3

What is the origin of this character 盟? Both 明 and the 皿 seem to be phonetic symbols as neither component has any link to its meaning of "alliance" or "pledge".

1
  • 1
    if you can read Chinese, this site has some good explanation: zdic.net/hans/%E7%9B%9F it has something to do with sacrificing an animal, and get the blood to the 皿 when two parties pledges an alliance. Aug 4, 2023 at 14:41

4 Answers 4

3

There was a series of characters



血
50.1
合集24943


盟
摭續64
合集32330

from which 「血」 (blood) is descended from, depicting blood drops or blood flow in a ritual bronze vessel 「皿」. This or similar characters were variously used for 「血」 (blood), 「衁」 (Baxter-Sagart OC: /*m̥ˤaŋ/, blood), or 「盟」 (/*mraŋ/).

To make the word /*mraŋ/ clearer, the depiction of blood was sometimes replaced by phonetic 「囧」 (/*k-mraŋʔ/).



盟
79
合集34103

From 《合集》34103:

《合集》34103

甲辰鼎(貞):其大𰆍(禦)王自上甲,【𧖸(⿶囧皿)】(盟)用白豭九,下示⿵氵几(𧗒)牛 ...

Divination on the day of jiǎchén: Hold the Grand Ceremony for King Shàngjiǎ by sacrificing 9 white boars in a blood ritual (⿶囧皿), and commemorate the other royal ancestors with an offering of cattle blood ...

Received texts also commonly make references to ritualistic formation of covenants and swearing of oaths (盟) involving animal sacrifice. From the Rites of Zhou

《周禮・秋官司寇》

... 凡盟詛,各以其地域之眾庶,共其牲而致焉;既盟,則為司盟共祈酒脯。

... For all these covenants (凡盟詛) to take effect, the citizens of all regions must offer sacrificial animals; to complete the covenant (既盟), as with the ritual oaths taken between the alliance of states (則為司盟), food and wine must be offered to the gods.

Putting this together, a word for oaths/covenants/alliances either sounded similar to a word meaning blood or was culturally accepted to involve blood or sacrificial rituals, creating a strong association between oath and blood. Glyph evolution then traces 「囧」 in 「⿶囧皿」 with complexification into 「朙」 (/*mraŋ/), to get the modern 「盟」:

西周

𧖸
𥁰弘卣
集成5257
西周

𧖸
魯侯爵
集成9096
春秋

𥂗
邾公華鐘
集成245
戰國
玉片
𥂗
侯馬盟書



⿱眀皿
54.48
睡虎地秦簡


盟

 


References:

3

etymology visual (PY: méng; oath, covenant, alliance) is a phonosemantic character composed of two components.

  • was originally a pictograph of the moon (月) shining through a window (originally 囧, later changed to meaning component 日 "sun"), which originally meant "moonlight" and later extended to "bright". Here, (míng) is used as a sound component. Originally in 盟, this character was actually just 囧 "window" in oracle bone and bronze inscriptions with 月 being added later to turn into sound component 明. It's earlier version, which resembles a small circle/droplet-like shape, likely depicted a cow's ear that is being used in an alliance sacrifice.

  • originally depicted a chalice-like container that is used for holding food, indicating the original meaning "container". Here, is used as a meaning component likely because it is referring to the type of container that holds blood.

These components in this character combine together to express a type of sacrifice (likely by drawing the blood out) that was performed in an alliance chamber to make an oath. The original meaning of this character is "oath of alliance" which later the meaning extended to "pledge".

I hope I explained this well for you :)

Sources used:

  • ccamc.org (古今文字集成)
  • Dong Chinese
  • Outlier Dictionary of Chinese Characters
  • 漢語多功能字庫
2
  • 1
    Great explanation! Looking at your picture, we start on the left with a window and a cup. By the third drawing we have a window and the moon. By the fourth drawing, the window has become the sun! The sun plus the moon becomes 明。Future development: add a stroke above 皿 mǐn and you get 血 to indicate the blood alliance!
    – Pedroski
    Aug 5, 2023 at 4:59
  • Actually that's probably not a bad idea! After drOOOze explained that this character derived from 血, I checked back on my research to indeed find out that the oracle bone inscriptions of 盟 did derive from 血 but with the dot on the top transforming into the 囧 component overtime. So maybe in the first place, I've probably should've stated that this character originally came from 血.
    – prismcool
    Aug 5, 2023 at 5:06
1

盟 《康熙字典》- 【春秋·正義】凡盟禮,殺牲歃血,告誓神明,若有背違,欲令神加殃咎,使如此牲也。

1

Original meaning 本义: Meaning to swear an oath.

Character decomposition 字形分解 [?]:
Compound 盟
from bowl 皿 mǐn and
phonetic bright-ming 明 míng.

Decomposition notes 字形分解说明 [?]:
(- oath is sworn over a sacrificial vessel)

Maybe they cut your hand and let the blood drip in the bowl!!

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.