Today, let’s take a look at 笑, xiào (laugh, smile, ridicule), one of my favorite characters.
To understand its structure, it is useful to look at the old spellings. is composed of two parts :
1. 竹 zhú bamboo
2. Originally, yāo meant swinging, bent. Other scriptures showed a man who seemed to walk fast and even run with both arms swinging to the sides. We find 夭 in characters related to running or body swaying. Stylization has changed the spelling, the top of the vertical line is leaning across: . By extension, it gave the idea of dying. The meaning of tender came later. How did the meaning of laughing and smiling come with 笑? The image of a man who swings or bends when he laughs. The idea of character is this: when the wind blows on the bamboo, a sound similar to laughter comes out.
This new example shows that for some characters, it is essential to know their history, their original etymology in order to understand and better remember them. Indeed, 夭 has lost its original meaning and with the current meaning, it is difficult to find a relationship.
Note: the form of 夭 is often confused with that of 天,tiān, sky, day. The upper line of 天, tiān, is a horizontal line drawn from left to right, whereas for 夭, yāo, the line is descending from right to left:
夭, yāo :
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30 October 2020