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zhōng
n. middle, center; inside
Discussion of 中
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In this note, we will compare 中 and 里, two nouns of locality.

1. Sometimes 里 and 中 are interchangeable. This is when they both refer to a place, a period of time or the inside of something.
Examples: 心里/心中 (in one's mind, in one's heart), 眼里/眼中 (in one's eyes), 村子里/村子中 (in the village)

2.When referring to a process, a status or something abstract, something that is infinitely large, 中 is used. 里 is incorrect in these contexts.
Example:
这个案子目前还在调查中。This case is still under investigation.
他在交谈中流露出一丝不耐烦。During the conversation, he showed a little impatience.

3. When referring to a social unit, person in charge or the members of the social unit, only 里 is used.
Example: 去年厂里决定购买一批新设备。Last year, the factory decided to purchase a new batch of equipment.
Here 厂里 does not literally mean to "the inside of a factory", instead, it refers to the factory itself as a social unit, or to be more specific, "the person/people who is/are in charge of purchasing the new equipment".
lisaC
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