January 10, 2011

My Favorite Chinese Character - 是

This is my favorite Chinese character.  It is pronounced "shi" (4th tone).  It can be translated to mean "is, am, are or be right".  and is also used gramatically to emphasize a point or to indicate certainty of a point.  It has some meanings and grammatical uses beyond what I have listed here - for example - It is also used to convey agreement with a request and/or command but I think all of the meanings are consistent with the overall thrust of this character.

To my eyes the character appears to be comprised of three parts: (1) 日(ri-4th tone) meaning "sun"; (2) 下(xia-4th tone) meaning down or under and (3) 人 (ren-2nd tone) meaning person.  So, the sun shining upon a person.  Today, right now, no past, no future.  A defintive statement of being.  No questions, no qualifications, no doubt.

I like this character because I think it captures the core of many philospohies quite well.  The idea of living in the "now" etc.  In that way, it is a reminder to me that things and circumstances are the way they are because that is the way they are and that trying to devine some hidden meaning, reasoning, force or otherwise geting overly worked-up over why they are is an effort in futility.  是 is reality as it stands at this moment - time and place.  Start with that.  Change will come but right now....IS. 

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