: Some abstract concepts can be suggested with certain diagrams, like simple lines for one, two, and three. At right, we also have under, above, and middle, all of which bear some relation, as diagrams, to the meaning. In the Shang Dynasty, only 2% of characters were like this. By the Han and Sung, it was down to only 1%. So these kinds of characters may be frequently used, but there arent many of them.
Unfortunately, those who are at pains to demonstrate their adherence to fashionable opinion have missed the point. The issue is not whether ideas or truth exist, but whether a writing system like Chinese characters directly matches up with spoken language. It doesnt. This is the most conspicuous in something likeAncient Egyptianhieroglyphics, where certain glyphs are generic determinatives, which correspond to no words in the language but give a clue as to the general meaning of the word being written. As it happens, Chinese has something rather like generic determinatives, i.e. the radical which is that part of the character that gives a clue to the meaning and functions as the basis of classifying characters in a Chinese dictionary. These visual elements of the written language do a job where the written language may not fully represent the sounds of spoken language, which is what happens in Egyptian or Chinese. The written language does it in its own way, and so takes on a life of its own.
The picture of the languages has changed somewhat over the years. Older sources (e.g. John DeFrancis,The Chinese Language, Fact and Fantasy, Princeton, 1987; and Nathan Sivin, editor,, Houghton Mifflin, 1988) say that there are, since sometimes Gan is linked with Hakka, or with Xiang. More recently, Lynn Pan, inThe Encyclopedia of the Chinese Overseaslanguages, where Jin is separated from Mandarin, Hui from Wu, and Pinghua from Yue. Now, however, in, edited by Graham Thurgood and Randy J. LaPolla [Routledge Language Family Series, Routledge, London, 2003], Jerry Norman (The Chinese Dialects: Phonology) states, If one takes mutual intelligibility as the criterion for defining the difference between dialect and language, then one would have to recognize not eight [or seven, etc.] but hundreds of languages in China [p.72]. This appears to resolve the issue. What previously were regarded as separate languages, like Cantonese, are in fact families of languages.
describes the significance of each hexagram and also the special meaning to be attached to the presence of any changing lines.
The notion that language can only truly consist of sounds is refuted by the existence of fully functioning sign languages among the profoundly deaf. Indeed, there are now cases where deaf children, with no previous contact with other deaf individuals, have been introduced together into new schools for the deaf and have spontaneously and quickly developed a completely new sign language between themselves. In the past, the possibility that sign languages could be the equivalent of spoken language was simply not believed, and even educators of the deaf thought that signs could properly only be used to spell the words of spoken languages. Word of the existence of true, semantically complete sign languages of the deaf has apparently still not reached everyone.
elaborates on this, by grouping the lines into sets of threes (the trigrams) and into sets of sixes (the hexagrams).
As noted, this is already rather behind the development of Chinese, where characters usually write morphemes. However, the principal reason for the change in terms is ideological rather than linguistic. Because of the influence ofLudwig WittgensteinandFerdinand de Saussure, the view has grown that language is a self-contained and self-referential system, without connection to the external world or to truth. Because of this, the notion that there are ideas or concepts that exist independently of language and embody meanings with a real relationship to the world has fallen into disfavor. So ideogram must go.
Within each of the groups of Chinese languages, there are alsotruedialects, which means that they are mutually intelligible. In Pans book andThe Sino-Tibetan Languagesmany dialects are shown for the language groups. The confusion over all this — couldnt everyonetellwhat forms of speech are mutually intelligible? — was certainly due to the difficulties of doing research in China in the 20th century. From revolution, to war, to revolution, to totalitarianism, China until recently was not the best place for graduate students wandering around with tape recorders asking strange questions. Such behavior would often have evoked suspicion, arrest, or worse. Of course, there is also the problem of distinguishing dialects from languages in general, when dialects may be intelligible to those nearby, while those at the extreme ends of a range may be incomprehensible to each other.
, People on the map. Otherwise, the dialects of Chinese all refer to languages of the Han People. Manchurian has all but disappeared and been replaced by Mandarin.
originally meant shady, secret, dark, mysterious, cold. It thus could mean the shaded, north side of a mountain or the shaded, south bank of a river.
