To My Wife, Faqin Wu, Who Inspires And Helps This Translation.

 CHINESE WISDOM is the translation of the Chinese booklet, ZENG GUANG, the most recited and quoted classic which has been circulating for about 300 years. Since it came out, it has been spreading throughout the

country and ,as well, the countries where there are overseas Chinese. The scholars have been looking for its authorship but in vain. If you do need an

Author, then, HE IS ECLECTIC. ZENG GUANG takes roots in and greatly

impacts on the Chinese culture. Like an eloquent mentor who travels incognito and teaches his folksy sayings that are timelessly practical and enlightening, that are more acceptable and influential than the elitist words of Saints Confucius and Mencius, ZENG GUANG transmits wisdom, imparts philosophy of life. Many of His words are paradoxical and polysemous, which makes the benevolent see benevolence and the wise see wisdom. Just the ambiguity and mysticism give the book ever lasting vitality. Alas, this attraction has given me troubles during translation. Here I beg to have audacity to present my interpretation of this Great Booklet.

Chongding Zhang 2009



These are sagacious sayings of the past,

They will exhort you earnestly.

The words are originally rhymed,

They will help you see and hear more.

The present is well mirrored by the past,

Today and yesterday are co-eternal.

People of capacities are the treasure of the country,

People of erudition are its jewellery.

All walks of life , working or trading,

Should stand by the moral disciplines .

Being filial to parents and loving siblings

Are the roots of ethics.

Respect your teachers and honor morals,

Love masses and endear yourself to benevolence.

Money and properties are only mucky trinkets,

Benevolence and righteousness are worthy of gold.

Do everything according to Nature’s Rules,

Say everything in consideration of the people.

Your plan and plot should not offend the Heaven and Earth,

Your words and deeds should set good examples for off-springs.

The rich and influential should care for the poor and needy,

The young and healthy must concern about the old and weak.

Try your best to do your filial duty,

Not just give foods to your parents.

The grown-up crows will feed the old,

The lambs will kneel to suck the mother’s milk.

Far away from parents you may shed tears,

But they yearn much stronger to see you.

Lose no time to make your parents happy,

Don’t wait to offer sacrifice before their wood statues.

Treating your parents now with chicken and pork

Is better than sacrificing an ox before their graves.

Friends are better than brothers

Who do harm to each other;

Most reliable are brothers

Who protect you against bullies.

Your meat and wine attract many pals,

But in trouble you hardly see one.

Every time we meet, we get older,

We have not much time to enjoy brotherhood.

A good father-and-son relationship makes a prosperous family,

Amiability keeps brothers close,

Affability avoids quarrels among neighbours,

Harmony of spouses raises family fortune.

Enjoying amid flowers the oriole-like songs of your wife,

You disperse the brotherly wild geese in the sky.

Never do any evil,

And always do good deeds.

Know yourself as well as others,

Have a heart and enter into others’ feeling.

Reprove yourself as you do to others,

Cherish others like you do to yourself.

You can never be more cautious,

First of all, never go against your conscience.

Others may let me down,

But I would never.

Indulgence in fondness is the abyss,

Burning desire for profit is the hell.

Go with the tide but not be the slave of fashion,

Shun the vulgarities but not try to correct them .

Get to the very roots of your poverty and misfortune,

You will not murmur complaint;

Find out the reason for your perished honour and wealth,

You will not linger upon them.

Sitting at leisure in daylight, you should value your time,

Sitting at your ease at night, you should use the lamp oil sparely.

Reading ,you should be totally absorbed,

For one word could be worthy of gold.

Drink your wine with your close friends,

Recite your poems to the appreciative people.

Everywhere you might be known,

But you could only have a few intimates.

Every time we meet as it were the first,

Then we bear each other no grudge till old age.

If you have not done anything against your conscience,

Nobody will hate you in the world.

Living in a thatched house ,you may not be well-informed,

But you are broad-minded;

Having mountaineers as friends, there might be a breach of etiquettes,

But you are always happy with their truthfulness.

The glow-worms illuminate themselves,

The wild geese never fly alone.

The seedlings grow from the roots,

The lotus rhizomas come from the sacred lotus.

Living near the river you know the behavior of the fish,

Near the mountain you are familiar with the bird songs.

Through a long journey you know the capacity of your horse,

Dealing a long time with a person you get to know the heart of him.

For an unlucky man, gold will turn to iron,

For a fortunate man iron is gold.

Emaciated horses can’t stand the long walk,

Poor people are restrained and unnatural.

The moon first shines over the waterside tower,

The spring first visits the plants facing the sun.

Forgiveness is not stupidity,

Stupid man knows no forgiveness.

Some people don’t think their pail rope too short to reach the water,

They just grumble about the deep well.

We like best the water of our hometown,

Though it may not be so pretty;

We love most the folks of our native place,

Though we may not be related.

Kinship can’t be cut off,

Neighbours can ‘t be kept apart.

It’s easy to meet and be intimate,

But it’s hard to sustain the friendship.

The guests come to you and you don’t attend to them,

You must be idiotic.

At home you don’t know how to take care of visitors,

Away from home then you know about being properly hosted.

Before people, mind what you say,

Alone by yourself, mind what you think.

High aspiration starts to leave from Epicureanism,

Serenity of mind begins with simple living.

You have money, you can be outstanding,

You have trouble, don’t look for relatives.

Far-away water can’t put out the near fire,

Far-away relatives are not so helpful as near neighbours.

Two with one heart ,

They have money to buy gold;

Two with different minds,

They have none for a needle.

If you are not physically strong, don’t carry heavy load,

If your words are not worthy, don’t try to persuade people.

Listening to people like tasting soup, then you know the real meaning,

Dealing with people on financial matters, then you see their true heart.

The mountain brooks ebb and flow,

The unworthy people are cranky and fickle.

