三字經 (Chinese) with translations in English

Three Character Classic

This parallel text is part of Three Character Classic equilang.

Main text by Wang Yinglin written in year 1296 in Chinese.

The original version.

Translation by Herbert Giles written in year 1900 in English.

三字經
Three Character Classic

rén man zhī arrive chū beginning xìng nature běn root shàn good
Men at their birth, are naturally good.
xìng nature xiāng mutual jìn near practice xiāng mutual yuǎn far
Their natures are much the same; their habits become widely different.
gǒu wrongly not jiào teach xìng nature nǎi then qiān move
If foolishly there is no teaching, the nature will deteriorate.
jiào teach zhī arrive dào road guì valuable take zhuān single
The right way in teaching, is to attach the utmost importance in thoroughness.
old mèng Mencius mother choose lín neighbour chù place
Of old, the mother of Mencius, chose a neighbourhood
zi child not xué learn duàn break machine zhù shuttle
and when her child would not learn, she broke the shuttle from the loom.
dòu tou yàn swallow shān hill yǒu have duty fāng method
Tou of the Swallow Hills, had the right method.
jiào teach five zi son míng name all yáng raise
He taught five son, each of whom raised the family reputation.
yǎng feed not jiào teach father zhī arrive guò transgress
To feed without teaching, is the father's fault.
jiào teach not yán severe shī teacher zhī arrives duò laziness
To teach without severity, is the teacher's laziness.
zi child not xué learn fēi not suǒ what ought
If the child does not learn, this is not as it should be.
yòu young not xué learn lǎo old what wèi be
If he does not learn while young, what will he be when old?
jade not zuó polish not chéng become utensil
If jade is not polished, it cannot become a thing of use.
rén man not xué learn not zhī know duty
If a man does not learn, he cannot know his duty towards his neighbour.
wèi be rén man zi child fāng just shǎo young shí time
He who is the son of a man, when he is young,
qīn intimate shī teacher yǒu friend practise ceremonies usages
should attach himself to his teachers and friends; and practise ceremonial usages.
xiāng Hsiang jiǔ nine líng year néng able wēn warm mat
Hsiang, at nine years of age, could warm (his parents') bed.
xiào filial towards qīn parents suǒ what dāng ought zhí hold
Filial piety towards parents, is that to which we should hold fast.
róng Jung four suì year néng able ràng yield pear
Jung, at four years of age, could yield the (bigger) pears.
fraternal towards zhǎng grow ought xiān before zhī know
To behave as a younger brother towards elders, is one of the first things to know.
shǒu head xiào filial fraternal second jiàn see wén hear
Begin with filial piety and fraternal love, and then see and hear.
zhī know mǒu certain shù numbers shí know mǒu certain wén characters
Learn to count, and learn to read.
one ér and shí ten shí ten ér and bǎi hundred
Units and tens, then tens and hundreds,
bǎi hundred ér and qiān thousand qiān thousand ér and wàn ten-thousand
hundreds and thousands, thousands and tens of thousands.
sān three cái force zhě ones tiān heaven de earth rén man
The Three Forces, are Heaven, Earth, and Man.
sān three guāng bright zhě ones sun yuè moon xīng star
The Three Luminaries, are the sun, the moon, and the stars.
sān three gāng bond zhě one jūn Prince chén Minister duty
The Three Bonds, are (1) the obligation between sovereign and subject,
father zi child qīn love man wife shùn harmony
(2) the love between father and child, (3) the harmony between husband and wife.
yuē speak chūn spring xià summer yuē speak qiū autumn dōng winter
We speak of spring and summer, we speak of autumn and winter.
this four shí time yùn revolve not qióng exhaust
These four seasons, revolve without ceasing.
yuē speak nán south běi north yuē speak 西 west dōng east
We speak of north and south, we speak of east and west.
this four fāng square yīng answer to zhōng middle
These four points, respond to the requirements of the centre.
yuē speak shuǐ water huǒ fire wood jīn metal earth
We speak of water, fire, wood, metal, and earth.
this five xíng operate běn root in shù number
These five elements, have their origin in number.
yuē speak rén charity duty propriety zhì wisdom xìn truth
We speak of charity of heart and of duty towards one's neighbour, of propriety, of wisdom, and of truth.
this five cháng constant not róng contain wěn tangle
These five virtues, admit of no compromise.
dào rice liáng spiked-millet shū pulse mài wheat shǔ glutinous millet
Rice, spiked millet, pulse, wheat, glutinous millet, and common millet.
