Monday, 19 February 2018

猫 | māo

In Mandarin Chinese, (Pinyin: māo 🔊) is a word for “cat” (Felis catus).

The Cat, as we know, was pushed into the water by the Rat so it missed the banquet with the Jade Emperor. Moreover, the folk story tells that

The cat eventually drowned, and did not make it in the zodiac. It is said that this is the reason cats always hunt Rats.
However, the Cat is the fourth animal in the Vietnamese zodiac, taking place of the Rabbit. One possible explanation is that Vietnamese, who adopted the zodiac from China, confused the pronunciation of the corresponding earthly branch (mǎo) with that of (māo).

is a simplified form of the traditional character which is a phono-semantic compound of semantic “beast with long vertebral column” and phonetic (miáo). In apparent contradiction to Baldrick’s definition of dog, “not a cat”, got simplified precisely to , “dog”, making the whole thing “a dog that says ‘miáo’”. Thus the Cat joined the Pig, , and the Monkey, — but not the Tiger, — as another “kind of dog”.

More photos related to cats and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Adventures of sumo wrestler cat @ My leçons de French.

Friday, 16 February 2018

年 | nián

In Mandarin Chinese, (Pinyin: nián 🔊) is a generic term for a “year” as well as other related things such as “age”, “period of life”, “period of history”, “harvest” and “New Year”. Some compound words of include

According to Wiktionary,

In the oracle bone script and early bronze inscriptions, it was originally , an ideogrammic compound and phono-semantic compound: semantic (“wheat; grain”) + phonetic (“person”) — a person carrying wheat on his back — harvest.
(I am pretty sure it was rice, not wheat.)
In bronze inscriptions after the Western Zhou period, a stroke was often added to to give , which still acted as a phonetic component, and this form was inherited by later scripts. The current form is simplified from .
More photos related to harvest, New Year and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

春 | chūn

In Mandarin Chinese, (Pinyin: chūn 🔊) is a noun that means “spring season” as well as “vitality”, “energy”, “life”, “lust”, “passion”, “sexual desire” — many things that are associated with springtime. Some interesting compound words of include

  • + = 春节 (chūnjié): “Spring Festival” (Chinese New Year)
  • + = 小春 (xiǎochūn): literally, “little spring” but in fact early autumn, Indian summer
  • + = 春风 (chūnfēng): literally, “spring breeze” but also figuratively “favour”, “grace”, “education”, “teaching”, “guidance” and, you may have guessed, “lovemaking”

is a phono-semantic compound of semantic “sun”, semantic “grass” and phonetic (tún). In some historical forms of this character one can clearly see all three components. According to Wiktionary,

The character itself is probably a variant of as they are equivalent for the meaning “spring” in Old Chinese literature.
More photos related to spring and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

节 | jié

In Mandarin Chinese, (Pinyin: jié 🔊) is a word with a lot of meanings. As a noun, it can mean “joint”, “knot” (also as a unit of speed), “node”, “paragraph”, “segment”, “link”, “moral fibre”, “integrity”, “time period”, “rhythm”, “beat”, “season”, “festival”, “celebration”, “holiday” etc. As a verb, it means “to abridge”, “to limit”, “to control”, “to save” or “to use sparingly”. is also a measure word, used for such assorted objects as batteries, school classes or train carriages. Naturally, there are many compound words using , for instance 春节 (chūnjié) “Chinese New Year”, 狂欢节 (kuánghuānjié 🔊) “carnival”, 五月节 (Wǔyuèjié) “Dragon Boat Festival” or 节节 (jiéjié) “step by step”.

is a simplified form of the traditional character , which is a phono-semantic compound of semantic (“bamboo”) and phonetic (). According to Uncle Hanzi, its original meaning was “a joint of bamboo”. From this, with a bit of imagination, one can surely figure out all the other meanings of this word.

More photos of Chinese New Year, Dragon Boat Festival, carnival and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

☯ | tàijítú

In Mandarin Chinese, 太极图 (Pinyin: tàijítú) is a Taoist symbol representing T’ai chi, 太极 (tàijí), “great pole” or “supreme ultimate”. In Western popular culture it is known as “Yin-Yang symbol” or, less commonly, “Yang-Yin symbol”.

Le chat a trouvé Shanti // The cat has found inner peace

Juan Eduardo Cirlot wrote in his Dictionary of Symbols:

A Chinese symbol of the dual distribution of forces, comprising the active or masculine principle (Yang) and the passive or feminine principle (Yin). It takes the form of a circle bisected by a sigmoid line, and the two parts so formed are invested with a dynamic tendency which would be wanting if the division were by a diameter. The light half represents the Yang force and the dark half denotes Yin; however, each half includes an arc cut out of the middle of the opposing half, to symbolize that every mode must contain within it the germ of its antithesis. Guénon considers that the Yang-Yin is a helicoidal symbol, that is, that it is a section of the universal whirlwind which brings opposites together and engenders perpetual motion, metamorphosis and continuity in situations characterized by contradiction. The entrance to and exit from this movement lie outside the movement itself, in the same way that birth and death stand apart from the life of the individual in so far as it is conscious and self-determined. The vertical axis through the centre of the Yang-Yin constitutes the ‘unvarying mean’ or, in other words, the mystic ‘Centre’ where there is no rotation, no restlessness, no impulse, nor any suffering of any kind. It corresponds to the central zone of the Wheel of Transformations in Hindu symbolism, and the centre or the way out of the labyrinth in Egyptian and western symbolism. It is also expressive of the two counterbalancing tendencies of evolution and involution.

More photos related to Yang, Yin and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Monday, 12 February 2018

阳 | yáng

In Mandarin Chinese, (Pinyin: yáng 🔊) is an adjective meaning “open”, “overt”, “protruding”, “positive” or a noun for “the sun”, “light” and, would you believe it, “male genitals”. All these meanings are related to Yang, “a principle in Chinese and related East Asian philosophies associated with bright, hot, masculine, etc. elements of the natural world”. According to Wikipedia,

Yang, by contrast <with Yin>, is fast, hard, solid, focused, hot, dry, and active; and is associated with fire, sky, the sun, masculinity and daytime.

is a simplified form of the traditional character , which is a combination of radicals (a simplification of , “hill” or “mound”) and (“sunshine”, which has the same pronunciation as the whole ), thus translated as “sunny side of a hill”. The got simplified to one aspect of Yang, “the sun”.

More photos of sun and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Friday, 9 February 2018

阴 | yīn

In Mandarin Chinese, (Pinyin: yīn 🔊) is an adjective meaning “cloudy”, “overcast”, “dark”, “hidden”, “secret”, “insidious”, “negative” etc., or a noun for “the moon”, “shade”, “shadow” or “back”. All these meanings are related to Yin, “a principle in Chinese and related East Asian philosophies associated with dark, cool, female, etc. elements of the natural world”. According to Wikipedia,

Yin is characterized as slow, soft, yielding, diffuse, cold, wet, and passive; and is associated with water, earth, the moon, femininity, and nighttime.
is also a word for human “private parts”, that is, anus and (both female and male) genitals — maybe because they are supposed to be hidden?

is a simplified form of the traditional character , which is a combination of radicals (itself a simplification of , “hill” or “mound”) and (which has the same meaning as the whole ), thus translated as “dark side of a hill”. The got simplified to one aspect of Yin, “the moon”.

More photos of moon and sea glass @ Shutterstock.