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勸學詩 권학시

This is for my friends who are learning Korean or my Korean friends learning Chinese.  This comes from an accomplished tri-lingual Korean whose interests are in Classical Chinese and the spread of Hanja use.


His website for those who are interested is  However, I know Wordpress is an inaccessible website for those in the Mainland.  Since I don't know Korean, I can only talk about the Chinese and English aspects.


The English translation is far from elegant and confuses Western readers or those who are not exposed to Sino-culture.  It is also a good exercise for your English translation.


勸學詩 권학시

A Poem Promoting Learning

朱子曰: 勿謂今日不學而有來日
주자왈: 물위금일불학이유래일

Master Ju said, “Do not say, ‘I need not learn today, because I have tomorrow.’


Do not say, ‘I need not learn this year, because I have next year.’

日月逝矣, 歲不我延
일월서의, 세불아연

The days and months flow off; but the years do not slow down for me.

嗚呼老矣, 是誰之愆
오호로의, 시수지건

O, alas! I am old. Whose fault is this?”

少年易老學難成 소년이로학난성
一寸光陰不可輕 일촌광음불가경
未覺池塘春草夢 미각지당춘초몽
階前梧葉已秋聲 계전오엽이추성

Youth grow old easily; but achieve studies hardly.
One inch of light and shade is not a trivial thing:
Not yet have they woken up from the dreams of the spring grass around the pond,
But before the steps the leaves of the foxglove tree already has the autumn sound.


  • “One inch of light and shade” is a literal translation of “一寸光陰(일촌광음)” and refers to a very short amount of time.


  • (당) – Pond (못). 池塘(지당) means pond.
  • 易(이, 역) – When it means “easy” (쉽다), it is read as 이; when it means “to exchange” (바꾸다), it is read as 역.
Oct 11, 2012 11:03 PM
Comments · 7

光阴 is translated as "time".  However, in the old meaning, it really means light and darkness to denote the passage of concept of time.  In English, "an inch of time" was adopted from the Chinese idiom, "an inch of gold cannot buy an inch of time".  Hanja and Kanji retain all the classical meanings of Chinese.  For example, Japanese, Korean, Cantonese and other southern dialects use to mean "run".  Only in Mandarin is it used to mean "walk".  However, the "run" meaning is still preserved in phrases such as, 狗. translated as "running dogs" and not "walking dogs. :)

October 13, 2012

Not saying that I need not study right now and that I will study tomorrow.

Not saying that I need not study in spring and that I will study in winter.

October 25, 2012

Translating from English to Chinese is equally hard.  Translation is more than just substituting words from one language to another.  One has to know its culture as well in order to be a good translator.  One of the reasons for this group's existence.  More importantly, if you don't try you hand doing it and discuss possible errors etc, no one will ever learn.  So try on your own and don't be afraid to get frank discussions if others have a different opinion.


There is nothing right or wrong.  Also there's an art to criticism as well.  Constructive criticisms are always welcomed; putting others down are not.  We are all adults here and opinions bound to differ :)

October 15, 2012

Yeah,thank you! I learned more! To translate Chinese peoms into English is too hard ,especially retianing both the literalization and the real meaning in Sino-culture.I know a lot of new words by reading this.=)

October 14, 2012

"一寸光阴" why not translate this directly into "one inch of time",actually "光阴" doesn't mean "light and shade".That is just my opinion.

October 13, 2012
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Language Skills
Chinese (Mandarin), Chinese (Cantonese), Chinese (Other), English
Learning Language
Chinese (Mandarin), Chinese (Cantonese), Chinese (Other)