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Chinese Mandarin and Cultural Context of the Character 父 (Fù, father)

The earliest form of the word 父 looks like a hand holding a stone ax. A weapon used to kill animals and an essential tool in daily life. As using an ax required strength, such tasks naturally fell on the shoulders of adult men. By extension, the word came to be associated with the word father.
Some scholars, however, believe that the ancient character. It looks like a hand grasping a stick, represented by the vertical line. In the past, it was common for a father to discipline his children with a stick since it used to be said that 子不教 (Zi bù jiào), 父之过 (Fǔ zhīguò) meaning: “When the son is not properly taught, it is the father’s fault.”
The image of the father in Chinese culture used to be one of sternness. He was probably less smiling than his modern counterpart. That is why, traditionally, he was referred to as 严父 (Yán fù), meaning “stern-looking, no-nonsense father” as opposed to 慈母 (Címǔ), meaning “caring mother.”
The word 父 can be used in phrases to mean “father” as in 父亲 (Fùqīn) and 父母 (Fùmǔ) meaning “parents.” Words that contain the character 父 as a component are related to the meaning father, such as grandfather (爷, Yé), father (爸, Bà), and the old word for the father (爹, Diē).

Idioms and Phrases

The character 父 is present in some idioms and phrases:

  • 父老 (Fùlǎo), meaning to the elders in one’s hometown
  • 父母之命, 媒妁之言 (Fùmǔ zhī mìng, méishuò zhī yán) meaning parents orders and matchmaker’s words. In the past, parents would decide whom they were going to be married to for their children. A matchmaker, a woman generally, would be employed to serve as a go-between to discuss the matrimonial matters.
  • 父女 (Fù nǚ) meaning, father and daughter
  • 父子 (Fùzǐ), meaning father and son
  • 子承父业 (Zi chéng fù yè), meaning the son following in the footsteps of the father or inheriting the father’s business.

The meaning of the word Shifu (師父, Shīfu)

Shifu (師父, Shīfu)
In Chinese martial arts, Shifu represents a skillful person in one trade or teacher. The character 師父 is composed of two characters, 師 (Shī coming from lǎoshī) means “teacher,” while the character 父 is means “father.” Another meaning of the word is master, used to express respect for skills and experience. In addition, the term represents the relationship between the master and the student.
师父 shīfu (师shī – teacher, 父 fu – like a father) is it also used to address a monk or nun.
Chinese people traditionally respect their teachers as equally as their parents, which is why 师 shī is for a teacher, and 父 fu is like a father.

Dr. Rhea Du

Dr. Rhea Du

International Shaolin Cultural Exchange Ambassador of Shaolin Temple Yunnan