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look after; take into consideration; to attend to left and right; left and right sides; both sides
and; as well as; but (not); yet (not); (shows causal relation); (shows change of state); (shows contrast)
to speak; to say; talk; word
he; him; other
trad. (顧左右而言他) 左右
simp. (顾左右而言他) 左右
Literally: “look left and right, then talk about something else”.


From Mencius

孟子齊宣王:「妻子凍餒妻子?」:「。」:「士師不能?」:「。」:「四境?」顧左右而言他 [Classical Chinese, trad.][▼ expand/hide]
孟子齐宣王:“妻子冻馁妻子?”:“。”:“士师不能?”:“。”:“四境?”顾左右而言他 [Classical Chinese, simp.]
From: Mencius, circa 4th century BCE
Mèngzǐ wèi QíXuānWáng yuē: “Wáng zhī chén, yǒu tuō qí qīzǐ yú qí yǒu ér zhī chǔ yóu zhě. Bǐ qí fǎn yě, zé dòngněi qí qīzǐ, zé rú zhī hé?” Wáng yuē: “Qì zhī.” Yuē: “Shìshī bùnéng zhì shì, zé rú zhī hé?” Wáng yuē: “Yǐ zhī.” Yuē: “Sìjìng zhī nèi bù zhì, zé rú zhī hé?” Wáng gùzuǒyòu'éryántā. [Pinyin]
One day, Mencius said to the king Xuan of Qi, 'Suppose that one of your Majesty's ministers were to entrust his wife and children to the care of his friend, while he himself went into Chu to travel, and that, on his return, he should find that the friend had let his wife and children suffer from cold and hunger - how ought he to deal with him?' The king said, 'He should cast him off.' Mencius proceeded, 'Suppose that the chief criminal judge could not regulate the officers under him, how would you deal with him?' The king said, 'Dismiss him.' Mencius again said, 'If within the four borders of your kingdom there is not good government, what is to be done?' The king looked right and left, then talked about something else.[1]




  1. to try to change the subject of a conversation; evade the subject under discussion and talk about other affairs; steer clear of the crucial point



  1. ^ Chapter 02, The Works of Mencius, Wikisource.