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Difference between 2 similar characters

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I came across qǐ written as 起 and written with the ji 己 replaced with si 巳.


I can't find it as a character in pleco, and it doesn't appear as a character in my IME but I found it on Hanzi Grids. I mistakenly added it to my list thinking it was 起。


Now I am curious as to what it means or is an alternative way of writing it, a variant of 起.


Thanks for any help.



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Ah that explains it. I thought it might be a variant, thanks for confirming it.


I hope I will get more confident in recognising this type of thing as time goes on and as I get more exposure to characters.

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but I found it on Hanzi Grids

Yep, the font you are using will be the Kaiti font, which uses a font created by a Taiwanese font foundry (Arphic), and so any characters that are the same in both traditional and simplified (such as 起) will typically use the form of the character commonly seen in Taiwan.

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This is an excellent question!  It has been discussed in China for over two thousand years!


To be academic, the "authentic" form of 起 is with a 巳, based on the earliest zhuanshu 篆書 and the meanings of the two characters. Later on in Han dynasty lishu 隸書, it was already written sometimes with a 己. This carried on to kaishu 楷書in the Tang dynasty. Both forms have been used ever since. The great Tang dynasty calligrapher Yanzhenqing 顏真卿, used both forms in his works:



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Actually, Chu 楚國 bamboo strip forms of 起, which predate small seal script, are mostly written with 己. It's a sound component. But forms containing 巳 also exist from that period.


Baxter & Sagart's Old Chinese reconstructions (v1.1) for each (I keep getting ® when I type ( r ), so forgive the formatting weirdness):

起: *C.qʰ(r)əәʔ
⼰: *k(r)əәʔ
巳: *s-[ɢ]əәʔ

Both 巳 and 己 work as sound components in 起, so neither is more "correct" from a functional standpoint. Moreover, both forms of 起 coexisted as variants early on (certainly predating small seal script), so we can't really say which one came first either. So you can take your pick or stick to your preferred standard—both forms are fine.

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Glad to know that I am not the first to ask this question :)


Its also good to know that I can use either one and not be wrong.


I think I will stick with 起 as I can type it using my PC and tablet.

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Well there's a thing, I came across this question about the way this character was written when I was studying from NPCR and entering the 生词 from the lesson into Hanzi Grids showed up the variant.


Now I have just started my edX course and the second grammar point is about the  不起 / 得起 construction and BOTH versions of 起 are used randomly without any explanation.


It is true that Estella is from Taiwan and the lessons are set in Taiwan but she is teaching standard mainland mandarin chinese.


If I hadn't asked this question before I would be confused now.


I wonder if I should raise this point with her by email, or would it be considered too minor a point?

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  • 2 years later...

“That's  a point, she might not know, I think I will send a brief email about it.”


I was curious about this topic and this thread came up in my search. After reading the conversion, I'm now wondering, what happened next? Did you email her? And, how did she respond?

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@Pegasus wow that was nearly 2 years ago, not sure if I remember my exact words in the email or her exact response, but it was basically something along the lines of :

me: Are you are of this? (explaining what this was)

her: yes its just the way it is, as you have found its not wrong.

me: yes but it is confusing, it would be good to stick to one or the other.

her: I will see if it can be changed.


Never pressed the subject,  just got on and did the course, haven't thought about till now:)


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@Shelley Thank you for your reply. 


I got curious about what other people might say or think about it, so I posted a question about this on Quora. So far, only two people have responded. One of them (an individual named Chris M. Wang) wrote what I think is a good answer. If you're curious, here's a link to his answer: http://qr.ae/TUGrRy



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