The Profound Chinese Language (Episode 12): Home (家)

Da Qiong (Colossal Firmament)

PureInsight | January 23, 2006


The Chinese video can be viewed here:

An opening poem recitation by a group of children:
Every household has its own troubles
Airing dirty laundry outside gives the family a bad name
A home with a loving father and a filial son is the warmest
A husband and a wife who cherish each other have a lifetime of love
With brothers and sisters sharing one heart
The family is happy and peaceful with all things going its way

Ms. Wang: My little friends, take a look at this. What does it look like?

Ying Ying: It looks like a house.

Ms. Wang: That is correct. This house has other forms in the ancient oracle-bone scripture. Some of them are broad like this one, and others are narrow. In the Small Seal Calligraphy, the character is written like this. In the modern version, it is written like this. It is pronounced as "bian." Many Chinese characters related to housing, such as "palace, "room", "house," "home", "banquet ball," "bedroom," etc, have "bian" as a radical

Ms. Wang: My little friends, take a look, what kind of animal is this?

Yuan Yuan: I remember! It is a pig. It was called "shi" in the ancient time.

Ms. Wang: Well said! Today let us take a look at a character that has to do with both a house and a pig. It is closely related to our daily life.

Ying Ying and Yuan Yuan: It is very hard to think of such a character.

Ying Ying: I know! It is "home."

Yuan Yuan: How strange it is! Why is a pig placed inside the home?

Ying Ying: It is because a pig likes both eating and sleeping. A home is a place to eat and sleep.

Yuan Yuan: Teacher, is it true?

Ms. Wang: To modern people, a home might only be a place to eat and sleep. But in the ancient times, a home was the most important place in a person's life. A person started his life there and ended his life there. Even though one might travel wide and far when he was young, at the end of his life he still wanted to return to his origin and roots. In order to have a warm home, there must be a house for one to live under and shelter one from wind and rain. In addition, there must be people living in it. A house and people together roughly formed a home. If there is a pig inside the house, it means that this household is very hard-working, intelligent, and productive. It can give birth to future generations and evolve forever.

Ying Ying: Why could there not be a pig? Wouldn't it do to have a cow or a sheep there?

Ms. Wang: Of course it is OK for a household to raise cows or sheep. But it is a smart move to raise pigs. If you raise a cow or a sheep or a pig, after a year, a cow can give birth to only a calf. A sheep can give birth to 8 lambs within that time. But a pig can give birth to 24 piglets within that time. A pig is very fertile. The Chinese people consider having a lot of children and grandchildren a blessing. A sow's pregnancy lasts 4 months. It can have up to 12 piglets in one litter. Therefore, it is well liked by the Chinese people. Farmers like to raise pigs on the side. Therefore, China is the country with the biggest number of pigs in the whole word. It is because in China a home and pigs are very closely related.

Ying Ying and Yuan Yuan: This character for home carries a lot of insights!

Ms. Wang: Good. Now let us ask Grandpa Brush Pen to tell us more about the character for "home."

Grandpa Brush Pen: In the ancient oracle-bone scripture, the character for "home" didn't contain a pig. It contained a man and a woman. Because they weren't as fertile as the pig, this home was eliminated. Among homes with pigs, some are hard-working and some are lazy. Therefore, the pigs they raise could be either fat or thin. In the bronze scripture, the pig inside the home looks very lively and about to make a charge. Later on, in the Small Seal (小篆) Calligraphy, both the home and the pig inside it appear to be more streamlined, and look more and more like the character for home in the modern Li (楷書) Calligraphy.

Ms. Wang: After listening to Grandpa Pen's introduction, I am sure all of us are very clear about this character for home. Our Chinese culture is very family orientated. It promotes a family with generation after generation of learned men and hopes that one's offspring will bring honor to their ancestors. The warmth and unifying power of the home is the foundation for the stability of the society. My little friends, don't you want to go home as soon school is over?

Ying Ying and Yuan Yuan: Yes!

Ms. Wang: That is the right thing to do.

Translated from:

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