Learn Chinese word radical – Hair


Various Shapes

The simple, pictorial Chinese radical represents hair or tassels. It is pronounced shān or xiān, but you don’t have to worry about the pronunciation, as you are not likely to encounter this symbol as a stand-alone character in ordinary books and documents.

The radical is found in numerous Chinese characters, many of which are out of circulation. Therefore, we will only discuss those that are commonly used in everyday speech.

In Traditional Chinese, the character for hair is (fǎ), which features the hair radical. Unfortunately, this character was replaced by in Simplified Chinese, and one no longer sees the strokes representing the tassels. So, the hair on your hair is 头发 (tóufa). The hair on your body and head is referred to as 毛发 (máofà). 发型 (fàxíng) means hair style or coiffure, 短发 (duǎnfǎ) is a short haircut, and 假发 (jiǎfà fake hair) is a wig.

理发 (lǐfà) is to have or get a hair cut, while 刮胡子 (guā húzi) means to shave one’s beard. The Traditional Chinese word for beards, moustache or whiskers is 鬍鬚 (húxū) or 鬍子 (húzi). Here again, you can see that the radical is absent from the Simplified Chinese word for beards. A moustache that has its ends grown much longer and often flared out is called a 八字胡 (bāzìhú) because it reminds one of the Chinese word for “eight”.

Not all men sport a beard. Rather, they shave their face. The action of shaving one’s face is called 修面 (xiū miàn). Please note that here (miàn) refers to the face rather than noodles. This is one of the ambiguities created by Simplified Chinese, which sometimes oversimplifies.

(xiū) as a verb is to repair, mend, embellish, trim or prune. The word commonly used for repairing is 修理 (xiūlǐ).

必须 (bìxū), or 须要 (xūyào), means to have to, or must. For example,

Wǒde chēzi xūyào xiūlǐ.
My car needs to be repaired.

Note that 需要 (xūyào) is a homonym of 须要 (xūyào); it means to need or to want.

Háizǐ men xūyào fùmǔ de àihù.
Children need the parents’ love and caring.

As the needle leaves of the fir tree resemble strands of hair, fir trees are called 杉树 (shān shù). 文质彬彬 (wénzhìbīnbīn) is a phrase often used to describe a cultivated, gentle person, who is likened to a graceful fir tree.

We encountered the (shān garment) character when we talked about the “clothes” radical on 2/15/12. Do you still remember that a shirt is called 衬衫 (chènshān)?

The character (cǎi) can take on a number of different meanings. For example, 色彩 (sècǎi) means color; 彩色的 (cǎisè de), or 五彩 (wǔcǎi), means multicolored; 彩霞 (cǎixiá) are rosy clouds; 彩虹 (cǎihóng) is a rainbow; 水彩 (shuīcǎi) is watercolour; 精彩 (jīngcǎi) means splendid; 喝彩 (hècǎi) means applause or cheer; 挂彩 (guàcǎi) means to decorate for festive occasions, or to be wounded in action.

As an adjective (zhēn) means rare, precious or valuable. As a noun, it means a treasure. 珍珠 (zhēnzhū) are pearls. The American writer and novelist Pearl S. Buck’s Chinese name is 赛珍珠 (Sài zhēnzhū).

疹子 (zhěnzi) is a rash. 麻疹 (mázhěn) are measles.

诊断 (zhěn duàn) is to examine a patient and make a diagnosis.

(xíng) is a form, a shape, an entity or a situation.

形状 (xíngzhuàng) is the shape or appearance of an item. 方形 (fāngxíng) is a square; 圆形 (yuánxíng) is a round shape; 半月形 (bànyuèxíng) is a crescent. 变形 (biànxíng) means to become deformed.

隐形 (yǐnxíng) means invisible. Therefore, 隐形眼镜 (yǐnxíngyǎnjìng) are contact lenses (i.e. invisible eyeglasses).

形容 (xíngróng) means to describe. Therefore, 形容词 (xíngróngcí) are adjectives. This is a good time to review how to use the many adjectives listed in Chapters 8, 9 and 10 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes”.

情形 (qíngxíng) circumstances; situation; condition; state of affairs.

参加 (cānjiā) means to join, take part in or attend. 参考 (cānkǎo) means to refer to or to consult. So, 参考书 (cānkǎoshū) are reference books.

