As far as I know 局 applies to everything which demands crooking ones body. A job behind a desk almost always means you are sitting with your back bent: A small office is 局, a chess game is 局, a game in general is 局, everywhere you sit with bent back is 局.

So I was wondering about 局 as a "situation, phase".

my thinking:

"game" + "board" = chess game + board = how things are positioned on the board. Is this line of reasoning correct?

  • 1
    局 is 尸 + phonetic 句, and has nothing to do with crooking bodies. Body is here in the more abstract sense, as in an institutional body, at least concerning the connotation of office or bureau. The more general meaning is situation, while 面 means aspect. 局 is also a measure word for games in general, not only chess.
    – user4452
    Commented Apr 23, 2016 at 15:57
  • 局 can mean"situation",面 can mean "face; aspect" so 局面 looks like an endocentric(偏正)compound (as are 点灯、黑板、空袭、公审、鲜红)
    – user6065
    Commented Apr 23, 2016 at 16:01

1 Answer 1


The etymology of

1st interpretation


Upper part of represents 尺 (ruler), alluding to rules and canons.
Lower (inside) part of represents 口 (mouth), alluding to unbounded freedom.
口 (mouth) is under (inside) 尺 (ruler): implies a sense of constraint.

2nd interpretation


is a pictogram of 博 (Liubo), an ancient Chinese board game. The relationship between and 博 (Liubo) is mentioned vaguely: "簙有局以行十二棊". can either mean a round of the game or the board on which the game is played.

The etymology of 局面

盘中排营寨城池,眼前无弓箭旌旗。心内有刀枪剑戟,局面儿几般形势。『元 周德清 《斗鹌鹑·双陆》曲』

局面 first appeared in a Qu written by 周德清 in Yuan dynasty. It refers to the situation of an ongoing Backgammon game.

Please Note: My answer only considers the origins of and 局面. Their meanings change overtime and are impossible to encapsulate in an reasonably long answer. The "sitting with your back bent" hypothesis proposed by the questioner might indeed be true at some point in history.


  1. http://www.zdic.net/z/18/sw/5C40.htm
  2. http://baike.baidu.com/view/240375.htm

Revision History

  1. 20160423_0: Initial answer
  2. 20160423_1: Elaborated on the 2nd interpretation for 局 and left room for ambiguity

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