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Spring 春

Spring 春
Spring in Chinese
In many parts of China, Spring Festival celebration marks the beginning of Spring.

According to Huangdi Neijing《黃帝內經》, the earliest existing Traditional Chinese medicine classic dating back to more than two thousand years ago, the three months of Spring is a time for life to recover and spread(發陳). It is also a season for people to welcome life and revitalise their body and mind.

But how do ancient Chinese visualise Spring as a character? 

More than three thousand years ago, in Shang Dynasty (1600 BC-1046 BC), ancient Chinese thought Spring might be represented by placing three elements together: the grass, the sun and a sprouting seed.

Oracle Bone Script for Spring
For instance, in this Oracle bone character for Spring, we see a sun(日)rising among grass(艸), and a seed starts to sprout(屯).

Interestingly, the sprouting seed on the right (屯) also serves as a phonetic component (showing how Spring is pronounced). This way of forming a new character is quite wise and efficient, isn't it?

As a matter of fact, in some Oracle bone script, 屯 is also used as a simplified form for Spring. That is probably the earliest attempt to 'simplify' Chinese characters?

In an ancient Chinese dictionary Shuowen Jiezi《說文解字》(That’s more than 1,500 years later than the Oracle bone scripts!), Spring is recomposed as 萅.

Now the grass (艸 or 艹) is placed at the top, the sun (日) is moved to the bottom, with the sprouting seed (屯, also the phonetic part) in the middle.

You see, the character for Spring does evolve over time. Of course, you don’t need to recognise or memorise so many different forms of Spring. Because most ancient Chinese books only use 春 as we use it today.

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