The character 家 (pronounced jiā) means family or home. It is made up of the radical for roof 宀 and 豕 which means pig. So, a pig under a roof – how does that constitute family or home?! One explanation is animal domestication. Since in earlier times pigs were domesticated and lived inside the house, a house with a pig in it inevitably meant that it was a home for people too.
Now, you know that 家 means home or family on its own, pairing 家 with other characters creates words or phrases that relate to the house or family. Let’s see some examples:
家具 (jiājù), home attire which is furniture; 家乡 (jiāxiāng), home town which is of course hometown; and 家人 (jiārén), family people which means family member.
However, this is not always the case. Many words containing 家 do not relate to family or home. In fact, 家 can also mean a person who is an expert in a certain field. For example, 音乐 (yīnyuè) means “music.” and therefore 音乐家 means “musician”.
Chinese people often say 家和万事兴 (jiā hé wàn shì xīng), which means “a harmonious [*] will prosper in every way”. Guess which meaning 家 takes in this context?
(This article was first published in Gallery)