Fascinating Chinese Character of the Year 2012

In China, the character 微 (pronounced: wēi) has been chosen by some media in China as the character which encapsulates the year 2012. This character means tiny, small, micro and insignificant.

What do you think of these characters representing the year?

What do you think of these characters representing the year?

In China, the equivalent of Twitter is called 微博(micro-blogging; pronounced ‘wēibó’), which is powerful in breaking firewalls and has allowed the voice of the general public in China to be heard. A few Chinese idioms also carry this character. It may refer to people feeling ‘insignificant’ and powerless. It also refers to the selflessness of many ‘tiny’ people of China with their spirit of sacrifice.

Image from sina news

Image from sina news: Tiny, small, insignificant, negligible

In essence, 微 (pronounced: wēi) represents each tiny particle in the Chinese society and the voices of the people.

In Taiwan, the people chose the character for Worry 憂(or, in Simplified form, written as 忧; pronounced as yōu).

Japan, in kanji (or character), has chosen Gold 金 (Japanese pronunciation as Kin; Chinese pronunciation as jīn. ) The character was chosen to represent a year of “many monumental landmarks,” including the London Summer Olympics, a solar eclipse, the completion of the Tokyo Skytree, and the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to Shinya Yamanaka for his work on stem cells.

In Singapore, embarrassingly, people have chosen Lust 色 (pronunciation: sè) to sum up a year of high-profile sex scandals, involving sex-for-contracts, sex-for-grades and paid sex with an underage prostitute.

My Related Posts: 

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The only Chinese word you ever need to learn
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19 thoughts on “Fascinating Chinese Character of the Year 2012

  1. maxim sense

    The Chinese characters (picture words – am I right?) have always fascinated me since I was a small boy. The Chinese have been in my little town from as early as I can remember in mid 1960s and they were also known as the wealthy merchants, the tycoon of agricultural products trading. Before I learned how to read and write the Arabic language, I thought they (Chinese and Arabic writings) were just similarly difficult to read and write, much more speak and understand. I never thought that Arabic could just be easy and fun until I had a little of it reading, writing, speaking and understanding the language. My apprehension of how difficult dealing with the Chinese characters may just be out when I am already into it. I really wish I have the opportunity to learn the Mandarin language. I have a little idea that there are more than two thousand characters to memorize to begin to learn the Chinese Alphabet. Wow, my memory will really be tested.

    1. Janet Williams Post author

      Dear Maxim,

      It’s never too late to pick up a bit of Mandarin Chinese. Here are some useful links:

      Study Beginners’ Chinese with The Open
      University: http://www3.open.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/course/l197.htm
      For taster materials: http://fels.open.ac.uk/module-examples/l197/
      For iTunes U free tracks: http://itunes.apple.com/itunes-u/beginners-chinese-audio/id380227642
      For Chinese Character App : http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/chinese-characters-first-steps/id441549197?mt=8

      You’re probably right about characters. Some people think that one needs to acquire about 2000 – 3000 characters to be able to read newspapers. But it’s easy to speak and write some basic functional Chinese. I hope you enjoy learning it one day.

    1. Janet Williams Post author

      When I last visited Singapore in August, sex scandals were the dominant news in Singapore, especially the ‘sex-for-grades’ scandal at the university. It was painfully embarrassing.

  2. todadwithlove

    Being a Singaporean, to know that 色 has been chosen by my country folks to symbolise the year 2012 is both hilarious and, yes, very embarrassing. However, it is really not hard to see why. And, to be honest, I find it extremely appropriate. If I were to choose one Chinese character to signify 2012, I’d probably go for you (friend) because I have made some VERY exceptional friends this year. BTW, Janet, my Chinese name is Li (mei li de li) Wei (qiang wei de wei i.e. 微 with a chao zi tou). A wonderful post.

    1. Janet Williams Post author

      Dear Vera,

      What a fantastic word for 2012 — 友 (friend; pronounced ‘yǒu’). I love that!

      Your name ‘薇’ (wēi) is part of the word for ‘rose’. How beautiful! With the first character as 丽 (lì; beautiful), you could really see the love of your parents when they named you.

  3. ShimonZ

    I know no Chinese, and so the news of a choice of letter to symbolize the year is very far off from my mentality. Still, it is fascinating to think about it, and to try and imagine how the Chinese see the western world. I just received my first book by Mo Yan in Hebrew. It is called the ‘Ballad of Garlic”, and I look forward to reading it. I want to thank you, especially now for widening my horizons and introducing me to new things. Thank you.

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