Learn one Chinese Character a day – 乐 | 樂 (学习)
Today we continue to show another proof that original meaning of "白" is thumb. From its Simplified Chinese character 乐, there is nothing we can tell. However from its Traditional version 樂, we can see clearly that top middle of 樂 is a 白. You might already start to wonder what is the meaning of "乐 | 樂" and how it is related to thumb (白)?
Let us disassemble樂 to see how it is composed. You might have found top partfamiliar as we just learnt it in our last lesson of "丝", top middle part is 白 (thumb) and lower part is 木 (wood). Typical Chinese musical instruments are made of strings with silk and wooden frames, as show below: more can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Chinese_musical_instruments
Chinese Musical Instrument - 古筝
So plus 木 refers to a musical instrument, What did Chinese ancestors want to mean by adding 白 (thumb) in middle of ? Looking at below image you will get a better idea.
Playing Musical Instrument
Musicians normally use their thumbs to test the accuracy of the pitches of strings then start the playing. A musical instrument itself would not make any sound. With fingers of a musician playing it, wonderful musics will be produced. That is why Chinese ancestors added 白 to middle of ( to create 乐 | 樂) to mean Music.
As hearing wonderful musics is an delightful entertainment, 乐 | 樂 was extended to mean Happy, Glad, Amused, Delightful as adj, and Happily, Gladly as adv.
Let us examine evolution history of 乐 | 樂 to confirm our explanation above: (image get from http://www.vividict.com )
As you can see Oracle Script of "乐 | 樂" - is composed of (silk strings) and (wood), which is musical instrument. Starting from later stage of Bronze Script , 白 (thumb) was added to emphasise the playing of musical instrument for musics and entertainments.
樂 is then another proof that 白 refers to thumb as its original meaning.
Now it is time to enjoy a Chinese calligraphy with "乐 | 樂" inside: