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The symbolism of the four cardinal directions..... Cardinal directions in Chinese language: their cultural, social and symbolic meanings.

The symbolism of the four cardinal directions..... Cardinal directions in Chinese language: their cultural, social and symbolic meanings.
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Author: Ángel Manuel Rodríguez
What biblical symbolism is associated with the four cardinal directions?
Cardinal compass points in the Bible are rich in meaning. Knowing their symbolism can help interpret some biblical passages. We often orient ourselves by facing north. In the ancient world the point of orientation was east. The east was before them, the west behind, the south to the right, and the north to the left. The future wasn’t in front, but behind, that is to say invisible. 1. The East: The importance of the east as the main point of orientation may be related to the rising of the sun and its importance in the religions of the ancient Near East. In the Bible its symbolism emerges for the first time in Genesis. The Garden of Eden was placed in the East (chap. 2:8), and its entrance faced the east (chap. 3:24). After sinning, Adam and Eve left the garden and went toward the east (chap. 3:24). This eastward movement continued with Cain (chap. 4:16) and culminated in the movement of the human race toward the east (chap. 11:2-4). Within this context the east is symbolically ambivalent. The garden placed there symbolized safety and security. After sin, when it was the direction of the exile, it represented a condition of alienation from God. It was also the place of the wilderness, from which destructive winds came, threatening life (Ps. 48:7; Eze. 27:26). To the prophets the east was a symbol of Babylonian exile and the saving presence of God. He traveled to Babylon and ultimately redeemed His people (Eze. 10:18, 19; 11:22, 23). The east became a place where God intervened on behalf of His people, bringing them salvation (cf. Rev. 16:12). 2. The West: The west symbolizes both negative and positive elements. To the west of the land was the sea, representing evil and death (Dan. 7:2, 3). In fact, the term “sea” often referred to the west (Num. 3:23). It is also the place of darkness because that’s where the sun sets (Ps. 104:19, 20). The positive meaning is its association with the Israelite tabernacle/Temple. Although it faced east, access to it required movement toward the west. In that sense the west pointed toward restored unity with God; a return to the Garden of Eden. When the Israelites traveled to and worshipped in the Temple they faced the west and had the rising sun behind them. This movement to the west began with Abram, who left the east and went to Canaan in the west in obedience to God (Gen. 11:31). It is a symbol of divine blessing. Once the exiles were liberated from their enemies in the east, they traveled west, to the land of Israel. In that journey, the Lord Himself traveled with them (Eze. 43:2-5). 3. The North: Bible students have suggested that the north is a symbol of the permanent or the eternal, perhaps because the polar stars were permanently visible in the sky. It is the place of God’s celestial dwelling (Isa. 14:13) and from which His glory descends (Job 37:22) with blessings or judgments (Eze. 1:4). He is the true King of the North. But the north—represented by the left hand—is also a symbol of disaster. The enemy of God’s people came from the north (Jer. 1:14, 15; Eze. 38:6), bringing destruction. In a sense, the enemy was the false king of the north who tried to usurp God’s role and is finally destroyed by the Lord (Zeph. 2:12; Dan. 11:21-45).
4. The South: The south is primarily a negative symbol. But the fact that it is represented by the right hand makes it also a positive one. It is negative because to the south of Israel was the wilderness, a region where life does not prosper (Isa. 30:6). To the south was Egypt, which opposed God’s power and oppressed His people. But the south was also the place where the Lord appeared to Moses, went with Him to Egypt, liberated His people, and appeared to them on Mount Sinai (e.g., Deut. 33:2). The ambivalent nature of the symbols of the four cardinal directions seems based on the fact that evil was perceived to be present everywhere and that God’s saving presence was always accessible to His people from any corner of the world (Ps. 139:7-12). In a sense they pointed beyond the points of the compass to the cosmic conflict between good and evil. Copyright: Copyright © Biblical Research Institute General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists® The Four Symbols were given human names after Daoism became popular. The Azure Dragon has the name Meng Zhang (孟章), the Vermilion Bird was called Ling Guang (陵光), the White Tiger Jian Bing (監兵), and the Black Turtle Zhi Ming (執明). In 1987, a tomb was found at Xishuipo (西水坡) in Puyang, Henan. There were some clam shells and bones forming the images of the Azure Dragon, the White Tiger, and the Big Dipper. It is believed that the tomb belongs to the Neolithic Age, dating to about 6,000 years ago. The Rongcheng Shi manuscript recovered in 1994 gives five directions rather than four and places the animals quite differently: Yu the Great gave banners to his people marking the north with a bird, the south with a snake, the east with the sun, the west with the moon, and the center with a bear.
Cardinal directions in Chinese language: their cultural, social and symbolic meanings.Introduction In his discussions of dominant Ndembu ritual symbols, Victor Turner points out that one major property of symbols is polarization of meanings. That is to say symbols possess two clearly different poles of meanings - the physical and physiological (the sensory pole), and the abstract and ideological (the ideological pole) (Turner, 1967, p.28). At the sensory pole, the meanings represent "the natural and physiological phenomena and processes" and "arouse desires and feelings." At the ideological pole, the meanings represent "components of the moral and social orders, to principles of social organization, to kinds of corporate grouping, and to the norms and values inherent in structural relationships" (Turner, 1967, p.28).

The same kind of polarization of meanings can be detected in cardinal directions of the Chinese symbolic system. However, Turner did not focus his discussions on the interrelations between the sensory and the ideological poles of symbolic meanings. Durkheim's and Mauss's Primitive Classification represented one school of thought on this issue. They argued that the origin of logical classification was a result and an aspect of social classification (Durkheim and Mauss, 1963, p.84). In the case of cardinal directions, more evidence has indicated that the sensory pole of meanings determines the ideological pole rather than the other way around. In this article the author first applies etymological method to study the meanings of direction words in Chinese language. The author believes such analyses help to understand how directions have been perceived in the history of the written language. The latter part of the article discusses how cardinal directions and other orientation concepts are used as part of traditional Chinese symbolic system. Following Jung's definitions of "signs" vs. "symbols" (Turner, 1963), we can say the directional words are signs of the known meanings of directions, whereas directions and other orientation concepts are symbols of the unknown universe.Etymological studies of directional words allow us to trace the evolution of the Chinese characters, whose hieroglyphic nature is particularly conservatory of the ideological evolution of the words. The etymological data are mostly collected from a variety of well-recognized dictionaries and online dictionary sites in both English and Chinese. The semantic units in Chinese language arc words and characters. However, graphemes and phonemes of the characters have been studied in some cases in order to understand the origin of meanings. In addition, idioms and phrases are also informational sources as it usually takes a long time for them to be established. Hence, they are used to trace ancient meanings of the words as well. Space and time are two of the most fundamental concepts in all cultures, the essential reality of human life. Like the air we breathe and the water we drink every day, they are the daily necessity we could never do without but usually take for granted. Perception of space and time defines the essence of a culture's worldview, which differs in geography and in periods of history. It is especially so in Chinese culture, as cardinal directions have become an integrative part of its symbolic classification system that defines the physical and the social reality. Studying perception of space and time would allow us to tap into the depth of a culture's worldview. The Chinese Characters Before starting the discussions of the direction words, the author would like to give a brief introduction of some major etymological and linguistic principles of the Chinese writing system. This will provide the theoretical foundation for some later discussions. If we are to divide the writing systems in the world into three types: the logographic system (in which the minimal complete unit is a logogram), the syllabic system (in which the minimal complete unit is a syllable) and the alphabetic system (in which the minimal complete unit is an alphabet) (Writing system, Wikipedia), the Chinese writing system is a typical logographic system. According to Shuowen Jiezi, one of the earliest and most well recognized etymological dictionaries in Chinese, the ancient Chinese characters can be divided into six different categories in terms of how they were developed or formed (Xu, Shuowen Jiezi online; Shuowen Jiezi, Wikipedia; Zhongwen.com, online). The first category is the pictographs (xiangxing, [??]) (1), which are direct graphical depiction of the objects they denote. Examples include [??] (ri; the archaic form [??]) meaning the sun. The second category is ideographs (zhishi, [??]; or xiangshi, [??]) that represent abstract notions. For instance, the concepts of "above" and "below" are expressed as (shang, [??]) and (xia, [??]). They use signs like the dashes and dots to express abstract ideas. The third category is called logical aggregates (huiyi, [??]; or xiangyi, [??]) in which two or more parts are combined to indicate the meanings. One example would be the character for brightness (ming, [??]), which is a combination of the characters of the sun ([??]) and the moon (yue, [??]). The fourth group is phonetic complexes (xingsheng, [??] or