Check out the references below, we see that Japanese has the same problem as Chinese: Does "以X" include the word itself, eg. is 1 included in "1以上"?

As what I have seen, in old Chinese books, there are "以" and "已" expressing the same(?) as in 以上/已上 以下/已下. Even 史記 itself used both (according to its "tables", confusingly, the Chinese Wikipedia page used "以" instead).

Answers come from the references simply gave us the answer and didn't say why, that's the reason why I come here for an authoritative answer.


  • For the question about "x以上/下", it's actually ambiguous whether it include x or not. Some pedant assists that 以上 should be be greater than or equal to; however, in daily life 以上 doesn't guarantee meaning so. Something interesting: in China's criminal law, it specially notes that the terminology 以上 used in the law text should be be greater than or equal to---now you can see how confused it is in everyday Chinese. – Stan May 25 '13 at 19:19

In ancient Chinese, 以上 and 以下 are inclusive without a doubt. Why? Just because everyone use them in the same way and exceptions are few to none. Example:


七月,定进马迁赏格,每甲马一匹或二匹以上,迁赏有差。(金史•列传 第五十七)

In modern Chinese, they are supposed to inherit the ancient usage, however sometimes people try to be accurate by adding explanatory words which actually diluted the original meaning. For example the following forms are quite common in modern Chinese:

目前,浙江省县及县以下考生占全省考生总数的 68%。


In law space, the usage is still clearly defined to be inclusive. Example:

本法所称以上、以下、以内,包括本数。(1997 年 3 月 14 日修订《中华 人民共和国刑法》第九十九条)

This reference has a lot of examples to demonstrate the ancient and modern usages. (The author considered modern new usages wrong.)

| improve this answer | |
  • What about "已上" "已下" etc.? Are they not inclusive? Unfortunately, 已 and 以 both have the same pronunciation no matter now or in ancient times... Aren't they confusing? – Mike Manilone May 12 '13 at 4:57
  • I am sure there is no such word as 已上/已下 in modern Chinese and almost sure not in ancient Chinese either. Google search resulted in some Japanese usages which I have no knowledge of. The only word that has both 以X and 已X form in Chinese is 已来, which is inclusive since it's just an obscure alternative for 以来. See zdic.net/cd/ci/3/ZdicE5ZdicB7ZdicB2121869.htm – NS.X. May 12 '13 at 6:52
  • 古文觀止's catalog has them, like 「已上韓愈」 – Mike Manilone May 12 '13 at 8:03
  • @MikeManilone: In ancient Chinese, 通假 (interchangeable characters) is common. In the seal characters, there was no 已 but 以. However, some shape in seal/Bronze characters of 以 was very similar to 已, so, 已 appeared as a different character later in ancient China. Now, in modern Chinese, they are distinct in meaning as you know. – Stan May 25 '13 at 19:04

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.