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Neither compoud means 'your' or 'letter'. means 'cloud'. 's semantic field is:

Etymology 1

“Hanging from a tree” > “flower” > classifier for flowers.

Probably from Proto-Sino-Tibetan *(d/n)waj (“to hang from; to cling to; creeper”), whence Burmese တွယ် (twai, “to cling”). May be related to (OC *djol, “to hang down”), (OC *l̥ʰoːlʔ, “oblong; oval”) (Schuessler, 2007; STEDT).

Also compare Proto-Mon-Khmer *kt₂uur (“ear”) (Schuessler, 2007).

朵雲 - Wiktionary

  1. (literary, honorific) your letter

雲朵 - Wiktionary

  1. cloud; cloud mass
  2. (literary, honorific) your letter

2 Answers 2

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In Chinese, 「朵」 is a measure word for both flowers and clouds; this measure word does not have an equivalent in English. 「朵」 is (for example) analogous to cup in cup of coffee; a phrase like 「五朵雲」 is translated idiomatically to English as five clouds, but broken down as

five 「朵」 of clouds

just like

five cups of coffee


「朵雲」 refers to the personal signature of a Tang Dynasty duke named 韋陟, son of 韋安石. It is said that when the duke signed off his letters, he wrote his personal name, 「陟」, with an elegant flourish that made it appear as if it was drawn as five clouds.

This signature was admired so much by the duke's contemporaries, that 「朵雲」 became a fancy dub, or an elevated or honorary way of saying, your letter; that is,

your letter is so elegant and beautiful that it's as if it was signed off by 韋陟 himself, complete with the flourishing five-cloud signature.


See the 《漢語大詞典》 entry on 「朵雲」 and 「郇公五雲體」.

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the “legend” of 韋陟 is recorded in the book 酉陽雜俎續集 卷三, the internet archive has a pdf copy, it’s on page p92-93 of the file:

https://archive.org/details/06081667.cn/page/n92/mode/2up

每令侍婢主尺牘・往來復章・未常自札・受意而已・詞㫖重輕・正合陟意而書體遒利・皆有楷法・陟唯署名・嘗自謂所書陟字如五朶雲・當時人多倣效・謂之郇公五雲體

mainly, his correspondences were written by maids, he only signed his name. in his signature, the character “陟” looked like five clouds

an interesting legend 😽

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