As it happens, there is a conspicuous mountain north-east ofLos Angeles Valley College. Indeed, there is a whole mountain range, the San Gabriel Mountains. Beyond the lower Verdugo Mountains in the foreground, which rise to 3126 feet, there is the conspicuousMt. Lukensin the San Gabriels, which is 5074 feet high. Behind Mt. Lukens runs Big Tujunga Canyon. There are much higher peaks in the San Gabriels (up to Mt. San Antonio, Old Baldy, at 10,064 ft., which is east and outside of the image provided here), as can be seen in the image, but these are hidden from the perspective of Valley College. Unfortunately, there are no Buddhist temples, as far as I know, upon Mt. Lukens. Los Angeles could use the protection.
, that symbolizes wood is a principal symbol of
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, is based on the principle of a broken line,
The arrangement of the trigrams around the compass reflects Chinese
On the map at left, we see China of the late Empire divided by the ethnic principle of thefive peoples. While the Hui,
Answer me this: If we had no voice [
The familiar diagram of Yin and Yang, the
, might be Turks or Uighurs, the term in general means Muslims and thus applies to ethnic Chinese Muslims.Hui speak Mandarin and tend to live in the area identified for the Han,
] diagram, shows the opposites flowing into each other. The diagram also illustrates, with interior dots, the idea that each force contains the seed of the other, so that they do not merely replace each other but actuallyeach other. (The earliest attested example of the diagram, strangely enough, occurs on a Roman shield illustrated in thefifth century
: These are characters that originate with pictures of the objects in question. In theShangDyansty, these counted for 23% of all characters.
In the diagram at right, the basic phonetic value of horse () turns up in the purely phonetic interrogative particle, and in a word for mother. The character for to tie, bind occurred as a phonetic in the alternative character given above for heap of stone/boulders (). The fields compound character above (again) occurs as a phonetic with the character for stone to mean roll stones down hill. Shield () occurs with sun in sunset, with woman in crafty, villainous, false, and with tree in shaft of a spear, pole. Middle occurs with the radical heart,, to mean conscientious, loyal, honest, etc. It is these characters that provide some of the evidence for the reconstruction of the pronunciation of earlier forms of Chinese.
Since the fashionable view is that language is self-referential, we might wonder why opinion could not move over to the view that written language breaks away from the spoken language and takes on a self-contained life of its own. Clinging to the notion that written languageto spoken language would seem to contradict part of the fashionable thesis, that there is no external reference. Indeed.
That is especially obvious in the use of the term
, speech of the place, not only is the official term for dialect, but it is officially used forthe Chinese languages, whether they are actually languages or dialects.
Chinese characters are the lastancientideographic writing system that survives in modern usage. This was a close call. InVietnamese, the Latin alphabet is used; inKorean, thephonetic system is now used.Japanesehas its own syllabaries, the, which could easily replace characters altogether, as in the past they sometimes did. Both China and Japan were contemplating a transition to the Latin alphabet (thePinyinsystem prepared the way for this in Chinese). Ironically, it is the most modern technology which has saved the most ancient writing. Computer assisted writing makes the use of characters relatively convenient, and the need for vast metal fonts for printing and even typewriting has now been eliminated.
, common, vulgar, worldly. Each of these contains the mountain and valley characters, respectively, with the radical for person,
That is why languages can betranslatedinto each other — though, indeed, there are philosophers, like W.V.O. Quine, in the self-referential tradition, who openly assert the indeterminacy of translation, as though this were not contradicted by centuries of actual translating. The existence of meaning has been ably demonstrated byJerrold Katz. Thus, Chinese characters, which write ideas, as spoken language speaks them (with, we might say, ideophones — sounds that speak ideas), are ideograms. Since they historically correspond to Chinese words or morphemes, they can also be called logograms or morphograms. Since they often originally consisted of pictures of objects, they can also be called pictograms, a term also in fashionable disfavor. If there are pictures of objects, after all, we might need to admit that there are objects, and that language has something to do with them. It is a shame when something so obvious becomes shocking to educated opinion.
