Sunday, April 13, 2008

What's the difference between 百花 and 白花?

Today I came across the expression, 百花滿發 (백화만발), which means "All kinds of flowers are in full bloom."

  • 百花 (백화) : all kinds of flowers (百 = 100; 花 = flower)
  • 滿發 (만발) : full bloom (滿 = full; 發 = bloom)
I am writing this because I did not know the meaning of 百花 until today. Of course, if I had seen the Chinese characters, I would have known its literal meaning of "100 flowers," but I would not have known that it is also used to mean "all kinds of flowers." If I had seen or heard the Korean 백화, my first thought would have been "white flower" (白花 - 백화).

It seems to be quite common to use 百 (100) with other characters to mean "all" or "various." Other examples are as follows:

  • 百計 (백계) : all [every] means; all resources
    百計(백계)을 다 쓰다. Try every means available.
    百計 無策 (백계 무책) : helplessness

  • 百憂 (백우) : all [a variety of] concerns
    The Chinese name for the antidepressant drug "prozac" seems to be 百憂解 (백우해), which literally means "relief from all concerns."
  • 百行 (백행) : all [a variety of] behavior or conduct
    百行之本也 (효百行之本也) - Filial piety is the foundation for all conduct.

If anyone has other good examples of using 百 to mean "all" or "a variety of," please post them in the "Comments" section.


  1. Hi Gerry-san,

    I am a Japanese who is interested in both similarity and differences in Japanese and Korean languages.

    There are some popular Chinese 故事成語(고사성어) which use the ideograph "百" to mean "all" or "various".

    百聞如一見 (Seeing is believing)
    酒百藥之長 (Good wine makes good blood)

    Also, there are words like:
    百貨店/백화점 (department store = a store which sells various items)
    百姓/백성 (farmers = majority of people who have various surnames)
    百科事典/백과사전 (encyclopedia = a dictionary that covers various subjects)


  2. Thank you, Yasuo. Those are good examples.

    Does 百性 (백성) means "farmer" in Japan or "common people"? In Korea, I think it just means "common people." Of course, most common people in old Korea were probably farmers.

    Also, it looks like you forgot the 不 in 百聞不如一見 (백문불여일견), which literally means, "Hearing something a hundred times is not the same as seeing it once." In other words, "A picture is worth a thousand words."

  3. Hello, I'm Melissa from Malaysia and I am currently also studying the Korean language i.e. weekly night classes. I find your site most comprehensive and interesting. I am just starting out but am receiving lots of help from Korean friends here in Monash University Malaysia Campus. Just to let you know that I have bookmarked your site and look forward to your posts just for inspiration to keep on learning. Keep it up.

  4. Thank you, Melissa. I have been neglecting this site for the past few months, but spring here in Korea always seems to renew my interest in the language.

    Actually, when I notice something interesting about Korean or realize something new about something I may already know, I like posting about it here because it forces me to take the time to think about it in more detail. Also, I learn a lot from the commenters on this site. For example, today I just learned something new from Taemin, who often comments here and knows a lot about Chinese writing, which was once a big influence on the Korean language.

    Anyway, if you learn something new from your Korean friends or have a question about something, feel free to share it with us here in a Comment.

    Good luck with your studies.

  5. Gerry-san,

    "百姓 (ひゃくしょう hyakushoh)" means "farmer" in Japanese. The original meaning of the Chinese word may have been partially disappeared. Instead, a different translation has been developped through the centuries of history.

    ... and yes, you are correct. I've missed the character "不". "百聞不如一見" is the original 故事成語.


  6. In China they like to say 老百姓, "the ol' hundred surnames," to refer to the common folk. Kinda like everyone is all about the 서민 nowadays in Korea.


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