Monday, 9 May 2016

Learn one Chinese Character a day - 贝 | 貝

Simplified Chinese 贝 or Traditional Chinese 貝 is a typical pictograph character. For it has varied a lot from its original shape, we can no longer guess its meaning from its current writings. We need the help of its Oracle Script.

Let us examine its evolution history: (image taken from
Learn one Chinese Character a day - 贝|貝

From its Oracle Script , it then would not be that hard for us to know that it is drawing of certain creatures with shell, like the image shown below:
cowries - 贝
So 贝 means shell. 貝 is its traditional version.

And in ancient China, people lived quite far away from seashores. They liked these smooth, glossy and domed shells imported from far far east sea. Chinese ancestors treated them as one kind of jewelry. Due to its wide acceptance and rarity, Chinese people then started to use such shells as currency to help in exchanging of goods. So 贝 | 貝 is also used to mean currency or valuable / precious things, especially when it is a Radical in forming of other Chinese characters.

After Chinese ancestors improved their transportation method, maybe with horses, they could reach seashores much easier than before. Thus such shells were not rare any longer. it quited from currency system eventually.

And please also note that from the Oracle Script of 贝 - ,we now know that Chinese ancestors did not take any type of shells as their currency. They only accepted beautiful cowrie shells.

Now let us enjoy a Chinese calligraphy as usual.
Have learned the meaning of 贝 | 貝, can you try to guess how "a distinguished guest" is represented in Chinese?

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