However, it seems the most natural to say that a picture of a man, a woman, or a tree simply represents those things directly. While all writing systems, including Chinese, develop phonetic elements, the thesis that meaning is essentially sound is destroyed by the use of sign language among the profoundly deaf, for whom language and meaning have no aural component at all. At one time, it was not believed that the profoundly deaf had any true language, just because sign language was not taken seriously; but this view is now insupportable. Indeed, from Plato we already have the observation that the deaf sign and that this is a logical accommodation to that condition:
The most common Chinese characters are of theRadical and PhoneticorPhonetic Complexform. These combine other characters either side by side or above and below. The constituent character called the Radical gives some clue about the meaning and, more importantly, is the basis for the listing of the character in Chinese dictionaries (where 214 traditional Radicals are used). The constituent character called the Phonetic gives some clue about the pronunciation, which is usually similar to that of the original character. In the Shang Dynasty, only 34% of characters (or 334 actual characters) were of this type. By the Han Dynasty, it was up to 82% (or 7697), the Sung up to 93% (21,810), and in theChingradical and phonetic characters were 97% (or 47,141) of the total. Clearly, this device becomes the most productive way of generating new characters in Chinese. It is also unique among Old World ideographic writing systems. Nothing similar is seen in Egyptianhieroglyphics, for instance, where the phonology of a word is indicated by writing extra, purely phonetic, glyphs. The exception, however, is in the New World, whereMayanglyphs, recently deciphered, include both ideographic and phonetic elements, just like Chinese characters. Mayan glyphs, however, fully specify the phonology (according to the current understanding), not just suggest it, as with the Chinese.
] with our hands and head and body generally? [Cratylus, 433 E,Cratylus, Parmenides, Greater Hippias, Lesser Hippias, translated by F.N. Fowler, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard, 1926, 1963, p.133; translation modified]
The characters and their definitions here are fromMathews Chinese-English Dictionary[Harvard, 1972]. The pronunciation of each character, however, is rendered inPinyin. There are, understandably, disputes over the classification system and over the assignment of individual characters. For instance, the very first example,d, big, is from the drawing of a man, and so can be considered pictographic; but since it doesnt mean man, but big, it might be considered indicative instead.
such Chinese character, though I understand that the myth lives on the internet. Meanwhile, the character
, that symbolizes metal is a principal symbol of
Taoism takes the doctrine of yin and yang, and includes it in its own theory of change. Like Anaximander and Heraclitus, Taoism sees all change as one opposite replacing the other.
Although Chinese characters are originally and basically ideographic, writing whole words, the language over time has become more polysyllabic and many characters now do not occur in isolation. The system thus can be said to have becomemorphographic, writing semantic elements of words,morphemes, rather than ideas or words as wholes. [note]
The table gives a classification of languages and dialects based on a combination ofand other sources. The 10 languages identified on the map from PansThe Encyclopedia of the Chinese Overseasare given in boldface; but the overall organization is in terms of the three groups and six dialect familes of[p.6]. While Gan and Xiang and now definitely separated, Hakka has come to be included under Gan — though this is not consistently seen in the book. Hakka itself is an interesting term,
The truth is that visual (whether written or sign) and spoken languages match up to each other by way of meaning. There
Unlike Heraclitus, Taoism sees change as violent only if the Tao [Do] is opposed: If Not Doing,
Among the trigrams it is noteworthy that in all the children, the sex is determined by theoddline, so that the trigrams are predominately theoppositequality from the sex of the child. Also, we expect water to be associated with yin and fire with yang, but water is the secondsonand fire the seconddaughter. The other children are associated with such things as we might expect, e.g. water turns up again in the third daughter as the Lake.
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uses the trigrams by combining pairs of them into 64 hexagrams. The hexagrams reuse the trigrams by combining pairs
The Solar Terms and the Chinese Calendar
] known to one another, should we not try, as mute [and deaf] people [
. A lake is essentially a valley filed with water (both with Yin associations), and the mountain in general may be also contrasted with the valley,
It is therefore not surprising that the splitters (those who like to divide groups, as opposed to lumpers, who like to combine groups — atypologicaldifference) should begin to divide the old languages into new ones. If there are really hundreds of languages involved, however, further splitting becomes pointless.
