Water(水),a natural source of power,is represented by a pictograph of surging waters with a central mainstream and four whirls. A variant form,using only three drops(氵),operates as radical to induce a flood of “watery” characters. To this day, the proverbial saying is afloat: “Water can support a ship,and water can upset it.”
Spilt Water Cannot Be Retrieved
This allusion originates partly in folklore and partly from “the Biography of Zhu Maichen(朱买臣)”in the History of the Han Dynasty.
Zhu Maichen was very poor when he was young. Seeing no future for him, his wife left him.His fortunes revived,however,and he was appointed governor of his home region.Once,he met his former wife and her second husband in the street. The woman asked him to take her back,but Zhu Maichen splashed water on the ground,and told her if she could retrieve the water,their marriage could be resumed.
Later, this allusion came to be used to describe an irrevocable action or decision.