Chinese Character Evolution

by Chinese2020.com

【北 běiběi】北 is original character of 背 (bèibèi: person's back). The oracle image of 北 (i.e. 背) is two people stand back to back. Later this meaning is lost for 北. 背 is created to denote "back" since it is 北 and 月 (meaning flesh, body).

Because Emperor face south in China, the direction Emperor's "back" (original meaning of 北) faces i.e. north is called 北.

    


【非 fēifēi】The first oracle image of 非 is like 北 (two people back to back) with two more horizontal bars on top of each person. The bar denotes minds of two people. Hence the combination means that two people are different not only physically (back to back) but also their minds. Later its meaning extends to "mistake", "error", "wrong" etc.

    

    


【算 suànsuàn】The third image has three parts. The bottom is two hands. The top radical is bamboo 竹 (zhúzhú). The middle part similar to character 目, is abacus. The combination denotes the action to calculate by using two hands on abacus. Now its meaning is "to calculate", "to count".

    


【秀 xiùxiù】Top part of 秀 is plant (grain) (禾 héhé); the bottom part is milk 乃 (same as 奶 nǎinǎi). The combination denotes the process of grains' filling with milk. Later its meaning extends to "flower", "beautiful", "excellent" etc.

    




* Chinese character evulation images are taken from 象形字典(vividict.com).