Thursday, December 29, 2016

Amazing Chinese Characters (127) One, Two, Three - 一,二,三

The shell bone script for character One is

one horizontal stroke.

The shell bone script for character Two is

two horizontal strokes.

The shell bone script for character Three is

three horizontal strokes.

They are indicative characters.

There was story long time ago. A rich man had a young boy, he sent his son to learn Chinese from a private teacher. The first day, teacher told kids "One is one horizontal stroke". The second day, the teacher told kids "Two is two horizontal strokes". The third day, the teacher told kids "Three is three horizontal strokes". The boy refused to go teacher's home in fourth day, he told his father:"it is too easy, I have known all of them". The father was proud of his smart son.

One day, the father invited some friends for dinner. The father mentioned his smart son to the guests. One guest asked if I could ask him to write my family name? The father passed the request to his son. The little boy asked the guest "What is your family name?". The guest said "Ten Thousand". The Chinese character for Ten Thousand was "萬“ (traditional Chinese). But the boy didn't know. So he drew the strokes, one, two, three, four, five, ........

After half hour, the guest asked the boy :"Are you done?", the boy said "No". One hour passed, the guest asked "Are you done?", the boy answered "No". The guest asked "Why do you take so long?",
the boy complained "Why do you have so big name?!".

Probably they are so simple, there are no small seal scripts for One and Two, only three, which is same as its shell bone script.

The clerical scripts for the three characters are
They are same as their shell bone scripts

The current standard printing scripts are




The pinyin for them are "Yi1", "Er4", "San1". 



let's see the small seal script for the three characters


Sunday, December 25, 2016

Amazing Chinese Characters (126) Year - 年

The shell bone scirpt for character Year is


The top part


is Rice Crop.

The bottom part


is Person.

The character Year means a person carrying rice crop. Rice crop is ripe once a year, so the character was used to express the circle of rice growing.

Its small seal script is


The top is still Rice Crop, but the bottom is not Person anymore, even though it is very similar.

The small seal script for character Person is


The small seal script for character Thousand is


a Person with a line in the middle, which means a thousand. Why a person plus one line means a thousand is not clear.

Why did the small seal script change the bottom part from Person to Thousand? A thousand rice crops mean harvest, better expression of Year or people's expectation.

The clerical script for Year is


which is almost no similarity to old scripts. I don't know why and how it changed to this kind form.

Its current standard printing script is


same as the clerical script.

Chinese say 2017年 as Year 2017 or 2017 in English, and say 鸡年 (Rooster Year) as "Year of Rooster" in English. 

The pinyin for Year is "Nian2".


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Amazing Chinese Characters (125) Many, or Much, or More - 多

The shell bone for Character Many, or Much, or More is


which is two

which is Evening. It looks not very similar, but we can see more similar one in small seal script.

The small seal script for Many, or Much or More is


in comparison, the small seal script for Evening is


For the rational of character Evening, please check Amazing Chinese Characters (52).

Why do two Evenings together mean Many, or Much or More?

Ancient Chinese believed Yin and Yang, there are two opposite sides of a thing. For example, Sun and Moon, Fire and Water, Day and Night, Man and Woman, etc. The two sides are relative, no absolutely Yin or Yang, interdependent, and interconvertiable. When Yin grows big and big, go extreme, then the turning happens,  Yang starts growing, and Yin becomes weaker, and weaker. When Yang reaches the peak, the turning happens again, Yin starts to grow, and Yang becomes weaker and weaker, going on and on forever.

Evening is the turning point from Day to Night, Bright to Dark, so the character has the meaning of "Extreme". When you put two "Extrme" together, you have "Many", or "Much", or "More".

The character is an ideography character.

The clerical script for this character is


similar to its small seal script. Let see the clerical script for Evening


We can see the similarity.

The current standard printing script for the character is


Very similar to its clerical script.

Its Pinyin is "Duo1".




Friday, December 16, 2016

Amazing Chinese Characters (124) High - 高

The shell bone script for character High is


like a watchtower. In ancient time, watchtower was higher than most houses.




The small seal script for High is


similar, but the floors are now disconnected, not a real house any more.

The clerical script is

similar as small seal script.

The current standard printing script is


same as the clerical script.

The pinyin of the character is "Gao1".

Monday, December 12, 2016

Amazing Chinese Characters (123) Dog - 狗

Dog is the eleventh animal in Chinese Zodiac.

The big seal script for character Dog is


the left radical


means "Dog", or "Animal related".

Right part means "curve". The reason why ancient Chinese created the character Dog with this two parts is unclear.

