明白 Understand and its nuances

The verb 明白 míng bai is a very practical word, it means to understand. Before going further in its use in the spoken language, let’s have a look at the structure of 明 and 白.

The characters

明 is composed of the sun 日 and the moon 月,il means clear, bright, the combination of the two luminaires is eloquent.
Other spellings include the moon and the window, which gives another explanation. Here we have the light of the moon entering the room through the window, an image of inner illumination, and to return to meaning, inner understanding.
The various writings of 白 exceed a hundred and many interpretations intersect. Here are some of them: 1. penetrate and yin 2. The upper line indicates the top of the sun that is beginning to dawn, giving a pale white light. 3. A clenched fist, symbol of the united family, with the thumb raised, symbol of the head of the family. 4. A pocket of fish eggs. 5. A grain of white rice, opposite the grain of black rice.
Examples of ancient writings from 白 :

ancient spelling of white in chinese

The spoken language and 明白

明白 means understanding. In the spoken language, associated with other verbs, it brings nuances. For example, with 看 to see, we will refer to something we have seen in a text, a document, an event, a situation 我看明白, I understand (what I see). The negation will be put between the two verbs, 我看不明白, I don’t understand. With 听 tīng, listen, 我听明白 (I understand – what I listen to), place yourself in a conversation to show that you have understood the oral explanation, for example.
In the picture below, Ming Cheng is talking with his director who explains what he has to do. He says, “I also understood 我也听明白了. »

With 想, xiǎng, thinking will be the order of the day. 我想不明白 will give : I can’t understand/think or I can’t understand.
弄 is a catch-all verb, quite used. It means to do, you can associate it with other verbs. With 明白 we will look at the context to translate. Often, 我弄明白 will mean I understand or I understand how to do.

For the character 明, see Cyril Javary in ” 100 mots pour comprendre les Chinois” (page 46) and 白 , Kyril Ryjik, in “L’idiot chinois” (Volume 2, pages 4 to 6)

Related Articles :

Spoken Language

On the characters :

Character 青

Radical arrow 矢

Radical child 子

Radical eye 目

Radical heart 心

Radical illness 疒

Radical knife 刀,刂

Radical 巳

25 October 2020

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