December 10, 2018
Good Characters announces the Chinese Character of the Year 2018.
A Brief History
In 1995, the Japanese Kanji Proficiency Society began its annual announcement of the kanji of the year. Kanji are the Chinese characters adopted for the Japanese language. “Kanji,” quite literally, translates to — kan-: “Han Chinese” and –ji: “characters.”
December 12 was named “Kanji Day,” the date for announcing its annual Kanji of the Year because 1212 can be read as いい字一字 (ii ji ichi ji), literally “good character one character,” meaning “one good character” in Japanese.
Eleven years later, in 2006, the Chinese character of the year began to be announced annually in China. A few years later, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Macao, and finally, Hong Kong each started to choose its own Chinese character of the year. The Character of the Year is something like Time magazine’s Person of the Year — an image selected toward the year’s end that reflects, or sums up, many of the main events, thoughts, and attitudes of the year.
In 2017, after another 11 years had passed, Good Characters, as Chinese language brand naming specialists, thought it would be fitting to designate a Chinese character of the year from the American perspective.
“We thought it would be fitting that there should be a Chinese character of the year from the American perspective,” Andy Chuang, Chinese naming expert and founder of Good Characters, said. “After all, Chinese is the third most-spoken language at home in the United States according to the U.S. Census Bureau.”
The Good Characters Chinese Character of the Year 2017 for America was . . . 狂 (kuáng).
The Good Characters Chinese Character of the Year 2018 for America is . . . 戰 (zhàn, pronounced jahn).
Why have we chosen 戰 (zhàn)?
If we look at the construction of the character, the character 戰 consists of 單 on the left and 戈 on the right. 單 is one, single, or an individual. 戈 is a dagger-axe weapon.
For Americans, 2018 has been another year of constant spotlight on one president who has assumed a warlike stance and has had to fight on many fronts.
And war, battle, and fighting are the meanings of 戰 (zhàn):
貿易戰 (mào yì zhàn) means trade war (like the one between the US and China).
開戰 (kāi zhàn) means war started (The trade war began this year and continued throughout the entire year).
休戰 (xiū zhàn) is truce or cease-fire.
Here are some notable instances of 戰 (zhàn) in America in 2018:
The United States Cyber Command, commonly translated as 美國 (U.S.) 網戰 (wǎng zhàn, meaning cyber warfare) 司令部 (command), was elevated to a Unified Combatant Command on May 4.
An extraordinary Trump-Kim summit took place that may pave the way to the eventual formal declaration of 終戰 (zhōng zhàn), meaning ending the war (the Korean War).
The midterm voter turnout in 2018 was unprecedented as the result of highly competitive 選戰 (xuǎn zhàn), literally election battle, the typical Chinese way of describing the competitiveness of election campaigns that’s especially fitting for America this year.
2018 is also the 100th anniversary of 停戰 (tíng zhàn), armistice, of 第一次世界大戰 (dì yī cì shì jiè dà zhàn), World War I.
And there have been renewed worries about the new 冷戰 (lěng zhàn), cold war, forming.
In an ideal world, peace and gentle words are the norm. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world. Wars and fighting are necessary at times to secure freedom and justice. The challenge, 挑戰 (tiǎo zhàn), is to constantly try to figure out better ways to achieve those ends. But until that happens, war will remain a necessary evil.
In conclusion, 2018 was a year of important 戰 (zhàn): wars, battles, fights, and challenges. And 戰 is a character that will likely continue to be front and center in 2019.
Added December 12, 2018:
Chinese Characters of the Year 2018 have also been announced for other countries:
The Character of the Year for China will be announced on December 20th.
Added December 22, 2018:
On December 20, 2018, the National Language Resources Monitoring and Research Center, the Commercial Press, People’s Daily Online, and Tencent announced the Character of the Year for China as 奋 (fèn), meaning striving, and the Character of the Year for the world as 退 (tuì), meaning withdraw or moving backwards.
Added December 28, 2018:
On December 28 the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) announced the Character of the Year for Hong Kong as 順 (shùn), meaning smooth or orderly.
Added January 9, 2019:
The Japanese Kanji Proficiency Society announced the Kanji of the Year for Japan as 災 (sai), meaning disaster. It was inspired by Japan’s nationwide natural and human disasters that occurred in 2018.
The character is pronounced zāi in Mandarin and its simplified version in China is 灾.
The traditional Chinese character and Japanese kanji character 災 consists of water, represented by the three angled or wavy lines on top, and fire at the bottom. The idea is that too much or uncontrolled water or fire could be disastrous.
The character 灾 consists of a roof, representing a house, on top and fire at the bottom. Fire burning a house is also disastrous.
I have no idea and would like to find out why China made 灾 the “simplified” version of 災. It’s certainly not simpler because the number of strokes for both characters is the same.
Good Characters, the California-based naming consultancy that specializes in Chinese languages, announces 戰 (zhàn) as the Chinese Character of the Year 2018 for America.
Eighteen years of providing meaningful Chinese characters for 3,000+ small businesses in North America and 45 countries worldwide. Created and Crafted in California, U.S.A.