The Profound Chinese Language (Episode 7): Pig

Da Qiong (Colossal Firmament)

PureInsight | January 9, 2006


An opening poem recitation by a group of children:

Little black piggy wears black hide.
Little black piggy does not get offended when others call it dumb.
Its snout is tough enough to dig dirt like a crane.
And can even scare off a hunting hound
Its skin is so tough that it is like a bullet-proof vest,
It is very brave and does not fear its enemies.
It does not bully the weak and is very loyal to its friends.
The pig is indeed among the bravest of all beasts.

Mr. Wang: All my little friends, in today's "Learning Chinese Characters" class, let us learn the Chinese character for "pig." We eat pork everyday. But we actually know very little about what a pig is really like. If someone called you a "pig," would you be happy?

Yuan Yuan: No! I don't want to be as dumb and filthy as a pig.

Mr. Wang: Would you be happy if someone called you a "brave warrior?"

Yuan Yuan: Yes, of course I would be very happy.

Mr. Wang: Actually pig is neither filthy nor dumb. The Chinese word for "brave warrior" is made up of two characters "Hao" (豪) and "Jie" (傑). Do you know that "Hao" (豪) is actually a type of boar or wild pig? It is a very brave. In addition, in the ancient times, people thought very highly of pigs. For example, Zilu (子路) was the bravest among all the students of Confucius. He could tame a tiger with his own bare hands. On the sword that he carried with him, there was an inscription of "wild boar."

Yuan Yuan: I've seen a wild boar. Its body is covered with sharp and tough hair. It also has two long teeth.

Mr. Wang: That is correct. We also call the two long teeth "tusks."

Among the aboriginal people in Taiwan, if someone hangs a wild boar's tusks on his door, people will feel a deep respect for him as soon as they walk by and see the tasks. It is because only a truly brave warrior dares to hunt wild boar. A wild boar is watchful enough to evade snares and traps. It is also incomparably brave. Even when it is attacked by hounds or hit with bullets, it not only doesn't run away, it also charges straight ahead and uses its tusks and tough snout to hit its enemies. Countless hunters and hounds have been injured or even killed by wild boars. On the other hand, if you don't hurt it, it won't hurt you because it never bullies smaller animals or small children.

Ying Ying: Is the pig really very intelligent and does it also like cleanliness?

Mr. Wang: That is correct. The pig is a very intelligent animal. In Taiwan, a wild boar can evade layer after layer of traps and eat the peanuts that farmers plant in the fields. When the farmers come back, they see that the leaves of the peanut plants that grow above the ground are not touched at all. But all the peanuts that grow underneath the ground have been eaten, except the unripe ones. This way, it can come back and eat those later. Do you think the pig is smart or not?

Ying Ying and Yuan Yuan: It is smart!

Mr. Wang: As to the reputation of pig being filthy, it is because it has dark hair and dark hide. Therefore, it looks a little bit dirty. Actually it naturally enjoys cleanliness. Among the domestic animals such as steer, goat, pig and dog, it is easiest to train a pig to pee and poop at fixed time. Therefore, being filthy is not a part of a pig's nature.

Now let's us take a look the origin of the Chinese character for "pig" and see its transformation process.

Grandpa Brush Pen: 豬, the Chinese character for pig, was originally written as "豕". "豚" is piglet. "豨" is also piglet. "豪" is a type of boar that always charges straight ahead. In oracle-bone scriptures, the character for "pig" shows a fat belly, and a tail that hangs straight down. One variation shows needle-like hair on its back. The character is a complete and realistic-looking portrait of a pig.

To make it easy to write the character, the pig head was always written facing up. Some variations showed the pig's feet facing left while others showed the pig's feet facing right. A pig's long yet powerful snout is its secret weapon. When it is hungry, it can use the snout to dig out food to eat. It can also use the snout to hit its enemies. Therefore, going from oracle-bone scriptures (甲骨文) to small seal calligraphy (小篆), the long snout in the front was completely preserved.

In the Small Calligraphy form, the belly disappeared, and three strokes were used to represent the feet. In the end, it was transformed as today's "豕" in the Lishu (楷書) form. A sound radical "者" was then added to the right side of the character "豕" to give it its pronunciation. That is how the character for pig "豬" has been transformed into today's form.

Grandpa Pen: My little friends, is the character for pig "豬" interesting? Next time, we will introduce you to even more interesting characters. See you next time!

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