Saturday, June 27, 2020

Amazing Chinese Characters (299) Room - 室

The shell bone script of character Room is
The top is a cover, which means a house. The bottom is character To (至, see Post 298). As I discussed in Post 298, there is a dispute about what it is: An arrow touched a board, or a person sleeps on a bed after he came home?

If we assume that the inside is a person sleeping on bed in a house, which is Room. I guess that there was no difference between house and room in 3000+ years ago because it was too difficult for ancient  people to build a big house with many rooms. So a room is a place for people to sleep.

However, it is possible that ancient people traveled or moved with arrows because they had chanced to meet wild animals, or enemies. When they reached the destination, they put down their arrows with the arrow heads down on the ground or floor. If it has a roof, there should be a house or room for rest.

Both explanations are reasonable.


The bronze script of character Room is

The top is the roof, and the bottom is the character To. We see the bottom of To is like an ax. In Post 244, I discussed the character King (王, see Post 244) , the bronze script of character King is

is a big ax, which represent power.

So the character To (至) may be a weapon, i.e. arrow. I am not sure.

The small seal script of character Room

The clerical script of character Room is
Its pinyin is Shi4.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Amazing Chinese Characters (298) To - 至

Chinese has few prepositions, this is one of them.

The shell bone script of character To is

The top is an up down Arrow (Post 38)

The bottom is a board.

I mentioned in previous posts: the shell bone script was written/drawn on bamboo slips which are very narrow, so people often drew the long object vertically. So the arrow touched the board vertically, which should mean that the arrow touched a vertical board horizontally.

The arrowed touched the board, which means “Get there”, the original meaning of the character.


However, Dictionary of Pictography -《象形字典》explains that the top is up-down character Across (Post 46)


which is a person crosses his legs. The bottom line is a bed. A person arrived at home, tired went to bed to sleep, which means "Arrived".

I don't know which one is right at this moment.

The small seal script of character To is


At this time (2000+ years ago), the character meant To.

The clerical script of the character To is

which is changed a lot. I could only guess that the bottom horizontal line is unchanged, the straight short horizontal line above the bottom line is from the longest U shape curve in small seal script, the open triangle is from the water drop alike circle in small seal script, the top horizontal line is from top left-falling stroke and right-falling stroke.

The song typeface of the character is


Its Pinyin is Zhi4.

If you go China, you will see this character on the schedule board of flight, train, or bus:
上海 至 北京 (Shanghai to Beijing).

Friday, June 19, 2020

Amazing Chinese Characters (297) Outside - 外

The shell bone script of character Outside is


The left is 卜 (Divine, see Post 280), the right one is compound character with 卜 on the left and 内 (Inside, see Post 249). Both has 卜. The simple explanation is that the divination is hold outside, not inside. The second character includes 内 (Inside) to emphasize, 卜 is divination outside.

The bronze script of the character is

This is totally different from the shell bone script. Why? I think it may be because the one was exist as shell bone script but people didn't discover it, the two above were found. But people felt that this one was better for the meaning outside, more and more people used it, so it become the most popular one.

Let me explain the meaning of the bronze script.

The left is 夕(Evening, see Post 52 and 53), the right is 卜. 夕 is moon in the evening. There is dispute on this one. Some people believe that the divination is held outside in the evening. Others believe that the divination was normally held in the day time, so if it was held in the evening, would be a out of predication or normal expectation.

I prefer the first: the divination is held outside in the evening. I am not sure if divination was held in day time or evenings, but I think that divination in evenings should not be unusual because in the day time, people went for hunting or some other work, came home in the evening. It should be normal to hold divination in the evenings.

The big seal script of the character Outside is
which is very similar to the bronze script except the left is Moon (Post 53), not Evening. Moon implies Night, which is from Evening, there is no clear line between Night and Evening. In addition, the divination may be held in late of evening to night when the Moon on the sky. But it is outside, not inside.

The small seal script of character Outside is

even though the left changed big, but it is Evening. Ok, ancient Chinese changed the left from Evening to Moon back and forth. As I mentioned that the divination could be held under the moon in the evening or at night.

The clerical script of character Outside is

which has some similarity to old scripts (see Post 52 and 53).

Its Pinyin is Wai4.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Amazing Chinese Characters (296) District - 区(區)

The shell bone script of character District is
There are three 口 and a reversed L. Some people think that the 口 is a small area divided from other area; some think that it is a mouth meaning people or population, there are people in the area separated by reversed L. But anyway the character means District, Region, Area, or Zone, most of time is District.


The big seal script of the character is
which have three 口 string together. I think that the 口 represent the small districts which are under the same big district, just like the small 口 are cities, and string together to form a county or state.

The small sell script of the character is


which is similar to shell bone script.

The clerical script of the character is
no much difference to the old scripts.

The traditional song typeface of the character is

no difference.

The simplified song typeface of the character is

the 品 inside becomes X, which doesn't make any sense except reduced strokes. 

Its Pinyin is Qu1.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Amazing Chinese Characters (295) Pretty - 丽(麗)

The shell bone script of character Pretty is

The bottom is Deer (Post 50)

The top is deer horn antlers.

The character is a picture of deer with big antlers.


Ancient Chinese thought that the antlers are pretty, beautiful and gorgeous. The character emphasizes the beauty of antlers

The bronze script of character Pretty is

It is similar to the shell bone script.

The big seal script of the character Pretty is

The top 丽 are not similar to the antlers anymore.Why it is changed to that is unknown. But below 丽, we can see a deer.

The clerical script of the character is
The top 丽 is the antlers (even though not look like), the bottom is a deer.

The traditional song typeface of the character is

The simplified song typeface of the character is

which is just antlers. I think that the simplification is reasonable.

Its Pinyin is Li4.

I need to point out that  丽 is synonym of 美 - Beautiful (Post 240).

The shell bone script of  美 is

which is a sheep.

They are almost exchangeable, and many times people say 美丽 - put the two together to express Beautiful. However, there is a very subtle difference between the two characters: 美 is more general, including beautiful, kind, elegant, etc. 丽 is more focus on appearance: good looking, young, pretty, etc.