In ancient time, people used "The Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches" to count the years. There are 10 heavenly stems, and 12 earthly branches. The independent combinations of one heavenly stem with one earthly branch are 60, therefore, Chinese years circle once in 60 years. The last earthly branch is the character we are discussing today.
The shell bone script of character for "12th earthly branch" is
which is a little bit similar to character Pig (Post 111), most people think that they are same or similar. I am not sure.
The shell bone script of character Pig is
They are not much similar in shell bone script. They are similar in later script, I will show you late.
However, the character :12th earthly branch" is similar to an animal, just don't know which animal, may be a virtual (untrue) animal like dragon.
Some people believe that it is a person. Let us see the shell bone script of Person (Post 37)
not similar ar all.
Let's bronze script of character Person
Still not similar.
I think that it is an indicative character, the horizontal nail alike on the left just below the top horizontal line is the point where the character wants to emphasize, which is a foot, or trotters, or horseshoe, etc. something very hard.
The 12th earthly branch is the last branch, which means the end of the branches. The foot of animal is the end of a leg, matching the meaning. Also the bone or totters are hard part of the Pig.
The bronze script of the character is
Similar to shell bone script.
The big seal script of the character is
The small seal script of the character is
which is totally changed. The top 二 is unknown meaning, the bottom has two character Person alike, the left one has a curve connecting to 二.
I can only guess that Mr. Li, Si wrongly thought that there are two persons in the big seal script above, and the nail alike is a line suppose to connect the top horizontal line and the curve below. The original pictography has been totally destroyed.
The clerical script of the character is
which is a little bit similar to the small seal script.
The Pinyin of the character is Hai4.
The character is not used right now except in the earthly branches, however, it has a very important part in many compound characters. Understanding it will help you to understand those characters.
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