For example, in the phrase "教师之为教." I know it is formal language, but what is a good way to understand it in English?

  • 1
    cf。"现代汉语词典":之³ (2)用在主谓结构之间,取消它的独立性,使变成偏正结构:中国~大|战斗~烈|大道~行也,天下为公|如因势利导,则如水~就下,极为自然。Accordingly 教师之为教 would mean "A teacher's acting as teacher", an endocentric construction 偏正结构 that could be the subject of a complete sentence (see below answer).
    – user6065
    Commented Oct 1, 2016 at 22:01

3 Answers 3


I searched for 教师之为教 and got a few hits suggesting it's the first clause from the sentence "教师之为教,不在全盘授予,而在相机引导。……".

In that case, 之 means of; from and 为 means act; perform.

教师之为教 literally means 'the act of teaching of a teacher (should be ...)', and in this context means 'the art of teaching (is ...)'.


The art of teaching is not to explain everything at once, but to guide at opportune times.


Can't comment, not enough points.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this 之 just 的? Edit: that is to say 之为 is not a word it's more 教师-之-为-教

教师的为教 The teacher's way of teaching ...

A strange phonetic coincidence between 为 and way!

  • in agreement with other answer and comment
    – user6065
    Commented Oct 2, 2016 at 0:01
  • Yes, I also agree, since it came from ancient Chinese, to somebody it looks rather difficult to understand at first sight, but it's in fact quite easy, to get a better understanding it's suggested to split them up, 之 simply as 的, at some degree similar to the genitive case. 为, as a linking verb, translated as BE, here a gerund would be a proper choice, so the literal translation would be "the teaching of a teacher". Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 8:17

imo, "教師之為教" is an composed verse, pretending in old written style. so, here's the literary chinese approaches:

first, some examples of "之為":


once (一) is (為) too much (甚)

之 indicates the occurrence of "once", while 為 is "being"



understanding (知之) is (為) understanding (知之)

之 indicates the state of understanding



buddha (佛) 's (之為) doctrine (教), or

the doctrine (教) of (之為) buddha (佛)


teachers (師) ' (之為) principles (理), or

the principles (理) of (之為) teachers (師)

so, back to "教師之為教".

imo, it's ugly, "not-literary-chines-enough", a better saying is "師之為教".

i would suggest "之為" as 's:

teachers (師) ' 之為 teaching (教)

or "之為" as of:

the teachings (教) of (之為) teachers (師)

or, a more clumsy one:

the teachings (教) conducted (為) by (之) teachers (師)

since chinese language is fuzzy, there're a few more ways of explanations, the above are just some of them.

have fun :)

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