It may be easy to draw tiger and dragon ,but not their bones,

And also to know the faces of people ,but not their hearts.

Behind everybody’s back, there are people talking about him,

In front of people, everybody talks about others.

Just do good deeds,

And don’t care what would happen.

Slow birds will fly early,

Men of great talent possibly succeed late.

One man alone can travel hundreds of miles,

But one tree can’t make the woods.

In the hustle city, paupers have few visitors,

In the remote mountains, the rich have relatives from afar.

Human relationships are like paper, every sheet is flimsy,

Human affairs are like chess, every game is new.

The worldly people make friends with money-bags,

Scanty wallets can’t make friends close.

They could keep their words for the time being,

But they are only your fellow travelers.

Persons involved are in the dark,

The on-lookers see more.

The river at narrow areas flows rapid,

The man in an emergency is suddenly struck with good ideas.

Over-fed and over-dressed people tend to be lascivious,

Under-fed and under-clothed people are prone to think of robbery.

Moths flinging themselves on the lamp commit suicide,

Silk-worms making cocoons get themselves entangled.

In the river the waves behind push the waves ahead,

In the world the new surpass the old.

Man lives for an expectation of life,

Grass lives for a life-span of a few seasons.

Coming to this world , we hurtle like wind and rain,

Leaving this world, we disappear like dusts.

Earn money in hustles,

Make home in quiet.

You know there are tigers in the mountain woods,

Then don’t go to the tiger’s den there.

Even the lush and pretty flowers are afraid of aging,

How could we let people fool around?

If we meet and part without a drink,

Even the peach blossoms at the entrance will laugh.

Flowers were in full blossom yesterday and wither today,

Man with a hundred years’ life-span yet cherishes ten-thousand-year hope.

Amid deserted graves in the wilderness there are neither rich nor poor,

The floating clouds over the mountain have been changing since ancientry.

Being famous by royal favor without morals is an ill omen,

Getting wealthy in troubled times is the roots of calamities.

Life affairs are perplexing and unpredictable,

You just watch the world in the breezy moonlight.

My advice to you is not to be a money-grubber,

You can’t carry a cent to the next world.

Our flesh and blood like bubbles will eventually burst,

Not to say our wealth, the illusional bubbles;

The Earth is just a dust

Not to mention your properties, the dust in the dust.

Don’t seek immediate results,

Don’t vie for small profits.

High-flown fame invites jealousy,

Ultra favor attracts slander.

It is dangerous to enrage the masses,

And improbable to satisfy high desires.

Getting to the ultimate , things will go in reverse order,

Fully filled containers will be brimmed over.

If you get lost at a crossroads,

You should ask the way from the travelers.

Before thirty we look for illness,

After thirty we are looked for by illness.

Big wealth owes to fortune,

Small riches owe to diligence.

Blame your leafless trees,

Don’t grumble about the sun for giving no shelters.

The crux of a year is spring,

Of a day is dawn,

Of a family is harmony,

Of a life is diligence.

Choose your son-in-law by his spirit and talent,

And daughter-in-law by her moral and virtue.

Generally prefer a good character,

Properties and positions are matter of little concern.

From many splendid houses come starved ghosts,

Out of many thatched cabins rise higher officials.

Imposing mansions change their masters,

Magnificent gardens welcome new owners.

You could hardly defend yourself before a multitude,

One man’s applause makes negligible effect.

They meet and talk about peace

And go back and resort to military action.

A stout body could hide all ugliness,

A small power could move a massy thing.

If you are healthy ,don’t worry about your leanness,

If you have an easy life, don’t grumble over your poverty.

We can’t meet everybody’s expectation,

But could seek to have a clear conscience.

The rain is helpless for rootless grasses,

The ill-gotten gains can’t make ill-starred people rich.

Things in careless keeping invite robbers,

Women in heavy make-up incite lusters.

One-sided view keeps one in the dark,

Multilateral viewpoint makes one bright.

Hearing is misleading,

Seeing is believing.

One dog barks at the shadow,

Hundred dogs will follow the barking.

Don’t believe the extra uprightness,

Guard against the faked benevolence.

We could get near to a strange tiger,

But should not be close to a vicious person.

One who comes here to talk about right and wrong

Must be the person involved.

The life’s roads could be wilfully dangerous,

I just keep my mind balanced.

Clever persons always fall short of their expectations,

Simple-hearted persons could be higher officials.

People who wrap themselves in silks and satins

May have nothing to do with sericulture.

Never harm a big matter for a small profit,

Never use public opinion to vent personal grudge.

Never over- measure others’ weak points with your strong points,

Never be jealous of others’ capability because of your inferiority.

Never override the helpless with your strong power,

Never wantonly kill animals to satisfy your voracity.

You have power and you override others,

You lose power and others override you;

You chase a dog to a blind alley,

The dog will bite you at the end.

Seeing a beauty you are incited with lusts of flesh,

Your wife and daughters will be retaliated;

Bearing grudge you underhandedly hurt a man,

You extend disasters to your off-springs.

The first comer is the monarch,

The next will be courtiers.

Don’t think you set out early,

Others start off even earlier.

Put out the fire in your heart,

And light a lamp before the Buddha.

If you do every thing with a good conscience

You will not be startled by the knockers at midnight.

Pretty peonies only display views,

Tiny date flowers are fruitful.

With multitudinous stars shining

It is not as bright as the lone moon;

With a multi-storey pagoda lightening

It is not as rewarding as an illuminating lamp in the dark.

With a thousand drummers beating

It is not as loud as a crash of thunder;

Having hundreds of acres of land

It is not as good as having a life-work skill.

Wealth and good luck merely console you,

Poverty and distress forward you to splendid completion.

Ill-fated people have meagre fortune,

Big trees have deep roots.

If you have no uppermost intelligence,

You can’t see through all the vanities.

Hiding your illness from doctors,

You play ostrich.

An aspiring man can yield one thousand chariots,

A greedy loon will vie for one cent.

Anger is the nameless fire,

Forbearance is your enemy’s ill-omened star.

Bequeath your kind heart to your off-springs,

They will cultivate this tiny heartland.

Never try to hoodwink,

God is just over your head.

Doing evil things you are afraid of exposure,

In which there is good road;

Doing good things you are eager for recognition,

In which there are evil roots.

Paupers feel proud, though bluffing,

Yet maintain some chivalry;

Arch villains deceive the world, though extravagant,

Yet have not a shadow of sincerity.

Sweeping and raising dusts

You clean the floor and mist your eyes;

Opening the windows and letting in the sunshine and moonlight

You make the room and your mind bright.

At the thought of goodness we start to tame evil desires,

Eventually we’ll bring it to completion.

Observe your limits and be contented with your fate,

Follow the auspicious and shun the ominous.

Only Seriousness knows Falsehood,

And Treachery reveals Loyalty.

Men can’t be ever lucky one thousand days,

And flowers can’t keep fresh one hundred nights.

Physically aged, we are young-old,

Financially poor, we are aspiring.

With wine-bowls filled

You often have a tableful of guests.

Etiquette rises with affluence,

Robbery comes from poverty.

Newly rich persons don’t know how to enjoy their appropriations,

Lately poor persons can’t change their old style of life.

In the sky stars surround the North Star,

On the earth waters flow east.

Black hair can’t stay with you aging,

Time flies, you are already silver-haired.

Leaky roof always meets with rain for nights on end,

Broken boat often gets into the wind.

Released from shells , bamboo shoot grows into bamboo,

Struggling against waves, fish metamorphoses into dragon.

You are not arrogant, nobody would try to over-shine you,

You are not bellicose, nobody would try to outmatch you.

Things being cleared up, don’t nitpick,

Things being straightened, don’t overcorrect .

Be kind-hearted but resolute,

Be incorruptible but tolerant.

People being happy with you, don’t outstay your welcome,

People being loyal to you, don’t outwear their faithfulness.

Never be self-conceited and display your prowess for show,

Never do a thing casually to get windfall.

Accept your due no more than your share,

Cultivate your mind no less than your demand.

We get along with people without any deception,

And always lead a self-composed life.

With heart as warm as spring breeze

And empty wallet,

A man still compassionates the lonely and destitute;

With mind as clear as autumn river

And house bare of anything,

A man still slights princes and dukes.

We can walk hastily or leisurely,

Since our journey is only that much;

We can gain smoothly or adversely,

For in the end all is in vain.

For the living, you don’t need to identify their souls,

For the dead, you don’t need to distinguish their corpses.

Good words are hard to come by,

Vicious remarks are easy to start.

Exquisite jade is commercial,

But you should wait for good price.

The clay steamer is broken,

What can you do to look back?

Heroes are walking up to dangers,

Honors are vase bouquets.

Be careful to say the relationship is as warm as spring,

For fear that Fall would bring you cold.

Parents with profound feelings will leave us eventually,

Spouses with deep love will part in the end.

Living a life is like birds staying together in the woods

And scattering hurriedly when the doomsday comes near.

In time serve your parents with delicious foods,

The setting sun will not linger long.

Honest people could easily be bullied,

Docile horses could easily be ridden.

Villains are fearsome to people but not the Heaven,

Well-doers are bullied by villains but helped by God.

The benignant and the villainous will get their returns at long last,

The retribution will happen sooner or later.

The dragon swimming in shallows is mocked by shrimps,

The tiger strolling in the open country is overborne by dogs.

Just watch how long the evil will run amuck,

Like watching crabs creeping sideways with a cold eye.

Some day the Yellow River will be clear,

How can a man not have his day?

A scholar could study a dozen years without an acquaintance,

Once he passed the imperial examinations he would be renowned.

A sparrow could never appreciate a swan’s aspiration,

A tiger could never bend to a dog’s bully.

Our doings and writings will sink into oblivion

Along with our ashes,

But our spirits will be immortal;

Our honors and wealth are marked with vicissitudes

From generation to generation,

But our moral courage will stand firm through the ages.

Highly favored, you should think of the possible humiliation,

Safely comfortable, you should consider some unexpected danger.

The country in chaos, people miss good premiers,

The family in poverty, people miss good wives.

Favorites are waited by humiliatiion,

Paupers are followed by fortune.

People always win their renown when poor,

And fail when satisfied.

Prostitutes get married in their late years,

Their life on the streets affects nothing;

White-haired women of chastity lose their widow constancy,

Their life of lonely suffering comes to nothing.

Mind your own business,

Having nothing to do ,go home early.

You may dye the counterfeit satin really red,

But people will show their different judgments.

Use the wine as a key to unlock your knitted brows,

And not the heart as a loom to weave grey hair at your temples.

Better not make one-thousand-year plans,

Life is full of vicissitudes.

Autumn insects and spring birds

All enjoy Nature’s bestowal,

Why should we feel too glad or too sorry for them?

Old trees and young flowers

All have their vitalities,

Why should we distinguish the pretty from the ugly?

If you promise someone something,

Never revoke even for precious gold.

Once you say a word,

The fastest horse can’t take it back.

Extremely miserly parents

Will have extravagant children;

Families of moral excellence

Will have worthy off-springs.

Everyday we should examine our thoughts,

And every night we should feel watched by beings divine and human.

Be versatile but devote to your expectations,

Be inquisitive but think deeply by yourself.

If you don’t work hard when you are young,

You will regret in vain when old.

Miserly parents can’t educate their children,

Partial parents can’t find good teachers.

You should know children are worthy of education,

Never say they are ignorant.

The first on the Proclamation of the Imperial Final Examinations

Will be high official closest to the Emperor.

To cultivate the mind,

You should be unmoved like wood and stone,

With a little conceit you will fall into indulgence;

To minister state affairs,

you should be detached like floating clouds and flowing water,

With a little avarice you will be netted in crisis.

