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The Meaning of the Chinese Word “靓女”

For every language, there are many certain ways of calling a specific things or people. If you learn Chinese in China, you will hear the words “靓女” very often. To understand this word, students should learn someChinese culture.

In the very ancient China, the word “靓女” has been mentioned in “诗经•邶风•静女” :
静女其姝,俟我于城隅。爱而不见,搔首踟蹰。 
  静女其娈,贻我彤管。彤管有炜,说怿女美。 
自牧归荑,洵美且异。匪女之为美,美人之贻。
Students learn Chinese in China should know that it is a misunderstanding that many people define “静女” as elegant lady and graceful girl.

To learn Mandarin better, we should know the contents of this poem. This poem is described with the tone of a young man. From the view of this poem, “静女” loves this young man very much because she gives gift to him and also dates with him.

They have made agreement to meet at “城隅”, but when the young man arrived, she hides herself and “爱而不见”. When the young man was driven into “搔首踟蹰”, she just hides in the corner and laughs secretly. Seeing from this view, teachers of any Chinese school in China do not think the girl is a quiet lady, but purely naughty and crazy girl. So it is not proper and poetic to explain “静女” as a quiet and peaceful girl.

All kinds of regulations restraint women in ancient China are formed with the history step by step, but not complete from the very beginning. Students learn Mandarin in China should know that it began with the Rites of Chou Dynasty, which are used to restrain the noble but not appropriate for the common people. Then the following are the principle of feudal moral conduct raised by Dong Zhongshu and Zhu Xi’s Confucian school of ideal philosophy.

It is until the Southern Song Dynasty that the moral principles in Chinese feudal society became consummate. So we can’t study Chinese by explaining the ancient China society by the feudal neo-Confucianism after the times of Zhu Xi.

During the times that “诗经” was formed, the principles constrain the female were not shaped. So girls had no need to be quiet and restrain themselves with “静”. Students would be interested in learning Mandarin Chinese by studying《静女》, which is a love poem that full of natural and lively atmosphere. It would be not so poetic that there is a quiet girl appeared in the poem.

Among the immense number of books to explain《诗经》, the most influential and authoritative one is the《诗集传》written by Zhu Xi in the Southern Song Dynasty. In the book, he summarized the previous annotation with a relatively scientific altitude. Meanwhile, he took the chance of explaining《诗经》to state his thoughts.

In his book, Zhu Xi ever explained “静” in this poem as “静者,闲雅之意”, which is the derivation of today‘s “静女”. Therefore, the most correct explanation of “静女” should be “靓女”. If you learn Chinese language in China, you should know there were many interchangeable words in ancient China. “静” is an interchangeable word to“靓” in ancient China, which means beautiful and is pronounced as “jìnɡ”.

In the sentence “静女其姝”, “静” and “姝” are similar in meaning. So to help foreigners learn to speak Chinese, “静女其姝,俟我于城隅” can be translated as “a beautiful girl wants meet me outside the city”. It would be boring to translated as “a quiet girl wants see me outside the city”. So we should restore the original meaning by explaining “静女” as “靓女”, meaning beautiful girl.

Nowadays, most people pay much attention to be “靓”, considering it is a new and fashionable word. But actually, when you study in China you should know that it has been used in the times of writing《诗经》.

Any language has a very close relationship with the culture. So if we want to learn Chinese well, mush attention should be paid on the relevant cultural background knowledge.

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