xiangsheng, [??]), which are composed of phonetics that are indicative of the pronunciation and radicals that are indicative of the semantic category. An example of this category is (bei, [??]), which means the back of the body. It is a combination of a phonetics (bei, [??]) and a radical (yue, [??]), which indicates flesh. The fifth type of characters is called transferences (zhuanzhu, [??]) in which more abstract and complicated meanings are derived from the original concrete meanings of words. For an example, the word [??] (bei, the back of the body) gradually adopts the meanings of "turn one's back" and "betray and desert somebody or something." The last principle that Chinese characters developed is false borrowing (jiajie, [??]) in which words take on totally unrelated meanings from the original either intentionally or accidentally. There are two major writing systems used by Chinese language speakers in modern days. One of them is the simplified writing system currently used in Mainland China, which has been adopted as the standard writing system of the People's Republic of China since 1956. The other is the traditional and comparatively more complex writing system that is used by Chinese language speakers in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and other Chinese diasporas around the world. The simplified Chinese is a further evolution over the traditional Chinese, and is therefore less preservatory of the original meanings. All Chinese characters used in this article are simplified unless stated otherwise. Direction Words in Chinese Cardinal directions are some of those abstract concepts that do not lend themselves easily to pictorial representations. In Chinese, the meanings of direction words are mostly combinations of graphemes and phonemes, although some parts of the words are pictographs. The author believes the relations between the formation and the meaning of the direction words could be of cultural significance and indicative of some cognitive characteristics of the culture. Traditionally there are three sets of orientation terms in Chinese culture: si mian and ba fang , which are two-dimensional' and liu he , which is three-dimensional. Si mian, literally four sides, designates the four cardinal directions and is sometimes thought of as including a fifth point, the center. Ba fang, on the other hand, denotes eight directions, the four cardinal compass points plus northeast, southwest, northwest and southeast. In addition to the two dimensional systems is the three dimensional concept of liu he, which literally means unity of six. It is the four cardinal directions and up (heaven) and down (earth) and is used to refer to the universe.
The simplified Chinese characters for the five cardinal points are (east, south, west, north and the middle) or (east, west, south, north and the middle), in the particular orders of the five. (dong, the east). is the simplified character for the east that is currently used in mainland China. The script no longer shows its original connections with the meaning of east. However, its comparatively older form does. is an example of a logical aggregate, which can be broken up into two graphemes - (ri, the sun) and (mu, a tree). The combination of the two pictographs depicts vividly the sun rising behind a tree (Karlgren, 1923, p.324; Xu, Shuowen Jiezi online; zhongwen.com, online). In contemporary Chinese there are at least three characters that are formed by different combinations of the same two graphemes (the sun) and] (a tree). In addition to the cardinal direction word (the east), the other two are (gao ) and (yao). The character (gao) represents the sun above a tree, hence its meaning being bright and being high. (yao), which is the sun below a tree, means being deep and far, losing contact with somebody. Its more archaic meaning is darkness as implied by the combination of the graphemes. The two examples prove that the relative positions between the pictorial components of (the sun) and (a tree) is significantly indicative of the semantic meanings of the characters. In the character (the east) the position of the sun is between the root and the top of the tree, indicating the sun is rising. The composition of the logogram strongly indicates that the concept of east in the language is associated with the observation of the sun's movements in the environment. (xi, the west). The ancient form of this character is , showing a bird roosting on its nest (Karlgren, 1923, p.234; Xu, Shuowen Jiezi online; zhongwen. com, online). According to Shuowen Jiezi, the pictograph indicates that "when the sun is in the west, the birds perch over the nest" (Xu, Shuowen Jiezi online). The explicit meanings of the script are "being at home" and "being at rest." In Chinese idioms "birds returns to their nests" is usually associated with the meanings of dusk and sunset. Here the concept of sunset is borrowed to indicate the concept of the direction of sunset, the west. It is the concept of time that makes the logical link between this pictograph and its directional meaning. In many civilizations, the movements of celestial bodies define the concepts of time and space. Ancient people must have observed how the movement of the sun influences things in their