Uncorruptible officials’ secretaries are poor and thin,

Blessing deities’ attendants are affluent and stout.

If you want to hide what you do,

The only way is not to do it.

Sitting by yourself, often think of your faults,

Chatting with people, make no comments on others’ mistakes.

Making friends should be like painters seeking after light style,

In a lovely hamlet quiet neighbors do not yell at chickens.

Don’t listen to the oriole’s provocative songs by the window,

She is trampling on the flowers of you love.

All my life I like most the silent fish

Swimming and causing no troubles in rivers and lakes.

Untroubled, alert yourself as if you would get into trouble,

Then you can cope with the unexpected;

Troubled, be composed as if everything is OK;

Then you can turn the tide.

Three of us walk together,

There should be my teacher.

I will follow the good turn,

And correct the bad habit.

The good way to cultivate your mind is to live an ascetic life,

With no perseverance you can’t pray and cure people.

Fooling around with ruffians

Later you will be put to troubles;

With the experienced near at hand

You will have people to rely on.

Say from your heart,

Never dupe people ,old or young.

The man who has a merciful heart

Will be protected by the Heaven.

Having committed errors, fear not to mend,

All alone, be not self-deceived.

People who fawn on me are robbing me,

People who criticize me are educating me.

Seeing the front courtyard we know whether people there are diligent or not,

Drinking their tea we know what kind of wife the host has.

Aged parents running about must have no filial children,

Well-dressed kids must have loving mothers.

We don’t need to ask about the host’s ups and downs of life,

From his face we could guess right.

We bring up children for our venerable age,

And keep grain in store for possible famine.

In the days of affluence we should think of the needy days,

And not vainly cherish the nostalgia when we are have-nots.

Satisfaction with no greed is the steady way of life,

Taking advantage of others is the way to suffering.

Stop drinking your delicious wine when you get tipsy,

Cease to enjoy the pretty flowers before they are in full bloom.

Don’t grow thorny brushes by the roadsides,

They could tatter the clothes of your off-springs.

Expecting help from the Heaven,

We should think of what we do;

Appealing for others’ aid,

We should consider what we give.

You crave for meats of animals,

You will hurt your conscience;

You take advantage of others,

You will be punished by Nature.

Being a monk and constant in faith,

Surely you will become a Buddha.

To do Buddhist cultivation,

Clear your mind from past-present-future consciousness,

Free from visions of yourself and others.

Adhering to nothingness means the roots of somethingness are not cut off;

Concentrating on staticness means the buds of motion are not hoed up.

While the snipe snips the clam and the latter clamps the former

The fisherman profits from the uncompromising struggle;

When the city gateway is on fire,

The fish in the ditch will not be saved from the disaster.

A man without trustworthiness

Is devoid of everything .

Someone may spout about saints and sages,

He may have a looter’s heart.

One who doesn’t like to practice what he learns

Is like beasts of burden learning to dress well.

If you want to have riches and honor,

You should be a painstaker.

Since the field has been tilled and sown,

Now is the time for study.

Associate with people better than you,

Friends similar at all points are not helpful.

A talk with a wise man

Is better than ten years’ booklore.

Ask help from the bounteous,

Render help to the needy.

For a thirsty man a drop of water is manna,

For a drunken man a cup more is none.

Do things with a good conscience,

Treat people the way you would be treated.

Ideas of harming people should never come into mind,

Ideas of preventing wrong-doers should never leave behind.

A true gentleman doesn’t let slip improper words when drunken,

A manly person is fair on money matters.

Hospitable persons brew delicious wine for guests,

Bookish persons expend their money on publications.

Bamboo fence and thatched house make tasteful scenery,

Taoist and Buddhist temples are not on a par with it.

All delicacies and homely vegetables are the same

After we put down our chopsticks;

Gold and jade ornaments are not different from debris

After we return to ashes.

The ancient people of virtue and renown sneered at official caps,

They disdained to serve the marquis;

Getting acquainted, yet they sheathed their swords

For fear of implication into darkness.

Favored , he is your bosom friend,

Disfavored, he would bear you grudge.

Younglings indulging in sexual desires

Very likely will die middle-aged.

If the water is the purest,

No fish will live there;

If the master is too picky,

No man will be his disciple.

Stupid husbands fear their wives,

Virtuous wives respect their husbands.

Absorbed in your family riches,

You would neglect your brotherly affection.

Rather be less upright

Than more crooked.

Earnestness makes things easy,

Dishonesty makes things hard.

Every day there is a lot of gossips,

But there is none if you don’t listen.

A long stay bores the host,

Frequent visits dilute the friendship.

You can see just within a few days,

The second meeting differs from the first.

Human feelings are like flowing water ever lowering,

Life affairs are like floating clouds drifted by wind.

One-hundred-year construction is not enough,

One-day destruction is more unbearable.

Educate your children from their foetus period,

Start to make them behave well at primary stage.

Rearing sons without education is raising donkeys,

Rearing daughters without education is feeding pigs.

With the land uncultivated, the granary is empty,

With the books unread, your off-springs are stupid;

Empty granary will leave you destitute,

Stupid off-springs will neglect rites and obligations.

In the world there is a sea of men,

But only a few are really manly.

To have fine descendants, we should increase our virtues,

To enhance the nobility, we should study hard.

Salvation of a life

Is better than building a seven-storey pagoda for Buddha.

Accumulation of large wealth

Is not as good as reading Confucian classics.

Quietly watching things in motion,

Leisurely seeing people on the run,

You can find the unearthly interest;

Getting relaxed in hustle and bustle,

Keeping calm in mobility,

You can be settled and get on well.

Teach your children in their babyhood,

Inspire your wife in the bridal chamber.

Be smart at heart ,

And silly in appearance.

Parading wits

Will stir up disasters.

