Monday, 4 June 2018

Learn one Chinese Character a day - 位

位 is quite obviously composed of 亻(which is 人) and 立. 

we know that 立  is to describe a person standing on earth, adding a people to 立 is to emphasize the human-being part. where a people stands is the position of the person. Same as English word position, 位 has all the geographic, social or career meaning that position can be used to represent. for example: 位置 and 职位.
职位

that is all for 位, let us take some time to  appreciate its ancient scripts as shown below (image taken from: http://vividict.com/)
Evolution history of 位

We can see that its Oracle script  is same as 立, as 立 has already the meaning of "where a person stands". Since 立 is eventually used to represent the meaning of stands. Thus Chinese ancestors added 亻to 立 to create 位 to represent the meaning of position.

Since 位 has the emphasis on person, it is also used as classifier for people, for example 一位同事.

and as usual, a Chinese calligraphy with 位 inside for us to enjoy:
位卑未敢忘忧国

Monday, 21 May 2018

Learn one Chinese Character a day - 立

before we continue with our next character related to 犬, today we study another brand new character first - 立. Simple character like 立 is usually harder to guess its meaning as there will be much less clues available.

Let us see whether its ancient scripts can help us or not. (image taken from: http://vividict.com)
Evolution history of 立
it's Oracle script is composed of two parts, upper part is the Oracle script of 大 (details can be reviewed at https://xiongzou.blogspot.sg/2016/01/learn-one-chinese-character-day_10.html), which originally means adult; and its lower part is a horizontal line .

so 立 was created with the original context of "a big adult standing on the ground", as shown below, from which many different meanings have been developed:
naturally 立 means standing up, for example 站立.

stand up normally means for person, what if we make something to stand up straight? thus 立 has been used to mean "setup something upward", for example 竖立.

and Chinese ancestors did not stop here. recall that 大 has the meaning of big, 立 thus contains the meaning of "something big and obvious has been put up which is known to many people". in English, it is very close to establish or found, for example 立功, and 立国.

remember what we have learnt 天? 天 is actually a drawing of sky (一) above people (大) while 立 is a drawing of people (大) standing on earth (一).  I think it is then quite naturally in Chinese to describe heroes with some idiom like: 顶天立地.

As time passes, we can see that its clerical script  transformed a lot to lose the shape of 大 and eventually is finalized as 立.

before ending our lesson today, let us enjoy a Chinese calligraphy with 立 inside:
泉眼无声惜细流,树阴照水爱晴柔;
小荷才露尖尖角,早有蜻蜓立上头。
With the understanding of 立, maybe we can know what 位 means already?

Monday, 7 May 2018

Learn one Chinese Character a day - 伏

Same as 突, our character today is also created with 犬: 伏, which is composed of 亻( which is 人) and 犬. What does it mean here?

There could be some different possible combinations as listed below:
a. Hunter and a hunting dog;
b. Hunter (does hunting with) a hunting dog.
c. Hunter acts like a hunting dog;

We can easily strike out option a, as that does not contain any useful context that Chinese ancestors would waste a character for.

For options b and c, it is hard for us to jump to conclusion. Its ancient scripts might help us to understand its meanings: (image taken from http://vividict.com)
Evolution history of 伏

we can see that from its Bronze Script and Seal Script till the current modern form 伏, the concept and components has not been changed at all!

From option b above, it is to describe the scene that hunters, together with their dogs, ambush and besiege the prey. The YouTube video below demonstrates the concept of ambush precisely, and it vividly explains what 伏 means. 伏 has the meaning of ambush.


From the video above, we can tell that 伏 has also the meaning of lower down (one's body) or lie on one's stomach. For example: 伏案疾书.

And from above video we can also see that lions pulled the buffalo down to the ground by force. 伏 thus contains the meaning of being subject to. for example 伏法. Actually we can conclude the same meaning as "being subject to" when we see somebody lower down his body before another authority.

if 伏 is used as verb, then it can be used to mean "making somebody / something to be subjected to (by force)", for example 降龙伏虎.
降龙伏虎

From option c, it should be describing the scene that Hunter lower down his body to hide himself carefully like a hunting dog in order not to alert the prey. We get the same meaning of lower down (one's body) as that from option b.

now it is time to enjoy a Chinese calligraphy with 伏 inside:
老骥伏枥,志在千里

Monday, 23 April 2018

Learn one Chinese Character a day - 突

While we were studying 犬, we mentioned that there are many Chinese characters which are created with it. character 突 is one of the examples.