environment. The sun creates days and nights, light and shadow, the seasons, and cycle of life, which all have great impact on people's livelihood. Records from all early civilizations show that ancient people established the first measurements of passage of time based on the movements of celestial bodies. For an example, the ancient Chinese read the positions of the shadow of a dial to tell the hours of a day. Our current 365 days solar calendar relies on the movements of the sun. The earliest Egyptian calendar depended on the movements of the moon. The Mayans of the Central America developed their 260 days calendar according to the movements of the Sun, the Moon and the Venus. In Chinese, the spatial division of east and west both contain some implications of time. East is connected to the beginning of a day, a year, and a life, whereas west to the end of work, a day, and a life. The Chinese character for the sun also means a day, daytime, and years. It also appears in many compound words and idioms with indications of time. Connecting east with sunrise and dawn and west with sunset and evening are common in many other languages as well. The English word east comes from Eastre, the name of a pagan dawn goddess whose festival was celebrated at vernal equinox almost at the same time as the Christian Easter (Weiner, 1989, p.36; Flexner and Hawk, vol. 5, 1993, p.615; Webster, 2002, p.716). In Latin and Greek among some other old Indo-European languages, the stem for east means dawn (Weiner, vol. 5, 1989, p.36). In English "go west" means "to die." There is exactly the same phrase in Chinese that means exactly the same thing. (nan, the south). is composed of a radical [??] and a phonetic [??] (Karlgren, 1923, p.203; Xu, Shuowen Jiezi online; zhongwen.com, online). The archaic form of [??] (bo) is [??], a picture of lianas indicating abundant and tangled vegetation. Living in the North hemisphere, ancient Chinese have observed that the southern side of a mountain, a tree, and a house receives more sunshine than the northern side. Vegetation is therefore more flourishing and abundant on the southern side. South is the direction where vegetation grows more luxuriantly. The phonetics [??], pronounced as (ren), is used as the phonetic in several other tree names (Karlgren, 1923, p.203). (bei, the north). The older form of this character is which indicates two persons positioned back to back (Karlgren, 1923, p.216; Xu, Shuowen Jiezi online; zhongwen.com, online). The picture strongly points to the meaning of back. In modern Chinese, another phonetic complex (bei) is used for the meaning of the back of human body, in which [??] (north) functions as the phonetic and ((flesh) as the radical. In some dictionaries the word it has two pronunciations, bei and bei (Guoyu Cidian, online; Xu, Shuowen Jiezi online). The meaning associated with the first pronunciation is "an equivalence to the back of human body." North and back in Chinese share the same pronunciation and the same meaning in archaic Chinese. The meaning associated with the second pronunciation can be an adjective "being disagreeable and harsh," or a verb "to flee," or "to be defeated, to turn back on." The pictograph of north is linked to the observer-centered concept of back. In Chinese, back means being opposite to front, being the back of or being in the shadow. North is linked to back in all three senses. North is opposite to the sun and the south. That is why it is in the shadow and darkness. This is similar to the back of a person. In Chinese culture, the north side of a building is usually its back, for gates and doors are opened on the south to receive more sunshine. Light and shadow are the major dichotomous concepts associated with north and south in Chinese. The characters of north and south indicate that north is the shadowed side whereas south is the lit side. The geography and landscape of the country stresses the dichotomous divisions. All major rivers and mountains in China run west-and-eastward, which divide the land into parallel stripes. The ancient Chinese have learned to tell directions by looking at the positions of light and shadow. The saying goes "the shadowed side of a mountain is north and the shadowed side of a river is south." The two characters for being in shadow and being lighted by the sunlight are (shadow; Yin) and (light; Yang) respectively. The two words are also used for the dialectic philosophical concepts of yin-yang, which classify things, phenomena, and their traits into dichotomy in many eastern cultures. The two concepts are often represented by two signs,--(a broken line, yin)--(a solid line, yang). The symbols are stacked together to create eight trigrams like . Legend has it that one ancient Chinese king developed the eight trigrams into a system of sixty-four hexagrams to represent different processes in divination. His theory was written in a well-known book, Yi Jin (I Ching), another classic work of the ancient Chinese symbolic system. (the middle or the center, zhong). The ideograph could be interpreted as a vertical line bisecting an enclosure or an arrow hitting the center of a target (Karlgren, 1923, p.360; Xu, Shuowen Jiezi online; zhongwen.com, online). It denotes the meaning of the center or in between.
