The Power of Chinese Characters - 明 míng

明 míng is a Chinese character whose meaning is quite obvious when noting that its component parts are “sun” (日) on the left and “moon” (月) on the right, the two things that make the world “bright” and “clear” (ok fine it is really just the Sun doing that, but people in Ancient China didn’t know that yet!).

The meaning of “bright” is a bit less common than the mean of “clear” or “clarity”, but I do quite like that in Chinese, the word for “Tomorrow” 明天 (tiān) and “Next Year” 明年 (nián) both start with “bright”, which is quite an optimistic view towards the future, wouldn’t you say?

Shanghaiist Video - 明.005.jpeg

Another cool use of the “bright” meaning is the word “明星”, which is literally “bright star”, or more accurately “celebrity”. It is also the word for “Venus” (which appears to be the “brightest” of the specks of light in the night sky). 

Consider the Chinese word for “civilized” or “civilization” 文明 (wén). 文 is often related to literature or language, so if language is clear, if people are brushed up on their literature, then wouldn’t you know it, people tend to be a bit less barbaric and a bit more civilized. 

Now how about that meaning of “Clarity”?

Let’s take a look at these three words to understand it more deeply:

All for of these words are a verb followed by a result of “clarity”. 说明 is translated as “to explain”, and when you think about it, speech that leads to clarity is exactly what the process of explaining something is.

证明 means “to prove”, which makes loads of sense when you realize 证 can be translated as “evidence”. The evidence is clear! It’s proven!

The final word 表明 is similar to 说明 in the sense that the result is clarity, however 表 simply means “to show” or “to express”, so how the clarity gets expressed is not limited to speech. You might 表明 your political opinions, or 表明 your love for your significant other by proposing.

In Chinese, the character for “white” (白 bái) can also have a meaning of clear, and so if something is so clear that you say it twice “明白”, then its fair to say you “understand” it. 

Hopefully taking the time today to 说明 how to use 明 will turn you into a Chinese learning 明星!

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