Friday, 18 December 2015

Learn one Chinese Character a day - 南

We have learnt "东" "西", "北" and "中", there is one last left - South - "南", from its Oracle Script and Bronze Script, it was created from an ancient musical instrument - Bianzhong or Chinese Bronze Chime Bells ( ). That is surprising, how can a musical instrument was used to mean south?
Chinese Bronze Chime Bell

Before explanation, let us examine its evolution history first: ( image got from )
Learn one Chinese Character a day - 南
Oracle Script was the drawing of a hanging bell, while its Bronze Script added (Wooden Hammer) to bell partto mean "use a hammer to knock the bell", which emphasising the moment of playing musics. Then it evolved to Seal Script , then Clerical Script and eventually what we use now - "南"

Below is a typical scene of playing musics with Bianzhong or Chinese Bronze Chime Bells.

That is clear that Original meaning of "南" is the musical instrument, but why it was then used to mean south? 

Bianzhong or Chinese Bronze Chime Bells were dedicated for nobles' usage in ancient China, it was a symbol of social status and power. And Chinese Bronze Chime Bells were normally used only in an important ceremonies with nobles sitting in the north part of the hall (back to north while facing south, please recall how "北" is created), and the musical instruments placed in the south part. "南" was then used to mean South.

And in some ancient documents, we can see the original meaning of "南" used, which is a musical instrument.

That is it! It is time to enjoy a Chinese calligraphy with "南" inside:
红豆生南国,春来发几枝。 愿君多采撷,此物最相思。

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