Three Character Classic

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ᠮᠠᠨᠵᡠᠨᡳᡴᠠᠨᡥᡝᡵᡤᡝᠨᡴᠠᠮᠴᡳᠮᡝᠰᡠᡥᡝᠰᠠᠨᡤᡳᠩᠪᡳᡨᡥᡝ (Wylie: Manchu nikan ghergen i kamtsime sughe San tsz' ging pitghe; Möllendorff: Manju nikan hergen-i kamcime suhe San ze ging ni bithe).

The most well-known English translation of the text was completed by Herbert Giles in 1900 and revised in 1910. [7] The translation was based on the original Song dynasty version.[ citation needed ] Giles had completed an earlier translation in the late 19th century but he rejected that and other early translations as inaccurate. Earlier translations into English include those by Robert Morrison, 1812; Solomon Caesar Malan and Hung Hsiu-chʻüan, 1856, and Stanislas Julien, 1864.

A Christian Three Character Classic (Chinese: 新增三字經; Pinyin: Xīnzēng Sānzì Jīng) by Walter Henry Medhurst was first published in 1823 as an aid to missionary education. The three-character rhyming format was retained but the content was completely different. [8]


The first and second page of Tam tu kinh thich nghia San Zi Jing Shi Yi . It shows the original text of the Three Character Classic San Zi Jing annotated with the Vietnamese translation. Tam tu kinh thich nghia San Zi Jing Shi Yi .png
The first and second page of Tam tự kinh thích nghiã 三字經釋義. It shows the original text of the Three Character Classic 三字經 annotated with the Vietnamese translation.
In the book, Tam tu kinh giai am dien ca, shows the original text of San Zi Jing alongside the Vietnamese translation. Tam tu kinh giai am dien ca.jpg
In the book, Tam tự kinh giải âm diễn ca, shows the original text of 三字經 alongside the Vietnamese translation.

The Three Character Classic was also translated into Vietnamese, with the book Tam tự kinh thích nghiã 三字經釋義 having chữ Nôm characters annotating the original text. [9]

Three Character Classic
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 三字經
Simplified Chinese 三字经
Hanyu Pinyin Sānzì Jīng
First two lines of Tam tự kinh thích nghiã 三字經釋義
Original textVietnamese transliterationVietnamese translationVietnamese alphabet
三字經Tam tự kinh𠀧𡨸經Ba chữ kinh
人之初性本善Nhân chi sơ tính bản thiện𠊛蒸易性本𫅜Người chưng dịch tính vốn lành
性相近習相遠Tính tương cận tập tương viễn性拱𧵆習拱賒Tính cũng gần tập cũng xa

There are other books such as Tam tự kinh giải âm diễn ca 三字經解音演歌 that has the original text of the Three Character Classic alongside the Vietnamese translation. [10]

First two lines of Tam tự kinh giải âm diễn ca 三字經解音演歌
Original textVietnamese transliterationVietnamese translationVietnamese alphabet
三字經Tam tự kinh經𠀧𡨸Kinh Ba chữ
人之初性本善Nhân chi sơ tính bản thiện𠊛蒸𱢎生𠚢性𡗶賦本僐Người chưng xưa sinh ra tính trời phú vốn thiện
性相近習相遠Tính tương cận tập tương viễn性共𧵆習共賒Tính cũng gần tập cũng xa

Differences in texts

The following stanzas do not appear in the Giles translation and originally appeared in Simplified Chinese. They list the dynasties that followed the Song dynasty up to and including the founding of Republican China. These stanzas were probably added cumulatively sometime between late 13th century and after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

