Could you please help me out with the meaning of this sentence?


I don't think Classical Chinese actually had punctuation, so it would have looked like this I think:


先君: former emperor??
毋: not have
毋宁夫人: not have peaceful wife??
焉:where, how
焉用老臣: why?? use old minister??

  • Its true that most classical texts didn't have punctuation. However things like ,and。 were invented by scholars to aid in comprehension of texts, even when classical chinese was still in use. So there may be other opinions but I think there is no reason to try to take away the punctuation when provided.
    – zagrycha
    Dec 19, 2022 at 2:55
  • @zagrycha, well, it’s dot & circle (圈點), no comma (, ) lah 😼 Dec 19, 2022 at 9:17
  • @水巷子蠻 I wrote the modern comma since it was the modern equivalent and I didnt want to be confused with the • in foreign names or 、 for lists as they are modernly used. For clarity to others reading you are correct the true original form of chinese 讀 mark is more like 、or . in shape. It's now become the modern 逗號,and joined 頓號、and句號。as the backbone of chinese punctuation.
    – zagrycha
    Dec 19, 2022 at 18:32

2 Answers 2


the quoted text is from 傳 襄公二十九年


the last verses of a speech, said by “女叔侯” aka “女齊”

i would chop it as:


. . . further (且) [if] the previous ruler (先君 —-> 晉悼公) knew about this [而有知也]


wouldn’t (毋) [晉悼公] rather (寧) [fetch 取] his wife (夫人 —-> 晉悼夫人) [‘s life]


let alone (而;用於句首,相當於「豈」) [晉悼公] would use (焉用) me! (老臣)

there’s a 13 pages pdf file talks about this paragraph, an interesting read 😻

< https://www.google.com.hk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwjaoKe_nYX8AhVVBN4KHSFjB9IQFnoECAoQAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ny.edu.hk%2Fweb%2Fpdf%2Foutcome%2F20.pdf&usg=AOvVaw0phQCbgF1rQ9HJukNApHhf >

have fun :)


襄公二十九年(original text)




Note: 毋寧 = 不如 (rather, than). = 怎么,哪儿 (why, where)

Source: 襄公二十九年

  • 1
    the quoted explanation is, . . . in low quality lah 😾 “齊也取貨” should be “女齊 also accept briberies 貨賂” Dec 19, 2022 at 9:13
  • Yes, not the best interpretation. 貨 does have the meaning of 收买,贿赂, but, in general, it means "". In the story - 晋悼夫人指責道:"齐也取货(財)..." , 叔侯反駮道:"....若非侵小,将何所取(財, means 致富)?". What is your opinion?
    – r13
    Dec 19, 2022 at 19:04
  • “若非侵小,將何所取”, i would read it as: “if not invading small [nations], how could we [晉國] gain (取 —> 取得) [territories]. it’s not about wealth here, it’s talking about territory; imo 😸 Dec 19, 2022 at 19:27
  • 取得什麼呢?I've a different opinion because it seems to dispute the comment made by 晋悼夫人 with the response 取得財富或利益.
    – r13
    Dec 19, 2022 at 20:51
  • well, read the provided pdf file lah 😸 Dec 19, 2022 at 21:03

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