In Zhuang Zi 5.2 we read:


Lin Yutang translation: "Now I have heard that if a mirror is perfectly bright, dust will not collect on it, and that if it does, the mirror is no longer bright. He who associates for long with the wise should be without fault." (Notice in the link above how Yutang avoids the quotes.)

I wonder if the saying is both phrases,


or only the first one (being the end quote misplaced somewhere in the copy chain).


Looks to me like both phrases make more sense in the context of this book. In some places it is referred in the shorter version, like here and here.

2 Answers 2


聞之曰 in most cases means a quote is following. But for ancient works like Zhuangzi, it maybe not. Sometimes ancient authors talk with the beginning of 'I heard from others that...' just a style, and the following 'quote' is not from some resource, but just the author's personal opinion, or maybe it is really quote, but the originals has already lost during the long history. As you should know, Zhuangzi is as old as about 2500 years ago, and the quote should be at least 2500 years also, which is a age without paper, pen, very few educated people, and documentation was very hard, so that the lost of the original of a quote is reasonable. Also, in ancient Chinese, there is no quotation mark, even Chinese never used any punctuation marks in writing. Ancient educated people are trained to read the articles without punctuations, and the punctuations are add by modern people. So, please, as a reader of ancient Chinese, never pay that much attention to quotation marks. After all, no matter where the sayings are from, they are always reasonable and worthy to learn.


Honestly, it doesn't matter. The "quote" is mostly made up in such context to emphasize the 2nd phrase.

  • Since the sentence begins with a 聞之曰, it's obviously a citation. So there must be a quote somewhere. And since I'm doing a translation, I will have to decide what is the probable right place. So it does matter, I guess.
    – Rodrigo
    Nov 15, 2015 at 14:35
  • In these classical Chinese text, "聞之" is more made up sentences than actual citation.
    – Siyi Deng
    Nov 15, 2015 at 17:12
  • Oh yes, I forgot that. So it's more a matter of opinion. I can change the quote position and see what people think. Thanks for your help.
    – Rodrigo
    Nov 15, 2015 at 19:10

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