Let’s Get Philosophical! (And Comfortable)

Let’s Get Philosophical! (And Comfortable)  

by Min Xiong

I hope you had a flavorful lunar New Year celebration earlier this month. In December, I taught you the Chinese word for western New Year. Do you remember it? It’s 元旦 (yuán dàn).

Today I want to dig a little deeper into certain Chinese characters and let you in on the philosophy contained therein.

舒Do you know the character for comfort in Chinese? It’s 舒 (shū) and it is used in many common compound words, for example, 舒服 (shūfu) comfortable, 舒心 (shūxīn) pleasant, and 舒适 (shūshì) cozy.

舒 (shū) itself is a compound character; it is made up of 舍 (shě): to give up, and 予 (yǔ): to give out.

Can you see the philosophy there regarding comfort? If one can give up unnecessary desires and give out help whenever possible, one will reach a state of comfort.

There is also a very interesting pronunciation connection between 舒 (shū) and its root words. Check it out: shū = sh (in shě) + ǔ (in yǔ).

Now for your Chinese challenge! Can you think of a philosophically rich word in English? Or do you know another Chinese character containing similar Chinese wisdom? Post your answers in the comments below. We can’t wait to see what you find. 再见!


Min Xiong is a journalist, Chinese teacher, and cultural ambassador in Washington DC.

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