Jump to content
Learn Chinese in China

“書籍是人類知識的結晶”--William Shakespeare?


Recommended Posts

Hi folks, it's been a long time!


I need to find the original English for this quote. It is supposedly from William Shakespeare. 


I have tried Google using a variety of combinations of key words but none of my attempts returned any useful results. Can anyone help? Thanks in advance. 

  • Good question! 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

Many thanks for your help, Shelley and dwq. 


Unfortunately, none of the quotes on that page seems to fit. The quote dwq listed is close, but not close enough.  


In fact, the Chinese quote is very well-known in China. But I am not certain if it is really translated from one of William Shakespeare's quotes... 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is funny, the attribution to Shakespeare is probably not really true, I would guess it is at best a kind of paraphrased half-translation of something vaguely related. Ironically the quote is reproduced so often without attribution that it would probably be impossible to find the book in which it originates. So much for 智慧的结晶... 


It's often paired with another quote, 书籍是人类进步的阶梯, which is on its own attributed to Maxim Gorky. The closest thing I could find for that is "Each book was a rung on my ascent from the brutish to the human," which is apparently part of an essay that is collected in English translation in a volume titled "On Literature: Selected Essays." I can't get much farther than that online. 


I'm guessing if there is any actual Shakespeare quote that this is based on, it is similarly distorted. 


Update: The quote dwq mentions above is decidedly non-Shakespearean to me... and it turns out it is actually from Schlegel, in the preface to a collection of lectures on literary history. (page ix here: https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=LX0XgmxX_gIC&printsec=frontcover&output=reader&hl=en&pg=GBS.PR9)

  • Like 2
  • Helpful 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ah, that completes the trifecta I guess. Tuchman is in pretty good company with Schlegel and Gorky... 


And just so people don't think this only happens in Chinese, that quote ("books are the carriers of civilization") is elsewhere on the internet attributed to Thoreau, accompanied by a tacked on, totally out of context excerpt from "Life Without Principle"* so that it reads, "Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. I think that there is nothing, not even crime, more opposed to poetry, to philosophy, ay, to life itself than this incessant business." It doesn't even make sense! What incessant business? Is "without books" the "business?" 


*The full paragraph of the Thoreau fragment is this, which makes much more sense, and has nothing do do with books as the carriers of civilization...: 

"This world is a place of business. What an infinite bustle! I am awaked almost every night by the panting of the locomotive. It interrupts my dreams. There is no sabbath. It would be glorious to see mankind at leisure for once. It is nothing but work, work, work. I cannot easily buy a blank-book to write thoughts in; they are commonly ruled for dollars and cents. An Irishman, seeing me making a minute in the fields, took it for granted that I was calculating my wages. If a man was tossed out of a window when an infant, and so made a cripple for life, or seared out of his wits by the Indians, it is regretted chiefly because he was thus incapacitated for business! I think that there is nothing, not even crime, more opposed to poetry, to philosophy, ay, to life itself, than this incessant business."


In short: Don't believe any attributions of "famous quotes" unless they give you a title, publisher, and page number...



  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...