I was asked this in my Chinese class and have to write a mini paragraph on it:


I know that the first part of 纸 means 丝绸, but what does the second part of the character mean? Also, I don't exactly get what 最早纸是什么意思 is asking for...

  • 纸 is 形声字. The second part 氏 stands for its 'sound'. There are couple of links might help if you baidu. here is one of them: xiuwenyuan.com/ziyuan/e7bab8.html
    – dan
    Nov 29, 2017 at 11:12

2 Answers 2


氏(Shì) is the phonetic component in 纸(Zhǐ), which is a 'phono-semantic compound character'

Phono-semantic compound characters

形聲 xíng shēng "form and sound" or 諧聲 xié shēng "sound agreement"

These are often called radical-phonetic characters. They form the majority of Chinese characters by far—over 90%, and were created by combining two components:

  1. a phonetic component, also called "rebus", Japanese 音符 (onpu), that is, a character with approximately the correct pronunciation.

  2. a semantic component, also called a determinative, one of a limited number of determinative characters which supplied an element of meaning (in most cases this is also the radical under which a character is listed in a dictionary).


According to the question, you should only need to describe the radical (found in this case as the left hand component) , not .

The word 部首 is literally translated as section header, and strictly refers to the header under which the character is grouped in dictionaries. Each character has only one 部首, just like each English word has only one first letter under which they are found in dictionaries.

If your teacher also asks you to describe 氏, then that should be done in a separate question; if they think that 氏 is a 部首 in the character , then they are unequivocally wrong. 紙 is a semantophonetic (形聲) compound character under the traditional liushu scheme of classifying characters. You can only refer to 氏 as a 聲部 (sound component) in 紙, not a 部首.

最早"紙"是什麽意思 (punctuation added) is asking you to find out what 紙 meant in its first appearance in historical literature. This may be trying to get you to appreciate that many characters have changed meaning over the course of history.

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