I found the following traslation of Psalm 1:3-4 of the Bible amazingly elegant:


English (KJV): And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

To me the Chinese translation from Hebrew gives much more aesthetic pleasure. I guess part of the reason is 押韻(rhyme). In general, is there any guideline on how to rhyme when translating poetry?

  • Are you finding something like this? I use "Zhuyin" to divide, but it seems most people on stack website using something "pinyin" I can't understand. It's hard to learn to translate with rhyme even a native speaker. We could use very simple rhyme, but not very good at it.
    – 高鵬翔
    Commented May 12, 2020 at 7:16
  • Do you mean how to tell if two words rhyme or how to create translations that rhyme? The latter is much harder, it is possibly even harder than writing a poem itself (you have control over the idea of the poem you write, but no control over the idea of source material you translate), I'm not sure if there is a silver bullet to this problem.
    – zypA13510
    Commented May 12, 2020 at 11:01
  • I mean How to create translations that rhyme? is hard lol
    – 高鵬翔
    Commented May 13, 2020 at 5:13
  • I use "Zhuyin", so I could say there are "旁、蒼、臧、糠、揚" have rhyme, because they all have "ㄤ" sound, maybe is some other use "ang, iang, uang"? And they all "平"聲 in 平仄
    – 高鵬翔
    Commented May 13, 2020 at 5:32
  • You could study 格律 , it is four part about how people in past create poetry's rule. But there are some different rule in different era. If you understand "格律" should let you more easier to create rhyme.
    – 高鵬翔
    Commented May 13, 2020 at 5:39

1 Answer 1


Actually, we use "rhyme book" that divides commonly used characters into different rhyme. There are two popular rhyme books nowadays: 平水韵 for ancient rhyme and 中华新韵 for modern rhyme. Here is a link to an electronic copy of 平水韵.

In the translation you post, there are four characters in each line. Because many Chinese characters express similar meanings, you could choose one character that rhyme with other lines. In your example, it is the character "旁" in the line “植於溪旁”.

Since ancient Chinese grammar is extremely flexible, you could almost always position that character in rhyme (旁) at the end of the sentence, and the sentence can still make sense with some rearrangements. For example, let's assume that 旁 does not rhyme with others but 溪 does, then we can rearrange the sentence into "植木傍溪", and then 溪 is at the end this time.

In sum, you can almost always translate a foreign literature into Chinese poetry due to the flexibility of the Chinese grammar and the flexible meaning of each ancient Chinese character.

By the way, the aesthetic elegance does not comes with the rhyme alone. You could also learn the 格律.

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