Chinese Character Dong - East

Meaning: East
Sound: [dōng]

The Chinese character for "East" is 东 [dōng].

In its original form, dong is associated with sunrise, shaped liked this:

Chinese character dong, east

In the middle of the pictograph is the sun; the upper and lower parts of the character are woods. The image shows the sun seen through trees and has the meaning of "East."

(If you're a inquisitive and argumentative person, you may ask: Why east? Why not west? That's a good question, but the invention of pictograms is not a science, so it does have to be perfectly logical in all cases. Besides, think about it - you get up early in the morning, get outside and see the sun through the trees - that's a wonder. On contrast, at the end of along day, you drag your feet to go home, do you really care about seeing the sun through the woods?)

Anyhow, the character as it exists today, 东, is a simplified form of the original pictograph.

Since 东 is associated with sunrise and suggests renewal, the character has generally positive connotations in the Chinese culture. For instance, in Chinese poetry, "east wind," dōngfēng, almost always symbolizes hope and optimism. On the other hand, "West wind," Xīfēng, denotes decline and decay. It also mattered that China, located at the eastern end of the Eurasian continent, is considered Dōng Tǔ, "Eastern Land." In the 7th century, when Chinese monk Xuan Zang journeyed to India to study Buddhism, it was said that he came from Dōng Tǔ Dà Táng"Eastern Land, the Great Tang Dynasty."

To modern Chinese, 东 also reminds them of Mao Zedong. "Mao" is the Communist leader's family name and "Zedong" his given name. "Ze" means "enriching" and "nuturing" whereas "dong" means, well, "east." Politics aside, the man certainly has an auspicious name.