Surface in Chinese – Chinese Character 面 miàn

Surface in Chinese
The Power of Chinese Characters: The Meaning of 面 miàn

This character is incredibly dynamic, but that makes it all the more fun to explore the many ways in which it can be used. By the way, it can also mean “noodles”, however for this article we’ll be focusing on its other meanings. First, we’ll take a look at its meaning of “surface” in Chinese:

All of these words simply refer to the surface of the character before it (with the exception of 平面). 桌 means table, so 桌面 it is the surface of the table. 页 (surface in Chinese) means the page (as in a page of a book), so the surface of the page is the 页面. 路 is the word for road or path, so if you wanted to refer to the road’s surface you would say 路面. Perhaps you are throwing some rocks into a pond and watching the surface of the water (水面) react to the skipping pebbles. 平面 means “even or flat + surface”, so it is merely referring to a flat surface.

The second meaning of 面 is an area in space. It doesn’t have to be very specific, just a general term for the “area” is described, and it’s made clearer by whatever character comes before it:

Examples with the Chinese Character – Surface in Chinese

上面 (shàng)– The area above (上)

下面 (xià)– The area below (下)

前面 (qián)– The area in front (前)

后面 (hòu)– The area behind (后)

对面 (duì)– The area opposite (对)

侧面 (cè)– The area on the side (侧)

里面 (lǐ)– The area on the inside (里)

外面 (wài)– The area on the outside (外)

The third meaning of 面 (surface in Chinese) is someone’s face. It is usually used to refer to your face in relation to something else. If you wanted to talk about some detail related to your actual bodily face, you’d use the word 脸 liǎn. Also, 面 having the meaning of “face” can also refer to the common cultural concept of “having or losing face”, in which case they will use the word 面子 (zi5). Here are some other examples.

见面 (jiàn)– to see (见) face-to-face

面前 (qián)– the things in front of your face

面对 (duì) – the things you are facing. 对 in this context means “towards”, so “face-towards”. It is usually used metaphorically, as in “I’m facing many challenges”

面具 (jù) – literally “face-tool”, or mask

当面 (dāng) – to someone’s face, used to say something like “He lied right to my face!” 当 can have a mean of “just at (a time or place)”, so “just at face” would be a literal translation for this one.

面试 (shì) – 试 means to “try”, so it’s not too big of a stretch to understand why 面试 “face try” means “interview”, like a job interview.

Other Examples

The final usage of 面 (surface in Chinese) refers to the “aspect” of “respect” of some situation. Similarly to how you would say “I agree in some respect, but not in another”. Here are several examples:

方面 (fāng)– the general term for aspect or respect. In this context 方 simply means “side or aspect”, so this is a Juxtaposed word structure where both characters have the same meaning.

正面 (zhèng)– We’ve talked about this word in our article about 正 (check it out here), so we know that it means “upright, correct or honest”, so the translation of 正面 (upright aspect) to mean positive makes a lot of sense.

负面 (fù)– The opposite of 正面, 负面 means negative, which isn’t surprising when you consider that one of the meanings of 负 is “to suffer”, so the “suffering-aspect” is certainly negative.

反面 (fǎn)– 反 means “opposite” or “opposing”, so the 反面 can literally mean the opposite side of an object, and it can also mean the opposing side or viewpoint.

全面 (quán)– What if you are trying to get across the idea to represent all sides? Just add 全 in front of 面 and it’s quite clear, as 全 mean “complete” or “entire”.

This character is so dynamic that it’s impossible for us to give you a 全面 explanation. However, you should feel quite 正面 about the prospects of learning Chinese when you take each 方面 character-by-character!

Curious to learn more? Read our blog posts about Chinese characters and the stroke order rules!