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CC-CEDICT: 安详 (ān​xiáng​) serene

Regarding the above word, my Chinese-Chinese dictionary (现代汉语规范词典 "GF" in Pleco) cautions me 注意:“详”不要误写作“祥” (despite CC-CEDICT including it). While 祥 doesn't make too much sense, it seems to make more sense than using 详 in 安详.

CC-CEDICT: 详 (​xiáng​) detailed / comprehensive
CC-CEDICT: 祥 (xiáng​) auspicious / propitious

I asked ChatGPT, and it said:

"安详" (ān xiáng): This term means "peaceful" or "tranquil." In this context, "详" serves as a phonetic component, providing the pronunciation "xiáng."

I'm skeptical about this claim (phonetic components refer to character components, not whole characters). But maybe ChatGPT has a point, and it's just a character that has the correct pronunciation, and I should ignore the character's meaning.

Question: Why is it written 安详 and not 安祥?

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  • Note a similar semantic development with Latin componere "to put together" > English compose > English composed.
    – Michaelyus
    Oct 17, 2023 at 8:59
  • Good question. I use 安详 since elementary school (native speaker here). I never have this doubt. Now I do. IMHO, 安祥離世 is better than 安详離世. But, all dictionaries will tell you 安详離世. It's probably worth a PhD research topic.
    – Nobody
    Oct 17, 2023 at 9:43
  • This provides a concise introductory explanation: macaudata.mo/macaubook/book244/html/14601.htm. 安祥 existed, but was just rarer, and modern dictionary compilers just chose one spelling. I wouldn't try to analyse this by characters; 安詳 was created before spelling was standardised, and there's copious examples of 祥 being swapped with 詳 and vice-versa in many words.
    – dROOOze
    Oct 17, 2023 at 10:28
  • 1
    @dROOOze Would you care to expand the comment to an answer ?
    – Nobody
    Oct 17, 2023 at 10:47
  • This might answer your question baike.baidu.hk/item/%E5%AE%89%E8%A9%B3/81499 Oct 18, 2023 at 4:43

3 Answers 3

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One of the original meanings of 详 is being prudent or careful. Later its meaning was generalized to "behaving in a peaceful and steady way." When 详 is used standalone this meaning is not used in modern Chinese, hence your confusion.

晋 陶渊明《闲情赋》: 神仪妩媚,举止妍 (Her look is so charming, and her behavior is so peaceful and gentle)

It was combined with 安 which also means peaceful, to form the word 安详. 祥 would not make sense here. Behaving peacefully does not give you any advantage to be successful, lucky, etc.

References: 王力古汉语字典 p. 1272

王力古汉语字典 详

辞源 第三版 p.1092

辞源 安详

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安(calm)详(prudent) and not 安(calm)祥(luck).

  • 安(calm)详(prudent), composed - 指神态平静、从容稳重。如“神态安详、面容安详、他安详地睡着了”.

  • 吉(good)祥(luck) - "吉祥如意".

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"At peace" is a state of mind, and '詳/ 详' is clearly more fitting than '祥'

: clear, lucid, known

: auspicious; propitious; lucky

安詳: serene; at peace

安: peaceful

详: clear (not clouded by emotion --> not emotional)

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