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  • Writer's pictureYK CHEUNG

氷 (Ice)

Updated: Mar 4, 2021

One who has been to Japan may probably have seen 氷, which is a character of the Kanji, the set of ideographs based on Chinese characters in the Japanese writing system. According to the definition of 冰 in Shuowen jiezi 說文解字 available on Handian 漢典, the dictionary website, 氷 is a non-standard variant of 冰.


While the annotation is correct in its own right, it may mislead the reader into believing that the explanation is part of the dictionary entry. Quite the contrary, it isn't. It is not found in the printed edition of Shuowen jiezi, nor is it in Duan Yucai's (段玉材1735-1815) seminal Shuowen jiezi zhu 說文解字注.


Researches on the sources of Kanji ideographs seem to have neglected the contribution from works of Chinese calligraphy. In fact, 氷 can be found in calligraphy works in the Standard Script 楷書, Running Script 行書, and Cursive Script 草書, for instance, in Yan Zhenqing's (顏眞卿 709-785) Duobaota bei 多寶塔碑.


What is worthy of attention in the entry in Shuowen jiezi is that 凝 is actually the non-standard variant of 冰. In other words, 凝固 should, in theory, be written as 冰固. 仌 was the character for 'ice' before it has been outfought by 冰.


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