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See also: ?


Stroke order
Stroke order in simplified Chinese

Alternative forms

  • In traditional Chinese, Japanese kanji and Korean hanja, the middle component of ? is written ? followed by ?.
  • In simplified Chinese and Vietnamese Nôm, the middle component of ? is written ? overlapped by a downward ? slash and is one stroke less compared to the traditional form.

Han character

? (radical 152, ?+5 in traditional Chinese, Japanese and Korean, ?+4 in simplified Chinese, 12 strokes in traditional Chinese, Japanese and Korean, 11 strokes in simplified Chinese, cangjie input ? (NAPO), four-corner 27232, composition ?????(GV) or ????(HT) or ???????(JK))


  • KangXi: page 1195, character 21
  • Dai Kanwa Jiten: character 36372
  • Dae Jaweon: page 1658, character 1
  • Hanyu Da Zidian: volume 6, page 3611, character 9
  • Unihan data for U+8C61


simp. and trad.
Wikipedia has articles on:
  • ? (Written Standard Chinese?)
  • ? (Cantonese)
  • ? (Gan)

Glyph origin

Historical forms of the character ?
Shang Western Zhou Shuowen Jiezi (compiled in Han) Liushutong (compiled in Ming)
Oracle bone script Bronze inscriptions Small seal script Transcribed ancient scripts
?-oracle.svg ?-bronze.svg ?-seal.svg ?-bigseal.svg

Pictogram () - pictographic representation of an elephant. ? represents the trunk, ? represents the head, and ? represents the body.

Etymology 1

This character is used to represent two semantic fields 'elephant; tusk' and 'to outline; to depict; to delineate; to represent; to resemble; to map'. Both fields are found from the earliest layers of the edited literature onwards, whereas only the first meaning is amply attested in oracle bone inscriptions.

Traditionally, the two senses are treated as related, with the sense of 'to depict; to resemble' considered a derivative of the sense of 'elephant'. The derivation from the 'elephant' meaning to the 'likeness' meaning is explained in Han Feizi [ca. 221 BCE]: "Men rarely see living elephants. As they come by the skeleton of a dead elephant, they imagine its living form according to its features. Therefore it comes to pass that whatever people use for imagining the real is called ?."

Modern etymology studies on Old Chinese have challenged this opinion.

As for the 'elephant; tusk' sense, this is a widely used area word in East and Southeast Asia. Literature opinions differ on the origin and immediate relationship of this Chinese word; some (e.g. Schuessler, 2007) believe the Chinese form is a loanword from a Southern language, since "it is hard to believe that people all over SE Asia and as far away as the Himalayan foothills would borrow a word for an indigenous animal from Northern China". Others believe the direction of borrowing is reversed (i.e. Tai-Kadai borrowing from Chinese), and that Chinese ? should be compared with Tibetan (glang), ? (glang chen, "elephant") arising from a common Proto-Sino-Tibetan *gla? ("ox, bull; elephant"), which may ultimately have an Austroasiatic origin. The second viewpoint is supported by the early attestation of this character and the archaeological findings of the historical ranges of elephants. However, Schuessler disputes that second viewpoint and links ST *gla? to Mandarin ? (g?ng) "ox, bull".

See below for a tentative borrowing history of the various forms of this general area word.



? (1)


  1. elephant (Classifier: ?/? m)
  2. ivory; tusk
    • Synonyms: (xiàngyá)
    • ??  -  xiàngchuáng  -  ivory-decorated bed
  3. (xiangqi) elephant (on the black side)
    • Synonyms: ? (xi?ng)
  4. symbol; emblem
    • ?? / ??  -  xiàngzh?ng  -  symbol
  5. shape; figure
  6. appearance; phenomenon
    • ?? / ??  -  xiànxiàng  -  phenomenon
    • ??  -  j?ngxiàng  -  scene
  7. (traditional Chinese medicine) complexion
    • ??  -  bìngxiàng  -  disease signs and symptoms
  8. image; picture; portrait
  9. sign; indication
  10. imagination
  11. law; legislation
  12. principle
  13. calendar
  14. to imitate; to follow the example of
  15. to trace; to outline; to depict
  16. to resemble
    • => ?
    • ?  -  xiàngxíngzì  -  pictographic character
  17. like; similar to
  18. A surname​.
  19. (historical) Synonym of , a vague designation for "southern barbarians"
  20. (historical) (~?) Xiang, a commandery of Han China
  • (elephant):
  • (like):
Coordinate terms



