Monday, 23 October 2017

Learn one Chinese Character a day - 典

Today we move back to the series of 册 and our character is 典.

Looking at 典, we are very certain that its upper part is 册 (recall what we just learnt - 扁 and 匾). And what about its lower part - ? does it look like a small table?

So Chinese ancestors created this character 典 to represent the idea of “books put on top of a table”? What kind of useful meaning can be derived from?

Before we jump into conclusion, let us examine its evolution history first and see if we can get some hints from them: (image taken from
Evolution history of 典
Its Oracle Script  is composed of (册) and  (which we should know now: two hands), It represents the scenario of "holding up a book carefully with two hands", as show below:
What does that mean then? Some good and valuable books we handle very carefully and respectfully: the classics!
From its other Oracle Script -, we can actually double confirm our reasoning. Looking at , it has an extra , comparing to , at the bottom. We just learnt that  is actually the Oracle Script of 上. Adding  to  emphasizes the meaning of top classics.

It is believed that Bronze Script  was simplified from by removing that two hands - . Surprisingly enough that represented the meaning much clearer: top books

When it came to Seal Script, its lower part is commonly believed to be simplified from two hands . However if we perceived it as "books on a consecrated table", it did represent the same idea of top classics.

Now we know that the original meaning of 典 is top classics. for example: 经典

Since we can always refer to classics for research and guidance, 典 is slowly extended to mean good example, standard, regulations and laws. For example: 字典

And developed from the meaning of referring to classics, 典 started to have a special usage, as the reference or contract of <something>. for example: 典当.

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

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