Tuesday, September 27, 2005

What exactly was "adultery" in old China?

Considering that 男(남) means "man" and 女(여) means "woman," which of the following Chinese characters would you choose to mean "rape" or "adultery"?
  1. 嬲(뇨)
  2. 姦(간)

Me, too, but, surprisingly the Chinese chose Number 2. The first character means "flirting with or teasing a woman."


  1. 姦, like nearly every other Chinese word that has seen any use, has several meanings and nuances, including: 간사하다, 간음하다(yours), 강간하다, 속이다, 훔치다, 어지럽히다, and 어지럽다.

    To me, it doesn't seem like much of a stretch to go 속이다 → 훔치다 → 강간하다 → 간통하다.

    The 뇨 is an interesting dictionary relic, but, as far as I can tell, it's never been used. Just cited in old dictionaries like the 玉篇 and 龍龕手鍼.

  2. And, I suppose I shouldn't say this, but it doesn't seem like much of a leap from a group of women to "속이다," either. ^^


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