that appeared in a Chicago periodical in the 20th century about how society innovates and changes. A pseudo-Confucian version was fabricated in 1962—perhaps explaining why Ivanka believed it was a Chinese proverb.

Ziyi Tang contributed reporting.

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