The fact that the concept of the center or the middle is depicted by an ideograph instead of a pictograph indicates to some extent that it is comparatively more abstract than the other four cardinal directions. A boundary is required before the center could be defined. Limited geographical boundary was not uncommon among ancient people who had no efficient way of transportation to travel widely. The center is a concept relative to the periphery. When the center or the middle is present, the four directions become the relative periphery or the frontiers. In Chinese, China means the Middle Kingdom. The name comes from the country's geographical position in early history when the core territory was surrounded by frontiers on all directions. The Five Elements System In addition to the Yin-Yang and the eight diagrams, another major part of the primitive Chinese symbolic system is the Five Elements System (Wu Xing, Wikipedia). The five elements refer to metal, wood, water, fire and earth. Each of these elements is matched to many other aspects of the material world (See table 1). For example, five planets, five colors, seasons of the year, organs of the body, sense organs, flavors, and animals to mention just a few. The four cardinal directions plus a center are an integral part of the system, which is critical and widely applied in many areas of traditional Chinese culture. Traditional Chinese medicine is one area in which the Five Elements System plays a pivotal role. Five major blood circulation organs, five major digestion organs, and other parts of the human bodies are corresponded with the five elements based on similar attributes. Things belonging to the same category are considered as related with each other. For an example, patients suffering from liver problem usually have weaker sight, crave sour food, are easy to get angry, sometimes show unhealthy dark greenness in skin tone and more likely fall victim of the disease in springtime.The Five Elements System is also a fairly sophisticated symbolic system that uses the concrete relationships between the five material elements in nature to represent and explain the abstract interactions and relationships of all phenomena . In general the system specifies four kinds of relationships. Two of the four relationships create a positive balance state. They are called generating (mothering) relationship (Sheng), and restraining or counterbalancing (fathering) relationships (Ke, . The other two exist when there is a negative out-of-balance state either because one element is too strong or too weak. In a restraining relationship, if the restraining element overpowers and hence over-limits the restrained element, there is an over-restraining relationship (Cheng, . On the other hand, if the restrained overpowers the restraining, it could not be contained but instead controls the restraining element. This would break the balance of the system and create a humiliating relationship (Wu) The picture illustrates the four relationships among the five elements. Clockwise, each element in the circle is generated by the previous element and in turn generates the following one, restricts the third one and is restrained by the fourth one. For instance, fire is fueled (created) by wood, creates earth (ashes), melts (restrains) metal, and is extinguished (restrained) by water. Orders of Cardinal Directions The juxtaposition of the four Chinese cardinal directions, sometimes five, is an idiom in itself, a synonym to "everywhere" and "direction." This idiom has two forms, east-south-west-north and east-west-south-north. When present, the word for the middle is the last character in both arrangements. The orders of the four cardinal directions are different from that in English, which is usually north, south, east and west. Statistically speaking, there are twenty-four permutations for four cardinal directions. It is culturally significant that only one or two orders are used. It is not known why these particular orders exist to the exclusion of the other possibilities. The first order is clockwise starting from the east, which happens to imitate the movement of the sun in the sky. It represents a continuous cycle in both time and space. In the ancient Chinese classificatory system, the directions are matched with the seasons, east to spring, south to summer, west to autumn, and north to winter. The clockwise order of the cardinal directions also coincides with the chronological order of the four seasons. Again, space and time are inseparable from each other. East, a spatial concept standing out originally as the place where the sun rises, takes on the meaning of a start in