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Chinese Character Bites – #15 – 上 and 下

Our characters for today are 上 and 下

In simplified Chinese characters: 上 and 下
In traditional Chinese characters: 上 and 下
(They are the same in both traditional and simplified Chinese characters)


上 is pronounced shàng, in the 4th tone.
下 is pronounced xià, also in the 4th tone.

What they mean:

上 means upper or above, for example 上面 shàngmian (on top of), or 上个星期 shàng gè xīngqī (last week)

下 means lower or below, for example 下面 xiàmian (below), or 下个星期 xià gè xīngqī (next week)

(In Chinese past weeks and months are also ‘on top’ and future weeks or months are ‘below’)

Let’s break them down:

Two strokes either above or below a base line, representing ‘above’ and ‘below’.

In the ancient Chinese versions of the character, there were only two strokes in each of the characters, but in each case an extra stroke was added, to avoid confusion.