RORY: What are we waiting for?
LORELAI: Patience, grasshopper.
Lorelai references the action-adventure Western martial arts television show Kung Fu, broadcast from 1972 to 1975. It follows the adventures of Shaolin monk named Kwai Chang Caine, played by David Carradine, as he travels through the American Old West, searching for his half-brother, Danny. Caine had an American father and a Chinese mother.
The show would often flashback to Caine’s training, where he was called “Grasshopper” by his master, a man named Po, in recall of this early scene:
Master Po: Close your eyes. What do you hear?
Caine: I hear the water, I hear the birds.
Po: Do you hear your own heartbeat?
Po: Do you hear the grasshopper which is at your feet?
Caine: Old man, how is it that you hear these things?
Po: Young man, how is it that you do not?
This is where the name Grasshopper came from, and further flashbacks would see master Po giving the young Caine advice, such as “Patience, young Grasshopper”. Many of the aphorisms in the show are taken from the Tao Te Ching.
Kung Fu was very influential, and at the time highly acclaimed by critics, winning several major awards. These days it tends to be discussed for its representation of Asian character, and having a protagonist playing by an actor with no Chinese heritage. It has been adapted into film three times, and in 2021 was rebooted as a crime show television series with a female lead, played by Olivia Liang.
Some people incorrectly think “Patience, grasshopper” is a quote from the 1984 martial arts film, The Karate Kid.