The Meaning of Anger

I started a Chinese etymology blog about 2 years ago. Today, I finally imported the posts to this website. So check it out if you’re interested. You’ll find it in the category section.

Here’s another word I want to talk about. It’s the word anger: 怒 (nù). This word can be broken down without looking at the ancient scripts.

It’s broken by top and bottom, and then from the top part, left and right.
怒, nù
—奴, nú
—–女, nǘ
—–又, yòu
—心, xīn
Continue reading The Meaning of Anger

Pitiable Fish Scales

In my Chinese language education, I found out somewhere along the way that there was logic behind the characters. I didn’t quite understand where the logic was, and one concept that I had a hard time understanding was the idea that in some words, there was a phonetic component and a definitive component. Example: 妈 (mā, mother). My teacher would say that 女 (nǚ, woman) gave the definition, and the 马 (mǎ, horse) gave the word its sound. This sounded fine and all, but how did a horse and a woman mean mother?

I will try to offer some explanations. First, we can find the relative age of the words from this character. What do I mean by that? From the construction of 妈, we know that 女 and 马 are older characters than 妈. It means that 妈 was created later. Why do I say that? 马 and 女 need to be already in use before someone could take them and put them together to form 妈.
Continue reading Pitiable Fish Scales

The Visiting Night

A poem by Yun Dong-ju
translated by coconutwheel

The Visiting Night

From around the world,
The coming light is now dying
In so cramped a room as mine.
Tired are those that it touches.
In its death, there is prolongation of life–

Now I open a window,
So the air will flow in.
Outside, all quietly fade away,
Inside, the room becomes dark like the world.
But it rains, and just like that, the road

Silently close your eyes
When you can’t wash away the frustrations of a day.
The sound of motion within,

Now thoughts, like crab apples, will ripen on their own.

Self Portrait

A poem by Yun Dong-ju
translated by coconutwheel

Self Portrait

Returning to the mountain,
Alone, I found the well forlorn,
And quietly went to look.

The moon is bright,
The clouds are flowing,
The sky is wide,
The blue winds blow,
Autumn is in the heart of the well.

Then there is a man.
For some reason, I hate him.
I leave.

I think about him.
He’s quite pitiable.
I go back and there he is.

I leave because I hate this man,
But thinking about him,
I miss him.

The moon is bright,
The clouds are flowing,
The sky is wide,
The blue winds blow,
Autumn is in the heart of the well.

He’s there like a memory.

But they look the same…

In this entry, I just want to give some examples of words that were once different, but after simplification, now look the same. This makes certain words a little trickier, but for people more familiar with the language, the context really eliminates most of the confusion. I will give two examples.

First: 发
Before the simplification, there was 髮 and 發. They both became 发. The pronuciation for 髮 is fà, which means hair and 發 is pronounced fā, which has many meanings, one of which means to sent outward. In simplified, you can’t tell right away which way to pronounce it. Only given word combinations like 头发 (tóufà, hair) or 发射 (fāshè, to radiate) can you know which meaning 发 takes on.

Second: 只
This one’s a little different. The previous, both words were changed. In context to 只, it already exists as a word, but another word was simplified to it. The two words are 只 (zhǐ, only) and 隻 (zhī, a counting unit for animals). 隻 was simplified to 只. Context is the only way now to tell which 只 the writer means:只有 (zhǐyǒu, there is only…), 一只狗 (yìzhīgǒu, a dog). The pronunciation is different so there is no problem differentiating between these words when speaking. Only when it’s written without context that it creates some confusion.
Continue reading But they look the same…

What is love?

When I went onto the etymology website, many of the words were explained by the webmaster. Many of them made sense, but some didn’t have any explanations at all. Sometimes in life, something needs to get you going, something needs to get you started, and this word opened up the puzzle for me. It allowed me to look deep into the words and see for the first time what people thought, how thought was constructed and represented visually. This word unlocked the mystery of Chinese for me. By chance, this word is the word for love. 愛(T), 爱(S), ài, pronounced like “I”, is the Chinese word for love. You can probably see this word tattooed on people’s necks or arms or anywhere. It’s a beautiful word.aiis how the character looks is seal script. The website doesn’t give any explanations, but there has to be. Continue reading What is love?

How does that look like a hand?

I studied Latin in high school, so I learned all about where certain words came from and how it’s used differently in English as compared to the Latin. And every time I search a definition for a word, the website or dictionary tells me where the word comes from. Then I asked myself, “Where did the Chinese words come from?” I know that certain words are loan words such as “sha-fa” for sofa, (the Chinese characters meaning “sand hair”), but where did those supposed pictures come from? Somebody must have doodled in some sand and said, “That looks like a something, so it means this.”

I googled “Chinese etymology” and came up with two useful websites. One is which is nice. It tells you the etymology but using the limits of the characters of Unihan, which is the collection of all the standardized Chinese, Korean, Japanese words available on a computer . But when it says 又 looks like a right hand, I just don’t see it. So I went to another website.
Continue reading How does that look like a hand?


A poem by Yun Dong-ju
translated by coconutwheel


Staring at the heavens without a trace of shame,
I feel the pain,
Until the day I die,
Even with the wind in the leaves.

With a heart bursting to sing to the stars,
I shall love all things that will pass,
And I must walk the path given to me.

Even tonight, the stars are caressed by the wind.

The Snowing Map

A poem by Yun Dong-ju
translated by coconutwheel

The Snowing Map

In the morning that Soon-ee left,
With my heart unable to speak,
Large snowflakes fell
Sadly outside the window
Covering the map
Spread out in the distance.

I return to the room, looking,
But there is nothing there at all.
The wall and the ceiling, white.

Will it snow inside the room?
Will you fly from me like history lost?
Even though you wrote me a letter
With your last words here,
I don’t know where you’re going,
Which street, which village, which house?
Are you to remain only in my heart?

The falling snow covers
Your small footsteps, again and again,
That I can’t even follow.

If the snow melts,
Flowers will bloom in each
Of your footprints, but if
I can find even just one between
The blossoms,
Snow will fall in my heart,
For a year, twelve months,



A poem by Yun Dong-ju
translated by coconutwheel


This way and that,
A weeping autumn
Falls like its foliage,
Piece by piece.

Each vacancy of the fallen leaves
Prepares for the spring,
But until then, the sky
Spreads above the branches.

Quietly, if you wish to invite the sky,
Dye your eyes with blue.
If you want to hold the warm cheeks
In your two hands,
Bury your palms in blue.

Now take a look at them:
In the lines of your hand
Flows clear river water,
The clear water flowing.
There is a sad face, like that of love,
The beautiful face of Soon-ee,
When she was young.

In my youth, I saw the world
With my eyes closed, in rapture.
But the clear waters flow,
And a face sad like love,
The beautiful face of Soon-ee

In youth.