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YI - change

On OB (Oracle Bones), the character YI looked very different from the one we use now. It was a picture of two hands, holding a vase, and pouring the contents over into another vase. After some time, the hands were left away, only the two containers were left, with the drops indicating the liquid. On bronze texts, one of the vases disappeared, and the one left over was drawn simpler and simpler.. until only the drops and the side with handle were still in the picture.

In Great Seal Script it slowly changes into the 'lizard', or according to others, the sun with moon/'nothing'/or whatever it is. The last picture shows the modern character.

The OB meaning was: to give, to accord, to offer, calm down (of disease). Yi ri, 'gift of sun': the sun reappearing again (thanks to an ancestor or spirit).

Bronze: give, gift (to recompense for..), give (happiness). Yong Yi, 'avail of Yi': use so (the ancestor will) grant (a certain favor). Bu Yi, 'not change': with constancy. The meaning 'easy' comes from: (ex-)change - no-constancy - easy.

Nowadays it is a very commonly used character: in the names of trading companies.

In many languages the words for pour and give are the same, like in German 'schenken'.


Grmph, it seems it is all different than I thought. But in a beautiful way. Read here!!

From Harmen's article:
"...possible that image from Harmen's site refers to an offering to the moon, or at least in the dark, to get the sun back. Yi 易 could have been a sacrifice to the ancestors or spirits (indicated by image from Harmen's site) during the evening or in the night (indicated by image from Harmen's site) to make sure that the sun is returning, that it is 'given' by the ancestors or spirits."