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Etymology of 報 (bào) not clear

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Hello everyone

I am studying Chinese at home, focusing on writing characters. To aid character memorization I am always looking at character origins from various sources, but most often on yellowbridge.com, Often the story behind the character makes no sense to me and makes me really frustrated. For example this character (bào)


A hand 又, it is a right hand radical, good

Kneeling person 卩, this character means 'seal', not a kneeling person. Where do they derive this definition from?

with handcuffs 幸, this character means luck(ily), favor, fortunately. Where are the handcuffs coming from?

How do you make any sense of it?



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I don't have the time right now to answer your question in detail, but if you search a bit on zhongwen.com, I think you will find good hints. They write that the early form of "seal" was a kneeling person. Also, from what I gather, the component in bào and the component xìng look alike but are not the same.

If you ask me for what sense I personally make of it - when I learnt that character, I thought, apparently, way way back in ancient times, announcements were primarily about war and military topics, for example, how criminals had been subjected. And from then on, the latter, more general meanings, had derived.

That's just my interpretation, or memory aid, of course.

But in general, I think If yellowbridge lets you down too often, consult other dictionaries too and see if they help you more.

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From ChineseEtymology.net you can see that it was not 幸 on the left originally, but 㚔. Going to HanZiYuan.com gives you further forms as well as a rather traditional "taught" explanation. More forms over the ages appear on 9610.com. This is the difficulty with using any modern form, whether it is traditional or simplified: not all of them preserve the "signific" element intact. The usual explanations are often (though not always) based on older forms of the character, where the signific can be more clearly seen.

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It will make sense if you acknowledge the early (or first) definition of it "to be a criminal."

Furthermore, 卩 is "kneel" but people misinterpret it as "seal" because of 說文解字.

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  • 4 weeks later...

The definition of 报 given by Xu Shen is: 報當罪人也 "Bao means to judge a criminal" and he adds 从fu幸从。服罪也 "It is composed by the graphemes nie 幸 (it is xing but the two are graphically distinct and my computer cannot type nie) and . means to subdue a criminal." So apparently Xu Shen is right: the two graphemes are different (check also the definition he gives about the characters 執 and 幸 nie (Shuowen jiezi zhu: 496)


I think that the graphemes and fu 卩 should be distinguished.


By fu I mean the whole right part of 報: if you check the ancient graph (金文編: 705 you will see that the right part is a human figure. No hand attached. I'm sorry but I can't type the grapheme fu)

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