Friday, 23 March 2018

下 | xià

In Mandarin Chinese, (Pinyin: xià 🔊) has many meanings but all of them have something to do with direction “down”. Predictably enough, it looks very much like the character flipped upside down.

Lawrence J. Howell writes in his Etymological Dictionary of Han/Chinese Characters:

The relevant oracle bone form of this character is a depiction of one line below another, suggesting the idea of under (contrast ) → low; lower; below; down; subordinate; descend. Extended meanings from “down” or “below” include come/go down; fall; drop; hang (down/from); hand down; younger; have diarrhea; abort (a fetus); step/move back; withdraw; leave the capital; retire and surrender. By further extension are carry, remove and clear a table (← take down from a table); grate (← grated shavings that fall below); give and do someone the favor of (← hand ← hand down); obtain (← be handed/given); and latter half (← bottom/lower of two halves).
There are a great number of compounds of , for instance
  • + = 下午 (xiàwǔ 🔊): afternoon
  • + = 上下 (shàngxià): up and down, high and low, etc. but also in a sense “about” or “more or less”
  • + + + = 上上下下 (shàngshàngxiàxià): everybody; all; the whole
  • + = 天下 (tiānxià): everything under the sky; a lofty name of China (but of course!); an ancient Chinese concept of tianxia
I think the physics community should adopt the symbols and for up and down quarks instead of rather boring “u” and “d”.

More photos related to down, downward and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

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