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Classical Chinese

韓愈 師說 translation: On Teaching, by Han Yu · Pt 1

This is the first part in a translation of the essay 師說 (‘On Teaching’) by the Tang dynasty scholar 韓愈 (Han Yu).

古之學者必有師。 Gǔ zhī xuézhě bì yǒu shī. [ancient] ['s] [study] [those who] [must] [have] [teacher] The students of old had to have a teacher.

師者,所以傳道、受業、解惑也。 Shī zhě, suǒ yǐ chuándào, shòuyè, jiěhuò yě. [teacher] [as for], [which] [as to] [pass on] [truth], [receive] [study], [separate] [confusion] A teacher is one who transmits knowledge, provides for study and dispels confusion.

人非生而知之者 Rén fēi shēng ér zhī zhī zhě, [person] [not] [born] [yet] [know] [it] [those who] People are not born with knowledge;

孰能無惑? shú néng wú huò? [who] [can] [not have] [confusion] who can be without confusion?

惑而不從師, Huò ér bù cóngshī, [confuse] [yet] [not] [follow] [teacher] If one is confused yet does not learn from a teacher,

其為惑也,終不解矣。 qí wèi huò yě, zhōng bù jiě yǐ. [one] [be] [confuse] [is], [end] [not] [untie] then one will stay confused, and this will never be resolved.

生乎吾前,其聞道也, Shēng hu wú qián, qí wén dào yě, [born] [at] [me] [before], [they] [hear] [truth] [] As for those born before me, their acquisition of knowledge

固先乎吾,吾從而師之。 gù xiān hu wú, wú cóng'ér shī zhī. [of course] [before] [to] [me], [I] [via] [and] [teacher] [them] if of course before mine, so I view them as teachers. Interesting use of 師 as a verb here.

生乎吾後,其聞道也, Shēng hu wú hòu, qí wén dào yě, [born] [at] [me] [after], [they] [hear] [truth] [] As for those born after me, their acquisition of knowledge

亦先乎吾,吾從而師之。 yì xiān hu wú, wú cóng'ér shī zhī. [likewise] [before] [to] [me], [I] [via] [and] [teacher] [them] might still be before mine, so I view them as teachers.

吾師道也, Wú shī dào yě, [I] [master] [truth] I wish to study the truth;

夫庸知其年之先後生於吾乎? fú yōng zhī qí nián zhī xiānhòu shēng yú wú hu? [] [use] [aware] [one] [year] ['s] [first] [last] [born] [at] [me] [?] why should I be concerned with who was born before or after me? 夫 is used to introduce an opinion.

是故無貴無賤, Shì gù wú guì wú jiàn, [this] [reason] [not have] [noble] [not have] [low] So there are none who are noble, and none who are lowly;

無長無少, wú cháng wú shǎo, [not have] [old] [not have] [young] none who are older and none who are younger;

道之所存,師之所存也。 dào zhī suǒcún, shī zhī suǒcún yě. [truth] ['s] [that which is] [exist], [teacher] ['s] [that which is] [exist] [] truth's existence is the teacher's existence.

This last line is often translated less cryptically into something like “you should learn from those who have knowledge” or “you should view as teachers those who have knowledge” (regardless of who they are).

Part II →

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