I want to know how to say as Thomas Jefferson said "when law becomes tyranny rebellion becomes duty" in Chinese but with as few signs as possible, traditional Chinese or simplified whichever is the shortest. I'm thinking of maybe getting a tattoo with it.

  • The quote in English seems to be "when injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty", which may not be by Jefferson (1, 2).
    – Becky 李蓓
    Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 0:35

3 Answers 3


Edit: Besides idiom and classical style, using a slogan is also a way to reduce text

For example:

Slogan: 反抗暴政,人人有責

full sentence: 反抗暴政是每一個人的責任

Both mean "Resisting tyranny is everyone's responsibility"

Further reduce: 抗暴政,民有責 (Resisting tyranny is the people's duty)


What you are looking for is an idiom or literary classical-style speech. Compare to the modern Chinese colloquial language, classical can express a full sentence with as few as one or two words, and some idioms can contain an entire story or ideology

There is an idiom 官逼民反 (When government persecutes the people, the people will revolt). It might be the phrase you wanted

官 authority

逼 persecute

民 people

反 revolt

"官逼民反" in modern Chinese would be "政府迫害人民,人民就會反抗"

The exact quote: "when law becomes tyranny rebellion becomes duty" in modern Chinese is "當法律變成暴政時,反叛就變成了責任".

Using classical-style speech, you can reduce it to "政暴則責在必反" (when the law is tyrannic, one's duty is to revolt)

政 - government/ law

苛 - tyrannic

則 - then

責在 - duty dictate

必反 - must revolt

  • Thank you. Thats something, but i'm looking to get almost the exact quote from Thomas Jefferson with maybe a few words of due to language barier . Is that posible? Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 17:59
  • See my edition about changing modern Chinese into classical Chinese
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 18:12
  • That looks more like it could be a tattoo. But Google translates it to “Political tyranny is to blame”. That’s not quite right 🙄 Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 20:55
  • 6
    You shouldn't trust Google translate over a human.
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 22:08
  • Could you offer your reasoning for phrasing it as 責在必反? That doesn't sound quite right to me.
    – EEQ
    Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 23:08

In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson (slave owner and racist), referring to the despotic British, said:

When faced with a “long train of abuses” with the goal of pursuing despotism, it is the duty of the people to “throw off such government.”


That has been variously interpreted.

Rebellion is a duty when the government becomes an oppressor.


起义 - rebellion against tyranny.

  • Good one, but rebelling against tyranny is mostly one's 志願 (volunteer ); "duty" means you must do it even if you didn't want to
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 18:20
  • I don't understand the word "volunteer" in this case, can you elaborate further?
    – r13
    Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 18:25
  • 3
    volunteer - undertake a task of one's own free will. (if you don't do it, no one will hold it against you); A duty, on the other hand, is something you are bound to do even if you didn't want to. Jefferson's words morally condemned people who didn't revolt against tyranny
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 18:29
  • That makes sense, thanks. Now I realize Jefferson was condemning the people who do not exercise their "義務" while the cause is present.
    – r13
    Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 19:04

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