Pictogram Palace: Free Supplement
Civitas, city, is the origin the idea of civil. Civil as in civilized originally meant “Roman” (da qin) then the states successors to Rome and then extended to the idea of those cultures which had escaped barbarism such as cannibalism, human sacrifice and other fundamental violations of human right.
xi4 jie2 jue2 ding4 cheng2 bai4
细 xi4 means fine. it is a strand of silk next to a lattice work. silk itself is fine. to the right of the silk determinant is the character for field. hanzi may use the same shape to depict different physical objects! I believe this one is an embroidery. In any case the character means fine, detailed.
节 jie2 usually means festival; a festive occasion. It also means node joint section, its use here. Festivals are but one node, one section in the social fabric.
The grass determinant on top means the character is about vegetation somehow. the lower character 卩 is a royal seal, or the image of a person bowing, or of a person from the back with their right arm hooked. This festival has the royal seal of approval! xi+jie = positive details, details which require perhaps hard work but which are positive, happy!
决 jue2 is the image of a jade pendant worn at one’s waist symbol of ancestral and even royal power. the ice determinant emphasizes the idea of decisional royal and ancestral power.
定 ding4 means condition, state. It is the image of “to be upright” 正 (zheng1) underneath 宀 “a roof”. It conveys the idea of a certain condition, the condition of certitude.
成 cheng2 is the image of ge1 戈 halberd (military spear) at the cliffs 厂 han3 outside the city. it means by metaphor the idea of to make, to become, to succeed. Because the city (cheng shi) can only exist if the citizenry manning the ramparts, otherwise it is conquered and destroyed.
败 bai4 means defeat. on the left is a pictograph of a clam shell 贝 (bei4: shell on the outside, meat on the inside). beside bei clamshell/money is the image of a person’s hand 又 (you2) holding a stick 攵(chinese pictographs are highly stylized and simple). Bai4 败 is an associative compound character: namely two ideas are brought together – a clam, which was MONEY in ancient china – and a man with a stick. Well, a good beat down will ruin the fine cowrie shells, huh! Stick beats Shell (and breaks it) as a symbol of the idea of defeat.
This phrase “details make the difference between success and defeat”.