Monday, September 21, 2020

Amazing Chinese Characters (307) Jail or Prison - 牢

The shell bone script of character Jail or Prison is

Inside is character of Ox, which is surrounded by fence or some barriers. Some one points out that in ancient time, people found or dug a big hole with one side open or locked by a bar. The ox were kept in the hole at night and in the winter when there was a cover on the top to keep the hole warm.

Original meaning of the character is a cowshed alike where ox are fenced or held. If there was a door  or bars blocks the ox is unknown.

The bronze script of character Jail or Prison is

similar to shell bone script.

The big seal script of Jail or Prison is
Similar to the old scripts.

The small seal script of Jail or Prison is

Now we see there is a bar blocking the cowshed.

When people used the cowshed to jail people is unknown, but at least before the small seal script was created, which is in Qin Dynast, 221 B.C.

The clerical script of Jail or Prison is

The top is famous Bao - Gai Tou, means roof of a house. The bottom is Ox. It is reasonable, because people built a cowshed with a roof to cover, not an open space anymore.

Its Pinyin is Lao2.

There is another character 囚 - Prisoner (Post 79), which is exchangeable with 牢. However, 囚 has the meaning of Prisoner, but 牢 most of time is Jail. So there is a little bit difference.

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