Memory Centre: 木 (mù) and 山 (shān)

We haven’t had a Memory Centre post in a while, so now seems like a good a time as any!

木 (mù,) meaning ‘tree,’ is a good character to learn, because it gets used a lot as a radical in many different Chinese characters. We’ll delve more into radicals later, but in short, they are a portion of a more complex Chinese character that often denotes the meaning, or the relation of that character. As an example of just a couple of these, you can see it in 林 (lín,) meaning ‘woods,’ and 森 (sēn,) meaning ‘forest.’ That makes radicals really useful: maybe you don’t know how to pronounce that character, but you can make something of an educated guess as to the meaning.

And how did 木 (mù) come about? Well, that’s easy to see:

The origins of 木 (mù) tree

So do you think you can guess what 山 (shān) means? It’s another Chinese character of pictographic origin, and it means ‘mountain!’

The origins of 山 (shān) mountain

山 (shān) also gets used as a radical for other Chinese characters. Two really common characters you’ll see are 出 (chū,) meaning ‘to go out,’ and 岁 (suì,) meaning ‘year.’ Which brings us to the part we mentioned earlier, that part that says, “often denotes the meaning” … sometimes, it doesn’t seem to have anything at all to do with it.

But even if it doesn’t help with meaning, at least it helps with remembering how to write it: you don’t need to learn how to write that portion of the Chinese character, you already know it!

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