自然 zìrán means nature.
自 zì means self and 然 rán, whilst it can mean ‘burn’ also carries meaning of ‘spontaneous combustion’.
WA Callahan gives a wonderfully philosophic overview of the word 自然 zìrán deriving its origins in ancient Daoism. 自 zì, he says, does not mean the individuated ‘self’ as we could consider ‘self’ in English – the individuated, ego self – but rather ‘the perspective of all things’. there is a complex grammatical reason for that, which you can find if you check the link at the bottom.
The classical meaning of 然 rán , Callahan says, means something like “yes, it is this”.
Thus the word for nature means the perspective of all things is as this
Or something like that. bringing that back into a meaningful perspective, it would mean that each part of nature, each rock, each shell, each tree, each galaxy, each person, has its own perspective (自 zì, self) which articulates its own reality by affirming ‘yes it is this’.
Rather than “i think, therefore I am” the ancient Chinese beliefs suggested everything in the cosmos exists and articulates its own reality by being.
Thus, in this category of articles about the environment in China – a shoddy state of affairs by anyone’s definitions – is subtitled the perspective of nature is this based on deeply hidden etymologies of the word for nature in Chinese.
if you are interested in further reading,you can find Callahan’s A Linguistic Interpretation of Ziran here