I'm looking for a Chinese translation of this 格言:

English: Not ambiguity, but versatility!

German: Nicht Vieldeutigkeit, sondern Vielseitigkeit!

What is meant with this to give context for a possible Chinese translation:

This is an art slogan which is supposed to mean that one painting does not need to be capable of multiple interpretations and messages, but rather that many paintings are susceptible to various interpretations, each single painting at a time, all the time with a new message.

This characterizes a changeable, versatile, adaptable artist - a polymath artist - in contrast to an artist who paints the same and always the same painting all over his life, or a whole generation, or a whole art history, who paints always the same painting over the span of thousands of years, as Jean Dubuffet says.

Preliminary thoughts on a possible translation:

The word "ambiguity" can be very well rendered into Chinese by saying 歧义 (which means according to Pleco: ambiguity; being capable of various interpretations, and fits the purpose perfectly).

For "versatility", I've no idea. The Pleco dictionary does not know this word.

The German "sondern" in the German version of the 格言 could be translated as 而.

As you see from the English and German version of the 格言, they both preserve a certain repetition and rhyme in their structure (repetition of "Viel-", "-keit", repetition of "-ity"). If this can be reflected in the Chinese version as well by the repetition of a character or character scheme, it would be very nice and desirable.

  • I am a bit confused. If each single painting is not compatible with multiple interpretations, how it is that "many paintings are susceptible to various interpretations?" Commented Jan 20 at 19:25
  • It's meant that you produce many paintings, each with a different meaning and message, instead of pursuing always the same meaning, maybe in an ambiguous way, with several paintings. This doesn't directly reflect an art style or the technique of the paintings, it's just to avoid what Dubuffet calls: the artist who paints one painting all over his life (quoted by memory). I hope this makes sense to you and is clearer now. Commented Jan 21 at 15:53

4 Answers 4


Here's my thoughts.

"Not ambiguity, but versatility!" into Chinese is:

Chinese (Simplified): 不是模棱两可,而是多才多艺!

Chinese (Traditional): 不是模糊不清,而是多才多藝!

(pinyin: Bùshì móléngliǎngkě, ér shì duōcáiduōyì)

  • I like 多才多艺 as it contains 才 as in 通才, which is polymath in Chinese according to Pleco. Your translation also has a beautiful structure with the same amount of characters. Commented Jan 21 at 16:03

This is actually quite challenging, because just directly translating the words themselves will not at all convey the intended meaning you want. For ambiguity I think 歧義 is definitely a good way to go, since it is specifically ambiguity in the form of multiple interpretations. The difficults part is conveying multiple correct options.

Perhaps 沒歧義,多義道。 as a starting point? its goes quite literal for what you want it to mean, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. You have the split structure of an idiom that flows smoothly, equal on both sides, and repeating 義. Hope this helps (◐‿◑)

  • I like your translation a lot and will use it as well as the accepted answer (with quotation of course). Unfortunately, I can only accept one answer. Thank you so much! Especially the use of 道 is brilliant! Commented Jan 21 at 16:05

The pattern 并非。。。实则。。。is more handy.

Ambiguity means a thousand Hamlets to a thousand readers. Versatility means all possible interpretations.

So my rendering is 并非雾里看花,实则各有所得。(It is not that you see the flowers in the fog, but that every viewer has his own understanding.)

Hope it is helpful and that you will like it.


Not ambiguity, but versatility!

不是模糊印象,而是廣闊想像空間 - Not a vague impression, but a broad imagination space

The image you see is not trying to make it impossible for you to make sense of it; rather, it provides endless possibilities for your imagination

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