The Chinese Character Ye: Open Country

The Chinese Character: Ye (野)

Ye (): This Chinese character was often used throughout the ancient poetry of China. Ye literally means the area of uncultivated land outside the walls of a city. Much like medieval Europe, ancient China surrounded many of it’s larger cities with fortifications and walls for protection against outlaws and invading armies. This area could be the outskirts of the town or city where parcels of land were too large to be walled in. It also included forests, hills, and grasslands. The current and popular term, wilderness, could also be appropriate in some cases.

This meaning of ye can also be extended to people and their positions in society. For example, it can used to describe those who are not in power, who have been ordered away from the imperial palace, or who have had their governmental position taken away from them. Ye made into compound words include: picnic, wildfire, uncivilized, country bumpkin, open fields, and to bivouac.

The traditional character of ye () has two components, with two trees at the top of the character. These two trees are the character for lin (), which means forest. While the bottom part is the character for tu (), which means soil, land, earth. So altogether the traditional character ye () expresses a forest that is growing upon the land and soil.

The more modern and simplified character for ye is (). This version also has two components. On the left side is the character li (), which means inner, inside. On the right side is yu (). This character has two different meanings: one is “me”, and the other is “to give”. So together they can mean, the “inner me” or the “inner gift”.

Ye was often used in ancient Chinese poetry as a metaphor.

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