), i.e. the determination of the auspicious or inauspicious situation and orientation of places (cities, temples, houses, or graves). Chinese cities are properly laid out as squares, with gates in the middle of the sides facing due north, east, south, and west. The diagonal directions are then regarded as special spirit gates: northwest is the Heaven Gate; southwest the Earth Gate; southeast the Man Gate; and northeast the Demon Gate. The northeast was thus the direction from which malevolent supernatural influences might particularly be expected.situation of the old Japanese capital city of Kyto is particularly fortunate.
, representing yin, and an unbroken line,
, the immortal-ists or school of the immortals. What is down in the valley is then common, mundane, and vulgar.
Categories of Chinese Characters, note
Why there is now this ideological preference is a good question. Such theories, however, are conformable to thedeconstructionistorpost-modernview that everything is a matter of power relationships — something about equally inspired byMarxand byNietzsche– and unrelated to any actual truth or reality, except a political reality. People writing about Chinese characters may not be aware of all the connections of the theories they promote, but it is usually the academic water within which they swim.
Although it is correct to see yin as feminine and yang as masculine, everything in the world is really amixtureof the two, which means thatfemalebeings may actually be mostly yang and male beings may actually be mostly yin. Because of that, things that we might expect to be female or male because they clearly represent yin or yang, may turn out to be the opposite instead.
History of Philosophy, Chinese Philosophy
The Chinese Language, Fact and Fantasy, University of Hawaii Press, 1984, 1986, &, University of Hawaii Press, 1989], one of the greatest scholars of Chinese, has the view that language (or meaning) is essentially spoken (i.e. sound) and that pictograms really stand for the
. Fire (the hottest element) and metal (the hardest) both are associated with yang.
Since Chinese characters originally wrote whole words, it is now fashionable to say that they are logograms (= word) rather than ideograms. On this view, Chinese characters (or the units of any such writing system) have no meaning apart from the words of Chinese. They are derivative of the words and are semantically, functionally, and even ontologically dependent on them. The notion that the characters could exist independently of the words, or of the Chinese language, is incomprehensible.
To the northeast is a conspicuous, twin-peaked mountain,(corresponding to the Mountain trigram), which is crowned with a vast establishment of Buddhist temples to guard the Demon Gate. Later, Tky (originally called Edo) was laid out with temples to the northeast on rising ground in the Ueno district; but both the ground and the temples are now entirely surrounded and obscured by the sprawl of Tky. [note]
: Multiple examples of the first two kinds of characters can be combined to suggest something semantically related to the original meanings. So at right, we see sun and moon combined to mean bright, light, or even cleanse. Three fields can be combined to mean fields divided by dikes. A woman under a roof means quiet, peace, tranquility. Two women means handsome or pretty, and also cunning. This negative (misogynistic) suggestion emerges fully with three women, which means adultery, fornication, licentiousness, debauch, ravish. Two trees get us forest, and three are luxuriant, overgrown, dark. Three stones is heap of stone, boulders. Note that there are altenative, radical and phonetic versions, given with the lei (boulders) and jiao (handsome) characters. In the Shang Dynasty, 41% of the characters were of this compound indicative type. In the Han it was 13%, and in the Sung only 3%. It is sometimes said that the Chinese character for trouble showswomen under one roof. Such a character is possible, and would look like this
, was interpreted as a no answer, an unbroken crack,
What are usually called the dialects of Chinese are really separate languages, all descended from the Chinese of theTangDynasty. They are all about as far apart from each other now as English and Dutch. However, they are all written with the same characters (with some exceptions), which means that an educated person can understand (mostly) their written forms, and for cultural and political reasons, as well as their historical origin, are regarded by the Chinese as part of the same language. A new term has even been introduced for this unusual situation, calling the languages topolects, i.e. speech of the place,
, are practiced, then the Tao guides change in a natural, easy way, making for beauty and life. Since trying to be inis a yang (or Confucian) attribute, Taoism sees Not Doing (and Taoism itself) on theside of things; but since Not Doing does not literally mean doing nothing, Taoism can use the language of passivity and receptivity to mean something that is actually quite active.
of them into 64 hexagrams. The hexagrams represent states of affairs, and theis consulted through the construction of a hexagram to answer ones question. The construction is carried out either through a complicated process of throwing and counting yarrow stalks, or by throwing three coins. The obverse (head) of each coin is worth 3 points (odd numbers are yang), while the reverse (tail) is worth 2 (even numbers are yin). Three coins will therefore add up to either 6, 7, 8, or 9. The numbers 7 and 8 represent young yang and yin, respectively. Starting from the bottom up, these add a plain yang,
By theHanthey were down to only 4%, and during theSungonly 3%. The characters at right were all originally little pictures. Great was the picture of a man, while mountain, field, woman, horse, shield, and tree were just that.
