I am reading this set of poems for my humanities class. One of the lines is:


Supposedly, the last character is xiang with a third tone and it means to "sound" or "echo".

But I thought this character means "want", as in 想.

Can someone clarify what xiang (third tone) means?


響 (xiang3) is the traditional form of 响, which means to "sound" or to "echo". It is not the same character as 想, which means to "think" or to "want". It is not uncommon for different characters to have the same pronunciation and tone. Examples off the top of my head include:

  • zhong1: 中 (中国), 钟 (两点钟), 终 (终于)

  • ying1: 应 (应该), 英 (英雄), 鹰

  • sha1: 杀 (杀死), 沙 (沙滩), 莎

  • diao4: 调 (调查), 钓 (钓鱼), 吊 (吊着)

Somewhat tangentially, it can be difficult to determine what character a spoken syllable is supposed to correspond to with absolutely no context. One consequence of this is that people often will indicate the characters for their names when speaking by giving examples of terms or phrases with the component characters (e.g. 谢谢的谢,英雄的英). (Character(s) in "given names" rarely form combinations that would be permissible in normal usage, even in cases where a coherent meaning for the whole name is obvious: e.g. 马英九, 崔世安, 周杰伦, 刘博.)

  • "I, have seen", 似乎让人觉得仿佛这样做有什么不寻常,另一方面这是所有看电视剧的用户,每当有人告诉别的人自己的名字都会看到的。好象与说英语人在怀疑的情况下拼写名字可比较的,seems to give the impression that this might not be a very commonplace occurrence, yet web video watchers come across it whenever people tell their names, it seems comparable to spelling names in cases of doubt in English speaking countries. 另一个例子:中共新疆党委书记张春贤:一张纸的张(最少必要的),春季的春,贤人的贤
    – user6065
    Mar 9 '16 at 1:04
  • @user6065 I'm rarely in situations where I see people give out their names so wasn't sure. Thanks for the context; I'll edit my statement to be less weak.
    – user5714
    Mar 9 '16 at 1:06
  • 1
    Thanks a lot. Another obvious possibility occurs when name agrees with that of somebody well known. 也有另外的可能,就是,如果名字和某众所周知的人ABC的名字一样的话,你可以开始说:我叫AXX,ABC 的A, 例如如果你叫姚XX,你可以说我叫(无产阶级文化大革命四人帮之一)姚文元的姚。
    – user6065
    Mar 9 '16 at 5:24

The full sentence should be "空山不见人,但闻人语响。", in which “响” is the simplified version of "響".

Obviously, it should mean "sound or echo" for in the first sentence the author said that he did not see anybody in the mountain and in the second sentences there is a turning point marked by "但", which can be understood as "but". After this turning point he said he could hear the "sound or echo" of words of people.

(You can replace "sound or echo" with "want" and the sentence will not make sense if you do) I guess you may confuse "响" with “想” as their sound are the same.

By the way, I prefer "echo" than "sound" as he did not see the people but just caught the words in the wind and this poem tends to create an atmosphere of serenity.

  • 2
    但 here doesn't mean "but", but "only". That sentence is a well-known example for the "只闻其声不见其人" atmosphere.
    – Stan
    Mar 8 '16 at 6:47
  • Well, maybe you are right. I have never considered it as an example for "只闻其声不见其人" Mar 8 '16 at 8:37

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