Looking at 突 carefully, it is composed of upper part - 穴 and lower part 犬. What does it mean here?
Logically two possible options:
a) a hunting dog hiding inside a cave;
b) a hunting dog rush out of a cave.

option a) sounds a bit un-reasonable, if the dog hides inside the cave, we should not be able to see it. Then 犬 would not be part of the character 突.

option b) is a much more natural description of the hunting process: suddenly the hunting dog(s) rush out of the cave where they hide to catch the prey.

Before we continue, it will be also helpful to know the ancient scripts of 突:  (image taken from: http://vividict.com)
ancient scripts of 突
It is amazing that the concept and components of 突 has not been changed starting from its Oracle script: , and its Bronze script and Seal script followed the same composition and is eventually simplified to current form - 突.

Below is the picture demonstrate the original meaning of 突:

From the picture of 突, we can perceive the vivid meaning of surprise and sudden. for example 突然.

And the dog will become obvious / visible after it jumps out of the cave. so 突 also has the meaning of prominent. for example: 突出.

That is all for 突, now it is time to enjoy a Chinese calligraphy with 突 inside:

趵突泉

Below is the youtube video which introduces the famous 趵突泉 in Chinese.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Learn one Chinese Character a day - 吠

Same as what we have learnt for 鸣, 吠 is created with the same context - 口 plus 犬. It is to mean the bark of a dog. for example: 狗吠声.

We can see how it is evolved from its Oracle Script  , which is (犬) + (口), to its modern form - 吠.

evolution history of 吠

And enjoy a Chinese calligraphy with 吠 inside:
狗吠深巷中,鸡鸣桑树颠。

Monday, 26 March 2018

Learn one Chinese Character a day - 犬

Our character today is created to represent one animal lived very closely to us in our daily lives - 犬.

It looks impossible to guess its meaning by looking at its current form - 犬. What does it mean by adding an extra dot to 大? Recall that 大 originally means an adult.

Let us see what we can get from its ancient scripts: (image taken from: http://vividict.com)
Evolution history of 犬

From its Oracle script , it is a drawing of some kind of animal with long and thin body, long tails as well as long head . Bronze script  and were indeed vivid silhouette of the animal. Seal Script started to transform and is the prototype of current form 犬.

Since this animal lives with us closely, Chinese ancestors did not create a complex figure out of it. you might have already guessed which animal is, as shown below:

recall the current form 犬, it is also quite indicative that hound normally walks ahead of hunters.

so 犬 means dogs, especially when we want to mean hunting dogs. We will see many Chinese Characters created with 犬 to be related to hunting process, like 突,伏 and etc.

狗 is a different character which is used to mean dogs as well, but it was created much later than 犬 when Chinese ancestors started their civilization into agriculture era. That is also why we can see many derogatory terms started to emerge which are related to 狗, like 狗仗人势.

We seldom see any Chinese phrases represents bad meanings with 犬 inside. Maybe that is also a proof that 犬 was created during the era that Chinese ancestors were still nomads and hunting dogs were very important assistant.

As 2018 is a Year of Dog, let us enjoy a Chinese calligraphy with 犬 inside which is to congratulate Chinese Spring Festival:

吉犬贺新年

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Learn one Chinese Character a day - 春

As traditional Chinese spring festival has just passed, let us start our lesson today with the Chinese Character which means spring - 春.

You might be wondering how did Chinese ancestors create 春 to mean spring? As usual, we will get the full idea behind with the help of its ancient scripts.

Below is the evolution history of 春 (image taken from: http://vividict.com)
evolution history of 春

As we can see from its Oracle script -  clearly that it is composed of (which is woods), (which is sun) and is new to us, which is a drawing of some seed start to sprout from earth and growing root underneath. That is exactly what will happen in spring: all plants are awaken by the power of sun to start to sprout, as shown below:
grass sprout in a woods under sun shine

There could be following two reasons for Chinese ancestors to put sun under one side of the woods instead of putting it on top of woods:
1. Downside of a map is south. At the start of Spring, Sun shines from south side of the woods.
2. Sun might mean Sunlight as illustrated by the picture above.

From its Bronze Script , which is composed of(which is grass), (simplified version of seedling -) and  (which is Sun),  It still contains most part of its Oracle Script counter party - .

When it came to Clerical Script  and are further merged and simplified to  with lower part 日 moved to middle bottom part of the character, which is then eventually transformed to our current writing - 春.

Yes 春 means spring. For example: 春天

And since 春 is created with meaning of seeds sprouting all over the woods under sun shine, it naturally contains the meaning of lively and joyful. For example 大地回春.

As Spring is mating season of most animals, so 春 is extended to mean love or kind of lust. For example: 怀春

That is all for 春, it is now time for us to enjoy a Chinese calligraphy with 春 inside:

好雨知时节;
当春乃发生。