Friday, October 1, 2010

Meaning of a Chinese character: 【商】

This is what my Chinese teacher said in Chinese class today.

About the meaning of a character.

figure: left sans-serif character used in China and right one in Japan. Both characters are the same.

Pronunciation of this character is "Shou" or "Akinai" in Japan and "Shang1" in China.

Nowadays we usually use this character for meaning of "business". For example, 商売 (shou-bai; business), 商人 (shou-nin/shang-ren; merchant), 商品 (shou-hin/shang-pin; product), etc. It also means quotient in the realm of math in Japan.

However, originally this character is the name of the dynasty or region in ancient China. People in Shang began selling outside their region. Products on the market become known to be brought by Shang people, and then the products and the people are called "shangpin" and "shangren" respectively. So, originally "shangren" means "people in shang" and "shangpin" is "product(s) from shang".

In Japan, Shang dynasty is usually called Yin (殷), so this fact is not known by a lot of Japanese people, I think.

By the way, I learned a new word today: 商量 (shang1-liang)

This word means "consult" today but originally means "bargain with merchant from Shang for the product(s)".

How interesting the Origins of the words are! We have an opportunity to learn them from ancient Japanese and Chinese words.

Related Links