Can someone explain 衣锦尚炯 character by character? I tried wiktionary but to no avail 😰 This is supposed to mean "She covered her brocade gown with a plain robe." Source: http://www.acmuller.net/con-dao/docofmean.html

  • Can you provide some context?
    – fefe
    Commented Apr 6, 2021 at 8:13
  • Sure, I edited my original question. Commented Apr 6, 2021 at 8:21
  • 1
    As a Chinese, I only know the meaning of the first two chars and I cant even pronounce the last character
    – Yujie
    Commented Apr 6, 2021 at 20:53

2 Answers 2


You probably mean 衣錦尚 here.

衣:to wear

锦:brocade (clothes)

尚:to add

絅:unlined outer garment, usually made from linen

Literally the phrase means "To wear brocade inside, and add linen overall robe outside"

The phrase was originally from 诗经 as in “碩人其頎,衣錦褧衣。” where 褧 is a interchangeable character to 絅. And 中庸 as in 詩曰:『衣錦尚絅,惡其文之著也。』

The phrase is a metaphor that real noble people would hide their virtues under humbleness.


You can't explain it character by character.

To misquote Shakespeare, I would say, the general meaning is:

Clothes maketh not the man.

郑玄 注:“襌为絅,锦衣之美,而君子以絅表之,为其文章露见似小人也。”

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