Pedestal of Heavenly Language

March 15, 2010

天文台 is both a poetic and suitable name for an observatory. The term 天文 translates directly as “heaven/sky” and “language” while 台 is “stand”, “pedestal”, or in a more modern context, “station”; the word 台 is also used in the context of television or radio stations. Although the definition of 天文 is “astronomy” it actually refers to “general stuff you can see in the sky”; anything that the ancients could interpret as communication fromthe heavens (meteorology/weather as well as arrangements of heavenly bodies) could be considered as part of 天文. In fact, the term 天文台 usually refers to a meteorological observatory in common use. However, when referring to weather and meteorology Chinese speakers would use 天氣 (heavenly air, or perhaps heavenly currents) and 氣象 (air/current display) instead of 天文. Sometimes 天文氣象 would be used together as one phrase to refer to everything heavenly or just weather.

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