Daily Chinese Proverb: Do You Overfill Your Cup?

Posted by Charlie @ Discovering Mandarin Thursday, 20 August 2009
This is another chapter of Lao Zi's Dao De Jing (Formerly Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching). This is chapter 9, and talks about how overdoing things causes the reverse action of what was initally intended. Lao Zi talks about how it is better to withdraw or retire when satisfied with the results. Carrying on, or pushing for more than what was originally desired; that is both arrogant and will cause your cup to spill.


chí ér yíng zhī, bùrú qí yǐ.
chuāi ér zhuó​ zhī, bùkě cháng bǎo.
jīnyù mǎntáng, mò zhī néng shǒu.
fùguì ér jiāo, zì yí qí jiù.
gōng chéng, míng suì, shēn tuì, tiān zhī dào.

Fill a cup to overflowing, And it will spill.
Hone a sword to the very sharpest, And it won't stay sharp for long.
Fill your halls with gemstones, And you won't be able to guard them.
Be proud with wealth and status, And you will cause your own fall.
Withdraw when your work is done. This is the way of heaven.

This is just one translation, and there are many. Dao De Jing has been translated into many languages, and even Chinese scholars still argue over the true translations due to the lack of Classical Chinese punctuation marks, seperations of commas and full stops can drastically alter the meanings of passages.

Text Source:
Chinese Characters
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