time. The day starts at the east. The east wind from the seas brings warmth and rain, an indication of the advent of spring. Spring is taken as the beginning of a year, which starts the annual farming cycle. The Chinese New Year is called the Spring Festival. The matching between directions and seasons results in substitution between the two sets of concepts. East wind is almost a synonym of spring wind, spring fanning is called east activities, and East Emperor is a literate alias of the god of spring. Correspondingly, west harvest means autumn harvest, and west wind usually refers to autumn wind that sweeps away leaves from the trees. The matching is certainly related to China's geographical and climatic situations. Warm and damp wind comes from the east and the south, and cold and dry wind from the north and the west. The former brings spring, the latter the winter. It's interesting to compare the Chinese classification with a similar one in the Zuni culture. The Zuni also attributes seasons, colors and animals to spatial divisions (Durkheim and Mauss, 1963, p.43). They also add the center to the four cardinal directions, and have zenith and nadir in their basic spatial divisions. Also like the Chinese, the Zuni associate winter with north, and fire and summer with south. This is reasonable as both peoples live in the northern hemisphere. However, the Zuni "attributed water, the spring and its damp breezes, to the west; ... the earth, seeds, the frosts which bring the seeds to maturity and end the year, to the east." (Durkheim and Mauss, 1963, p.43) This is exactly the opposite to the Chinese's. For the Zuni, who lived in Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico, damp breezes and rain come from the west and frosts come from the east. The differences and similarities of the two systems provide strong evidence for how people's perceptions of spatial divisions are shaped by their environments. In the second Chinese order the cardinal directions are organized into two dimensions: east-west and south-north. The east-west dimension always comes before the south-north dimension in such an order. Southeast and Northwest are * Eastsouth and * Westnorth in Chinese. [??] (east-west) also means things in Chinese. That is because, as is explained in an ancient Chinese book, "things are produced in the four cardinal regions but are called briefly as east-west; that's similar to history being called briefly as spring-autumn though it records four seasons." (Guoyu Cidian, Online) In this case east and west stand for all the four cardinal points. This points to the comparative prominence of the east-west axis over the north-south axis. Within the axis, east always comes before west and south before north. Chinese has plenty of idioms with the structures of "east ... west ..." and "south ... north. ..." There are exceptions, of course, but the proportion is too small to be cognitively significant. The comparatively more dominant status of east and south can also be understood from a political and economic perspective. Due to its geographical features, the western parts of the country were mainly deserts and barren plateaus, and the north was associated with bitterly cold weather and infertile frozen lands while in the southeast parts the fertile rice fields that were the grain barn of the country. The north and the west were important only in terms of military defense. In a culture with a long history of agricultural civilization, it is understandable that the east and the south were more preferred and more important economically, politically, and culturally.
Social Orders of Cardinal Directions Facing south adopts cultural and social significance over time in ancient China. The general pattern of traditional Chinese building complexes and room arrangements look like a square, with the front gates facing the south in order to be warmed and lighted by the sun. This pattern can be seen in residential houses, palaces and temples. The southern side of buildings has front gates, doors and wide open windows. On the north side, there are merely walls and small windows. In a building complex the main rooms face south with the wings facing east and west. There are back doors on the north sides of buildings in a complex, but they are for convenience of connection between rows of buildings. Some units do have doors facing north, but these are called the reversed houses (daoxia) (Cao, 1996, pp.29-59) and are considered atypical. The arrangement of furniture is confined and determined by this architectural pattern and so is the order of seating. In this way the practicality of facing south becomes symbolically important.
