I stumbled upon this pattern


It seems to be an injunction to consider X, which I would try to phrase as:


But, how does it come to mean this - if it does? The question particle usage of 夫 (as far as I know) is restricted to 夫 in the final position. If I assume 夫 to be the simple introductory particle, I still don’t see the need for 之 in the pattern.

Example Text

An example would be this translation/rendition (譯述)by 周作人.

The first, second and fourth paragraph all start with introductory 夫 (feeding the suspicion that the 夫 heading our phrase at the beginning of paragraph 3 is also introductory).

The first paragraph makes the point that anything has its price and the price payed and the good obtained are supposedly commensurate. The second paragraph proceeds to apply this to wealth (whose price is toil) and poverty (whose price is leisure, even though I expected him to say poverty was the price of leisure).

Then, he starts paragraph three with the phrase in question. He clearly wants us to consider something like the golden rule of mechanics, though he speaks of force and time.



should be an injunction to consider mechanics. I just don’t fully understand the pattern.

3 Answers 3


first of all, the text quoted is, . . . bad literary chinese, imo


read it as:

alors (夫 —> 文言文中的發語詞,表提示作用), can’t (不) [one] observe (觀) such moral (之) [from] mechanics? (力學乎)

“夫”, served as an commencing particle (發語詞), “乎” served as an interrogative particle, which equal to question mark in english

“such moral” referred back to “anything has its price” (天下之物。莫不各有其代價) in the first paragraph

have fun :)

  • Thank you. I have observed this in a couple of Late Qing texts (and nowhere else). It is probably a phrase of that period (which was complex and fascinating, but which hardly anyone has called a flowering period of 文言文😂).
    – Ludi
    Commented Mar 1 at 13:24
  • @ludi, if you wish, and have time, i can recommend several vv important articles of yore to you. further, i’ve ideas to write a literary chinese learning materials for foreigners, want to help, or, co-write? Commented Mar 1 at 13:30
  • Yes, thank you! I am very pressed for the next 12 months with researching my next MA, but I am sure I can be useful to you in some ways (f.e. my mistakes and errors could elucidate the problems of foreigners). I have followed you on Medium. You should be able to message me there!
    – Ludi
    Commented Mar 1 at 13:37
  • I found your email from when we corresponded about 文言 back in 2018. I habe just sent you an email
    – Ludi
    Commented Mar 1 at 13:56
  • 天下之物,天下的事物。It is different from 观之力学,考虑它和力学的关系。
    – PdotWang
    Commented Mar 1 at 17:10

夫不觀之力學乎 - 您有没有看到, 这件事情和力学的道理是何等相似, 难道不是的吗? - Do you see that this theory is very similar to the theory of Mechanics?

夫 - 您 - Dear Sir.

觀 - 看到, 看出来, 认为, 考虑. - Consider, Recognize.

- 此事, 上面所说的事情. - THE, The thing, The matter in consideration.

乎 - 是否? 是不是? 难道不是吗? - Isn't it? Don't you think so?

For example:

夫复何求 - (或者本人)还有什么更多的要求吗? (已经非常满足了) - What else do I still need? (I already got what I expected). I am so satisfied that I would need nothing else. I

度外 - 把这件事情放在我的考虑以外. - It is beyond my consideration. I do not mind what the consequence would be.


I wouldn't go with mechanics!

Sounds like a "How commerce works" treatise: Work Or Let Others Work?

The punctuation is impossible and most probably not in the original!

As the distinguished scholar 水巷孑蠻 said, probably not from a classical genius! Classical is much more cryptic.

夫 fú: 那,那个,那些 [that,those]——表示远指

所: thatwhich

助力器: booster:汽车中借助压缩空气、高压油等操控装置,以达到使用轻便的目的。(Probably not this meaning in an oldish text! However, can also mean a Zimmerframe)

(桃花)運重者: 桃花运是形容一个人命运里有着非常好的异性缘,一个人的身边总是围绕着一大群的异性,能够得到很多异性的青睐。(sexy by destiny)

力学: 努力学习

Published: 乙巳年
光绪: reign name of penultimate Qing emperor Guangxu or Guang-hsu (1875-1908)
光緒31年 = 1905?

Text beginning:

Everything under heaven

莫不各有其代價。(Money can't buy me love!)
All not each have its price?
has its price

get how much?
(if one) pays a certain amount of money

then get how much goods? (price finding)
then one receives what quantity of goods?

First 夫:

that after then each according his thatwhich deserve that number
After which each gets what he/she deserves

Second 夫:

those people that poor rich
whether people are rich or poor (poor - flaw, so poetic)

heaven earth that 1 big flaw yeah
There is but one big flaw in the divine scheme of things

of course poor must have their thatwhich that poor cause
Of course, there must be a reason why the poor are poor.

rich also must have thatwhich that rich that cause
(as) the rich must have a reason why they are rich.

Third 夫:

those not pay attention that study hard how
How shall those who do not pay attention to studying hard fare?

that help-device great charm(ers)
(they) are perhaps helped by their charm

strength save then time must waste
Those who want to save effort must waste time.

time save then strength waste
Those want to save time must waste effort.

both pay eachother as reason
(They) both pay each other for this reason.

those become rich
Some get rich.

difficult thing yeah
(That) is not easy.

thus that dig hidden and become rich (掘藏: miners?? plunderers?? opportunists?? entrepreneurs?? App inventors??)
(Some) naturally find wealth and become rich.

then easy thing yeah
Then life is easy.

already (rich) easy easy yeah
(the rich have it) Very easy yeah!

Again there are difficulties
Serious (difficulties) yeah

Under heaven no easy thing yeah
There are no simple tasks

near that I country those people
The people near my home.

all think get money yeah
Only think about getting rich.

and end no get
But don't get rich

I home those people
My countrymen.

  • “the distinguished scholar”, omg, you depreciate the term lah 🙀 sahib, wouldn’t you call me lunatic, which is more appropriate 😸 Commented Mar 2 at 7:24
  • The Ski fellow is right on both counts. All distinguished scholars have a touch of lunacy :) Have Fun. Commented Mar 2 at 8:02
  • No, I would not call you lunatic! (I reserve that term for my elder sister!) I always read and admire your posts! Reading and understanding ancient Chinese is telepathy!
    – Pedroski
    Commented Mar 3 at 7:32
  • @WayneCheah, recently i read a graphic novel “psychiatric tales” 😼; alors, i empathised with numerous patients in the stories 😹 Commented Mar 3 at 11:10
  • Talking about "“psychiatric tales”, my late father told me that he once went to a mental hospital, as a visitor, and while there a patient he was visiting warned him that the patient in the next bed is mad. Commented Mar 3 at 12:27

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