Chinese Character Bei - North

 
Meaning: South
Sound: /běi/

When the Chinese character for "north" was first created over three thousand years ago, it took the shape of two persons standing back to back, like this:

Chinese Character Bei - North

Why two persons standing back to back denotes "north"? One explanation is that, in spoken Chinese, the word for the back of a person is pronounced the same as, or similar to, the word for "north." Another explanation is that "back" here suggests a person standing with his back to the sun - he therefore faces north. 

The pronunciation of 北 is [běi].

Běi Dǒu, "Northern Dipper," is the Chinese term for the Big Dipper in English. It is interesting that ancient peoples of China and the West both associated the particular constellation of stars with a dipper, and they both recognized how the dipper relates to the North Star or Polaris. Běi Dǒu appears often in Chinese writings, often used to signify "direction," "guidance," or "leadership." China's current satellite-based navigational system, the Chinese equivalent of America's GPS, is also called Běi Dǒu.

Běi Jīng is the "Northern Capital"; it is located on the North China Plain. 

Běi Fāng, "northern side," refers to the northern part of China, distinguished from Nán Fāng, "southern side" or the South of China. The distinction between the two is an important concept in Chinese life since the two parts of the country are different in many ways - geography, cuisine, dialects, etc. Generally, people assume that a line drawn between the Yellow River in the north and the Yangzi River in the south marks the division of Běi Fāng and Nán Fāng.