My text is talking about charity. It contains this old saying:


(The Confucian School suggests)"When you are poor you can only help yourself, when you become rich you can (simultaneously 兼??) help the whole world."

What is 兼 here? Is 兼济 1 word, something like 'multi-help'? (Not that that word exists in English, at least not yet!)
I think:
独: 独自, alone (but it has to become 'only' in English.)
达: 发达, get rich
兼: 兼顾, do more than 1 thing at a time
济: maybe 救济: help the needy

2 Answers 2



the original verse should use the character "", which is from 孟子 盡心上

the verse "窮則獨善其身﹒達則兼濟天下", using the character "" is a deviation.

the earliest one i found, is from the letter "與元九書", written by 白樂天, which was in 白氏長慶集 卷四十五.






first of all, it's not talking about charity. then, such claim, implying it's confucianism; is falseness.

intepreting "達" as rich, "濟" as "help the needy", "relieve" is, imo, imaginative, and severely derived from orthodox.

fortunately, the character "兼" is correctly interpreted.


let's examine the version of mr 白.

a manly man (大丈夫) behave (所守) according to the proper way (道), wait (所待) for [his] times (時).

when his times do not come (時之不來也), it's 窮; then (則), he make good (善 ) himself (其身) alone (獨)

when his times comes (時之來也), it's 達; which means he become high official, then (則), his governing accords to the proper way, brings goodness (濟) to all people in the nations (天下)

兼 (both), is used, because, in such state "達", he do goodness to himself, and, to others peoples.

imo, though the character "善" was replaced by "濟", mr 白's usage was similar to mr 孟's, without great difference.

classical text were interpreted, remarked through out history; so, it's better to use these remarks to understand the classical text.

that's culture heritage.

now, my rant, related to the comments:

1 he know the orthodox meaning, and ask for a government post from the communist.

2 he does not know the orthodox meaning, use current usage of character meanings, mislead other by implying it's confucianism.

it's no virtue, or cheating :(

last, a metaphor:

"dog", "green", "hot" & "house" are words taught in kindergarten, everyone know the meaning.

now, a "rich" man claims that "greenhouse" is a house with green color, "hotdog" is a dog that is hot.

how do you response?

  • 谈谈的是曹德旺,福耀玻璃的董事长。他是中国最慷慨的慈善家。于是我觉得他们说的和慈善有关系。 你就怎样翻译这句话?
    – Pedroski
    Oct 24, 2017 at 3:41
  • 是曹德旺说“中国古代的文化对我影响很深,儒家提出的“穷则独善其身,达则兼济天下。” 你的意思是曹德旺不懂这句话吗?
    – Pedroski
    Oct 24, 2017 at 3:56
  • i edited the answer, have a look :) Oct 24, 2017 at 8:30
  • Thank you very much! I am of course not steeped in Chinese culture, but Western culture. My notion of charity is basically: any form of kindness. "in such state "達", he do goodness to himself, and, to others peoples. imo, though the character "善" was replaced by "濟" Your quote is also a form of charity: "do goodness to himself, and, to others peoples". In English we note: faith, hope and charity. biblehub.com/kjv/1_corinthians/13.htm "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."
    – Pedroski
    Oct 24, 2017 at 22:23

兼济: 兼顾救济.

兼顾: give consideration to/take account of two or more things.

救济:relieve; succor;

Refer to this link.


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