Languages › Mandarin The Complete Chinese Character Profile for 早 Learn About This Character Commonly Used in Morning Greetings Share Flipboard Email Print Laurie Noble / Getty Images Mandarin Understanding Chinese Characters Mandarin History and Culture Pronunciation Vocabulary By Qiu Gui Su Chinese Language Expert Qiu Gui Su is a native Mandarin speaker who has taught Mandarin Chinese for over 20 years. our editorial process Qiu Gui Su Updated May 03, 2019 早 (zǎo) means "early" in Chinese. It is often used in morning greetings. Both 早安 (zǎo ān) and 早上好 (zǎo shang hǎo) mean "good morning." In Cantonese-speaking areas, 早晨 (zǎo chen) is how people say "good morning." Sometimes, just a quick 早 is a colloquial way of saying good morning. Other Chinese words or phrases that include the character 早 usually have to do with the morning or being early. For example, 早饭 (zǎo fàn) or 早餐 ( zǎo cān) both mean breakfast.早衰 (zǎoshuāi) and 早产 (zǎo chǎn) mean premature aging and premature birth respectively. Radicals The Chinese character 早 (zǎo) is made of two components. The top element is 日 (r ì), which on its own is the character for "sun." But 日 is also a radical, called the sun radical or also identified as radical #72. The lower element of the character is 十. This looks like the modern Chinese character for the number 10, 十 (s hí), but that is not what this element is alluding to. Character Breakdown The symbol 十 is an old form of 甲 (jiǎ). Now, 甲 means “first” or “armor.” Thus, 早 is a pictogram of the sun rising over a soldier’s helmet. Therefore another way of interpreting 早 (zǎo) is “the first sun.” Pronunciation 早 (zǎo) is pronounced in the third tone, which is often described as the falling-rising tone. When you pronounce the syllable, make the pitch go down low and then bring it back up high. Mandarin Vocabulary with Zǎo Pinyin Characters Meaning Zǎo ān 早安 good morning Zǎo fàn 早飯 breakfast Zǎo shang 早上 early morning Zǎo xiān 早先 previously; before Zǎo yǐ 早已 long ago; for a long time How to Say Good Morning and Good Evening in Chinese What Are the Various Meanings of the Chinese Character 日 (rì) How to Say and Write "You" in Chinese Tips on How to Read Chinese What Does the Chinese Character 家 Mean? "Rice"; "Food"; "Meal" in Chinese The Importance of Strokes in Chinese Characters Da - "big" - Chinese character profile The Purpose and Meaning of the Chinese Character for Horse Chinese Character for "Left" The Mandarin Meaning of Yin Yang How to Learn the Building Blocks of Chinese Characters How to Say and Write "Good" in Chinese Learning to Write Chinese Characters The Significance of Fish in Chinese Language Meaning and Usage of the Chinese Character for "Harmony"