As one of the most fundamental characters, 木-wood/tree, used to be questioned by a younger me that why during its simplification, the center of this word is completely moved to the lower part. As we may all know that the underground roots of a tree and its branches/leaves above the ground occupy almost the same size of space.
It was through a lifetime bumpy journey that I realized the reason is brilliant that, for everything, its internal root plays the fundamental role for its development and flourish externally.
This also helped me to vividly understand a very similar character 本. With “一” emphasizing the bottom part of a tree, it represents its underground part, the tree root. On top of this tree root meaning, 本 has a wide range of meanings. Here are the major ones:
1. Root; Source; Origin; Foundation
2. Agriculture: as the very basis of human living, agricultural commodity products plays a fundamental role in human daily life.
3. Book: if agriculture means the materialized fundamental root of human society, then the book alternatively plays the fundamental root role, the carrier, for human civilization and intelligence development.
Profoundly, 木 and 本 inspired me to look at another very similar character 不-no, which is in the top 10 most frequently used character lists in our daily life!
Explained in the same way, it pictographically stands for a tree not able to grow out of the ground, with an origin meaning that birds are flying away, leaving the shape of bird tail in the sky only. Were the birds flying away because trees cannot grow up? People’s wisdom was deeply embedded in the simplification of these characters. Extendedly, 不-no has meanings that include:
1) Things get bad from the root so they cannot grow up;
2) Ideas could not be expressed.
When we have a bad idea, some negative thoughts in our hearts, we are inclined to say NO more frequently, to reject, to decline, to refuse, to stop things from happening. We are filled with more negative Yin energy when we get used to saying NO. Instead of saying NO, if we chose a positive way to express the same ideas, we shape into a positive life.
For trees, their roots are hidden underground. For humans, our roots are hidden in our #hearts.