Thursday, 9 March 2017

米 | mǐ

In Mandarin Chinese, (Pinyin: 🔊) means “rice”. Another, quite unrelated, meaning is “metre” (a base unit of length in the International System of Units), a phonetic approximation of an English loanword.

We’ve already met this symbol as a part of the traditional character (). Uncle Hanzi says that originally represented a spike of rice. From the modern shape, it’s difficult to say. Given that rice was the staple food in China for millennia, one can imagine that a simple but widely recognisable symbol was in order to conduct everyday business — for example, to jot down how many portions of rice have been ordered.

More photos of rice @ Shutterstock.

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