Thursday, 24 May 2018

黑 | hēi

In Mandarin Chinese, (Pinyin: hēi 🔊 or ) means “black”, “dark”, and, by extension, “night”, “secret”, “illegal”, “evil” and so on. It also means “to hack” (in computing), from 黑客 (hēikè), a phonetic rendering of English hacker.

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

The relevant bronzeware inscription form is fire + an element combining a chimney along with specks representing soot → black/dark (soot).
However, Wiktionary calls the above interpretation “erroneous” and says that is a pictogram of a person () with a tattooed face,
depicting penal tattooing (), one of the five punishments of ancient China.
No, I don’t like this explanation at all. (Mind you, that was the least harsh punishment!)

More photos related to sesame, tattoos and colour black @ Shutterstock.

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