Tam Tự Kinh: Three-Word Book


Tam Tự Kinh

A few words of disclosure before I present the Three-Word Book in the Taobabe fashion.

  • I am not fluent in Chinese.  This translation is not from the Chinese version.
  • My version of the Three-Word Book comes from my own personal translation of the Vietnamese Three-Word Book.
  • This is my own work and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
  • This has nothing to do with Taoism, but I think this book has some cool stuff, and so I’m folding this book into my Taobabe website.  The regular stuff of the Taoie sort will still be ongoing, as I add, one chapter at a time, to the Three-Word Book.

Now that the disclosures are out of the way, I would like to point out that if the teachings from this book seem simple, it’s because this book was meant for little kids.  The words are simple and basic, used to teach the written Hanzi to pre-school children.  They were made to memorize the book by reciting it in its entirety, and to begin to recognize the corresponding characters.

The Three-Word Book has six chapters.  Each chapter has six characters, comprised of three characters per phrase.  This is very similar to how hexagrams are grouped, and the method with which it is is placed draws heavily from ancient Taoist sources using combinations of three as the basic counting group.

Although this book has been translated into English by several well-known authors, the best translation was done by Herbert Giles in 1900, and further revised in 1910.  I won’t mention other translations, as those were done even further back, in the mid 1800s.  This is–in Taobabe-speak, incredibly ancient.

The book is deceptive in its simplicity.  There is much that can be gleaned from the simple teachings of a book that was written in the thirteenth century, circa 1223–1296 AD.  I want to bring this book, or at least the relevant material, into digestible modern day English, but I see no point in doing a wholesale copy/paste of something that was in print over a hundred years ago.  My intent is to bring the translations into the mindset of the modern person, living in today’s world, so it will again be relevant and usable.

I will add annotations and thoughts throughout this translated work.  Ancient text will, as always, be italicized and in green.  My own thoughts and annotations will be in regular text.

I hope you enjoy my translation of the Three-Word Book.


Tam Tự Kinh:  Three-Word Book

Chapter 1.1
Chapter 1.2

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