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S001 Three word classic


San1 tzu4 ching1 

Three word classic 

San (see line 49) is an ideogram, as also are —  i one (line 45), 二 êrh two (line 116), and the archaic 亖 ssu four, for which 四 (line 114) was substituted at an early date. Odd numbers are regarded as male, even numbers as female. 

Tzu is composed of 子 tzu child and 宀 mien an obsolete character meaning shelter, the former having here the double function of radical or indicator of sense, and of phonetic or indicator of sound. The word originally meant to suckle,— a child beneath a roof; later on, to betroth a girl. It came to be used in the sense of written character under the First Emperor (lines 211, 212) according to some, and according to others about a century later in the famous history by 司馬遷 Ssu-ma Ch'ien. Previous to that date the characters 名 ming (line 16) and 文 wen (line 44) had been used. 

Ching is composed of radical 糹mi five strands of silk as spun by the silkworm, now generally read ssu like the duplicated form in line 87, and an obsolete phonetic. It originally meant to weave, the warp of a web, and came to be applied to canonical works or classics, thus offering a curious analogy with our own word text. Strictly speaking the property of the Confucianists, it was borrowed by the Buddhists as a suitable equivalent for sutra (= threads) or that portion of the Canon which contains the actual utterances of Shakyamuni Buddha. It was subsequently adopted by the Taoists (line 7), and has also been employed by Roman Catholic missionaries in their dignified rendering of Bible.