this liù six grain rén man suǒ what shí eat
These six grains, are those which men eat.
horse niú ox yáng sheep fowl quǎn dog shǐ pig
The horse, the ox, the sheep, the fowl, the dog, the pig.
this liù six chù keep rén man suǒ which feed
These six animals, are those which men keep.
yuē speak joy anger yuē speak āi pity fear
We speak of joy, of anger, we speak of pity, of fear,
ài Love è hate desire seven qíng feelings all
of love, of hate, and of desire. These are the seven passions.
páo gourd earth skin wood shí stone jīn metal
The gourd, earthenware, skin, wood, stone, metal,
silk and zhú bamboo nǎi then eight yīn sounds
silk, and bamboo, yield the eight musical sounds.
gāo high céng add ancestor father ér and shēn body
Great great grandfather, great grandfather, grandfather, father and self,
shēn body ér and zi son zi son ér and sūn grandson
self and son, son and grandson,
from zi son sūn grandson zhì arrive yuán original céng add
from son and grandson, on to great grandson and great great grandson.
nǎi then jiǔ nine agnates rén man zhī arrive lún relationship
These are the nine agnates, constituting the kinships of man.
father zi child ēn affection man wife cóng harmony
Affection between father and child, harmony between husband and wife,
xiōng Elder-brother rule yǒu friend Younger-brother rule gōng respect
friendliness on the part of elder brothers, respectfulness on the part of younger brothers,
zhǎng grow yòu young series yǒu friend with péng friend
precedence between elders and youngers, as between friend and friend,
jūn Prince then jìng respect chén minister then zhōng loyal
respect on the part of the sovereign, loyalty on the part of the subject.
this shí ten duty rén man suǒ what tóng together
These ten obligations, are common to all men.
fán all xùn teach méng dull must jiǎng explain jiū investigate
In the education of the young, there should be explanation and elucidation,
xiáng minute xùn teach research míng clear paragraph sentence
careful teaching of the interpretations of commentators, due attention to paragraphs and sentences.
wèi be xué learn zhě one must yǒu have chū beginning
Those who are learners, must have a beginning.
xiǎo small xué learn zhōng end zhì reach four shū book
The Little Learning finished, they proceed to the Four Books.
lùn discuss speech zhě one èr two shí ten piān tablet
There is the Lun Yü, in twenty sections.
qún flock younger-brother zi child record shàn virtuous yán words
In this, the various disciples, have recorded the wise sayings of Confucius.
mèng Mencius zi philosopher zhě one seven piān slip zhǐ stop
The works of Mencius, are comprised in seven sections.
jiǎng explain dào way exemplification shuō expound rén charity duty
These explain the WAY and the exemplification thereof, and expound charity and duty towards one's neighbour.
zuò make zhōng middle yōng course zi Tzu su brush
The Chung Yung was written, by the pen of Tzŭ-ssŭ;
zhōng middle not piān deflected yōng course not changed
Chung (the middle) being that which does not lean towards any side, Yung (the course) being that which cannot be changed.
zuò make great xué learn nǎi that céng Tseng zi philosopher
He who wrote The Great Learning, was the philosopher Tsêng.
from xiū cultivate order zhì arrive píng balance zhì government
Beginning with cultivation of the individual and ordering of the family, it goes on to government of one's own State and tranquillisation of the Empire.
xiào filial jīng classic tōng pierce four shū book shú cooked
When the Classic of Filial Piety is mastered, and the Four Books are known by heart,
follow liù six jīng canon shǐ begin can read
the next step is to the Six Classics, which may now be studied.
shī poetry shū book change rites chūn spring qiū autumn
The Books of Poetry, of History, and of Changes, the Rites of the Chou Dynasty, the Book of Rites, and the Spring and Autumn Annals,
hào name liù six jīng classic dāng ought jiǎng explain qiú seek
are called the Six Classics, which should be carefully explained and analysed.
yǒu have lián connected shān hills yǒu have guī return cáng storehouse
There is the Lien shan system, there is the Kuei tsang,
yǒu have zhōu Chou change sān three change xiáng elucidate
and there is the system of Changes of the Chou dynasty; such are the three systems which elucidate the Changes.
yǒu have diǎn regulation counsel yǒu have xùn teach gào announce
There are the Regulations, the Counsels, the Instructions, the Announcements,
yǒu have shì oath mìng order shū book zhī 's ào mystery
the Oaths, the Charges; these are the profundities of the Book of History.
