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In Buddhist Hybrid (Literary?) Chinese, 行 occupies several functions, including "to walk", "volitional fabrication" (as a translation of the Sanskrit/Pāli: saṃskāra/saṅkhāra), "[religious] practice", and a host of other things.

My question is, can 行 be used to mean "walk to" in addition to "walk", or is another word required to make 行 mean "walk to [something]".

Like, take this constructed sentence: 佛行塔

Does this mean:

  1. The Buddha walks to the pagoda.
  2. The Buddha acts as a pagoda.
  3. The Buddha's practice-pagoda (as in a place for Buddhadharma practice).
  4. Buddha-practice pagoda (as in a place for Buddhadharma practice that is not the Buddha's specifically).
  5. The pagoda of the Buddha's virtuous deeds (行)

Or is it an utterly wrong sequence of characters to put together because 行 cannot function in this particular setting as a verb?

  • First there is no "Buddhist Hybrid Chinese". There is "Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit" but even that is a made up term. 行 largely means "to conduct oneself" which is how it makes its way into the business vocabulary. – Guesterooni Apr 26 '17 at 19:58
  • Can you update your question with the time period you're talking about and perhaps example passages you're trying to interpret? – Stumpy Joe Pete Apr 26 '17 at 20:47
  • There is no passage I'm trying to interpret, I was just inquiring to see how 行 can appear as "walk" and what positions it cannot function as "walk" in, such as 佛行塔. However, the Chinese I am generally dealing with is from approx 300AD and is generally referred to as "Buddhist Hybrid Chinese" by most serious scholars who study it, despite the naysayer elsewhere in these comments. It is essentially a "Buddhist" dialect of Middle (I think?) Chinese, used exclusively for religious literature, that has some peculiar features that blend Indo-Aryan grammatical features with Chinese. – Caoimhghin Apr 27 '17 at 3:58
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cannot be used to mean walk to unless it is paired with or . For example:

The Buddha walks to the pagoda.

菩萨行走到佛塔旁。

or

菩萨步行到佛塔旁。

The first translation does not read well although the second also reads a bit awkward. Normally people would just write 菩萨到佛塔旁。


Normally, is not used alone to mean walk either.

Translating he walks into 他行 will likely confuse people. The most common word for walk is , no matter in oral or written Chinese. Therefore, he walks is 他走 in Chinese, although it does not make much sense.

It can be translated differently depending on the scenario, such as 他会走, meaning he can walk, or 他在走, meaning he is walking, 他走了几步, meaning he walks a bit.

A single word can only mean walk when it is used in an idiom or proverb. For example:

读万卷书,行万里路

which is a Chinese proverb directly translated as read thousands of books and walk thousands of miles. Its implied meaning is you have to read a lot to be knowledgeable and practice more to learn to use your knowledge.


"行" when used alone, is more likely to mean OK, sure, all right, be capable of etc.

他行的

He is OK for doing something. He is capable of doing something.

-能帮我去买点东西吗? - 行!

  • Can you buy me something? - Sure!

你行不行啊?

Are you able to do it or not?


佛行塔

Does not make sense in Chinese, although one may eventually understand the phrase after a deep thinking about the meaning of each individual word.

Similar to English, you usually need to use a preposition between a verb (intransitive) and a noun. When you say Buddha walks to pagoda, to is the preposition. In Chinese, is the preposition equivalent to to.

Thus, 佛走到塔.

This is better, a lot easier to understand, but not good enough.

In English, when you say walk to pagoda, it means keep walking until you are next/close to pagoda. The prepositions in Chinese has to be very specific. only means "arrive at", but you have to explicitly use the preposition to tell the reader whether you arrive at the front of the pagoda or the side of it. Use if it is the front or , or 旁边 if it is the side.

Thus, 佛走到塔前/旁/边/旁边.

Sorry that I've gone a bit far from your original question. I only want to correct your mistake :)

  • This answer seems to be about modern Chinese, which is not what the question was about? – Stumpy Joe Pete Apr 26 '17 at 20:46
  • It was still helpful, because it seems that 行 never functions in a setting like "佛行塔" as "walk", if such a string of characters were to occur. – Caoimhghin Apr 27 '17 at 4:04
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Firstly, there's no "佛行塔". And it's obvious for native Chinese.