Simplified Chinese Traditional Chinese Pinyin Translation
辽与金 皆称帝遼與金 皆稱帝liáoyǔjīn jiēchēngdìThe Liao and Jin (dynasties),
both claimed to be emperors.
太祖兴 国大明 号洪武 都金陵太祖興 國大明 號洪武 都金陵tàizǔxīng guódàmíng hàohóngwǔ dūjīnlíng Taizu rises,
his country is the Great Ming.
His regnal name is Hongwu,
his capital at Jinling.
迨成祖 迁燕京 十六世 至崇祯迨成祖 遷燕京 十六世 至崇禎dàichéngzǔ qiānyànjīng shíliùshì zhìchóngzhēnBy the time Chengzu started ruling,
he moved (his capital) to Yanjing.
(His dynasty) lasted for sixteen successions,
until the Chongzhen Emperor.
阉乱後 寇内讧 闯逆变 神器终閹亂後 寇內訌 闖逆變 神器終yānluànhòu kòunèihòng chuǎngnìbiàn shénqìzhōng Eunuchs stir up trouble in the palace,
rebels cause internal conflict.
The Dashing King starts a rebellion,
the Divine Utensil comes to an end.
清顺治 据神京 至十传 宣统逊清順治 據神京 至十傳 宣統遜qīngshùnzhì jùshénjīng zhìshíchuán xuāntǒngxùnThe Shunzhi Emperor of Qing,
seized the Imperial Capital.
After ten generations,
the Xuantong Emperor abdicated.
举总统 共和成 复汉土 民国兴舉總統 共和成 復漢土 民國興jǔzǒngtǒng gònghéchéng fùhàntǔ mínguóxìngA President is elected,
the Republic is formed.
Chinese soil was recovered,
the Republic of China flourishes.
廿二史 全在兹 载治乱 知兴衰¹廿二史 全在茲 載治亂 知興衰¹niànèrshǐ quánzàizī zàizhìluàn zhīxīngshuāiThe Twenty-two Dynastic Histories,
are all embraced in the above.
They contain examples of good and bad government,
whence may be learnt the principles of prosperity and decay.

¹ this line replaces the original one in the Song version where it says "The Seventeen Dynastic Histories... 十七史...".


The first two lines were recited at the Academy Awards 2021 by Chloé Zhao, the award winner for best director. [11] [12]

See also


  1. "San Zi Jing". Library of Congress . Retrieved 2010-08-15.
  2. Minjie Chen (22 January 2016). The Sino-Japanese War and Youth Literature: Friends and Foes on the Battlefield. Routledge. pp. 15–. ISBN   978-1-317-50881-6.
  3. 1 2 Scollon, Ron; Suzanne Wong Scollon; Rodney H. Jones (3 January 2012). Intercultural Communication: A Discourse Approach. Vol. 35. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 166–167. ISBN   9780470656402.
  4. Kutcher, Norman (2006). Mourning in Late Imperial China: Filial Piety and the State . Cambridge University Press. pp.  27. ISBN   9780521030182.
  5. Johnson, David; Andrew James Nathan (1987). Popular Culture in Late Imperial China. University of California Press. p. 29. ISBN   9780520061729.
  6. Rawski (1979), pp. 46–48.
  7. "Elementary Chinese ... San tzu ching". Shanghai, Kelly & Walsh. 1900.
  8. Guo, Hong (2022-11-15), "From Children's Instructional Textbook to Missionary Tool: the Publication History of the Christian Three-Character Classic from 1823 to 1880", Beyond Indigenization: Christianity and Chinese History in a Global Context, BRILL, pp. 202–224, ISBN   978-90-04-53212-0 , retrieved 2023-04-23
  9. "Tam-tự- kinh thích-nghĩa. 三字經釋義". Bibliothèque nationale de France. 1873.
  10. "三字經解音演歌 | Tam tự kinh giải âm diễn ca". Nom Foundation. 1888.
  11. "Chloé Zhao accepts Best Director Academy Award for 'Nomadland'". GMA . April 26, 2021. Archived from the original on 2021-12-12. Retrieved April 27, 2021. It's called the Three Character Classics. And the first phrase goes: 人之初, 性本善 - - People at birth are inherently good
  12. "This year's Oscars could have been a moment of pride for China. Then politics got in the way". April 26, 2021. Retrieved April 27, 2021. Zhao said she used to recite classic Chinese poems and texts with her father, and one particular line from the Three Character Classic -- "People at birth are inherently good" -- had helped her keep going when things got hard.

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