The character for west and 4 are very similar is there any explanation for this or is that pure coincidence?

Specifically, if you remove the portion of 西 outside of the 口 what remains appears to be 四.

  • 3
    We generally expect a base level of independent homework before asking questions here. If you don't read Chinese, dong-chinese.com/wiki and en.wiktionary.org are starting points in English. Those sites may be unclear, or contain confusing / inaccurate information, in which case you're welcome to ask specifics about any points of confusion.
    – dROOOze
    Oct 22, 2022 at 6:56
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    What is the reason for the similarity of "E" and "F"?
    – r13
    Oct 22, 2022 at 13:50

2 Answers 2


Although they look similar, the top line cannot just be cut off. 四 is made of the radicals 口 and 儿 while 西 is made of the radicals 口 and 兀. (Although technically you could break that down into 一 and 儿 itself it'd change its "meaning").

Looking up each characters' baidu entries tell their origins: 西 is originally supposed to be a bird returning to its nest at sunset, and so became the meaning of West. 四 has less consensus on its origin, but it looks like it coexisted with the alternate versions of four vertical lines and four horizontal lines for awhile in the past long ago.

Multiple theories seem to exist about why 四became what it is (one I read seemed to say that it was a vertical four combining with a horizontal two showing "2 twos" as the original meaning). Regardless I think its safe to say the similar appearace is just the coincidence of simple characters having small differences.

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    One explanation I have seen is the original meaning of 四 is the snivel(鼻涕) but the "four" shares the same pronouciation and steal its form during the usage, so people have to create 泗 for the snivel itself. Note how figurative 四 is(running nose), and it worths remark that four are usually written as four horizontal line in oracle, just as one, two, three. Oct 29, 2022 at 13:34

The ancient forms of the two were not that similar. See the graphics and explanations below.

四: (指事字 - ideogram (one of the Six Methods 六書|六书 of forming Chinese characters)​, Chinese character indicating an idea, such as up and down, also known as self-explanatory character.)

enter image description here

【說文】囗,四方也。八,別也。囗中八,象四分之形。 (Note, 四分 means the space of 囗 plus the 3 spaces separated by 八 resulting in 3+1=4, the number four.)

西: (象形字 - pictogram, one of the Six Methods 六書|六书 of forming Chinese characters, Chinese character derived from a picture, sometimes called hieroglyph.)

enter image description here


Note, @zagrycha got this right.

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