行 has lots of meanings, it could mean "walk", but it could also "store"(so "佛行" mean "a store sell Buddha things, like sculpture etc...)

Correct/Native saying:

The Buddha walks to the pagoda. 佛走向那座塔。

The Buddha acts as a pagoda. 佛立如塔。 (or a more native way, 站如钟)

The Buddha's practice-pagoda (as in a place for Buddhadharma practice). 佛堂/寺庙

Buddha-practice pagoda (as in a place for Buddhadharma practice that is not the Buddha's specifically).
I don't get your point...Because Chinese doesn't have article in grammar so I assume same meaning like above.

  • I'd like to point out that when 行 means "store", its pronunciation is no longer "xíng" but "hɑ́ng". When pronounced as "hɑ́ng", it can also mean "row", such as 第一行 (the first row). – Anthony Apr 25 '17 at 1:14
  • @Anthony Since he gave "佛行塔". So it's impossible to know whether it's xing or hang because lacking the scenario. – Kevman Apr 25 '17 at 1:16
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    I am asking a question about too esoteric an area of Buddhist Hybrid Chinese from approximately 400AD. I was not clear enough though, so I confused a lot of answerers :S. The usage of 行 as walk was modelled on the example "作四威儀, 行、住、坐、臥,入火三昧", but I am not specialized enough in the field to be able to ask this question properly. – Caoimhghin Apr 25 '17 at 5:16
  • If it helps, this is the context: 世尊隨其所應,而示現入禪定正受,陵虛至東方,作四威儀, 行、住、坐、臥,入火三昧,出種種火光,青、黃、赤、白、紅、頗梨色,水火俱現, 或身下出火,身上出水,身上出火,身下出水,周圓四方亦復如是。 – Caoimhghin Apr 25 '17 at 5:22
  • @Caoimhghin yes in this context, "行" clearly means walk, or refer "walking" this action. – Kevman Apr 25 '17 at 5:33
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行 can mean 'journey(v/n)' or 'travel(v)' therefore, '佛行塔' could mean 'the tower that commemorated Buddha's journey.

行 can also mean 'deed', therefore, '佛行塔' could mean 'the tower that commemorated Buddha's deed'

Today, '行' is still being used for the verb 'walk' in Cantonese. (counterpart of '走' in Mandarin)

If 行 in 佛行塔 is the verb 'to journey / to travel' the phrase would make no sense. People don't say 'walk a tower', we only say ' climb a tower or visit a tower'

  • Do you think "佛行塔" is a reasonable construction in Classical, Literary, or Middle Chinese? I just ask because when you say "can mean" I do not know if you mean this in the sense of "can mean [out of a number of possibilities, because this is a reasonable sequence of characters to expect in Chinese]" or if you mean this in the sense of "can mean [if this existed, but this is clearly not a sequence of characters that is "proper"]". – Caoimhghin Apr 27 '17 at 6:11
  • If 佛行塔 is a name of a tower, It would be reasonable, Doesn't matter if it is classical or modern Chinese. If it is a s-v-o structured sentence, ( Buddha travels the tower) then it wouldn't make sense in either classical or modern Chinese. – Tang Ho Apr 27 '17 at 6:26
  • If you will allow me to ask one last even more basic question: why does the s-v-o structure of 佛行塔 not work in classical or modern Chinese, but the s-v-o structure of 我是加拿大人 does work? – Caoimhghin Apr 27 '17 at 6:33
  • The verb 行 (travel) doesn't apply to the object 塔(tower); you can '登塔'(climb a tower) or '行十里' (travel ten miles) but you cannot '行塔 ' (travel a tower) or '登十里' (climb ten miles) – Tang Ho Apr 27 '17 at 6:47
  • Is this because 行 can mean "walk" sometimes, but it cannot mean "walk (to)" followed by a location? – Caoimhghin Apr 27 '17 at 7:11

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