Shuowen Jiezi

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a version of Shuowen Jiezi

Shuōwén Jiězì (說文解字, "Explaining Simple and Analyzing Compound Characters") was the first Chinese character dictionary, compiled by Xǔ Shèn between 100 CE and 121 CE in Han Dynasty China.

Xǔ Shèn wrote it to state his philosophy on characters and universe, not to make an easy-to-use dictionary. He gathered 9353 characters and 1163 variants, and categorized them into 540 radicals. This number means 6 × 9 × 10, the product of the symbol numbers of Yin and Yang and the number of the Heavenly Stems. The first radical was 一 (one) and the last was 亥 (the last character of the Earthly Branches). To get to 540, he included many radicals that are not considered radicals today, such as 炎 (flame), 熊 (bear), and many of the characters for the Heavenly Stems and the Earthly Branches.

Historically, the Shuōwén Jiězì has often been used as an etymological reference. However, many of his explanations on character origins are obsolete today because Xǔ Shèn knew only seal script (Knowledge of oracle script was lost long before he was born.) For instance, he put 慮 (be concerned) in the radical 思 (think). As evident from an even older source of bronzeware script (jīnwn) where 慮 (lǜ) appeared as a combination of the phonetic radical 呂 (lǚ) and the semantic radical 心, it is clear now that 慮 is not a combination of 虍 and 思 but of the phonetic radical also found in 盧 and 虜 and the semantic radical 心 (heart).

The original version has been lost, and copies made in the Song Dynasty era are most common. There are also a number of studies on it made in the Qing Dynasty era like Annotations to the Shuōwén Jiězì (說文解字注) compiled by Duàn Yùcái.

External links

ja:説文解字 zh:说文解字

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