The Profound Chinese Language (Episode 2): Goat
An opening poem recited by a group of children:
Su Wu ('h•), a Han Dynasty diplomat, would rather tend to a
flock of goats in exile for 19 years than surrender to the kingdom of Xiongnu.
A goat kid knows to kneel down when sucking its mother's milk to show filial respect.
Antelopes proudly display their long horns, their best defense weapons.
A lot of children go astray like little goat kids, get lost and cannot find their way home.
It is difficult to find a lost goat when the road ahead forks into two
It is a theft to take away a goat while the owner isn't looking.
It is necessary to mend the pen after one's goats are stolen.
A flock of three goats symbolizes a surge of good luck.
Narrator: In the last episode, Cangjie, the deity who had brought the Chinese language to ancient China, and his pupil Wentong, visited the Minghui School in Taiwan. Cangjie was very happy to see that the traditional Chinese characters were well preserved and continued to be taught in Taiwan. Suddenly the school bell rang.
Children: Recess! (Cheering in excitement)
(A flock of children burst out of classrooms and began to play happily in the playground on campus.)
Ying Ying: Yuan Yuan, have you reviewed yesterday's homework?
Yuan Yuan: Not yet. In yesterday's Chinese character class, Ms. Wang taught us about a new Chinese character --r, which means goat or sheep in Chinese. She explained to us that it is a pictograph. In other words, it is based on the drawing of the goat. But I don't quite understand what she said because I don't see how the character resembles any goat I have ever seen.
Ying Ying: Indeed. I have the same question.
(Cangjie and Wentong smiled at each other as they stood on top of white clouds and overheard the two little girls' conversation. After a brief and sudden presence of fog, Cangjie and Wentong appeared before Ying Ying and Yuan Yuan.)
Yuan Yuan: Oh! Who might you be? Why are you dressed in ancient Chinese costume? Are you both actors?
Wentong: Ha! Ha! Ha! My name is Wentong. This gentleman is my teacher Cangjie, the very man who originally invented the Chinese characters!
Yuan Yuan: Wow! What a wonderful pleasure it is to meet you! Ms. Wang has just taught us about you, grandpa Cangjie! Are you both immortals?
Cangjie: Of course we are! We overheard your conversation. It appears that you have some questions about the formation and evolution of certain Chinese characters. Why don't I give you a quick lesson?
Ying Ying and Yuan Yuan: That would be wonderful!
Narrator: In ancient Chinese oracle-bone scriptures, the character for goat had many different forms, but they were mostly based on the appearance of a goat's head. In some variations, they included a cute pair of ears as well. From the perspective of ancient Chinese people, a goat is a symbol of good fortune and peace. Good fortune and peace are written as ‹gË in modern times, but they were written as ‹g--r in ancient times. This is because peace (Ë) and goat (--r) shared the same Chinese character in ancient times. The goat is a docile and peaceful animal. Goats do not bully the weak and rarely lose their temper. When they do fight occasionally, they simply bump against each other's horns to test each other's strength and never resort to sneaky attacks. But why was the goat considered a symbol of peace and good fortune? Did you know that the goat is a wonderful animal for mankind? Its meat is tender, delicious, as well as nutritious. It can improve the health and wellbeing of children and elderly folks. Goat's milk is highly nutritious and increases one's energy level. Its hair makes very light-weight yet warm fabric. A goat is a real treasure. In ancient times, when a hunter brought home a goat, it was considered a sign of good fortune. These are some of the many reasons why a goat is a symbol of good fortune and peace in China.
Yuan Yuan: Wow! I had no idea Chinese characters are so rich in meaning!
Ying Ying: You have given us a precious lesson, grandpa Cangjie. Would you come see us more often and give us more lessons on Chinese characters?
Cangjie: Well, I think it will be difficult for you to reach me. Why don't I leave you with a divine brush pen? You may call him Grandpa Brush Pen. He will be able to entertain all the questions you might have about Chinese characters. If you should encounter even more difficult questions, you can call me on my cellular phone.
First published in English at http://www.pureinsight.org/pi/articles/2006/1/2/3639.html