Chinese Character for Wisdom: Zhì (智)

The Chinese character 智 expresses the ability to speak correctly every day, symbolizing a lifetime of wisdom, intelligence, learning, and good judgment.
By Cindy Chan
Epoch Times


智 (zhì) is the Chinese character for wisdom, intelligence, and knowledge.

The character consists of three components. On the top left, 矢 (shǐ) is the radical/character for an arrow or dart, and also refers to an oath or vow. On the top right, 口 (kǒu) is the radical/character for mouth. Together, they make up the character 知 (zhī), to know.

知 (zhī) provides the pronunciation for 智 (zhì). It also conveys the meaning of speaking in an accurate or precise manner, having the knowledge to say what is true.

On the bottom of 智 (zhì) is the radical/character 日 (rì), which means the sun, day, or daytime.

Thus, the combination of 知 and 日 expresses the ability to speak correctly every day, symbolizing a lifetime of wisdom, intelligence, learning, and good judgment.

In Confucian thought, 智 is one of the most fundamental of all virtues and one of the most important qualities of ideal human character, along with 仁 (rén), humaneness or benevolence; 義 (yì), righteousness; 禮 (lǐ), propriety; and 信 (xìn), faithfulness and sincerity.

智仁勇 (zhì rén yǒng), which refers to wisdom, benevolence, and courage, are the three essential attributes of a gentleman as defined by Confucius in an early code of ethics.

Other terms that contain 智 include 智力 (zhì lì), intellect or intellectual power; 智慧 (zhì huì), wisdom, intelligence, or sagacity; 智能 (zhì néng), wisdom and ability; 智謀 (zhì móu), resourcefulness, or intelligence combined with strategy; and 智齒 (zhì chǐ), wisdom tooth.

智勇雙全 (zhì yǒng shuāng quán) describes a person who is both wise and brave.

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