I zhōu Chou gōng duke zuò make zhōu Chou ceremonial
Our Duke of Chou, drew up the Ritual of the Chou dynasty,
zhù manifest liù six guān official cún keep zhì govern body
in which he set forth the duties of the six classes of officials, and thus gave a settled form to the government.
great xiǎo small dài Tai zhù annotate ceremonies record
The Elder and the Younger Tai, wrote commentaries on the Book of Rites.
shù publish shèng holy yán words ceremony music bèi prepare
They published the holy words, and Ceremonies and Music were set in order.
yuē speak guó State fēng wind yuē speak odes sòng panegyric
We speak of the Kuo fêng, we speak of the Ya and of the Sung.
hào name four shī poetry dāng ought fěng chant yǒng hum
These are the four sections of the Book of Poetry, which should be hummed over and over.
shī poetry when wáng disappear chūn spring qiū autumn zuò make
When odes ceased to be made, the Spring and Autumn Annals were produced.
dwell bāo praise biǎn blame bié separate shàn good è bad
These Annals contain praise and blame, and distinguish the good from the bad.
sān three chuán record zhě one yǒu have gōng kung yáng yang
The three commentaries upon the above, include that of Kung-yang,
yǒu have zuǒ Tso shì family yǒu have Ku liáng liang
that of Tso, and that of Ku-liang.
jīng classic when míng clear fāng then read zi philosopher
When the Classics are understood, then the writings of the various philosophers should be read.
cuō choose the yào need record the shì affair
Pick out the important points in each, and take a note of all facts.
five zi philosopher zhě one yǒu have xún Hsung yáng Yang
The five chief philosophers, are Hsün, Yang,
wén Wen zhōng Chung zi Tzu reach lǎo Lao zhuāng Chuang
Wên Chung Tzŭ, Lao Tzŭ, and Chuang Tzŭ
jīng classic zi philosopher tōng pierce read zhū all shǐ historian
When the Classics and the Philosophers are mastered, the various histories should be read,
kǎo examine shì generation connect zhī know zhōng end shǐ beginning
and the genealogical connections should be examined, so that the end of one dynasty and the beginning of the next may be known.
from vapour nóng till zhì arrive huáng yellow ruler
From Fu Hsi and Shên Nung, on to the Yellow Emperor,—
hào name sān three huáng ruler abide shàng top shì generation
these are called the Three Rulers, who lived in the early ages.
táng Tang yǒu yu yu hào name èr two ruler
T'ang and Yu-yü, are called the Two Emperors.
xiāng mutual yield xùn withdraw chēng entitle shèng prosperous shì age
They abdicated, one after the other, and theirs was called the Golden Age.
xià Hsia yǒu have Yu shāng Shang yǒu have tāng Tang
The Hsia dynasty had Yü; the Shang dynasty had T'ang;
zhōu Chou wén wen wu chēng Entitle sān three wáng king
the Chou dynasty had Wen and Wu;— these are called the Three Kings.
xià Hsia chuán transmit zi child jiā family tiān heaven xià below
Under the Hsia dynasty the throne was transmitted from father to son, making a family possession of the empire.
four bǎi hundred zài year qiān move xià Hsia shè sacrificy
After four hundred years, the Imperial sacrifice passed from the House of Hsia.
tāng Tang fell xià Hsia guó state hào name shāng shang
T'ang the Completer destroyed the Hsia dynasty, and the dynastic title became Shang.
liù six bǎi hundred zài year zhì arrive zhòu Chou wáng disappear
The line lasted for six hundred years, ending with Chou Hsin.
zhōu Chou Wu wáng king shǐ begin zhū slay zhòu Chou
King Wu of the Chou dynasty, finally slew Chou Hsin.
eight bǎi hundred zài year zuì very zhǎng long jiǔ lasting
His own line lasted for eight hundred years,— the longest dynasty of all.
zhōu Chou zhé cart-rut dōng east wáng prince gāng bond zhuì sink
When the Chous made tracks eastwards, the feudal bond was slackened;
chěng violent gàn shield spear shàng esteem yóu travel shuō counsel
the arbitrament of spears and shields prevailed; and peripatetic politicians were held in high esteem.
shǐ begin chūn spring qiū autumn zhōng end zhàn fight guó state
This period began with the Spring, and Autumn epoch, and ended with that of the Warring States.
five chief qiáng strong seven xióng male chū come-forth
Next, the Five Chieftains domineered, and the Seven Martial States came to the front.
