An alms bowl by any other name 盋/砵/缽/鉢 bō

3542008756_b127c70724_oEver seen buddhist monks on the street collecting money with an alms bowl? Did you notice what it was made of? It’s interesting when you come across variants in Chinese based on the difference between the materials used to make it.

The Taiwanese Ministry of Education dictionary lists 缽 Bō as an alms bowl. I also found 缽 in 《馬橋詞典》:

他滋味無窮地搭嘴搭舌,突然想起什麼,轉身去他的窩邊取來一個瓦缽,向我展示裡面一條條黑色的東西。

I came across the character 盋 online and when I presented it to two Taiwanese colleagues, neither of them were able to identify it, however when I said it was pronounced Bō, one wrote 鉢 and the other wrote 缽.

盋 is a rare variant of Bō, made up of 犮 quǎn – itself a variant of 犬 (hound/dog) – and 皿 mǐn (dish/shallow container). 

The other three characters all combine 本 běn, which seems to be a phonetic component, with three different materials 缶 fǒu (pottery), 石 shí (stone) and 金 jīn (metal): 缽 砵 鉢

If you know of any other variants that follow this pattern, hit the comments section and I’ll feature them in a future post.

Photo credit: 心道法師