Chinese Character for Morning, Early: Zǎo (早)
Chinese Character for Morning, Early: Zǎo (早)

The Chinese character 早 (zǎo) as a noun stands for morning. It is formed with the character for the sun, 日 (rì), at the top. As an adjective and adverb, 早 (zǎo) refers to early, previous, or soon.

To wish someone “good morning,” a Mandarin speaker says 早安 (zǎo ān), or just 早 (zǎo), where 安 (ān) conveys good wishes such as safety, security, calm, contentment, and satisfaction.

Meanwhile, a Cantonese speaker would say 早晨 (zǎo chén), literally “early morning,” where 晨 (chén) carries similar meanings to those of 早 (zǎo), i.e. morning, dawn, or daybreak.

The expression 早眠早起 (zǎo mián zǎo qǐ), literally “early sleep early rise,” advises people to keep good hours, meaning regular, early hours.

早眠早起 (zǎo mián zǎo qǐ), literally ‘early sleep early rise,’ advises keeping good hours, meaning regular, early hours.

Breakfast is referred to by a number of different terms: 早餐 (zǎo cān) or 早膳 (zǎo shàn), literally “early meal,” or 早飯 (zǎo fàn), literally “early rice,” where 飯 (fàn) refers to cooked rice.

早晚 (zǎo wǎn), literally “morning and evening,” conveys the meaning of “sooner or later.”

The morning paper is called 早報 (zǎo bào), literally “early report.” 報 (bào) refers to 報紙 (bào zhǐ), a newspaper, or literally “report paper,” where 紙 (zhǐ) means paper.

早朝 (zǎo cháo), or “morning court,” refers to the early-morning assembly when the emperors of Imperial China met with his subjects.

The idiom 早朝晏罷 (zǎo cháo yàn bà) describes attending the royal court session early and finishing 罷 (bà) late 晏 (yàn), praising those who are diligent, industrious, and hardworking in administering governmental affairs.

A similar phrase is 起早貪黑 (qǐ zǎo tān hēi), which means “to rise early and sleep late.” 貪 (tān) means “to covet” or “to have an eager desire for,” while 黑 (hēi) means black or dark.

早佔勿藥 (zǎo zhàn wù yào) is an expression used to wish someone an early (早, zǎo) recovery from illness without having to take medicine (藥, yào). 佔 (zhàn) means “to possess,” referring to regaining good health in this case, while 勿 (wù) means “do not,” referring to not taking medicine in this case.

早知今日 (zǎo zhī jīn rì) conveys the meaning of “if I had known earlier about today,” where 知 (zhī) means “to know,” 早知 (zǎo zhī) stands for foresight or foreknowledge, and 今日 (jīn rì) refers to “today.”

A similar expression is 早知如此 (zǎo zhī rú cǐ), where 如此 (rú cǐ) indicates “this,” i.e. “if I had known this earlier.”

Both of these expressions are often followed by 悔不當初 (huǐ bù dāng chū), or “to regret what one did in the past.” 悔 (huǐ) means to express repentance or regret, 不 (bù) means “not,” and 當初 (dāng chū) means “at that time” or “originally.”

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