The north seat that faces south is reserved for persons with the highest social status. In the imperial court the emperor's "dragon chair" was not only significantly elevated but also invariably facing south. Court officials stood underneath his feet on the east and the west sides of the hall. Because the emperors' thrones always faced south, the phrase "facing south" came to be used as a proper noun designating an emperor. "To face south" means to become the emperor or the king. Accordingly, to face north meant to be a subject of an emperor or a king. Being bright was an adjective to praise the rule of a good emperor. As the saying goes "a good emperor faces south to listen to the discussions of national affairs and rules brightly." Such seating arrangements were copied in military and civil courts at all levels, in schools, and even in family lineages. The person who dominated the group took the north seat that was usually elevated but not as significantly as was the imperial throne. In military and civil courts it was for the official with the highest rank. In a lineage this south-facing seat was reserved for the eldest and most influential male or female member of the lineage. In schools the south-facing chair was for the teacher. The expression "facing north to somebody/something" was a figurative expression meaning to submit oneself as a subordinate, or, in the context of schools, to be a student. The phrase "the white-haired still face the north" indicates an old person who is still a student. The person with the second highest rank was positioned on the east side. The individual ranked third in the gathering was located on the west side facing the second ranking person. Then, back and forth, east and west, all the way down through for all present. In Chinese, the east is a synonym of the host whereas the west also means the guest. Custom had it that when the host and his guests entered a house, the host used the eastern stairway while the guest entered by the stairway on the west. Hence, the host is called "dong dao" (east road). The landlord is "fang dong" (east of the house); the master, "dong jia" (east family); and the hotel owner, "dian dong" (east of the hotel). To be one's treat is "zuo dong" (being the east) in Chinese. In "xi xi" (west seat) and "xi bin" (west guest, west is related to the meaning of guest. This usage, still prevailing in contemporary common language, can be traced back to an ancient custom that the host sat on the east and the guest on the west. In the system the relative spatial concepts of left and right are also interwoven with the absolute system of directions and became substitutes for east and west. The Chinese characters for left and right are [??] (zuo) and [??] (you). In older manuscripts, these are written as and . The two icons represent a hand facing different directions. Thus left and right are related to the two hands and indirectly to the two sides of the body. This substitution is no longer active in contemporary Chinese culture. However, traces of this tradition are still found in a few idioms and place names. "You di" (right lands) means west lands. "Shan zo" (left of the mountains) and "shan you" (to the right of the mountains) refers to Shandong and Shanxi provinces that are located on the east and the west sides of the Taihang Mountains respectively. In like fashion "he you" and "jiang you" (both meaning to the right of the river) designate the area west of the Huanghe River (the Yellow River) in the first case and to the west of Changjiang River (the Yangtze River) in the second. Conversely, "he zo" and "jiang zo" (both meaning to the left of the river) are the areas east of these two rivers. Like east and west, left and right are also social status indicators. Facing south, the right side is the east and the left side the west. The right seat was considered more respectable than the left one. "Lu zo" (left side of the street) is equivalent to the other side of the tracks in Anglo culture of North America. In older times, the wealthy lived on the right side of the street and the poor inhabited the left. "You xing" (right surnames), "You qi" (right relatives) and "You zhi" (right positions) referred to the aristocracy, the imperial families and the high-ranking official positions (Contemporary Chinese Dictionary, 1996). The right has also taken on the meaning of being better as is in the idiom "no one is on his right," which means no one is better than he. An exception to the prominence of right is encountered in carriage where the person with the highest social status occupies the seat on the left. That is the source of the idiom "waiting with the left seat empty," which is a signal of showing respect to someone not yet present. Another pair of directional concepts are up and down. The two characters for up and down are [??] (shang) (Karlgren, 1923, p.251) and [??] (xia) (Karlgren, 1923, p.69). They are iconic signs. The long dash, the base line, represents the horizon (zhongwen.com, online). The short stroke to the right is above the horizon for shang and below it for xia. Up symbolizes high social status and down the reverse. To reinforce the imperial authority, feudal rulers elevated their thrones in the audience halls. Last but not