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Chinese character of the year 2012: 微

The Chinese character of the year 2012 selected by New Weekly magazine was revealed in a ceremony in Qingdao, Shandong province on December 15. Their character of the year is 微. New Weekly (@新周刊) posted its result on Weibo later that night, which soon became a popular topic on the Weibo-sphere.

Character of the year 2012 微 written down on a piece of Xuan paper with Chinese writing brush. Photo: Weibo.com

微, spelt wei (with tone: wēi) in pinyin, is pronounced as ‘way’ with a flat tone. It has several meanings, the most commonly used of which are a) micro or tiny b) slight c) subtle. Like the majority of the Chinese characters, 微 is a morpheme (the smallest meaningful unit of a language), and is usually used in combination with other characters to form words. The most popular Chinese word with 微 in 2012 is probably 微博 weibo (pronounced as “way bore”), China’s twitter.

The character of the year selection committee, comprised of senior media personalities such as Bai Yansong, CCTV’s elite anchor and news commentator, and Yang Jinlin, vice-president and executive director of Hongkong Satellite TV, gave the following reasons for its selection:

 No.1 Jian Wei Zhi Zhu 见微知著: Weibo/ Much can be learned from the micro-blogs;

 No.2 Zao Wei Ru Miao 造微入妙: Wei Xin(We chat, a mobile phone text and voice messaging communication service developed by Tencent, which has over 200 million users in China)/ Made small but smartly done;

 No.3 Ji Wei Cheng Zhu 积微成著: Wei charity/ Small accumulations make a remarkable difference;

 No.4 Wei Yan Da Yi 微言大义: “We are not after money, we are here to save lives.” – 152 migrant workers who helped rescuing 182 passengers in the torrential rain this past summer in Beijing/ simple words with profound meaning.

Bai Yansong giving a short speech on the character Wei in the ceremony on December 15. Photo: news.sina.com.cn

Bai Yansong further commented on the character of the year in the ceremony. “Wei is you and me,” he said, “It is every tiny element that propels the society to go forward. It is every single person that can now be seen and heard.”


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