Once you get the hang of it, you quit when you're ahead. 滿 You assume that when you've got it made, it won't take long to fall apart, and when gold and jewels deck public halls, that nothing can save your neck.

When you're rich and powerful, pride brings shame upon itself. 退 Step up, then step back down, that's how nature works.


This poem is a close parallel to a verse in Guanzi, 滿 滿 退. The Guanzi verse is part of a passage that seems to legitimize King Wu's usurpation, so I'm guessing that this poem was meant to be read in the same context, perhaps as advice on how to avoid the fate of the last Shang king.

Conventional translations of this poem are more literal than my interpretation, taking the subject of the first line as a cup, and of the second as a sword or knife. (Personally, I think the metaphor of the first line is more likely to be a Zhou tipping pot.) I prefer to read the phrases as verb phrase conditionals, and to interpret as bear in mind, as infer and the subject as . I also like the line as a second then statement that also matches .

The poem's Heshang Gong title is , revolving evenly.

as nature is a stretch, but interpreting is always a stretch, so why not?


手 64 + 6
sustain, support; hold, grasp
ér néng
而 126 + 0
and; and then; and yet; but; Kangxi radical 126
皿 108 + 4
fill; full, overflowing; surplus
zhī zhū
丿 4 + 3
marks preceding phrase as modifier of following phrase; it, him her, them; go to
bù fǒu
一 1 + 3
no, not; un-; negative prefix
女 38 + 3
if, supposing; as if; like, as
qí jī
八 12 + 6
his, her, its, their; that
己 49 + 0
already; finished; stop
chuāi chuǎi
手 64 + 9
put things under clothes
金 167 + 7
sharp, keen, acute, pointed
kě gē
口 30 + 2
may, can, -able; possibly
zhǎng cháng
長 168 + 0
long; length; excel in; leader; Kangxi radical 168
人 9 + 7
protect, safeguard, defend, care
jīn jìn
金 167 + 0
gold; metals in general; money; Kangxi radical 167
玉 96 + 0
jade, precious stone, gem
mǎn mèn
水 85 + 11
fill; full, satisfied
土 32 + 8
hall; government office
mò mù
艸 140 + 7
do not, is not, can not; negative
néng tái
肉 130 + 6
to be able; can, permitted to; ability
shǒu shòu
宀 40 + 3
defend, protect, guard, conserve
宀 40 + 9
abundant, ample; rich, wealthy
貝 154 + 5
expensive, costly, valuable
jiāo xiāo
馬 187 + 12
spirited horse; haughty
自 132 + 0
self, private, personal; from; Kangxi radical 132
yí wèi
辵 162 + 12
lose; articles lost; omit
jiù gāo
口 30 + 5
fault, defect; error, mistake
力 19 + 3
achievement, merit, good result
辵 162 + 9
comply with, follow along; thereupon
shēn juān
身 158 + 0
body; trunk, hull; Kangxi radical 158
辵 162 + 6
step back, retreat, withdraw
大 37 + 1
sky, heaven; god, celestial
dào dǎo
辵 162 + 9
path, road, street; method, way
nǎi ǎi
丿 4 + 1
then; really, indeed; as it turned out, after all; namely
歹 78 + 5
dangerous, perilous; endanger
yě yí
乙 5 + 2
also; classical final particle of strong affirmation or identity
míng mìng
口 30 + 3
name, rank, title, position
yú wū
方 70 + 4
in, at, on; interjection alas!
一 1 + 2
under, underneath, below; down; inferior; bring down
ruò ré
艸 140 + 5
if, supposing, assuming; similar
辵 162 + 8
advance, make progress, enter
辵 162 + 9
luck, fortune; ship, transport
大 37 + 3
ancient barbarian tribes