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Classical Chinese (文言) expressions that are still in common use


BWL
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I remember talking to an old linguist friend who was studying wenyan 文言 or Classical Chinese at the time. He was French but had a good grasp of both modern Mandarin and wenyan.

I was wondering if anyone has a list of common wenyan expressions still in daily use in modern Mandarin? Some common one that I can think of (and which I use all the time in speech) are 天下 (meaning "on earth", literally "below heaven") and 马上 (meaning 'immediately" or "rightly away") - this phrase is almost primeval, it comes from the ancient expression "on a horse" almost as if by meaning "do it immediately!" the ancients would say "Get on your horse right now!".

Note: I used modern simplified Chinese characters above (which obviously wouldn't be this way in the ancient texts).

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  • 2 weeks later...

I will continue my chinese studies at University soon and I will research about this and if I got the chance  I will ask my 文言 professor about it. He definitely knows that kind of thing. Interesting question mate!!

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I will continue my chinese studies at University soon and I will research about this and if I got the chance  I will ask my 文言 professor about it. He definitely knows that kind of thing. Interesting question mate!!

Yes, this one is very interesting because I remember that even normal everyday expressions like "thank you" or 谢谢 have an ancient origin in feudal China. 文言 provides a lot of very common expressions with unique and interesting etymologies that reflect thousands of years of Chinese culture and literature.

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  • 2 months later...

[quote

Yes, this one is very interesting because I remember that even normal everyday expressions like "thank you" or 谢谢 have an ancient origin in feudal China. 文言 provides a lot of very common expressions with unique and interesting etymologies that reflect thousands of years of Chinese culture and literature.

Absolutely. Actually there is a ton of characters still in use today, which have already been used in ancient china in the so called 甲骨文。Most of those characters had a different form in the 甲骨文 of course. As you mentioned previously (as far as I can remember), 馬上 is also a very old expression. Moreover, the compound 朋友 is one of the oldest chinese compounds. The character peng2 is actually referring to cowry shells (and not as one might think being related to the moon or flesh). Cowry shells have been for trade (money) in very ancient times.

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