Origin of 危: danger

危 is used a lot, in words like 危险 (wēi xiǎn, danger). But what is the origin of this character? Looking at the ancient seal character, it is not hard to distinguish the character for “man” (人) on top. The man stands on 厂, which here represents the steep slope of a mountain. Experts do not agree about the form below. According to Baidu.com it represents a part of a bone of a human leg, and the character should be explained as: somebody standing on a high cliff, and with the extended meaning of “high, dangerous”. Leon Wieger, however, who based himself on unspecified Chinese sources, says that it represents the ancient form of 卩 (seal).  The extended meaning of that is “authority, rule, just measure”, to name a few. In this case it should be interpreted as “to restrict”. The combined meaning would then be: somebody standing on the edge of a steep cliff and restricting their motions. In other words: dangerous.

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After ten years working as database programmer in the Netherlands, I moved to China in 1991 and began to study Chinese. During my study of the language I started to develop my own character dictionary to help me with looking up and remembering characters. In 2016 it was self-published through Amazon. Since 2018 I have been living in Hong Kong, while still working on the dictionary and trying to get attention for it among potential customers.

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