The difference between another character for Dog

and this one
is that the former normally means big dogs or dog in general, and the latter means small dogs or puppy. But nowadays, the latter is for general Dog too. They are exchangable but the former is more used in writing, the latter is used both in writing and oral Chinese.



The small seal script for the character is


some similarity to its shell bone script.

Its clerical script is

not similar to the old scripts.

Its current standard printing script is


very similar to its clerical script.

Its pinyin is "Gou3".


Friday, December 9, 2016

Amazing Chinese Characters (122) Snake - 蛇

Snake is the sixth animal in Chinese Zodiac.

The big seal script for character Snake is

just like a snake.

The small seal script is


There is a big change. The right part is similar to its big script but the left part was not exist. What is the left part? Why did ancient Chinese add extra part?

The reason is that the right part was used for "It". So people added a


which means "Insect" to avoid confusion. It happened, even though very few that characters changed the form and meaning in 3000 years.

The clerical script is


Similar to small seal script.

The current standard printing script is


very similar to the clerical script.

Its pinyin is "She2".



Monday, December 5, 2016

Amazing Chinese Characters (121) Rabbit - 兔

Rabbit is the fourth animal in Chinese Zodiac.

The order of Chinese Zodiac:

Mouse, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit,
Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep,
Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig.

The shell bone script for character Rabbit is


some similarity to rabbit.

The small seal script for Rabbit is


not much similarity to rabbit except the legs.

The clerical script for Rabbit is


a little bit more like rabbit than the small seal script.

Its current standard printing script is


very similar to clerical script.

Its pinyin is "Tu4".


Amazing Chinese Characters (120) Ox - 牛

Ox is the second animal in Chinese Zodiac,

The order of Chinese Zodiac:

Mouse, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit,
Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep,
Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig.

Ox is the most important animal in Chinese life for thousands years becuase its important role in agriculture and sacrifice celemony. The shell bone script was named because the characters were engraved on turtle shell and ox bones.

The sell bone for character Ox is


an abstract picture of an ox from the front. The top sides are the two up horns of the ox.

In comparison, we can see the shell bone script for Sheep


similar but the horns are bent down.

The small seal script for Ox is


similar to the shell bone script.

The clerical script for Ox is


still similar, but the left horn is not like the bent horn, the right one is flat. The pictography is lost. It is difficult to relate it to ox.

Its current standard printing script is


very similar to its clerical script.

Its pinyin is "Niu2".


Amazing Chinese Characters (119) Mouse - 鼠

Mouse is the first animal of Chinese Zodiac.

The order of Chinese Zodiac:

Mouse, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit,
Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep,
Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig.

Why is mouse the first animal? There is no all agreed answer. But one story or answer is interesting. It is said that there were an animal meeting in the forest, in which to decide the zodiac. Mouse and ox started to go the meeting place earlier than all other animals. Mouse saw the ox walking much faster than him, so he asked ox to give him a ride, ox agreed. So mouse standed on the ox's head. When they were close to the meeting place, the mouse slided down along the ox's nose, he became the first animal to reach the place or the finish line, the ox was the number two of the Zodiac.

The big seal script for character Mouse is


just like a mouse.

Its small seal script is


very similar to the big seal script and like a mouse.

Its clerical script is


still similar to the older scripts, but the tail is not in the middle, and difficult to consider it as a tail anymore.

The currrent standard printing script is


very similar to the clerical script.

Its pinyin is "Shu1".


Friday, December 2, 2016

Amazing Chinese Characters (118) Tiger - 虎

Tiger is the third animal in Chinese Zodiac.

The order of Chinese Zodiac:

Mouse, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit,
Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep,
Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig.

Even though Dragon is the most important animal in Chinese culture, but Tiger is the most loved real animal to Chinese who think that Tiger is the king of the mountain (there are no lions in China). You can see character Tiger very often in Chinese calligraphy works, and tiger in Chinese paintings.

The shell bone script for character Tiger is


which is a vertical image of tiger. Let's turn it 90 degree


which is the tiger we see. Because ancient Chinese wrote on bamboo slips which is narrow, so people wrote or drew the tiger vertically.

In comparison with character Dog


which is similar to Tiger but no body stripes, and big head.

The small seal script for Tiger is


which changed a lot, not much similarity to the older scripts, and can relate it to Tiger.

Its clerical script is


not similar to old scripts, and the tiger.

The current standard printing script for Tiger is


Its pinyin is "Hu3".


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Amazing Chinese Characters (117) Boat - 舟

The shell bone script for character Boat is


just like a boat. It is a pictographic character.

Its small seal script is


still like a boat.

Its clerical script is


which changed very big. The two dots are from the two short lines in small seal script.

The currrent standard printing script is


very similar to the clerical script.

Its pinyin is "Zhou1".