“Light and dark oppose one another, like the front and back foot in walking.”

明暗各相對 比如前後歩

Light and dark oppose one another like the front and back foot in walking. (English translation)

Most of the characters in this line from the Sandokai are very common Chinese words. Six out of the ten characters are part of the most basic level of Chinese proficiency for those learning it as a foreign level (HSK level 1). Only two of the characters are relatively “advanced”, one is HSK level 4 (各), and other is level 5 (暗). But in fact both of these characters are easy to recognize and have fairly simple meanings.

“Do not pass your days and nights in vain.”

In Chinese, the two character combination 光陰 (guāng-yīn) literally means “light-dark”. But the intended sense is like that in the English phrase “day in, day out”. Or even like that in the song “Sunrise, Sunset”. This phrase occurs in the ancient poem called “The Harmony of Difference and Sameness” (aka The Sandokai), in the line: […]