Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hai - By the Sea, By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea

When a dish has mixed seafood, you won't necessarily see any characters with the familiar fish or bug radicals. Sometimes you'll just see hai 海, which means "sea", or hai xian 海鮮, which means seafood, or literally it means "sea fresh". (Remember fresh? There was a post about fresh....)

The other time you'll see it on menus is a very important place name: Shanghai 上海. The characters mean "Above Sea", which is where Shanghai is placed. Shanghai is used a lot to differentiate an American-style egg roll from a Shanghai-style spring roll. (We'll get to Shanghai 上海 again when we get to regional cuisines.)

How to remember Hai? Hmmmm. The boxy right side reminds me of a fishing net, maybe. But the thing that is most important is the three dots along the left side, because those three dots are going to take us into the next section.

Those three dots, which look like sea water splashing off the character, are the squished version of the radical for ... WATER! Water 水 is what this planet's life is based on. You can't boil or steam or make sauces without water, and you can't draw their characters either. We'll be starting in on water words tomorrow.

The Pinyin spelling is hǎi, hai3 (third tone).

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