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心字底 Xin zi di: The Heart Radical

To continue with our radical-ly themed blog posts and to show a bit of love to all of you Written Chinese followers, 心字底 (xīn zì dǐ), or the heart radical is this week’s choice.

The heart radical can be written in two ways; either at the bottom of a character as in (xiǎng), (wàng) and (nù) a squashed version of the character (xīn), or on the left side of the character like this: 忄as in (kuài), (yì) and (pà). This is a super skinny modification of 心 (xīn) and is called 竖心旁 (shù xīn páng).

The radical of 心 (xīn) is often present in characters relating to emotions, thoughts and other ‘heart’ related words. Here is some vocabulary that contains the 心  radical in both forms, and some emotionally charged sentences to try out.

(xiǎng) to think / to believe / to suppose / to wish / to want / to miss

The character 想 (xiǎng) has multiple meaning such as to think, miss or believe something (or someone!). 想 (xiǎng) is composed of (xiàng) meaning appearance and of course 心 (xīn), together they create phonetics and meaning. However, the character 相 (xiàng) depicts a tree ( – mù) and an eye (– mù) suggesting the need to look and check for danger. The two characters together to produce 想 (xiǎng) could refer to examining the heart or mind (think, believe, hope).

思想 (sī xiǎng) thought / thinking
想到 (xiǎng dào) to think of

我想我已经爱上她了。(wǒ xiǎng wǒ yǐ jīng ài shàng tā le) = I believe I was already in love with her.

我想了很久才做出这个决定的。(wǒ xiǎng le hén jiǔ cái zuòchū zhè ge jué dìng de) = I have considered for a long time to make this decision.

他想知道怎样才能完成他的工作。(tā xiǎng zhīdao zěnyàng cái néng wán chéng tā de gōng zuò) = He would like to know how he can finish his work.

你的想法非常创新。(nǐde xiángfǎ fēi cháng chuàng xīn) = Your thoughts are very creative.

(wàng) to forget / to overlook / to neglect

The character of 忘 (wàng) features our 心 (xīn) radical and the phonetic (wáng), which means to disappear or the death of something. Combining these two suggests that the mind is unable to function or is ‘lost’, coming to the final meaning of forget: 忘 (wàng).

忘记 (wàng jì) to forget
难忘 (nán wàng) unforgettable

我忘不了以前的事。(wǒ wàng bù liǎo yǐ qián de shì) I cannot forget things from the past.

(nù) anger/ fury

怒 (nù) is quite an angry looking character and its meaning is also sinister. The top half of our character is probably familiar to those of you who read our previous article on 女字旁:The Female Radical, as this is (nú) meaning slave. The quite direct meaning of this character is not to be a slave to your heart and allow your anger to control you…

怒气 (nù qì) anger
触怒 (chù nù) provocation

This example sentence also contains the bigram 感到 (gǎn dào) that contains ‘心字底’ (xīn zì de), meaning to have a feeling or sense about something.

他对她的做事方式感到很愤怒。(tā duì tā de zuò shì fāng shì gǎn dào hěn fèn nù.) He was angry about the way she dealt with things.

(chóu) to worry about/ melancholy

愁 (chóu) is personally one of my favourite characters containing the 心 (xīn) radical; derived of the character (qiū) referring to the season Autumn or Fall and our beloved 心 (xīn), the character literally suggests that the heart is weighed down by the Autumn. It does not exactly mean that Autumn makes us feel down, but that it produces feelings of nostalgia as another year inevitably ends.

忧愁 (yōu chóu) to be worried
愁苦 (chóu kǔ) anxiety

他经常为自己的事发愁。(tā jīng cháng wèi zì jǐ de shì fā chóu) He often worried about his own affairs.

(nín) formal version of ‘you’

您 (nín) is the honorific version of the more commonly used (nǐ). 您 (nín) should be used when expressing respect to those older than yourself or to be courteous to people of higher rank, such as your boss or manager.

您可以好好想一想。(nín ké yǐ háo háo xiǎng yi xiǎng.) You can think about it deeply.

(pà) to be afraid / to fear / to dread

The variant of 心 (xīn) can be seen here alongside the phonetic character (bái) meaning white. Together they literally mean ‘white heart’ referring to ‘lack of courage’.

害怕 (hài pà) to be afraid
不怕 (bù pà) fearless

不要害怕,相信自己可以成功。(bú yào hài pà, xiāng xìn zì jǐ ké yǐ chéng gōng) Don’t be afraid, believe in yourself that you can succeed.

忆 / 憶 (yì) to recollect / to remember / memory

To understand this character more fully, we should turn to its traditional counterpart (yì). The phonetic side of the character refers to the ‘intention of thought’, so when the additional 心 (xīn) is added to become a reflection or memory.

不怕 (huí yì) memories
追忆 (zhuī yì) to recollect

学校带给我很多美好的回忆。(xué xiào dài géi wǒ hěn duō méi hǎo de huí yì.) School has given me many pleasant memories.

(kuài) – rapid / quick / speed

Old forms of this character showed a hand holding a hammer or bow preparing to shoot an arrow. This combined with the 心 (xīn) radical suggests that quickness depends on the mind and heart.

加快 (jiā kuài) to accelerate
尽快 (jǐn kuài) as quickly as possible

我们要快点完成这些作业。(wǒ men yào kuài diǎn wán chéng zhè xiē zuò yè.) We need to finish the homework quickly.

The Chinese Character for Love

Finally, I would like to look at 1 character that in its simplified version, no longer contains the 心 radical. The character for love and affection (ài) demonstrates a modern approach to the notion of love, focusing more on friendship and co-operation, than love. The traditional character 愛 (ài) is made up of three parts: ‘breathe into’, the ‘heart’ and ‘gracious motion’. The simplified form combines the hand with the character for friendship to suggest a more realistic or even cynical viewpoint of love.