let’s look into the character 礼 /lǐ/ which means A RITUAL.
We can find it for example in words:
A WEDDING 婚礼 /hūnlǐ/
or A FUNERAL 丧礼 /sānglǐ/
In these two words the presence of 礼 makes perfect sense, because both A WEDDING 婚礼 and A FUNERAL 丧礼 are RITUALS.
When we say RITUAL we usually imagine something spectacular, like when an emperor or a priest or a shaman are sacrificing to gods.
But ritual in the context of traditional Chinese society isn’t just something spectacular.
Rituals in confucian society are even the most basic rules that each individual obeys.
Each person knows what his or her social role is and behaves accordingly.
That’s why we find 礼 in the word 礼貌 /lǐmào/ that means GOOD MANNERS.
We can use this word in a sentence:
/Zhège rén méiyǒu lǐmào./
THIS PERSON DOESN’T HAVE GOOD MANNERS.
And there is one more word that I want to show you here…
When you give A PRESENT to somebody, you give him 礼物 /lǐwù/
, lit. A RITUAL OBJECT – and that makes sense because in old times GIFTS or PRESENTS were something that officials and diplomats were giving to each other as a part of A RITUAL.
Giving presents among normal people wasn’t as common and widespread as today.
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INTERACTIVE FLASHCARDS and DYNAMIC EXAMPLE SENTENCES related directly to 礼 /lǐ/ are HERE
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