yíng Ying qín Ch'in shì family shǐ begin jiān together bìng unite
Then the House of Ch'in, descended from the Ying clan, finally united all the States under one sway.
chuán transmit èr Erh shì Shih chǔ Chu hàn han zhēng contend
The throne was transmitted to Erh Shih, upon which followed the struggle between the Ch'u and the Han States.
gāo Kao Tzu xìng rise hàn Han patrimony jiàn establish
Then Kao Tsu arose, and the House of Han was established.
zhì Arrive xiào Hsiao píng Ping wáng Wang mǎng Mang cuàn usurp
When we come to the reign of Hsiao P'ing, Wang Mang usurped the throne.
guāng Kuang Wu xìng rise wèi Make dōng east hàn han
Then Kuang Wu arose, and founded the Eastern Han dynasty.
four bǎi hundred nián year zhōng end with xiàn Hsien
It lasted four hundred years, and ended with the Emperor Hsien.
wèi Wei shǔ Shu Wu zhēng Contend hàn han dǐng tripod
Wei, Shu, and Wu, fought for the sovereignty of the Hans.
hào name sān three guó kingdom reach liǎng two jìn Jin
They were called the Three Kingdoms, and existed until the Two Chin dynasties.
sòng Sung Chi connect liáng Liang chén Chen chéng receive
Then followed the Sung and the Ch'i dynasties, and after them the Liang and Ch'ên dynasties.
wèi be nán south cháo court dōu capital jīn Chin líng Ling
These are the southern dynasties, with their capital at Nanking.
běi north yuán Yuan wèi Wei fēn divide dōng east 西 west
The northern dynasties are the Wei dynasty of the Yüan family, which split into Eastern and Western Wei,
Yu wén Wen zhōu Chou with gāo Kao Chi
the Chou dynasty of the Yü-wên family, with the Ch'i dynasty of the Kao family.
dài reach zhì arrive suí sui one earth sky
At length, under the Sui dynasty, the empire was united under one ruler.
not zài twice chuán transmit shī lose tǒng control clue
The throne was not transmitted twice, succession to power being lost.
táng Tang gāo high ancestor raise duty shī soldier
The first Emperor of the T'ang dynasty, raised volunteer troops.
chú remove suí Sui luàn confusion chuàng establish guó nation foundation
He put an end to the disorder of the House of Sui, and established the foundations of his line.
èr two shí ten chuán transmit sān three bǎi hundred zài year
Twenty times the throne was transmitted, in a period of three hundred years.
liáng Liang miè extinguish zhī it guó nation nǎi then gǎi change
The Liang State destroyed it, and the dynastic title was changed.
liáng Liang táng Tang jìn Qin reach hàn han zhōu Chou
The Liang, the T'ang, the Chin, the Han, and the Chou,
chēng entitle five dài dynasty jiē all yǒu have yóu cause
are called the Five Dynasties, and there was a reason for the establishment of each.
yán fiery sòng Sung xìng rise shòu receive zhōu Chou chán resignation
Then the fire-led House of Sung arose, and received the resignation of the House of Chou.
shí ten eight chuán transmit nán south běi north hùn blend
Eighteen times the throne was transmitted, and then the north and the south were reunited.
shí ten seven shǐ history quán all zài are here
The Seventeen Dynastic Histories, are all embraced in the above.
zài contain zhì government luàn confusion zhī know xìng rise shuāi decay
They contain examples of good and bad government, whence may be learnt the principles of prosperity and decay.
read shǐ history zhě one kǎo examine shí true record
Ye who read history, must study the State Annals,
tōng pierce ancient jīn modern ruò as qīn personal eye
whereby you will understand ancient and modern events, as though having seen them with your own eyes.
kǒu mouth ér then sòng recite xīn heart ér then wéi consider
Recite them with the mouth, and ponder over them in your hearts.
cháo morning at this evening at this
Do this in the morning; do this in the evening.