Toleration is beneficial,

Forbearance is profitable.

Wealth starts from small accumulation,

Poverty comes from miscalculation.

Don’t stab people in the back,

Be cute but a little dull-witted.

The magisterial gate is wide-open like splay feet,

Poor people in the right will not cross its threshold.

Disasters do happen unexpectedly,

No people are exempted from them.

Don’t be unkind and harsh to your subordinates,

Otherwise serviceable people will leave;

Don’t associate with unworthies,

Otherwise the fawners will come.

Wealth is the source of grudge,

Greed is the embryo of disaster.

Gladness should not go to extremes,

Its extremity will turn to sadness;

Desire should not run amuck,

Its indulgence will turn to disaster.

One hundred years flee hurry-scurry,

Youthful years go for good.

Live ascetic, live energetic,

Worry a lot , weaken a lot.

Our silver hair urges us to leave,

Tons of gold can’t redeem the days spent.

Fortune hard-earned is real fortune,

Wit not self-imposed is real wit.

Disease for life starts usually from the wedding day;

World-famed merits are often achieved at old age.

Seeing is easy,

Learning is hard.

You may gain something easily,

But you can’t treat it lightly.

Debauchery is the number one vice,

Filiality is the foremost kindness.

A virtuous wife’s husband hardly encounters troubles,

A filial son’s father has little worry.

Helping our parents, we should not fall short of their expectation,

Loving our children, we should not let them loaf away their time.

Precious gold and jade are not the things to seek after,

But the sagacious off-springs are.

Methinks the road before my parents is not so long,

I must make time to wait upon them.

Bumper sacrifice is not as good as proper provision,

Late regret is not as good as early respect.

Flowers show off their springtime beauty,

Rain and wind send them to dusts;

Bamboos keep their refined integrity,

Snow and frost can’t bend their proud heads.

Consider what you have done before you say,

And what you have said before you act.

Man makes the start,

Heaven decides the end.

Improper words

Hurt like cutting flesh.

Massacring ten thousand people

Three thousand killers will die at least.

Hitting flint, you see sparks,

Aggravating grudge, you see rancour.

Tolerance augments virtues,

Asceticism nurtures peace of mind.

To avoid suspicion, neither tighten your shoe-lace in the melon field,

Nor adjust your cap under the plum tree.

Lack of learning incurs mistakes,

Hardiness makes things easy.

On the heads of dauntless generals and ministers

We might ride horseback,

In the stomachs of broadminded dukes and marquises

We might have boat race.

Though poor, save our books for the children,

Though advanced in age, plant bamboos for others.

Raise no hue and cry in the world,

Just leave virtues after you.

Don’t repulse a person’s opinion in which people are divided,

Don’t repudiate others because you don’t see eye to eye in views.

Opening up a step way

At the precipitous spot,

We see a broad road;

Giving a little support

In hard times,

We feel easy at heart.

Some people are too anxious to know the truth,

You just wait and they will be clear,

Lest you could stir up more enmity;

Some are too yearning to follow you,

You just let them go and they will change,

Lest you would arouse more resistance.

People are in different walks of life,

But they all need a way to support their families.

Some are natural and carefree

Seeking noble-mindedness;

Some are upright and proud

Defying any pity.

He is impatient but not me,

I am at leisure but not my mind.

The rich plan for next year,

The poor plan for today.

Haste makes waste,

Drunks talk truth.

Catching a tiger on the mountain is easy,

Advising a person is demanding.

If you are not a punter,

Then don’t handle the punt-pole.

A good word makes the cold winter warm,

An improper word makes warm June cold.

Chums reveal their secrets to their understanding friends,

Cronies keep their words inside their circle.

Scandals ruin true gentlemen,

Debaucheries wreck wanton youngsters.

You make fusses , you make mistakes,

Things reflected, things complicated.

Only there are willows to tie your horse to,

Every road leads to Imperial Capital.

Like mowing new grasses ,

Stamping out a new-sprung desire

Is an easy job,

If you set it loose

And get profited for the time being,

You will be in the suffering abyss;

Like glossing the bronze mirror ,

Cultivating a new-born Heavenly Conscience

Is to increase the mind’s brightness,

If you are discouraged and held off a little,

You are miles apart from completion.

The wind having subsided,

Don’t stir the water;

The bank having reached,

Leave the boat.

Hide evils and praise good deeds,

Act discreetly and speak cautiously.

Be unworldly when we are alone,

Be kind when associate with others,

Be humble when we succeed,

Be self-collected when we are disappointed,

Be young-old, though aged,

Be confident, though poor.

Once you have passed the Imperial Examinations,

Your humble thatched house will be an attraction;

Once the money in the drawer is used up,

Even a valiant hero feels humiliated.

From thrift to luxury is a happy gain,

And the reverse is a nasty pain.

Habits formed in childhood are like born disposition,

Accustomed acquirements are like innate talent.

Hosts should use simple utensils,

Guests should not linger about after dinner.

Withered trees will germinate in spring,

Young blood can never be enjoyed the second time.

A young person who controls desires has good and healthy looks,

An aged person who doesn’t pursue officialdom has relaxing dreams.

There are books I have not read,

There is nothing I can not tell people.

Sharing assets among relatives,

The widowed should be favored;

To senior and junior relatives,

Equal disciplines should be applied .

A grain in gruel or congee

Tells us the hardships for producing;

A thread of silk or cotton

Reminds us of the labour spent.

Learned men are knowledgeable,

Unlearned men are good for nothing.

Stupid persons are obstinate,

Despicable persons are arbitrary.

Really wealthy people keep books,

Quasi-immortals keep aloof from troubles.

The solitary cloud drifts to and fro above the mountain

Being carefree;

The bright moon hangs in the serene sky

Disregarding comeliness and homeliness.

Doing good things, you may be poor,

But facing disasters, you will be rich.

