Friday, 5 May 2017

子 | zǐ

In Mandarin Chinese, (Pinyin: 🔊) has many meanings. As a noun, it can signify “a child”, “an offspring”, “a son”, “a person”, “a seed” or “an egg”, while as an adjective, it means “young” or “small”.

is also the first of twelve earthly branches. It corresponds to the Year of the Rat () of the Chinese zodiac; the eleventh month; the hour of the Rat (11 pm to 1 am, “the time when Rats are most active in seeking food”); and the direction 0° (i.e. north). Its associated “fixed element” is Water, .

Curiously, a combination of “man” with , 男子 (nánzǐ), still means “a man”, not “a boy” as one would expect; similarly, + = 女子 (nǚzǐ) means “a woman”, not “a girl”. (This is not the case in Japanese where 男子 and 女子 mean exactly that: “a boy” and “a girl”, respectively.) However, an anagram of 女子, 子女 (zǐnǚ), means “children”, i.e. “sons and daughters”.

Many historical forms of show a baby with a large head and spread arms (the legs are presumably swaddled). To remember the pronunciation of this word, I think of it as a variant of Latin letter Ƶ (pronounced American way, /ziː/ 🔊).

More photos related to children, zodiac and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

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