Formerly zhòng Chung ni shī teacher xiàng Hsiang tuó To
Of old, Confucius, took Hsiang T'o for his teacher.
ancient shèng holy xián wise shàng notwithstanding qín diligent xué study
The inspired men and sages of old, studied diligently nevertheless.
zhào Zhao zhōng middle lìng worthy read Lu lùn discourse
Chao, President of the Council, studied the Lu text of the Lun Yü
He already shì official xué learn qiě moreover qín diligent
He, when already an official, studied, and moreover with diligence.
open rush biān plait xuē scrape zhú bamboo jiǎn tablet
One opened out rushes and plaited them together; another scraped tablets of bamboo.
they not shū book qiě yet zhī know miǎn effort
These men had no books, they knew how to make an effort.
tóu head xuán hang liáng beam zhuī awl prick thigh
One tied his head to the beam above him; another pricked his thigh with an awl.
they not jiào teach self qín diligent bitter
They were not taught, but toiled hard of their own accord.
follow náng bag yíng firefly follow yìng bright xuě snow
Then we have one who put fireflies in a bag, and again another who used the white glare from snow.
jiā family suī although pín poor xué learn not chuò stop
Although their families were poor, these men studied unceasingly.
follow carry xīn fuel follow guà hang jiǎo horn
Again, there was one who carried fuel, and anotner who used horns as pegs.
shēn body suī although láo toil yóu still bitter zhuó surpass
Although they toiled with their bodies, they were nevertheless remarkable for their application.
Su lǎo Lao quán Chuan èr two shí ten seven
Su Lao-ch'üan, at the age of twenty-seven,
shǐ begin emit fèn energy read shū book record
at length began to show his energy, and devote himself to the study of books.
he already lǎo old yóu especially huǐ repent chí late
Then, when already past the age, he deeply regretted his delay.
ěr you xiǎo small shēng born ought zǎo early think
You little boys, should take thought betimes.
ruò then liáng liang hào hao eight shí ten èr two
Then there was Liang Hao, who at the age of eighty-two,
duì reply great tíng hall kuí first duō many shì scholar
made his replies in the great hall, and came out first among many scholars.
he late chéng complete zhòng crowd chēng entitle strange
thus late he had succeeded, all men pronounced him a prodigy.
ěr you xiǎo small shēng born ough establish zhì intention
You little boys, should make up your minds to work.
yíng Jung eight suì year néng able yǒng recity shī poetry
Jung, at eight years of age, could compose poetry.
Pi Seven suì year néng able epigram chequers
Pi, at seven years of age, could make an epigram on wei-ch'i.
they yǐng sharp perceive rén main chēng entitle wonderful
These youths were quick of apprehension, and people declared them to be prodigies.
ěr you yòu young xué learn dāng ought xiào imitate zhī arrive
You young learners, ought to imitate them.
cài Tsai wén Wen Ji néng able biàn judge qín lute
Ts'ai Wên-chi, was able to judge from the sound of a lute.
xiè Hsieh dào Tao yùn Yun néng Able yǒng hum yín croon
Hsieh Tao-yün, was able to compose verses.
They girl zi child qiě yet cōng clever mǐn sharp
They were only girls, yet they were quick and clever.
ěr you nán male zi child dāng ough self jǐng warn
You boys, ought to rouse yourselves.
táng Tang liú Liu yàn Yen fāng just seven suì year
Liu Yen of the T'ang dynasty, when only seven years of age,
raise shén spiritual tóng boy zuò do zhèng correct word
was ranked as an "inspired child", and was appointed a Corrector of Texts.
he suī although yòu young shēn body already shì official
He, although a child, was already in an official post.
ěr you yòu young xué learn miǎn effort ér and zhì cause
You young learners, strive to bring about a like result.
yǒu have wèi do zhě one also ruò like shì this
Those who work, will also succeed as he did.
quǎn dog shǒu guard night cock rule chén dawn
The dog keeps guard by night; the cock proclaims the dawn.
gǒu if not xué learn how wèi become rén man
If foolishly you do not study, how can you become men?
cán silkworm vomit silk fēng bee niàng ferment honey
The silkworm produces silk, the bee makes honey.
rén man not xué learn not like thing
If a man does not learn, he is not equal to the brutes.
yòu young ér and xué learn zhuàng strong ér and xíng act
Learn while young, and when grown up apply what you have learnt;
shàng above zhì cause jūn ruler xià below fertilise mín people
influencing the sovereign above; benefiting the people below.
yáng raise míng name shēng sound xiǎn display father mother
Make a name for yourselves, and glorify your father and mother,
guāng bright on qián before abundant on hòu after
shed lustre on your ancestors, enrich your posterity.
rén man bequeath zi child jīn metal 滿mǎn full yíng coffer
Men bequeath to their children, coffers of gold;
I jiào teach zi child wéi only one jīng classic
I teach you children, only this one book.
qín diligent yǒu have gōng merit play not add
Diligence has its reward; play has no advantages.
jiè guard zhī it zāi oh ought miǎn effort strength
Oh, be on your guard, and put forth your strength.

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