At good-and-evil junctures you must make right choice,

A mistake then may seal your doom forever.

Cultivation of virtues is like piling up earth to make a hill,

One basket less will spoil the whole project;

Tolerance towards people should be like the sea,

Ever accepting tributaries.

Doing good things you have great enjoyment,

Doing bad things you incur punishment.

Keeping the army for a thousand days,

The country might use it for one day.

Incorrupt countries value intellectuals

Wealthy families pamper children.

Upright men serve understanding friends,

Moral men remain the same under all weathers.

If not helped by the fisherman,

How could I see the gigantic waves.

We notice their sword -like words,

But not the dagger hidden in their sleeves.

Silkworm spins silk to the death,

Calumny incurs lasting grudges.

In the depth of mountain, tigers are not fearsome,

But double-dealers really are.

The silver hair is just and fair,

It creeps alike on the heads of the noble and the plebeian.

We don’t need to court friends everywhere

Abstainers are not afraid of rising wine price.

Paintings and calligraphy are of refined tastes,

But greedy money-grubbing will turn them into merchandises;

Wooded mountains are scenic spots,

But commercial exploitation will change them into markets.

Lust is wantonness,

After eliminating it,

Sincerity appears;

Arrogance is perverseness,

After subjugating it ,

Modesty prevails.

When there is a wind,

It’s easy to fan a fire.

Time flies like an arrow,

Sun and moon move like shuttles.

Propitious people weigh their words,

Impetuous people are chatter-box.

Gold is not that valuable,

Peace and comfort are much more valued.

If my off-springs are better than me,

What’s the use of money-grubbing for them?

If my off-springs are not so good as me,

What’s the use of money-making for their parasitism?

Good living lies not in wealth,

Refinement does not depend on dresses.

The powerful are conquered by the more powerful,

The vile are subdued by the viler.

Less news , less annoyance,

More acquaintances , more troubles.

All good words are contained in books,

Most world-famed mountains are seats of temples.

One hundred years’ cultivation of virtues has built up great livingness,

Three generations’ education has reared many refined scholars.

For parents, ourselves, and children,

We are duty-bound,

Thus realize our lifelong aspirations;

For up-most morals, medium positions and minimum enjoyment,

We are steady-going,

Thus keep our peace and comfort.

Maintaining morally clearheaded,

You can dodge devil arrows;

Remaining incorruptible,

You can escape plotting snares.

Wealth is ruthless,

The more you value it,

The more it damages you;

Poverty is faithful,

The better you treat it ,

The better it profits you.

The associating philosophy is modesty and courtesy,

The family heirloom is loyalty and filiality.

No learning, no skill,

Schooling makes you better off.

A man marries a woman as his wife,

A woman marries a man as her family.

Deep-rooted trees are not afraid of the strong wind,

Erect sun-dial column doesn’t worry about shadow slanting

If they know how to give up,

The worldly land is the Land of Purity,

If they haven’t freed themselves from human bondage,

The monks are learned laymen.

Accumulating family fortune is like picking up mud with a needle,

Dissipating a family fortune is like sands swept away by the torrent.

Filling the ponds with water can prevent drought,

Tilling the land meticulously can support the family.

Lecturing but not doing by yourself

Is void mouthing;

Engaging in your profession but neglecting morals

Is planting ephemeral flowers.

The moral courage of self-renunciation

Is the pillar of society,

The concept of commiseration

Is the burgeoning and nurturing roots of life.

Early risers have a bright day,

Late risers have a fluster day.

Compliance with Heaven

Is the way to survival,

Resistance to Heaven

Is the way to doom.

The wind-and-wave disturbances

Develop our mind;

The cold-and-warm relationships

Cultivate our forbearance.

Epicurean enjoyment incurs diseases,

Excessive satisfaction results in disasters.

The first kings of Shang and Zhou encouraged their liege subjects

To speak bluntly,

They were prosperous;

The last kings of Xia and Shang forced their vassals

To fawn on them,

They were doomed.

Intolerant persons are overbearing,

Reckless guys are ambitious.

Longevity completes charity,

Early death ends evil.

Working with disciplinal persons you will thrive,

Collaborating with riotous persons you will collapse.

The rich should be contented with what they have,

The poor should not be craving for what is improper.

You can’t invoke fortune,

Worshiping God of Happiness is the way to make it;

You can’t escape disaster,

Ridding yourself of evil attempts is the way to avoid it.

Coveting a dekalitre of rice,

You will lose half a year’s food;

Vying for a pig foot,

You will lose a sheep leg.

Unselfishness is the treasure,

It harms nobody.

From the painted water waves we feel no wind,

From the embroidered flowers we smell no fragrance.

When you are poor no VIP would give you money,

When you are sick some master-hand would tell you medication.

I am very fortunate,

I’ll never forget the bounty meal I starved for.

Benevolent deeds make me feel my inferiority,

Evil deeds make me feel like going through boiling water.

In the hermit’s woods there are no honor and disgrace,

On the road of morality there are no worldly warmth and coldness.

Autumn comes, the mountains turn gracefully golden,

Spring comes, everywhere the flowers send out fragrance.

Evil deeds should not be hidden,

Good deeds should not be flaunted.

To prevent fire, keep the cooking stove poor in faggots

And the vat rich in water.

You can hardly guard against the theft in the family,

It will deprive you of all provisions.

Idleness consumes your wealth like mountain collapsing,

Fooling around lays your profession waste.

We should not live in style,

And our children should be taught in good method.

You are wealthy but leave your children uneducated,

Your wealth will disappear;

You are noble but negligent of educating your children,

Your nobility will be cut short.

Following Mencius’ mother who moved three times for his better education,

Your children will be renowned like Dou’s five outstanding sons.

Wise and able officials make the country peaceful,

Stupid and unfilial children make parents annoyed.

The speaker remembers his words for a short time,

The listener remembers the words for a long time.

