I've tried a number of online and paper dictionaries (Chinese-Chinese character dictionaries) and I still can't find this character. Since I don't know how it's pronounced or what the right part is called, I have attached a representation of the character I drew:

enter image description here

This character is used many times over in the grammar book I'm reading, mostly in example sentences on 把 usage. The only time it occurs with any kind of context is 他有的時候把[X]當糖吃. Can anyone tell me what this character means and how it's pronounced?

4 Answers 4


There is something weird going on with 塩.

I checked many dictionaries (both online and offline, and both from the mainland and Taiwan and it seems that 塩 is an old variant of 盐|鹽 (See for example Zdic and 汉语大字典) meaning salt and is currently no longer used as a Chinese character, but it is still used as a Japanese one.

Since it currently not used anymore (both on the mainland and Taiwan), it is normal that you can't find it in any Chinese dictionaries.

This being said, I asked two Taiwanese friends whether they knew this character and they all recognize it and thought it was the simplified form of 鹽 used in mainland China. I also asked some mainland friends and they don't recognize it.

  • I suppose it must be a variant of the traditional character then. It's used repeatedly in a book which is not related to Japanese at all. The book is in traditional characters and published in Taiwan, so Japanese influence is not impossible, though.
    – Olle Linge
    Commented Jul 9, 2012 at 12:59
  • 2
    +1 because I found the same results. Nciku doesn't list it and my chinese dictionaries don't list it either. Furthermore, one of these two dictionaries says "Japanese variant of 鹽|盐", so BertR is right, I think.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Jul 9, 2012 at 13:27
  • This seems to settle it, then. I can't explain why a book printed in 2008 has this character in it (they could have chosen any other noun, it was just an example sentence), but that's not really important. Thanks, guys!
    – Olle Linge
    Commented Jul 9, 2012 at 14:48
  • @OlleLinge If this helped you, make sure you accept the answer. (Note: if in the future you get better answers to this or other questions, you can change the accepted answer.)
    – Alenanno
    Commented Jul 9, 2012 at 15:11
  • 1
    Ah, I remember now. I saw it on a Japanese TV series while staying in China!! That must be it. It's the shinjitai (the Japanese version of simplified Hanzi) form. Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 4:33

This character is the shinjitai form of 盐/鹽 used in modern Japanese (pronounced えん for chemical salts or しお for common salt).

In Chinese, either simplified or traditional, it is obsolete, according to Hudong and Zdic, which means it is no longer in contemporary usage. Its use in your grammar book would therefore seem incorrect.

There are some exceptions to this rule, however. If you do a search online for 雪塩燒, which is a type of food consumed in Taiwan, you will find many instances where it's written with the Japanese kanji (although there are equal number of instances where it's written with 鹽). The food item obviously has its roots in Japan and it's possibly the reason why its name has preserved the Japanese kanji character in some instances (for branding purposes or simply fashion, who knows).

  • It is not really the Shinjitai form of 盐/鹽 since at some time in the past it was also accepted as a Chinese character.
    – BertR
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 5:25
  • Yes. It's covered in the second paragraph. And yes, it's definitely used in Japanese. I have since looked it up. It's used everywhere (in Japanese that is). Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 7:01
  • Yes, I know it is used in Japanese. I also mentioned that in my answer :-)
    – BertR
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 7:20

From Wenlin 4.0.2

  • Character: 塩
  • Pinyin: [yán] [yàn]
  • Meaning (Unihan): salt
  • Encodings: U+5869 [CJK, Unicode 1.1] (GB+ 8963) (Big5+ bb92)
  • References: Hànyǔ Dà Zìdiǎn:1.472.11*; Mathews:7352
  • The Pinyin seems to be just Yán and not Yàn. Besides, according to what I found and also another answer below, this is not a Chinese character but the Japanese variant of 鹽 / 盐.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Jul 9, 2012 at 13:26
  • @Alenanno, some of the pronunciations Wenlin lists are more than just strange. So I wouldn't be surprised here. Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 4:28

One way to look the character up is by using the IME Pad. The radical has three strokes while the remaining part has 10. Unfortunately IME didn't give the pronunciation this time, so I had to look it up in an online dictionary.

塩 yan2 salt

enter image description here

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