I am fascinated and terrified at the same time with the boundless diversity of expression that word “节” is used in: 节日/节庆 – a festival, a holiday; 关节 – a joint; 调节 – to regulate; 节奏 – a rhythm;
一节一节 – section by section; 情节 – a plot;
细节 – a detail; … surely enough this listing might be continued… Beside its standard definition, what is that this word really represents - that makes it so omnipresent? Who are you Mr. “节”? Friend or foe?

2 Answers 2


"節" with the radical "竹' (#118) (即 is the sound component), indicates its original meaning is "sections" as in 竹節 (Bamboo knots) that divided the bamboo into sections.

As language evolves, the meanings of a word get expanded into a broad area

  • 節日 divide a year into sections

  • 情節 are sections of a story

  • 關節 divide bones into sections

  • 調節 means "adjusting" as in adjusting volumes. You go knot by knot

Almost all Chinese words evolved like this. Just show a scholar any word that has multiple meanings, and he can always logically deduce that all of them have the same root

  • many thanks indeed, so clear and easy to grasp. And most importantly now I can remember all those meaning. Thanks again
    – George
    Commented Dec 30, 2023 at 21:41

This is actually a common thing in chinese with words having many meanings depending on what is put with it, including other East Asian scripts like Kanji or Hangeul.

I attempted to make a dictionary definition...

  • n. a part of (usually a string/rope)
  • n. a knot
  • n. (the) plot(情节)
  • n. holiday(节日、圣诞节)
  • n. specific, detail(细节) - more to do with 细 than 节
  • n. joint(关节)
  • n. a show(节目)
  • v. to control or save usage of(节约、节省)
  • v. to regulate (relations, interactions)(调节)

(yeah i got pretty carried away)

Basically, its got to do with events, controlling something, or something related to ropes.

It's important for chinese learners to realize that it's not the character that has the meaning, it's usually the phrase that the characters are paired with that makes tens if not hundreds of different meanings. You do not need to forcefully memorize it, or not 死记硬背, as we call it in chinese, and just learn these through conversations and getting better at it.

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