Some people just talk about others’ shortness,

Why shouldn’t they measure themselves?

Improper words incur grudge,

So speak less towards kith and kin;

Good books are enlightening,

So let your off-springs read more.

Forget about your bestowals,

Bear in mind others’ favor.

Unkindly they amass their wealth,

Surely they will enjoy a little time;

Perversely they run against moral principles,

Quickly they will go to destruction.

Don’t contradict the angry man,

Afterwards he will be cool-headed.

You can never judge a gentleman by his appearance,

And measure the sea water with a decaliter container.

Under wormwoods

There could be fragrant thoroughworts;

Under Thatched roofs

There could be born dukes and kings.

One family is wallowing in wealth

While thousands are grumbling in poverty,

They could plot for their thousandth generation

But the second would meet their doom.

Now foxes sleeping on the ruined platforms

Rabbits playing on the dilapidated stages,

This was the scene of songs and dances;

Now cold dew-drops on the yellow flowers

Smoky haze over the green grass,

This was the life-and-death battle-field.

With the worldly dusty fog dispelled

There are no fire singeing and water surging in your heart;

With the vulgarity in your mind eliminated

There are singing birds and fragrant flowers before you.

Poor and lowly people are self-contained,

Rich and noble people are sorrowful.

Let bygones be bygones,

Water spilt is water spent.

If a man has no future concern,

He must have present worry.

It’s late to dig your well when you are thirsty,

It’s timely to renovate your house before the rain.

Get your due in an upright way,

Never solicit by hook and crook.

Don’t wilfully deal with unreasonable people,

You could stop slanders through self-cultivation.

Forbearing a moment’s wrath,

You avoid one hundred days’ worry.

Often you are in trouble because you shoot off your mouth,

Often you are in distress because you are fond of the limelight.

Wine can cultivate and also mess up the mind,

Water can float and also overturn the boat.

The self-restrained people make everything remedy,

The complaining people always speak daggers.

Return uprightness for enmity,

Dispel rancur with morality.

Earnestness makes us stronger everyday ,

Wantonness makes us more and more ignoble.

Abiding by the laws we are happy everyday,

And violating laws we are always troubled.

If you don’t go when it is fine,

You will be weather-bound.

Our off-springs have their own fortune,

Better not be their draft horse.

From the immemorial not so many people can live to seventy,

How many springs and falls do you still have?

Make an effort when you should,

Make a retreat when you have to.

Man’s life-span is less than one hundred years,

But people often have one thousand years’ worry.

We should dismount at the bridge,

And not embark if there is a path to walk along.

At the dangerous spot, we must try to evade,

At the critical point, we must not take it leisurely.

The flowers of Kingdom Wu’s palaces were buried by the deserted paths,

The officials of Jin Dynasty became age-old knolls.

If fame and wealth could last forever,

The Han River could flow back to higher north-western hills.

The green graves overgrown with weeds pulverized thousands of ambitions;

Awaking from a fancy dream, they felt life like drifting clouds.

A man of peaceful mind prefers silence,

The level water is placid.

Never buy unmarketable things,

Nor gather the scums.

They don’t regard me as a virtuous man,

But as their enemy.

Sip your wine when there are flowers,

And refrain from climbing the tower when there is no moonlight.

A man has a few strong terms,

And a tree has a few meters of tough stem.

One family has a daughter and one hundred families make proposals,

One horse halts and one hundred horses worry.

High mountains hide ferocious tigers,

Great seas receive small tributaries.

From here You see things miles and miles away,

But you don’t know you have climbed only one storey.

To know the affairs of life, you just taste the bile,

Then you will nod consent with full understanding.

In the depth of favor, you should recoil,

Greatly satisfied, you should stop demanding.

Don’t wait till rumors gaining the ear of them,

And former favoritism turning into hostility.

Poor families keeping their floor spotless,

Poor girls neatly doing up their hair,

They may not be gorgeous,

But they are dignified and carefree.

House-hold utensils should be simple and clean,

Earthen pitchers are better than gold and jade pots;

Food and drink should be plain and nutrient,

Garden vegetables are the best dainties.

Never be a mouther of useless platitudes,

Nor a meddler of others’ business.

So long as we have moonlit lakes,

We don’t worry about where to go fishing.

Don’t fawn on gentlemen,

Their dealings are not based on favoritism;

Don’t stir up enmity with villains,

They have their own enemy.

Fame and gain are bridles and shackles,

Once you are involved,

Your misfortune incurs chagrin

And your success boosts wild fancies;

Honor and wealth are drifting clouds,

Once you see through them,

Your attainment is not happiness,

And your loss is not sorrow.

To ascend high

You must start low;

To travel far

You must begin nearby.

The knife sharper is not satisfied with the sharpness,

Not caring his fingers could be hurt;

The wealth grabber never thinks he is wealthy enough,

Not considering the hindrance that could incur.

The fortunate people damage their wealth,

The unfortunate people damage their bodies.

A little recuperation could reverse to worse illness,

A little dotage on your wife and children could mean less filialness.

For the unengaged, see what they hold dear,

For the successful, see what they hold out,

For the rich, see what they hold in,

For the poor, see what they hold off.

Feeling contented you are satisfied,

And then you will not be shamed for life;

Knowing your limits you are unruffled,

And then you will not be humiliated all life.

Gentlemen like money,

They obtain it with reason;

Villains profiteer,

They defy Heaven’s Laws.

Ill-gotten gains will be ill-spent,

Hurting arrows will boomerang against the thrower.

Unkind guys are unworthy of association,

Unjustifiable things are unacceptable.

Our bodies can be freed from the confines,

But our minds should be kept within limits.

Don’t trust one-sided views lest you be duped by the wicked,

Don’t be self-opinionated lest you be swung by emotions.

A miss is as good as a mile,

Making us far apart from the goal.

Footing it is better than mouthing the order,

Beseeching yourself is better than begging others.