Sino-Xenic (?):
  • -> Japanese:? () (z?); ? () (sh?)
  • -> Vietnamese: tng (?)


  • -> Kalmyk: (zan)
  • -> Mongolian: ? (zaan)
  • -> Tai: *?a: ("elephant")
    • Lao: ? (s?ng)
    • Lü: ? (tsaang2)
    • Northern Thai: (cang)
    • Saek:
    • Shan: (tsaang)
    • Tai Dam: ?
    • Tai Nüa: ? (tsaang5)
    • Thai: ? (cháang)
    • -> Lolo-Burmese: *tsa? ("elephant")
      • Burmese: (hcang)
      • -> Proto-Monic: *cii? ("elephant")
        • Mon: ? (coi?)
  • -> Vietic: *?a-?a:? ("elephant")

Etymology 2

For pronunciation and definitions of ? - see ? ("picture; image; figure; statue; figure; sculpture; etc.").
(This character, ?, is the former (1964-1986) first-round simplified form of ?.)

Usage notes

  • ? was the official simplified form of ? only until 1986.





(grade 4 "Ky?iku" kanji)


  • Go-on: (z?, J?y?) (zau, historical)
  • Kan-on: (sh?, J?y?) (syau, historical)
  • Kun: (katachi, ?); ? (katadoru, ); (nori, ?)
  • Nanori: (kata); (kisa); (taka)

Etymology 1

Japanese Wikipedia has an article on:
Wikipedia ja
English Wikipedia has an article on:
? (z?, kisa): an Asian elephant.
Kanji in this term

Grade: 4

/zau/ -> /z?:/ -> /zo:/

From Middle Chinese ? (zjangX, "elephant; image, resemblance"). Compare modern Cantonese reading zoeng6.

The goon reading, so likely the initial borrowing.



? (counter ?, hiragana , katakana , r?maji z?, historical hiragana )

  1. elephant
Derived terms

Etymology 2

Kanji in this term

Grade: 4

/sjau/ -> /sj?:/ -> /:/ -> /?o:/

From Middle Chinese ? (zjangX, "elephant; image, resemblance"). Compare modern Min Nan reading si?ng or Mandarin xiàng.

The kan'on reading, so likely a later borrowing.



? (hiragana , r?maji sh?, historical hiragana )

  1. likeness, appearance
Derived terms

Etymology 3

Kanji in this term

Grade: 4

From Old Japanese. Cognate with ? (kisa, "wood grain"), from the way that ivory also has a grain.[3]


  • (Irregular reading)


? (hiragana , r?maji kisa)

  1. (obsolete) elephant


  1. ? 1.01.1 2006, (Daijirin), Third Edition (in Japanese), T?ky?: Sanseid?, ->ISBN
  2. ^ 1998, NHK (NHK Japanese Pronunciation Accent Dictionary) (in Japanese), T?ky?: NHK, ->ISBN
  3. ^ 1988, () (Kokugo Dai Jiten, Revised Edition) (in Japanese), T?ky?: Shogakukan



? (eum ? (sang))

  1. This term needs a translation to English. Please help out and add a translation, then remove the text {{rfdef}}.


Han character

?: Hán Nôm readings: tng

  1. This term needs a translation to English. Please help out and add a translation, then remove the text {{rfdef}}.

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