Learn Chinese word radical – Square

Grid for writing Chinese characters

Grid for writing Chinese characters


The Chinese character (fāng) means “square”. Like the English word “square”, it can be used and interpreted in a number of different ways. Today we will look at this word as it pertains to square shapes, locations and directions.

So, a square shape is called 方形 (fāngxíng) or 正方形 (zhèngfāngxíng). 长方形 (chángfāngxíng) is a rectangle.

Any square piece is called 方块 (fāngkuài). Chinese characters are often referred to as 方块字 (fāngkuàizì).

方格 (fānggě) is a square grid. When we were in elementary school, we practiced writing Chinese characters by filling pages and pages of square grids. The narrower space on the right side of each square is for adding the zhuyin notation.

方糖 (fāngtáng) are sugar cubes.

(fāng) also means directions. The commonly used word for direction or orientation is 方向 (fāngxiàng). 方位 (fāngwèi) means position or bearing.

东方 (dōngfāng) is the east direction or the East. 西方 (xīfāng) is the west direction or the West.

前方 (qiánfāng) means ahead or the front. 后方 (hòufāng) is the rear of something such as a building or an army.

四方 (sìfāng) are the four directions. It also means a shape with four right angles, i.e. a square or a rectangle. 四方 (sìfāng) and 八方 (bāfāng eight directions) are often used to refer to all sides or all directions. The number eight refers to the eight points of the compass.

方针 (fāngzhèn) is the pointer on the compass. This word refers to a policy or a guiding principle.

地方 (dìfang) means a place, a spot or a space.

这篇文章还有许多可以改进的地方.
zhè piān wénzhāng hái yǒu xǔduō kěyǐ gǎijìn de dìfang.
There is still plenty of room for improvement in this composition.

As flags are usually of a square or rectangular shape, it is not surprising that the word for flags, (qí), takes on the “square” radical.

(fáng) is a house or a room. It features a space under a roof.

(fáng) is to defend one’s turf or guard against someone or something. This word features the “ear” radical as well.

(fàng) is to place, to put or to release.

(páng) means side or on the side.

他把那封信放在一旁.
Tā bǎ nà fēng xìn fàng zài yī páng.
He set that letter on the side.

(zú) means clan, race, nationality or a group with common features.

(xuán) is to spin or revolve around something.

地球绕着太阳旋转.
Dìqiú rào zhe tàiyáng xuánzhuǎn.
The earth revolves around the sun.

(fǎng) is to visit, to call on or to interview someone.

他拒绝接受访问.
Tā jùjué jiēshòu fǎngwèn.
He refused to be interviewed.

(lǚ) is to travel. 旅客 (lǚkè) could be a passenger, a traveler or a hotel guest.

旅游 (lǚyóu) means touring.

If you are traveling to a Chinese-speaking country, you might find the cheat sheet in Chapter 32 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” helpful.

You have my word

Trust (xìn)


(xìn) is the Chinese character for trust, faith or credibility. It is one of the popular characters used in Chinese given names. As a mnemonic for this word, think of your “shin” (a close approximation in pronunciation).

The character (xìn) is made up of the radical, (rén person), and the character for words or language, (yán). Good parents teach their children not to make loose promises, but to honor the words uttered. The traditional adage goes like this:

人言为信.
Rén yán wèi xìn.
A person’s word counts.

In the above, (wèi) is the formal word for “to be”, “to become” or “to act as”. In modern parlance, we use the word for “to be”.

When you always keep your promises, your words carry weight, and people will believe you and trust you.

As an adverb, (xiāng) means mutually. 相信 (xiāngxìn) is to believe or to trust someone. For example,

相信我. 我是為你好.
Xiāngxìn wǒ. Wǒ shì wèi nǐ hǎo.
Trust me, I’m for your well-being.
(Trust me. I have your best interest in mind.)

Here, (wèi) takes on the 4th tone and is used as the preposition “for”.

If you tell your girlfriend that you love her, but she gives you the following response, then you’d better try hard to find a good way to convince her.

我不信.
Wǒ bù xìn.
I don’t believe it.

信任 (xìnrèn) means to trust and have confidence in someone. 信赖 (xìnlài) means to trust and count on someone.

他老板信赖他.
Tā lǎobǎn xìnlài tā.
His boss trusts him.

Trust is of fundamental importance to any human relationship. Children need to trust their parents to feel secure. A loss of trust is often what breaks marriages. A trusted employee is a happy employee. Trust is the foundation of friendship. The great Chinese philosopher, Master Confucius, mentioned that each day he performs a self-examination by asking three questions, one of which was: “When dealing with friends, have I failed to keep my word?”

It used to be that a person’s words meant something, and a handshake made a deal.

好! 一言为定.
Hǎo! Yī yán wéi dìng.
All right! Our words seal the deal.
(OK. That’s settled then.)
You have my word.

Nowadays, you must call in your lawyer to put everything in writing and then have the document properly signed and notarized before you can have peace of mind. Needless to say, a bank won’t loan you money solely based on your promise to pay them back. But a little plastic card will do the trick.

信用 (xìnyòng) means trustworthiness or credit, and 信用卡 (xìnyòngkǎ) is a credit card. If a person has the habit of going back on his own word, people will say:

他没信用.
Tā méi xìnyòng.
He does not keep his word.

When you trust a higher being or a doctrine, you are said to have a belief, faith or conviction. The Chinese word for it is 信仰 (xìnyǎng). This word can also be used as a verb.

她信仰上帝.
Tā xìnyǎng Shàngdì.
She believes in God.

A person’s words can be represented by a letter. Therefore, (xìn) also means a letter. 写信 (xiěxìn) means to write a letter. The following two sentences can be used interchangeably.

写封信给我.
Xiě fēng xìn gěi wǒ.
Write a letter to me.

给我写封信.
Gěi wǒ xiě fēng xìn.
Write me a letter.

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