, when pronounced as (shēn), refers to ginseng. Asian ginseng is called 人参 (rénshēn) because its root resembles the (rén) character. 西洋参 (xīyángshēn) refers to American ginseng, which differs from the Asian ginseng with respect to herbal properties.

Learn Chinese radicals that look so darned similar


圣诞红 (shèngdàn hóng) Poinsettia

One of my complaints about the Simplified Chinese Character system is the over-simplification of the radical for “word” or “speech”. The character (yán) has been reduced to a squiggle that’s easily confused with the radical for “water”, namely . In fact, in freehand writing, many people I know write the “water” radical just like . Therefore, when someone trained on the Traditional Chinese Character system reads something printed in Simplified Chinese Character system, he or she will often need to make educated guesses based on the context of the material. Actually, that’s what you should generally do when reading Chinese text – Try to understand the function of the characters within the context rather than fussing too much over each individual character.

Rivers, (hé), lakes, (hú) and ditches, (gōu), all take on the water radical. 流蕩 (liúdàng) is to rove or roam about. (yóu) means to wander, to tour, or to swim. We can combine these two and make a new term 游蕩 (yóu dàng) for playing and wandering about.

When water freezes and there is less of the liquid portion, you’d lose a drop of water from the radical and get the “ice” radical, .

(bīng) means ice or icy-cold. 冰箱 is a refrigerator

(lěng) means cold or to feel cold.

Nǐ lěng ma?
Do you feel cold?

Wǒde fàntīng lǐ yǒu yī tái lěngqì jī.
In my dining room there is an air conditioner.

(dòng) means to freeze or to feel very cold, and 冷冻 (lěngdòng) means to freeze something. 防冻剂 (fángdòngjì) is an antifreeze. On the other hand, 果冻 (guǒ dòng) is a fruit jelly, not really frozen.

We’ve seen how the “clothes” radical and the “altar” radical differ only by one tiny mark. You will do well to remember that words having to do with divinity, ancestry, or 祖先 (zǔxiān), ceremony, rites, manners or gifts take on the “altar” radical, while things related to clothing or covering take on the “clothes” radical.

Wǒ xiǎng mǎi yī jiàn chènshān.
I’d like to buy a shirt.

We’ve mentioned the “small ear” (9/19/12) before. This is also known as the “soft” ear radical. There is another “small ear” radical that we call the “hard” ear radical because of its stright, rigid outline. This is what it looks like: , and it is not to be confused with .

(jǐ) means oneself or one’s own. This radical is found in many other words, such as (jì to remember, to mark or to record) and (jì to be envious or jealous, to dread or to regard as a taboo). Look really close at this one: (yǐ already, to end), which is a totally different word. There are also words containing the (sì) radical, which features a fully closed rectangle, such as (bāo to wrap, to surround, to take care of the whole deal), and (sì to offer sacrifice for worshiping).

(shí) is the radical representing (shí food, to eat). Don’t confuse it with the “metal” radical (jīn).

In the word, 饭馆 (fànguǎn restaurant), both characters take on the “food” radical.

(líng) is a bell, and 门铃 (mén líng) is a doorbell.

We’ve learned quite a few words using the radical for “word” or “speech”. (8/10/11) Here is another one. (dàn) means birthday or to be fantastic or absurd. 诞生 (dànshēng) means to be born or to take form. 耶稣 (Yēsū) is the Chinese word for Jesus Christ. Therefore, some people refer to Christmas as 耶诞节 (Yēdàn Jié), or the day Jesus Christ was born.

More often than not, Christmas is called 圣诞节 (Shèngdàn Jié). (shèng) means holy or sacred. As a noun it refers to a sage, a holy being or an emperor. The jolly dear old Santa Claus is called 圣诞老人 (shèngdànlǎorén).

By the way, you can download a free printable radical reference list provided by Chris at http://chinesehacks.com/resources/simplified-chinese-radicals-list-version-4-available-for-download/

Now let’s get into the holiday spirit and sing the following lines to the tune of “Jingle Bells”.

叮叮当, 叮叮当.
Dīng dīng dāng, dīng dīng dāng.
Ding-ding-dong, ding-ding-dong.

Líng er xiǎng dīng dāng.
Bells are ringing out.

Kuàikuàihuóhuó di chéng xuěqiāo,
Happily riding a snow sleigh,

Sìchù qù yóudàng.
Roaming all about.

(Repeat the above lines once to complete the refrain.)

Shèngdàn kuàilè﹗

Merry Christmas!

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