What is the translation of the literary device of antimetabole in Chinese? I'm sure a bunch of idioms use it, but I haven't found a good translation for the term. For instance, how would someone describe the device used in "寧我負人,毋寧負我"? And in general, is there a resource for a good compilation of common literary devices used in classical or contemporary written Chinese?

  • do you mean 汉语回环? Commented Jun 22, 2022 at 6:07
  • 第二句是第一句严格的倒文? 春晚睡昏昏,昏昏睡晚春 Commented Jun 22, 2022 at 6:13
  • 宋朝·李禺 •夫想妻• (顺读) 枯眼望遥山隔水, 往来曾见几心知。 壶空怕酌一杯酒, 笔下难成和韵诗。 途路阻人离别久, 讯音无雁寄回迟。 •妻想夫•(倒读) 迟回寄雁无音讯, 久别离人阻路途。 诗韵和成难下笔, 酒杯一酌怕空壶。知心几见曾来往, 水隔山遥望眼枯。 Commented Jun 22, 2022 at 6:17
  • or •《老子》• 如: •知者不言,言者不知。 (五十六章) •信言不美,美言不信。 (八十一章) •善者不辩,辩者不善。 (同上) •知者不博,博者不知。 (同上) ? Commented Jun 22, 2022 at 6:25
  • [link] (zhuanlan.zhihu.com/p/352817715) Commented Jun 22, 2022 at 7:15

2 Answers 2


A good source is this for chinese idioms.

An antimetabole is a rhetorical device - 修辞手法


"Antimetabole is a figure of speech in which a phrase is repeated, but with the order of words reversed. John F. Kennedy's words, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country," is a famous example of antimetabole."

In Chinese, "人人為我,我為人人" is a good example. Also, we frequently see the writing in the bathroom - "親親愛我" follows under "我愛親親", is another :)

Note, I think "寧我負人,毋寧負我" is the reverse of "寧人負我,我毋負人", which fits another definition of "Antimetabole" - the repeated phrase, with words reordered, turning about in the opposite directions, often in an ironic manner.

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