Etymology of Chinese characters, meaning and sound components

Me and Lotti a few years ago. Don’t worry, we are still good friends.

In my The Mystery of the Text online course I talk about the etymology of Chinese characters, and how the majority of the Chinese characters are composed: there is a meaning component, that gives a hint for the meaning, and a sound component, that gives a hint for the pronunciation. This principle is explained in detail on Wikipedia. Several books and websites however see the sound component as a meaning component – they try to relate every part of the character to the meaning of the character as they perceive it. Alfred Huang (who btw died last year) does this in his Yijing translation The Complete I Ching, and another Yijing researcher who does this is Lotti Heyboer, aka LiSe, on her website

One of my students mentioned to Lotti the video in which I discuss this take on Chinese characters, a take that in my opinion is wrong and hardly sustainable. This prompted Lotti to write a blog article in which she defends her position: ‘Etymology, fact, and fiction’. This article is my response to that blog post, although I would have preferred to add my comments to Lotti’s article, but there is no option to do that. Continue reading

Crossing the great river

In this video we are going to look at the phrase she da chuan 涉大川, ‘cross the great river’ and the early usage of the keywords from this phrase.

Zai 災 and its variant in the Shanghai Museum Manuscript of the Yijing

An interesting, personal and meaningful exploration of the character zai 災 and its variant in the Shanghai Museum Manuscript of the Yijing by my good friend Luis Andrade.

The Yijing as oracle bone’s sidekick – a study of ‘heng’ 亨

pdfThis article contains a lot of tiny images, which makes it difficult to post it as a WordPress article. In these cases a PDF works much better. Download here:

The Yijing as oracle bone’s sidekick – Harmen Mesker

More than words

(Most of the oracle bone images in this article are from the site of Richard Sears. Quotes from classics are from the site of Donald Sturgeon.)

The Chinese character yan is one of the most common words in the Chinese language, it is among the characters that you learn at an early stage when you study the Chinese language. The Hanyu Da Cidian 漢語大詞典 dictionary lists more than 30 meanings for this character, meanings which mostly have to do with words and language in general (vol. 11, p. 1). But the early usage of this character can enhance our understanding of the meaning and usage of this word in the Yijing. Continue reading