Person under the sun


I’ve mentioned this before, but one of my main things I love about the Chinese language is the stories you can derive from the characters that constitute a word. Some scholars (such as a Professor of mine this year) would argue against such a ‘pointless endeavor’. I can certainly appreciate that not all the ‘stories’ we share of the construction of a character are true, however it makes a character more memorable; and it’s good fun.

As you would have guessed, today I will be sharing with you a story about another Chinese character. The character I have chosen is very common and also very simple, which ties in to a phrase I have grown quite fond of over the past few years but do not recall sharing here on my blog. The phrase is ‘简单才能快乐’ which can be translated as ‘simplicity is the key to happiness’, or ‘简单=幸福’, ‘simple=happy’ as I sometimes shorten it. 虽然the theme of the phrase is simplicity, 但是I feel that it represents something greater, but it’s not a discussion I have planned for today. The character we will be dissecting is ‘是’.

是 (pinyin:shi) is one of the first characters I remember learning how to write, its very俭朴. 是 simply means ‘to be’ (e.g. 他是大夫 means ‘he is a doctor’), but it is also versatile in that it can be given as standard answer of ‘yes’ to a question rather than using the affirmative form of the verb in a sentence as you would usually have to do in Chinese. Sticking to the initial translation of 是, how does the character composition have any correlation to it’s meaning? It’s simple, a man under the sun.

If you observe the character closely you will notice that it is comprised of three parts, that is to say that it is to say that it is comprised of three radicals. Radicals can look different when used as an independent character so I have shown you the three clearly here: 日下人. 日means ‘sun’, we have encountered the second character in a previous post, it means ‘under’ 下, and the last character means ‘person’ 人. As a whole the character conveys that a person underneath the sun is one who exists, or that a person exists underneath the sun.

I found this 很有意思 the first time I heard this because the logic was quite simple but I overlooked it since it was such a common character. To echo my earlier sentiment, in learning Chinese I think that radicals themselves offer a breadth of knowledge. 简单的说, a lot of people find stories and pictures easy to remember which is why it can be helpful to explore these in relation to characters if that will help you remember how to recognise/read/write them. But sticking to the theme, I have only touched on a simple explanation as to why I find radicals helpful😋

Today was another one of my busy days and it so happens that I have a taxi collecting me at 3:30 for a flight, but I really wanted to post this. Strangely enough, this is the second time I’ve posted something just hours before a flight! xD but I shall leave it to you to find the post I’m talking about~

If this post has somehow made you reflect on existentialism (as it wasn’t my original intention 哈哈),

good luck 世界☀️✈️

从欣妍 – From Xinyan.