Crisis means danger/opportunity

Chinese is one of the oldest written languages in the world. While there are many different spoken languages and dialects in China, there is only one written language. (The same written symbol is pronounced differently in different dialects, although it has the same meaning.)

This was an important element in keeping a very diverse county unified. Centuries ago the only way people from different regions in China could communicate was through the written language which we know as classical Chinese (wen yan, or gu wen). Classical Chinese was, and is used, for scholarly works and literature. Many of the words and phrases used in classical Chinese are not meant to be spoken, and would have no meaning if spoken because they do not correspond to speech. This is somewhat like the difference between spoken English, and the English used in scholarly journals, or in literature. As in all languages a person does not write exactly as one speaks. For much of Chinese history the written language was known only by scholar-officials, who were members of the educated class. To be a member of the scholar-elite was quite an honor since very few people were educated....

Not all ideas can be written in simple pictures, so the Chinese have developed other symbols to represent ideas, and sometimes combine them to create new ideas. For example, the concept of "good" is expressed in the character , "hao". This character is the picture of a kneeling woman and a child . Woman and child together means good.... Often, two characters meaning different things are put together to create a new meaning. Take the word for crisis, , "weiji" (or ). It contains the character  "wei" which means danger, and the character  "ji", which means opportunity, or crucial point. A crisis presents a moment of opportunity as well as great danger. A language reflects the understanding that culture has of itself, and influences how people in that culture think....

From: The Chinese Language: An Introduction
Unit Consultant: Catherine H. Keyser
Document Revision:  easc at