3

苏 originally referred to the plant with purple flowers, I believe. Maybe it likes to grow by a river.

江苏

苏生:come back to life
苏醒:awake from being unconscious

苏:昏迷中醒过来

苏 can refer to Perilla frutescens (Chinese basil or wild red basil)

Maybe the plant is smelly, wakes you up??
Maybe the Ancients made some 药 from 苏 the plant??

苏:艸 + 办

How come 苏 has a meaning "revive"?

2
  • 1
    Interesting! 蘇 consists of the Chinese characters "grass", "fish" and "cereal plant". As the fish and cereal plant under the grass over a prolonged time, the smell emitted by the spoil due to decomposition must be very strong and stinky (恶臭刺鼻), thus even the dead will revive by it :) – r13 Jul 22 at 2:09
  • Perilla is indeed quite an aromatic herb. The Korean 깻잎 kkaenip has a strong mint/licorice/basil flavour. The cultivar shiso (紫蘇 = シソ, aka 回回蘇 in Chinese) is considered more delicate and mintier; Vietnamese tía tô is stronger still. In Chinese cuisine, 紫蘇葉燜魚紫蘇茄子紫蘇鴨 are all well-known dishes. – Michaelyus Jul 22 at 9:57
4

蘇/苏 is a variant of 穌/稣 which means revive; rise again

说明:在大河里,寒流来袭时,河面容易被冻住,但鱼儿可以转入水体深处,那里温度较高,可以让鱼游动生存。但在一些小河小池塘里,水量相对较少,水体可能被整个冻住。这时的鱼儿,像庄稼那样老老实实呆在原地,可以被像收获庄稼那样按部就班的取到手。由于是寒流急冻,在被很快起出后,鱼儿一般都能迅速恢复活力,这种情况古人就称为“稣”,或称“复苏”。

Basically, describes "picking fish(魚) easily like picking hay(禾)" because they were trapped in extremely cold water and have no energy to move. The easily picked fish would revive once they left the cold water

《韵会》死而更生曰稣。通作蘇。

3
  • Thank you! That was puzzling me! All due to the chemical properties of that strange chemical: water: at 4 degrees Celsius water is densest, heaviest, therefore, the temperature at the bottom of a river which is frozen on top is 4 degrees Celsius! The fish can survive! – Pedroski Jul 22 at 10:38
  • This is also why they translated Jesus as 耶(Je)稣(su) I guess. The revive he made. – Archeosudoerus Jul 22 at 14:35
  • My guess is people noticed when you can pick 魚 like 禾 in freezing water, they come back alive, so they coined the term 穌 for "revive; rise again". And 穌 was used as the sound component for the plant 蘇. And then they made 蘇 a variant of 穌, thus gave 蘇 the meaning of revive too. – Tang Ho Jul 22 at 16:36
7

苏:艸 + 办

Well, firstly, we shouldn't really use Simplified Chinese when trying to understand and describe Chinese characters and the Chinese language, as much of the time, Simplified Chinese has very little relevance to anything. 「办」 here is just some kind of writing abbreviation for 「穌」.


「蘇」 (Baxter-Sagart OC: /*s-ŋˤa/) did not originally mean revive; it is a name of a plant, and comprised of semantic 「艹」 (grass; plants) and phonetic 「穌」. The character was originally written with 「木」, not 「禾」, and 「魚」 (/*[r.ŋ]a/) is a phonetic component.

春秋

𩵦
寬兒鼎
集成2722

隸定
⿱艹穌

 

戰國
璽印
蘇
十鐘山房印
 
西漢

蘇
18
縱橫家書


蘇

 


「蘇」 used for the word meaning revive is strictly a phonetic loan. If you're looking for the character made specifically for the meaning revive, you can use the late popular invention, 「甦」, made from semantic 「更」 (again) and semantic 「生」 (life), instead.

8
  • I've often wondered: 1. did Chinese characters start out simple, became more complicated, then were finally simplified, or 2. did they start out complicated, and then were simplified. My guess is 1. 蘇 has 20 strokes, 苏 has 7. Writing a letter in Traditional Chinese will take you approximately 3 times longer! We live in the age of time = money! – Pedroski Jul 24 at 8:11
  • 1
    @Pedroski Chinese characters started out as simple, then increased in number and variation. Hardly any characters became more simple; most just differentiated, as any time you add a component to an existing character you effectively end up turning one character into two. – dROOOze Jul 24 at 8:15
  • @Pedroski Also, yes, time is money, and you write once for many people to read many times. Time is constantly wasted by students trying to figure out what a Simplified Chinese abbreviation means, when it doesn't actually mean anything. I hope you understand why nobody writes books and essays in 狂草 - you may be able to write an entire sentence in two strokes and two seconds, and your readers will waste hours or a potential lifetime trying to learn how to read what you wrote. – dROOOze Jul 24 at 8:18
  • Isn't the 蘇 in 寛兒鼎 more complicated than the one in 隸書? I've always thought both simplification and complication happened in the pre-han era. – joehua Jul 24 at 20:18
  • 1
    The character was originally written with 「木」, not 「禾」, and 「魚」 (/*[r.ŋ]a/) is a phonetic component. Does this mean that 蘇 was originally ⿰魚木, where 木 was later analogized into 禾, and complexified into 蘇 through the addition of 艸? It's unclear to me whether or not 穌 and 蘇 originally represented the same word, but 說文 defines 穌 as something like to fetch grain. However, I question whether or not this is the original meaning since 穌 in bronze script contained 木 rather than 禾. – wang_xiao_ming Jul 25 at 3:23

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