The origin of 字, zì, character, has several versions. One sees the roof under which the child is born because one of the first senses is “born”.
Another explanation: the Elders believed that children should learn the characters “inside”. Older people have more difficulty. As early as Zhou 1100- 256 B.C, upper-class children entered school at the age of eight.
We had seen here that the character 孔 hole, orifice, was composed of the child and a breastfeeding mother. 乳, rǔ, has an additional element that shows a hand, the hand of the mother holding the child’s head to give her milk, as shown in the image on the right.
乳 means breast without surprise! Another later spelling
Before starting on the composition with the much-used 子 zǐ, let’s go back to its origin. We had seen that 巳 had for origin a writing which represented a foetus, see here.
The ancient spelling of 子 shows a close idea, a head with a body and arms:
子 zǐ means child, youth. No wonder!
When 子 is placed on the left, its line is no longer horizontal, but starts a little lower and goes upwards as in 孔, kǒng.
孔, kǒng, hole, opening. In the old spelling, we can see the child on the left in front of its mother’s breast to drink her milk. The idea of a hole comes from the mouth, opening, of the child ready to drink; some people think that it is rather the hole in the breast from which the mother’s milk flows.