], soft, pliant, yielding, gentle. Rudo, the yielding way, is read in Japanese asand is the name of a popular Martial Art. Judo doesnt look at all yielding or gentle, but it does employ Taoist doctrine in so far as it is not supposed to originate force or an attack but takes the attack of an opponent and uses its own force against it.
under a roof, means a house, family, home, relatives, or a member of a class orschool. We can imagine that this goes back to the conditions of rural life where people and farm animals might share the same dwelling, even as pork is still a conspicuous part of traditional Chinese cooking.
. This kind of reversal turns up frequently in the
in turn meant clear, bright, the sun, heat, the opposite of yin and so the lit, south side of a mountain or the lit, north bank of a river. From these basic opposites, a complete system of opposites was elaborated. Yin represents everything about the world that is dark, hidden, passive, receptive, yielding, cool, soft, and feminine. Yang represents everything about the world that is illuminated, evident, active, aggressive, controlling, hot, hard, and masculine. Everything in the world can be identified with either yin or yang. Earth is the ultimate yin object. Heaven is the ultimate yang object. Of the two basic Chinese Ways, Confucianism is identified with the yang aspect, Taoism with the yin aspect.
When it comes to the five elements, earth, water, and wood are clearly to be associated with yin. Water, the softest and most yielding element, becomes the supreme symbol of yin and the Tao in the
Sign languages are known to develop and exist with no connection to spoken language, and the form of signs has its own dynamic, unrelated to sounds. Thus, even as a Chinese character is classified by radical and phonetic, a sign can be specified by  the shape of the hand(s),  position(s),  orientation(s), and  motion(s) (if any).
. The idea seems to be that immortal beings live in the mountains, either because that is where the divine belong (as on Mt. Olympus) or because that it where Taoist adepts, who achieve immortality, practice their asceticism. Thus,Taoiststhemselves can be called
History of Philosophy, Chinese Philosophy
But the move does not take place, perhaps because the connection of the written to the spoken language is too obvious (though one might think that their connectionwould then be equally obvious, which it isnt to the), but perhaps even more so because of an old prejudice thatlanguage can only exist as spoken language. This latter assertion is actually made by John DeFrancis in the work cited in the text above — and reconfirmed to me in personal correspondence.
Thus the great economistF.A. Hayekinvoked Taoism in the defense of capitalism, a system that does not seem particularly yielding or gentle, but is based on the principle that government should leave alone (laissez faire) private property and voluntary exchanges and contracts. The free market would thus be the Not Doing of government.
, representing yang. During theShangDynasty (1523-1028 BC), questions that could be answered with a yes or a no were written on tortoise shells. The shells were heated, then doused in water, which caused them to crack. A broken crack,
Gender Stereotypes and Sexual Archetypes
In India the theory of the three elements in theled to the theory of the three forces, the, and to the later theory of five elements. In China, the theory offive elementscoexisted early with the theory of. These can also simply be called the two forces,, is the breath or vital energy of the body, but also simply air, steam, or weather). In theSpring and Autumn Periodthere was actually aYin and Yang School. Later its theories were accepted by nearly everyone, but especially byTaoism. The implications of the theory are displayed in the great book of divination, the
, line. The numbers 6 and 9, in turn, represent old yin and yang, respectively, and are called changing lines. This illustrates an important aspect of the theory of yin and yang: Because the Way of the Tao is Return, yin and yang, when they reach their extremes, actually
The old lines therefore change into their opposites, giving us two hexagrams if any changing lines are involved: the first hexagram, representing the current state of affairs; and the second hexagram, after the changes have been made, representing the future state of affairs. Changing lines are usually denoted by writing
. We see this contrast in related characters, such as
Since radical and phonetic characters already exist in the Shang Dynasty, there clearly was a long period of development prior to this. But the evidence for this is scant, and the ultimate origin of Chinese characters is unclear.