why does a "bamboo joint" (as etymology suggests) mean:

  1. "control / to restrict / to curtail / to economize"

and at the same time

  1. "festival / holiday"?

I'll post partial a answer from the link given below in the comments section:

Around the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD), dictionaries began listing a second definition for 節, "bamboo cord," thanks to the resemblance between bamboo ridges and knotted up bits of twine.

Here's where the semantic gods of Association begin to run wild. Because twine was used as a restraint, 節 gave birth to 節制 (jiézhì), which means "restrict" or "moderate."

  • 3
    Here is an interpretation: cn.hujiang.com/new/p440583
    – imrek
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 8:52
  • I can't give the exact etymology here, but with a bit of imagination, you can see that a bamboo joint (or node, as the botanists call it) restricts the growth of a section (or internode), thus 1. Also, a bamboo knot grows in a regular (spacial) pattern, festivals also happen in a regular (chronological) pattern, thus 2. Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 5:50
  • 1
    I don't know how to accept a link as an answer. But so far the link explaint everything even more! :)
    – coobit
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 9:16
  • @coobit Don't bother, a link is just a link, you're welcome.
    – imrek
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 10:15
  • @coobit you can summarize the main points of the link and post your own answer and accept it - though it won't increase your rep.
    – Stan
    Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 10:12

1 Answer 1


Simply because it can be used both as noun and verb. As a noun, it can mean "festival". As a verb, it can mean "to save, to control". You have to remember it in the context for every single word can have dozens of meaning according to the context.

Oh. Thanks to comments, now I add some explanations for WHY

enter image description here From left to right, from ancient time to the present, it shows how "节" derives. The rightest one is mostly used in Chinese mainland and “節” is mostly used in Taiwan.

Its original meaning is something made by bamboo and used as a bowl and a instrument sometimes.

Moreover, you can figure out how its meanings expand from the original one from the pic below.

// The circle is the original one. enter image description here

I guess you guys can understand those words in the pic so I don't translate them.

The website is here : http://www.vividict.com/WordInfo.aspx?id=2654

====================== sth awful below ===================================

================== are you sure you want to take a look ? ======================

Here is some meanings of “节” from Chinese Dict.


(1) 形声。从竹,即声。本义:竹节。

(2) 同本义。泛指草木枝干间坚实结节的部分。 节,竹约也。——《说文》 苞笋抽节。——左思《吴都赋》 譬如破竹,数节之后,皆迎刃而解。——《晋书·杜预传》 其于木也,为坚多节。——《易·说卦》

(3) 又如:节根(草木的节与根);节旄(竹节上所缀牦牛尾饰物);节粉(竹节旁附着的白色粉末);节槎(树木上歧出的节);节次(依次,陆续;或程序,规程)。



As a Chinese I can not recall all of it either. A lot of sentences above are from ancient Chinese. It is even OK for some Chinese to not understand those sentences. Just remind that learn words from context. XD

// Hope I don't scare you.

// Thank you guys who edited my answer and made it more readable.

  • 5
    Welcome to Chinese SE! But the question is concerned with the etymology thing so this answer seems having digressed.
    – Stan
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 18:48
  • You didn't answer "why". OP do know it have several meanings.
    – user4072
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 2:11
  • 2
    If you are a native, then It might just work for you (remembering), but for non-natives it's best to have "a story" and a logical one to understand and to be able to create your own words out of 节
    – coobit
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 9:17
  • Now I add sth about "WHY"~ Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 4:14

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