Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Chinese Lesson Post 3: 生日 sheng ri (birth day) Birthday!

It's my birthday today, or 生日. This is the card that Fiona and William picked out for me.  Can you see how they disguised the second character?
Originally 日 was a pictorially derived character to represent the sun. What not just a circle, as children draw?  I'm not sure but my guess is that since the character based system began by carving on bones and tortoise shells at the beginning of Chinese culture as we know it, it wasn't easy to carve circular lines. Why is there a line in the middle?  Most likely to distinguish it from the character 口 which means 'mouth'.  日 looks similar to the character for moon which looks like this 月. They can be joined together to make another character pronounced, 'ming' 明.  Ming has two very different meanings, both of which make perfect sense when you consider that it is composed of 'sun' and 'moon'.  One meaning is 'bright' which means literal brightness as the light of the sun and moon would be together, and just like in English this 'bright' transfers over to also mean intelligent. Ming also means 'tomorrow', as in, after one sun and one moon passes, it will be 'tomorrow'.

One last thing. I always thought it was curious that when 生 and 日 are combined in their own character, 星, xing, it means 'star'.  In my imagination, it suggests that our birth and our 'stars' are connected, a latent belief in astrology. 

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