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 The most 'Chinese' Chinese character?

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Join date : 2010-10-17
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PostSubject: The most 'Chinese' Chinese character?   The most 'Chinese' Chinese character? EmptyWed Oct 20, 2010 2:58 pm

The Chinese character "he" (和) was selected as the most Chinese of Chinese ideograms, said an article in the Wall Street Journal on Oct 15.

According to the article, "China Heritage—a National Geographic-like monthly with a glossy interest in the roots of Chineseness" recently organized an activity to identify the 100 Chinese characters that "carry the most meaning for Chinese culture."

Like Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, you can infer a nation's spirit from its language and the results of the selection revealed of a "Chinese reality not always apparent to outsiders." "He" or "和" in Chinese, culled from 374 characters suggested by an unidentified committee of historians and linguists. The concept of the character is often translated as "peace" or "togetherness".

The selection will not come as surprise to China watchers, since "he" is the first character in "harmonious society" and "peaceful rise"-terms China has recently "coined to explain its domestic and foreign policies." A good example may be that the words "harmony" and "peace" featured heavily in the opening ceremonies at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The character has "deeper roots in the Chinese psyche". It has been a favorite of Chinese philosophers—including Confucius—for at least a couple of millennia. It also appears in "fairness", "balance", "warmth" and a host of other terms that reflect the "long-held aspirations" of many Chinese people.

Characters like "dragon", "jade" and "ritual" all appeared on the list. Other selected characters, such as "tan", which means "corrupt" or "greedy, are "more surprising, if no less appropriate."

The list also reflected China's economic development. Some entries such as "gong", which means "labor" or "industry", are suggestive of China's record-breaking modernization drive, they are "far outnumbered by characters like filed, plow, farmer, family and grain—linked to the country's agrarian roots."

In other words, China's skyscrapers and luxury sedans experienced by visitors in big cities, and promoted by Chinese films, "has yet to replace the China of packed-earth courtyards and ox-drawn plows, at least in Chinese minds."

With tens of millions of migrants, what sort of national spirit will be? Is that "a rural yearning for warmth and balance, or a cosmopolitan thirst for personal wealth and individual freedom?" The list may tell something.
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