Monday, 24 September 2018

Learn one Chinese Character a day - 牧

After learning both important and common livestock 牛 and 羊, we now start to examine a few Chinese characters created with them.
Our character today is one of that - 牧. What does it mean? It is composed of two parts : 牛 and 攵, of which we know that 牛 means Buffalo, while what does it mean by 攵?

As usual, we can get the help from  its ancient scripts shown below: (image taken from:
Evolution history of 牧

It Oracle Script  is a drawing of a hand  holding some stick or whip  to (control) the buffalo , like below paint:
So 攵 actually represents "a hand holding a stick or whip". Sound familiar? recall what we learnt on regarding 殳.
Its Bronze Script followed the Oracle version but swapped 牛 and 攵. The Seal Script  continued with Bronze Script.

So 牧 has the meaning of cowherd, and is eventually used to mean pasture or shepherd any herd, or even manage or govern people. In ancient China, some officer titles were named with 牧, like 徐州牧, which means this is an officer who governs the state called 徐州.

That is all for 牧, let us enjoy a Chinese calligraphy with 牧 inside:

Monday, 10 September 2018

Learn one Chinese Character a day - 羊

The modern Chinese character for sheep or goat is 羊. It does not look like a sheep / goat any longer. Its ancient scripts might help us to reason its meaning, which is shown below (image taken from

Evolution history of 羊

Looking at its Oracle script  and , or its Bronze script  , we can see 羊 is the drawing of a head of sheep or goat. It is because of the same reason that sheep or goat is also a mainly used sacrifice offered to gods.
Sacrifice offered with a head of a goat

We can also see that at certain age of Bronze script whole body of 羊 was drawn to represent sheep or goat, which was eventually abandoned.

So 羊 means sheep or goat. As Chinese character is a drawing, it can be used to represent any animals looks like a sheep or goat. With this understanding, we will no longer be surprised to see Chinese can use either sheep or goat for their year of Chinese zodiac 羊.

As 羊 is always considered as a quiet, gentle and peaceful species, especially it is always used as sacrifice to gods for blessing, 羊 itself has the meaning of peace, gentle, auspicious and being blessed, especially when 羊 was used as a component to create other Chinese characters.

Now it is time to enjoy a Chinese calligraphy with 羊 inside: