Chinese Word of the Day – 萬

Hello! Today we will look into the meaning and history behind the Chinese character 萬.  This character means the number 10000 (one myriad) as in 萬年 (ten-thousand years). It can also be used in the sense of “many” as in 萬物 (many things). This character and the number concept is found in all East Asian languages, just pronounced differently.

Pronunciations

man [mahn] – Medieval Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Cantonese

ban [bahn] – Medieval Chinese, Hokkien, Japanese

van [vahn] – Dungan, Hakka, Vietnamese

wan [wahn] – Mandarin

 

Origin

The character 萬 has its origins from the oracle bone script (c. 1300 BCE). What does this symbol look like?

800px-萬-oracle.svg

If you guessed a scorpion, you are correct! Who would have guessed?

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