Basic Language | Wan

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wan : 10,000 Pinyinwàn (fourth tone)
English10,000; ten thousand; countless
Pronounced rather like 'one'

This character is used not only in counting but in many idiomatic expressions for extremes for example in 'Wanli Changcheng' the Great Wall. It's a bit like in English when we say 'million' to represent an unachievable number such as 'one in a million chance' or 'not a million miles away'. Many translations will render wan literally as 'ten thousand' when a term like 'forever', 'infinite', 'uncountable' or 'myriad' gets more to the sense of it, as in the proclamation 'may the Emperor live for ten thousand years' really means 'long live the Emperor'. The character is one 'borrowed' from another originally sounding one, in this case 'wan' for scorpion.

wàn nián
wan : 10000; ten thousand; myriad; countless nian : year
ten thousand years = forever; eternity

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