least, the cultural significance of [??] (zhong, the center or the middle). The long history of highly centralized feudal regime stressed the cultural significance of centralization in the culture. The centralized pattern of feudal political regime is clearly embodied in the design of the capital cities and the imperial palaces. Beijing and its Forbidden City, the best-preserved imperial capital and palace, best illustrates the idea of centralization. The old city of Beijing is a fortified square with well-aligned grids running along the two axis of north-south and east-west. The imperial palace, the Forbidden City, occupies the central area of the city proper. The major palaces inside the Forbidden City line up in a row, forming a north-to-south line dividing the city into two symmetrical parts of east and west. Being at the middle is also an important philosophical concept in Chinese culture. Confucianism highly advocates the doctrine of being at the middle, or not going to the extremes, in attitudes as well as in actions. Conclusion These etymological analyses of Chinese direction terms show how observation of the celestial bodies and their impact on natural environment underlies the initial ancient Chinese definition of the cardinal directions. Comparisons with similar primitive classification systems originating in different natural environments also provide some evidence of how perception of time and space are significantly determined by the geography and landscape of the motherland. The limitations and definitions by the environment gradually come to impact other aspects of ancient Chinese livelihood as the culture developed. For instance, the environmental influences helped to define the architectural styles and structures in ancient China, which over time influenced social behavioral norms. As directions were integrated as an important part of the symbolic system, they become dominant symbols in the culture, which can be seen in the usage of directional terms in a variety of idioms and phrases as well as in many areas of the traditional culture. Medicine and divinations are two examples. Data from the study provide further evidence to support Victor Turner's theory that symbols possess bipolar meanings - one clusters around the physical and concrete, and the other the abstract and ideological. Durkheim and Mauss refuted Frazer's argument that the social relations of mean are based on logical relations between things, and argued that it is the social relations that have provided the prototype for the latter. (Durkheim and Mauss, 1963, p.82) In their article Durkheim and Mauss stressed the role of social organizations and social relations in human cognition. They believed the essential cognitive characteristics underlying the primitive classification are the same as that of the modern scientific classification, which both result from human tendencies to unify knowledge, to know as social beings and groups, and to extend the unity of knowledge to the universe. (Durkheim and Mauss, 1963, pp.81-84) In the case of cardinal directions, the Chinese characters clearly indicate the influences of the natural phenomena on people's understanding of them. The ancient Chinese architectural styles and structures were influenced by the environment, which in turn influenced the social lives of people. However, the study does not intend to deny that human beings see things from their own perspectives and understand the universe within the limitations of their perceptions. The limitations also exist for any anthropological interpretation of cultures, just as Victor Turner discussed in Forest of Symbols. It is the case in this current study as well. Generally speaking, the modern views of orientation terms are not often the same as what was originally meant in antiquity. Our understanding of the direction concepts must have drifted away from the empirical perceptions of the ancient people. Therefore, when trying to make sense of why things become what they are, sometimes it is inevitable that our understanding is limited by our perception of here and now. This is a paradox for all anthropological studies of the "other" cultures (both culture of the others, and the other culture of ourselves). Ancient Chinese culture is baffling to modern Chinese who are confronted with a similar paradox - try to understand the perceptions of the ancient Chinese but have to do it from the perspective of a modern Chinese. In this article, the author uses the four cardinal direction words and the fifth, the centrum, to present an outline of the primitive Chinese classification system. Yet it must be said that the Chinese classification system is far more complicated than what can be explained in this essay. Concepts of the Yin-Yang dichotomy, the eight trigrams, and the Five Element System are all phenomena worthy of an independent study. However, as an interesting and inseparable part of the symbolic system, the orientation words help to show the interconnections between the several important concepts of the ancient Chinese symbolic system. COPYRIGHT 2009 Institute of General Semantics

Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.





Date: 2018-04-14 19:01:24



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