I was recently looking into the origins of the character「冖」, which《說文新證》states does not appear on its own in the texts excavated so far:


However, searching「冖」on 小學堂 gives a few results, one of which comes from 大盂鼎. The surrounding text is as follows:


which Wikisource interprets like so:


While the meaning of this interpretation doesn't seem odd (to me, but I'm not well-versed in this field), I'm not sure why「冂」is being interpreted as「冕」. Searching「冕」on 小學堂 does not yield any results that appear like「冂」. How was this interpretation made, and are there any other plausible interpretations for「冂」in this text?

  • 2
    Interestingly, Multi-function Chinese Character Database provides a different interpretation of 冂: 金文通假為「裳」,表示下身的衣服,大盂鼎:「冂(裳)、衣、巿、舄」,指下裳、上衣、蔽膝(古代朝覲、祭祀時蓋於衣裳上的服飾)、鞋子。復乍父乙尊:「冂(裳)、衣、臣、妾、貝」。 (from humanum.arts.cuhk.edu.hk/Lexis/lexi-mf/search.php?word=冂)
    – L Parker
    Commented Jun 12, 2021 at 5:56
  • I probably should've searched 冂 on 漢語多功能字庫 first before asking this question, but I'm equally clueless as to how 冂 can be interpreted as 裳. Commented Jun 12, 2021 at 6:13
  • 3
    If Wikisource doesn't leave a trail, then I guess we can't really answer why they decided to interpret 冂 as 冕. Maybe someone decided to read 冂 as 宀, and then a naïve (but probably wrong) sound loan interpretation for 宀 as 冕.
    – dROOOze
    Commented Jun 12, 2021 at 6:32
  • I did some more searching, and I still couldn't find an explanation for 冕, but I found an article by 陳劍 explaining the interpretation as 裳: gwz.fudan.edu.cn/Web/Show/335. If I understand it correctly, 冂 here is interpreted as the original form of 堂, which then being used as a phonetic loan for 裳. Commented Jun 12, 2021 at 14:12

2 Answers 2

解讀 所屬六書
冖作幎/冕 象形
冂作裳 假借












  1. 唐蘭(2015g)《唐蘭全集·西周青銅器銘文分代史徵》,上海:上海古籍出版社。
  2. 鄭張尚芳(2003)《上古音系》,上海:上海教育出版社。
  3. 陳劍(2008)〈金文字詞零釋四則〉,復旦大學出土文獻學古文字研究中心網站,http://www.gwz.fudan.edu.cn/Web/Show/335
  • 1
    Just made a small change to the transcription there - that character is ⿱商貝 (or rather, ⿱[商-without-the-口]貝). Thought it might be important given we're talking about 堂 and 尚 type characters.
    – dROOOze
    Commented Jun 13, 2021 at 2:55
  • @dROOOze indeed! Thanks.
    – L Parker
    Commented Jun 13, 2021 at 3:31

Interpreting the Dà Yú dǐng

There is a character which is equal to the bottom part of 「京」 or 「高」. For brevity's sake, I will label this character as 「X」. Emphasised below as part of 「高」 in black,




「X」 is the original form of 「堂」 (Baxter-Sagart OC: /*[d]ˤaŋ/, hall), and in Dà Yú dǐng, it acts as a phonetic loan for 「裳」 (/*daŋ/, lower garment*). Then, one reads the passage in Dà Yú dǐng as follows:

*As opposed to upper garment 「衣」. 《毛詩傳》:上曰衣,下曰裳。








The King (Kāng of Zhōu) said: "Oh! I command you, 盂, to follow in the steps of your ancestor, 南公."

The King said: "盂! You must assist my military commanders, diligently and punctually uphold the justice system, and tirelessly help me govern in all directions. You must take my place and survey the land and people that my ancestors received from Heaven. I bestow you a vessel of ceremonial wine, lower garments, upper garments, gown-aprons, shoes of the officers, chariots, and horses. I bestow you the banner of your ancestor 南公, so that you may display the banner in your hunting expeditions. I bestow you four officers of the state, a military unit of chariot riders and foot soldiers consisting of 659 men. I bestow you 13 royal subjects of foreign nations and a military unit of 1,050 men. Migrate these men to the land of ⿳宀口⿰丰戈."

The King said: "盂!You must uphold your responsibilities with reverence, and never renounce my orders."

盂 thus gratefully accepted the King's bestowments, and cast a sacred vessel to commemorate 南公. 'Tis the twenty-third year of the King's rule.

Interpreting 「冖」 and 「冂」

Actually, I wouldn't bother interpreting those two shapes as characters, because this would cause more confusion than clarity.

The only thing that different resources have in common is that 「冖」 and 「冂」 are anchored first and foremost in the Shuōwén Jiězì definitions. Otherwise, attempting to interpret those as concrete character components quickly falls apart:

  • Neither 「冖」 and 「冂」 refer to 「X」 (the original form of 「堂」).
  • 「X」 is not recognised by the Shuōwén.
  • 小學堂字形演變's entry of 「冂」 actually refers to 「冋」, which has nothing to do with 「堂」.
  • The Shuōwén entry of 「冖」 appears to be derived from a reductive reading of 「鼏」, rather than 「冖」 being the representation of an actual morpheme or word in history.
  • 小學堂字形演變's entry of 「冖」, referring to 《大盂鼎》 and 《麥方尊》, actually refers to 「X」.
  • 漢語多功能字庫's entry of 「冂」 actually refers to 「X」.
  • The shapes 「冖」 and 「冂」 are commonly morphed into each other as part of other characters, and lots of older interpretations would then go on to wrongly categorise these shapes as concrete Shuōwén components, rather than just shape elements.


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