BUILD­ING CHAR­AC­TER

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI -

with a sin­gle

This is the one that makes the most sense. One ( ) is a “tree”. is the rad­i­cal of many Chi­nese char­ac­ters, many of which are names of a cer­tain plant. When five come to­gether, it be­comes the two-char­ac­ter word

( , for­est). In­di­vid­u­ally, ( ) means wood, grove, or clus­ter of sim­i­lar things. And ( means “trees grow­ing thickly”, or “gloomy and hor­ren­dous”.

( ) is wa­ter, a com­mon word. But two make , which has two pro­nun­ci­a­tions, and , mean­ing that sand at the beach that is un­der the ocean. This char­ac­ter is un­com­mon and al­most never used in daily life. ( ) means “an ex­panse of wa­ter”, and it is of­ten used in peo­ple’s names. And when you come to , you have ev­ery right to doubt whether it is a char­ac­ter, as most Chi­nese do (it’s pretty rare). It is pro­nounced as màn, and means flood, given that so much wa­ter is gath­ered to­gether.

( ) is fire; a pic­to­graphic char­ac­ter, ( ) is scorch­ing, or ex­tremely hot;

( ) is blaze, flame. The spe­cial one is ( ), which means burn­ing fiercely, an un­com­mon char­ac­ter again.

( ) is soil, earth, dust;

( ) is a ta­per­ing hand­held jade tablet used by no­bil­ity on cer­e­mo­nial oc­ca­sions in an­cient times. And if some­one can pro­nounce

( ) cor­rectly, chances are they know a pers o n who uses it as name. It’s rare, but for those who are in­ter­ested, it means high moun­tains.

Many of these char­ac­ters are rarely used, ex­cept in names. To un­der­stand why, we need to go back to the Five El­e­ments . con­cept. It’s men­tioned that an­cient Chi­nese tended to use the Five El­e­ments to ex­plain ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing peo­ple’s fate. And even today, when a baby is born, many par­ents will ask a for­tune-teller to an­a­lyze their shengchen­bazi ( ), which trans­lates to “the date of birth and the eight char­ac­ters of the horo­scope”, be­fore nam­ing the baby. Af­ter a mys­te­ri­ous cal­cu­la­tion process, the for­tune-teller will con­clude that the baby lacks a cer­tain el­e­ment in life, which would of course af­fect their luck in the fu­ture, and the so­lu­tion is to give them a name con­tain­ing that el­e­ment. So, you can tell that a man named is very likely to have been di­ag­nosed as lack­ing earth in his life, and a girl whose name is may be short of wa­ter.

And if you search on­line, you will find some more in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ters. For ex­am­ple, three horses ( , ) make

( ), de­scrib­ing many horses gal­lop­ing to­gether; ( ), made up of three cows , ), means “run fast” or “su­per strong”.

Let’s fin­ish with a funny piece of in­ter­net slang — . While this is of­ten seen on­line, very few na­tive speak­ers can ac­tu­ally say it.

The first char­ac­ter, u), means “again”. The sec­ond, ( ), means “pair” or “dou­ble”. These two are very com­mon char­ac­ters in Chi­nese. But the last two are not or­di­nary Chi­nese. is the an­cient ver­sion of

( , friends)”; , pro­nounced as “ruò”, refers to deep friend­ship; has four types of pro­nun­ci­a­tion ,

, lì, jué, and you re­ally don’t need to learn its mean­ings, since it’s al­most never used. When these four char­ac­ters ap­pear to­gether in or­der, it means “again and again and again and again and again …” When think about the mean­ing of , you can eas­ily fig­ure out why.

You can use it when you want to ex­press a strong emo­tion, as in: (

u

The baby is cr ying agaaaaaai­i­i­i­i­iin!

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