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Exemplarious translation of Daxue 大学The Great Learning

The Daxue 大学 “Great Learning” is a Confucian Classic. It is part of the canon of the Sishu 四书 “Four Books”, to which it was added as integral Confucian writing on the order and harmony of society.

Exemplarious translation:


• 子程子曰:「大学,孔氏之遗书,而初学入德之门也.」于今可见古人为学次第者,独赖此篇之存,而论、孟次之.学者必由是而学焉,则庶乎其不差矣.
Zi Chengzi said: “The Great Learning is a writing handed down by Confucius; and it is the entrance gate for everyone who begins to study virtuousness.” From these words, we can learn that people in old times first started to study solely by relying on this book; everything depended on its existance, and only after it, they started to read the Analects and the Mengzi. Everyone engaging in studies has to begin his studies with this book to cover everying that he does not want to leave out.



1. 大学之道,在明明德,在亲民,在止于至善。知止而后有定,定而后能静,静而后能安,安而后能虑,虑而后能得。物有本末,事有终始,知所先后,则近道矣。
What the Great Learning taches, is to illustrate illustrious virtue; to renovate (love?) the people; and to rest in the highest excellence. The point where to rest being known, the object of pursuit is then determined, a calm uperturbedness may be attained to. To that calmness there will succeed a tranquil repose. In that repse there may be careful deliberation, and that deliberation will be followed by the attainment of the desired end. Things have their root and their branches. Affairs have their end and their beginning. To know what is first and what is last will lead near to what is taught in the Great Learning.



The ancients who wished to illustrate illustrious virtue throughout the kingdom, first ordered well their own states. Wishing to order well their states, they first regulated their families. Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated their persons. Wishing to cultivate their persons, they first rectified their hearts. Wishing to rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts. Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost their knowledge. Such extension of knowledge lay in the investigation of things.



Things being investigated, knowledge became complete. Their knowledge being complete, their thoughts were sincere. Their thoughts being sincere, their hearts were then rectified. Their hearts being rectified, their persons were cultivated. Their persons being cultivated, their families were regulated. Their families being regulated, their states were rightly governed. Their states being rightly governed, the whole kingdom was made tranquil and happy. From the Son of Heaven down to the mass of the people, all must consider the cultivation of the person the root of everything besides. It cannot be, when the root is neglected, that what should spring from it be well ordered. It never has been the case that what was of great importance has been slightly cared for, and, at the same time, that what was of slight importance has been greatly cared for. This is meant by talking of the knowing the root of things, and this is meant by completion of knowledge.



• 右经一章,盖孔子之言,而曾子述之.其传十章,则曾子之意而门人记之也.…
The first chapter of the Great Learning are the words of Confucius, written down by his disciple Zengzi. The ten chapters of the Commentary follow the interpretation of Zengzi, and they were written down by his disciples.



• 康诰曰:「克明德.」大甲曰:「顾諟天之明命.」帝典曰:「克明峻德. 」皆自明也.右传之首章.释明明德.
The Announcement of Kang [of the Book of Documents, Shangshu] says: “He was able to illustrate his virtue”. The chapter Taijia (here: Dajia) says: “He kept his eye continually on the bright requirements of Heaven”. The Canon of Emperor [Yao] says: “He made the able and virtuous distinguished”. All these citations enlighten its meaning. The text above is the heading chapter, and it illustrates the illustrious virtue.
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