Sunday, January 21, 2018

Amazing Chinese Characters (188) Smell and Hear - 闻

Some Chinese characters have multiple meanings with stories behind, the character we discuss in this post is one of them.

The following shell bone script
is a person kneeling down and the big ear on his head, which means "Hear".

Its small seal script is


in which

is "Door", and


is "Ear".

A Ear in Door is to Hear.

It is no similarity to the shell bone script except the Ear.

In the ancient time, there were less characters than that people needed in communication. For example, there was the character for "Hear", but no character for "Smell". So ancient Chinese used this character for "Smell" too. Gradually, it means "Smell" more than "Hear", or people use it as "Smell" much more often than for "Hear", especially in oral Chinese. But it still has the meaning of hearing in written words.

The character 嗅 discussed in Post 189 is another character for "Smell" (see Post 189 for more detail information).

The clerical script for this character is
which is similar to its small seal script.

The current standard printing script (song script) for traditional character is

very similar to the clerical script.

The song script for simplified script is


Its Pinyin is Wen1.

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