“零”[ling 2] appeared long time ago in ancient Chinese.
It is a two-layer structure character that composed of the variant of“雨” [yu 3] (rain) and“令” [ling 4] (command/lead) meaning the drizzles before a storm. It happens when the dark clouds come, they only deliver a little raindrop. Soon the nimbus moves away capriciously, and the expected downpour doesn’t happen at all.
That “not at all” seems to touch the rim of “zero”. Yet indeed, at first “零” didn’t mean "nothing", but“bits and pieces/odds and ends/trivial/not much” instead.
“零头”[ling 2, tou 2] (bits + residual= the extra part of a figure besides an integer that ends with one or more zeros)
Eg: The “零头” of “5007.49” is “7.49”, with the integer being 5000.
The “零头” of “1234” could be “234” or “34”. So, the integer you see is 1000 or 1200, depends on how you perceive the figures.
When you go shopping and bargaining at a Chinese retailer, try making a counteroffer “美女/帅哥！Let’s remove the 零头” and persuade the shopkeeper to reduce the price from 125 yuan to 100 yuan.
Another example: “一百零八”[yi 4 (change tone from 1 to 4 as followed by a tone 1/2/3 character), bai 3, ling 2, ba 1] (a hundred and eight -- 108) meaning besides 100, there is a bit more (eight more). As here, 8 is the “零头” and 100 is the integer.
As the Arabic numerals were introduced, people matched“零”with “0”. And from then on, “零”has the meaning of zero.
Two Chinese characters could represent zero.
“零” is one of them, and “〇” is the other. In the Chinese number system, they have different usages.
“零” is for numerals in general/measurement.
Eg: “九百零九”[jiu 2（change tone from 3 to 2 as followed by a tone 3 character), bai 3, ling 2, jiu 3] (nine hundred and ninety-nine -- 909)
PS： For legal documents and bank cheques, people use“零” as it has more strokes and is harder to be falsified.
“〇” is specific for page number or year/serial numbers.
Eg: “二〇一八年” [er 4, ling 2, yi 1, ba 1, nian 2] （Year 2018）
PS: “〇” is a Daoism character. Its variant forms “中”[zhong 1] (central/middle) with a vertical“一” [yi 1] (one). “中” means “允执厥中” [yun 3, zhi 2, jue 2, Zhong 1] (integrity/honestly, keeping promises/observing rules, those, justice/fairness)， which is an idea of governance. That’s another meaning of “中”in“中国”[zhong 1, guo 2] (China/central empire) besides “center/ middle”.
An interesting aside, the Hebrew word for "emptiness" is the same word for "vanity". So in the English translation of the Christian Bible, when Solomon goes on and on about "vanity" (vanity of vanities), he could have been saying "emptiness of emptiness"...which seems to put an Asian type philosophy onto the whole deal. Also, ideas in mathematics of the infinitesimal (so small, that it might as well be zero) are very complex and seem to be the same as what AloeSoothe describes as the evolution of this Chinese character for zero.
You misunderstood. The concept of zero is newer and the most recent learned/invented/recognized number for any culture. Mayans in the Americas discovered the zero without influence from others around the world for whom zero already existed. The Greeks and Romans learned zero and almost everything else from Egyptians before them. Chinese learned it before the western civilizations, independently. All at different times, yes, but the zero was always a late addition considering the people would always have all the other numbers for a long time before coming up with zero. Nothing always existed, but a number for nothing is a newer concept.
The europeans learnt it from the arabs, not egyptians. the arabs learnt it from the indians, who probably invented it. arabs still call it the hindu numerals, and the westerners still call the numbers of the decimal system, hindu arabic numerals, crediting both the indians and the arabs for this new thing. zero isn't a new concept, but using it mathematically to create the decimal system and counting in tens has a very straight forward history.
There has been a lot of migration from Africa to Europe and Mesopotamia and Persia to India (Asia). Those individuals and populations that migrated brought their existing culture and knowledge into new places.
Are you certain that modern Indians didn't migrate with a numeral system learned elsewhere?
Not sure if I can link to other sites, but there's a useful one I use called "mdbg" that I use. Bit annoying to figure out at first, but first search the pinyin (if you also add the tone number it helps limit the results), then hover over the arrows for your character, click the first button to break down all the characters, hover over it again and you'll see a button with a paint brush and it will animate writing the strokes in order.
If you play around further with the options, you can also have them break down the components/radicals in the character if you want to go more in depth (only helpful some of the time since the meaning is sometimes irrelevant if it's the phonetic component)
Do you mean the Simplified and Traditional script? If so, they are just two ways that the Chinese language has evolved over the years. There are many more scripts for Chinese that were used even earlier than the Traditional but only scholars, historians and calligraphy painters tend to use them. The traditional script has been used for a long time. When the Communist Party came into power they wanted to make it easier for people to read and write Chinese so they simplified some of the characters. Therefore there are now people alive who use one or the other or both.
It genuinely annoys me that when first presented with something completely new with zero foundation to go off, I have to guess what word or number it should be. Later on it's a good tactic to test if you understand how the language you are learning is built but when completely new it's freaking annoying because I'm just guessing not actually learning anything. Language isn't a gambling thing.
Yes I totally understand. I think the people who are volunteering their time are either not teachers or maybe the Chinese educational system is based on repetition and not actually understanding based on previous learning. Its very frustrating but it is also available as a free resource so I'm one part grateful and two parts frustrated. I've been told to use other sources and come here just to see what I can garner. I've learnt to either play with it or leave it alone and go elsewhere for actual learning.
零 (pronounced as "líng") is made of 雨 (meaning "rain") and 令 (usually pronounced as "lìng"). 零 originally meant "odd rain" or "rain here and there," as opposed to heavy rain. In modern Chinese, it's further used to mean "zero" (which is emptier than "odd" and than "here and there").