The Chinese character for ‘woman’ keeps changing. Why??

Evolution of chinese characters for woman

The more I study Chinese language, the more I understand Chinese culture and mindset. And like the culture, the language keeps changing to match!

Chinese characters are considered to be the most unique and ancient script in the world. If you take a closer look at them, you can find a lot of interesting things.

Emancipation, for example:

(Nǚ)— a woman.

What does this symbol look like?

This hieroglyph traditionally portrayed a woman sitting on her knees on the floor and showing submissiveness to a man. Nowadays they changed it a bit so now the woman stands.


Further more…

What happens if we add another to one woman?

女+女 = 奻 (núan)

According to Chinese thought, we will get a quarrel. It is traditionally considered that two women cannot be in the same room and not quarrel. Do you think so too?

Well, what if we add the third one?

女+女+女 = 姦 (jiān)

We will get an adultery. A man who has 3 women he is most likely cheating on someone, right?

Colored hieroglyph of adultery 🙂

Though nowadays in modern Chinese they use 奸 for cheating. However, women’s character is still there!

Now, let’s skip «the women’s symbol» for a while, we’ll come back soon.

You probably wonder how the «man» hieroglyph looks like?

男 (nán) — a man.

chinese symbol for man

It consists of two parts:

田 (tián) — a field
力 (lì)— force, power

Who is strong and works in the field all day with his power? A Chinese man of course!

A ‘Field Power’ Chinese man.


And how about 口 (kǒu)symbol? How do you think what is this? A square? A box? A hole?

Nah, it’s a mouth.

If we add 口 to any animal we will get the sound this animal makes.

Few examples:

犬 (qǔan)— a dog
吠 (fèi)— To bark


羊 (yáng)— a sheep
咩 (miē) — Moo.

So! What if we add «a mouth» to «a woman» symbol?

口+女= 如 (rú)

Yelp? Squeal?

It actually means to obey.

A woman in ancient China did not have the right to express her opinion, she had to obey.

The 如 symbol also means «if» and «as», just for you to know.

In conclusion.

Try to guess what 嫐 symbol means (woman-man-woman).

dAB rViq Fc

Any ideas, lads? Give it a guess in the comments.

Interested in studying Chinese?

Chinese is difficult and a good book can mean the difference between falling in love with the language and quitting after 2 weeks. This book is highly respected, just check out the reviews if you have any doubts!

Integrated Chinese: Simplified Characters Textbook, Level 1,...
  • Integrated chinese 1, part 1 textbook
  • Yuehua Liu
  • Publisher: Cheng & Tsui
  • Edition no. 3 (08/06/2008)
  • Paperback: 368 pages


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Igor Sobolev
Igor was born in one of the dirtiest and most northern towns in the world - Norilsk, Russia. Living there made him hungry for traveling and seeing the true world - how it works and who lives there. "Best way of traveling - Hitchhiking!"


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