系 (jì) vs. 系 (xì)

René carried a small pocket-sized Xīnhuá Zìdiǎn (Xinhua Dictionary) with him whenever he went. His teacher had encouraged him to use a dictionary that was not bilingual which forced René to read entries in Chinese only.

The other day, he was taking a long trip on the subway. René randomly turned to page 212 of the dictionary and recognized the character 系 (jì) which means to 'tie' or 'fasten.'

The example given was:

把鞋带系上
Tie up one’s shoelaces

René immediately thought of another example:

把安全带系好
Fasten your seat belt.

Under the entry René read the following: ‘see xì p. 516.’ This is interesting, he thought. A character that has two readings.

Chinese characters that have more than one reading are called 多音字 (duǒyīnzì).

René thought of another character which he saw all the time that had two readings:

会 read as huì (have the ability to do something).
会 read as kuài as in 会计 (accountant, kuàijìshī.

In the course of his study, René was to discover that there were a large number of characters that had more than one reading and pondered how historically this came about.

He would definitely ask his Chinese language professor about 多音字 next time he saw her.

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