I'm translating a classical Chinese text into English and the phrase "起予“ 让我头痛。 Please, help.

This is the full classical text (from the Confucian analects) :

子夏問曰:「『巧笑倩兮, 美目盼兮, 素以為絢兮。』何謂也? 子曰: 「繪事後素。」 曰: 「禮後乎?」 子曰: 「起予者商也,始可與言詩已矣。 」

The best I can try to translate 起予 is for it to mean something along the lines of... starts to give....


  • see e。g. slkj.org/wenyan/23802.html
    – user6065
    Nov 28, 2015 at 23:08
  • 2
    Many careful specialists have translated the Lun Yu. You should look at D. C. Lau, Arthur Waley, Ames and Rosemount and as many others as you have time for. Slingerland gives detailed discussion of some translation issues and on various Chinese commentaries on each passage. Nov 29, 2015 at 1:33
  • Thanks! Haha, yeah I'm no specialist, just some homework.
    – 3龙花
    Nov 29, 2015 at 18:24
  • I'm curious, what resources were you supposed to use for this homework? I hope it was not just a standard textbook on 普通话. Nov 29, 2015 at 23:11
  • We have been learning classical Chinese for a semester, so I have a basic idea of what's all up. Anyway I got on Baidu to get me some specific definitions of the words in question and the word that was really getting me here was that 起 can mean inspire, but I think that's a rare usage in classical chinese.
    – 3龙花
    Nov 30, 2015 at 2:01

1 Answer 1


起 means "inspire", and 予 means "me". Literally: It's you, Shang (Zixia's given name), who inspired me.

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