Saturday, January 07, 2017

What does 君子上達, 小人下達 mean?

In his book "Confucius Analects," Edward Slingerland translates Passage 23 in Book 14 (14.23) as follows:
()()()(), ()()()().
“The gentleman understands higher things, whereas the petty person understands only the low.”
My Korean dictionary defines 上達 (상달) as "to report (to a superior)," and defines 下達 (하달) as "to command" or "to order." 達 (달) means "to communicate" or "to convey," so 上達 literally means "to a superior (上) communicate (達)," and 下達 (하달) literally means "to an inferior (下) communicate (達)." When you communicate with a superior, you are either reporting to him or giving him advice or opinion, but in both cases you are being very polite. When you communicate with an inferior, you are usually giving an order, without worrying about being polite. Therefore, trying to be a gentlemen, I would like to suggest the following translation:
()()()(), ()()()().
“The gentleman (君子) gives advice (上達); the petty man (小人) gives orders (下達).
The suggestion is that a gentleman should speak to people with respect, as if giving advice or opinion to a superior. The petty man speaks rudely, as if giving orders to an inferior.

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