I am reading a passage from 呂氏春秋. I think I understand the basic meaning of the three first quarters, but then it becomes difficult. The hard part is the tiny snippet below and especially the last five characters, where I cannot even guess what part each plays in the sentence:

故廢其非君,而立其行君道者。 君道何如?利而物利章

Below are the whole passage and my attempt at a translation (for everything but the last five characters). The last five characters pose the greatest challenge. I have no clue as to how to translate them! I saw a German translation saying something like:

The benefit of all beings becomes manifest

but I have no idea, why it should mean that!


Previously, during high antiquity, people experienced the rulerless condition. 
The lived in hordes, knowing their mother, but not their father, 
nor any kinship, or distinctions such as the ones 
between elder and younger brother, husband and wife, man and woman.
There were no principles of old and young, high and low, no rules of curtesy. 
Nor were there comforts such as clothes, girdles, lodgings, 
or preparations such as carts, vessels and walled cities to protect against dangers. 
Such were the perils of the rulerless condition. 
Hence the proper relation between ruler and subject must absolutely be clear.
Since the times of yore, there have been many kingdoms indeed!
But the (institution of the) ruler was never abolished. It is beneficial to the realm!
Hence, the countries waned, but not the (institution of the) rulers
and they established a system with a ruler. What does the ruler comprehend?
(He comprehends) benefit and ???
  • Can people please explain their down votes? I did everything to show prior effort! About the last five characters I say nothing because I don't even understand the structure!
    – Ludi
    Aug 15, 2017 at 14:49
  • 1
    i up voted it. imo, it's a good question. my guess is, that "idiot" don't want people have a better understanding in literary chinese :( Aug 15, 2017 at 15:18
  • I upvoted this, because your Chinese is gorgeous! I can't even read ancient Chinese without the assistance of dicts.
    – dan
    Aug 16, 2017 at 0:50
  • @dan 過獎了!I used many dictionaries, a German translation and a very long time!
    – Ludi
    Aug 16, 2017 at 7:56

2 Answers 2


after reading other literary chinese texts, here's my approach :)

君道何如 - what is the principle(s) of sovereign

利而物利章 - this verse is very tricky, i would interpret it as "利而物利" + "章"

the first "利" is shortcut of "利民", beneficial to people

而 - and

物 --> 勿 - not

the second "利" is shortcut of "自利", beneficial to oneself

章 --> 彰 - 明顯 distinct, obvious

together, 君道何如﹒利而物利章 is roughly:

what is the principle(s) of sovereign (君道何如)? [he should make it] obvious (章) that [his acts are] beneficial to people (利), and (而), not to himself (物利)

ludi kun, in volume 1 of 呂氏春秋, chapter 4 "貴公", there's a verse

"利而勿利也", with a remark "務在利民,勿自利也"


edited, info added.

it's very common in literatures of yore, 章 is used, in lieu of 彰. even in 呂氏春秋, there're several usages:

孟春紀﹒本生: "萬物章章"


孟夏紀﹒誣徒: "學業之章明也"


審分覽﹒勿躬: "名號已章矣"


不苟論﹒博志: "名之章也"


have fun :)

  • The part of 自利 and 勿利 seem to be better, but I don't think that 章 is 彰. You need to find a good reason to decide a 通假字
    – sfy
    Aug 15, 2017 at 17:27
  • i edited the answer, have a look :) Aug 15, 2017 at 17:56
  • Your answers are always amazing! Maybe you would accept, in simple English, for 君道何如? 'How should a ruler rule?'
    – Pedroski
    Aug 16, 2017 at 0:09
  • But compared to 旃, 旃 seems more natural, Theses final sentences of a paragraph of classical texts tend to end with a function word.
    – sfy
    Aug 16, 2017 at 6:46
  • @ pedroski, i made a q&a, have a look: chinese.stackexchange.com/questions/26041/… 😼 Aug 16, 2017 at 8:25

In this page: http://www.wenyanhanyu.com/lvshichunqiu/10666.html


物 通 勿

章 通 “旃”(zhān), 相当于 "之焉"(means 'as that', I think)

故廢其非君,而立其行君道者。 君道何如?利而物利章。

Can be translate to:

So abolishing brutal rulers, hailing the rulers that are the ruling manner. What is the ruling manner? That is (whether the ruler) is beneficial to (the people) or not.

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