Monday, June 14, 2010

My favorite Chinese character...

... is 鼎 (ding3). It's a classic character, not only in terms of its place in Chinese civilization, but also in terms of its functions as a logograph. It's a 像形 (xiang4xing2) word (i.e., it looks like the object it depicts): a tripod cauldron used for sacred offerings. I like 鼎 because it is a reminder to me that my own life is, or should be, a vessel (bipedal if not tripedal) of offering to God, and it perfectly conveyed to me years ago how to analyze certain characters as a student of Chinese. One clue as to its importance in Chinese culture is that 鼎 is a radical in its own right, although the 目 (mu4) atop its legs suggests it should be defined under the 目 radical. Here are some related 鼎 characters (dingnalia?): 鼏 mi4, a lid for a 鼎; 鼐 nai4, a giant 鼎; 鼑 ding3 (another form of 鼎; 古同“鼎”); 鼒 zi, a small 鼎.

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