Live in affluence and do kindness,

For life not for death.

Some people are sentimental when grey hair creeps on the head,

But I feel happy to be aware of it,

For quite a number of people die young,

Unable to see their silver head.

Thieves are villains,

Sometimes they could outwit gentlemen.

Poor gentlemen still behave well,

Poor villains’ violation knows no limits.

Partitions have chinks,

Walls have ears.

Good deeds keep house-bound,

Bad deeds spread on the wings of the wind.

Disregarding their social status,

Some people are extravagant in living,

Adored by the philistines , though,

But disdained by the knowledgeable.

On earth, parents are rarely to blame,

Under the sun, brothers are rare companions.

Blue proceeds from indigo but carries more hue,

Ice starts from water but gets colder.

In family discords,

Good parents -in-law are seemingly slow-witted and deaf,

The good way to get along well,

Is to be daughterly and sonly.

To deal with drastic change in blood relations,

Be calm, not flurried;

To face the decline of family fortune,

Be courageous, not disheartened.

As a man’s opportunity disappears,

He is being out of luck.

We should start from the low to achieve higher learning,

And not give up the nearby accomplishment for a far pursuit.

We should live within our income,

Every little makes a mickle.

Gullies are easy to be filled,

Hearts are hard to be satiated.

Employing and teaching people

Are opposite in ways,

The former applies their strong points,

The latter attends to their weak points.

Corporal punishment should be done in a face-saving way,

Verbal denouncement should not cut to the quick.

The fine rules of officialdom

Are incorruptibleness, cautiousness, and diligentness,

The good knacks of diet

Are slow-chewing, warm-eating, and soft-cooking.

The fish knows the water being warm or cold,

The spring doesn’t care the flowers blooming or fading.

There is no need to tell male or female snails from their feelers,

And it is futile to make every endeavor to get long or short flint sparks.

It is difficult to be as absorbed as the ancient sages,

Fangles could change your devotion.

Alleging yourself unmistaken every way,

You are mistaken this way;

Shielding your shortcoming every time,

You increase your shortcomings one at a time.

Sweep your courtyard

And keep the inside and outside clean and tidy;

Bolt the doors

And check yourself and make them fast.

No problem is too difficult to solve,

You just know how and why;

No man is too hard to deal with,

You just do three self-examinations.

To do everything well

You should get advice from three virtuous seniors.

Inquisitiveness makes broadmindedness,

Self-opinion makes bias.

Don’t keep luxurious house,

Don’t enjoy extravaganzas.

Contending for a small interest,

You will stray off from the Great Truth.

Keeping yourself within propriety,

You will never feel annoyed.

His words are not after your own heart,

He must seek something reasonable;

His words are of your heart

He must seek something unreasonable.

We gladly suffer,

We are well together;

We are friendly,

Somebody acts as nobody.

Aspire high but aim low,

Be gutty but cautious.

The learned are like cereal seedlings,

The unlearned are like overgrown weeds.

With the lips gone the teeth feel cold,

With the education lapsing the family will decline.

Making friends among your fellow students,

It is the chance of a lifetime;

Having a virtuously intelligent son,

It is the living treasure of the family.

You painstakingly obtained wealth,

And now live in idleness,

You gain but also lose;

You enjoy one hundred years’ longevity,

But spend in futility,

You exist long but are short-lived.

You are a man of merits in everything,

Be sure you have no demerit at the end;

You are credited by everybody,

Be sure you have not antagonized somebody.

It is better to supplement a dipperful

Than to add a mouthy fool.

Just make sure you can set your mind at ease,

Don’t show off your glibness.

To be morally best,

Find a good friend first.

If the ferment makes the grains sour,

The distiller can’t get good wine.

Rather be flogged at parents’ hand,

Than be cursed from their mouth.

Dogs never cold-shoulder their poor owners,

Children never show any dislike of their mother’s homeliness.

Don’t covet after windfall money,

And don’t drink to excess.

In progress, think of the possible retreat,

At the commencement, consider the probable renouncement.

It matters little to carve a swan like a wild duck,

It matters a lot to paint a tiger like a dog.

Good deeds should not be appraised with too high a standard,

Just think what can be done;

Bad deeds should not be condemned with too strict a criterion,

Just think what can be accepted.

Enjoying today’s fortune is like lighting the oil lamp,

Burning bright while burning up;

Raising tomorrow’s fortune is like increasing the lamp oil,

Adding more while burning longer.

Favor often incurs trouble,

So, shun it early when satisfied;

Failure is often followed by success,

So, don’t give up when suffering setbacks.

More associates more expense,

Less cronies, less cost.

A small gift sent from afar,

Though light, yet is heavy with affection.

Abusing or killing among kindred

Is like boiling soybeans with bean-stalks;

Sharing the burning pain of moxibustion

Shows the fraternal love of the ancient Chinese.

Teaching with your own example,

You will be followed.

Teaching with precepts,

You will be argued.

Meagre obtaining is better than amassing,

Thrift is better than reckless soliciting.

A word entered the government office,

Nine oxen can’t pull it out.

The word “Justice” is light,

But it can’t be moved by hundreds of people.

Two self-assertive persons talk,

They will keep hideously arguing,

If one could only say he is sorry,

Then both will be happy;

Two contradictious persons disagree,

They will keep destructively repudiating,

If one could only say he apologizes,

Then both will be benefited.

Good-naturedness brings about auspice,

Ill-naturedness brings about austerity.

Fooling around with playmates degenerates your virtue,

Fooling around with playthings ruins your will.

Fortune favors bright mind,

Disaster prefers gloomy mind.

With a favor bestowed upon us, we feel overwhelmed,

With our errors pointed out, we are pleased.

It is hard to pioneer an enterprise,

But even harder to keep it up.

Upright man inside 

the house,

The likeminded enters;

Villain inside the house,


. by Chongding Zhang