Monday, October 31, 2016

Amazing Chinese Characters (110) Gather - 集

The shell bone script for character Gather is


the bottom part is Wood or Tree, the top part is a bird flying over the tree from right to left, ready to land on the tree.

The bronze script is


there are three birds on the tree, which means "Gather or Gathering".


The big seal script of Gather is

which is only one bird on tree. It reduces the strokes of the character but damaged the original meaning.

The small seal script is


Its clerical script is


similar to the small seal script, one bird on tree.

Why the later scripts have one bird on tree may be due to make writing simple and easy.

Its current standard printing script is


same as the clerical script.

The meaning of the character is more than Gather right now. It also means "Collect".

Its Pinyin is "Ji2".


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Amazing Chinese Characters (109) Pair - 雙

The big seal script for character Pair is


the top are two short-tailed birds, the bottom is a hand holding the two birds, a pair of birds.


Its Small seal script is


Let's compare it with bronze script for One



It is clear that the Pair is one hand holding two birds, and the One is one hand holding one bird.

The clerical script for Pair is


similar to its samll script, but the the bottom for hand changes to a symtric, less pictography.

The current standard printing script for traditional character is


very similar to its clerical script.

The current standard script for simplified character is



The two birds disappeared, but there are two hands. Well, two hand may be OK to represent "Pair", however, the change is a little bit disconnected from the older scripts, at the same time, it is too similar to another character "Friend" (Post 103)


which is evolved from two right hands, let's see its samll seal script


which is the original "two hands", not the "Pair". So I would say that the simplified character for "Pair" is not good simplifying.

Its Pinyin is "Shuang1".

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Amazing Chinese Characters (108) One (unit) - 只

Chinese has many characters to express the unit of items or species, like Piece in "a piece of",  Box in "a box of", Dozen in "two dozen of", etc. But Chinese has much more the unit characters, which is very confusing to foreigners who learn Chinese at the beginning.

The shell bone script for small bird (Post 107)


The shell bone script of character One (unit) is

The top is a small bird, the bottom is a hand (Post 102)


just a left hand instead of the right hand.

The following is bronze script of One (unit)


one hand on the right bottom. It means "One (bird)", which is specific for bird or bird species. It can not be used in other species or items. From the above old scripts, you won't make mistake to use it in other species because you see a bird in the character.


The hand is holding One bird.

Let's see the small seal script for small bird


Its small seal script for One (unit) is


The top is the Short-Tailed Bird, the bottom is a hand. It has the same ideography, but less pictographic than the older scripts.

Its current standard printing script for traditional character is


very similar to its clerical script.

Its current standard printing script for simplified character is


which has no any similarity to older scripts, a bad simplified character. People have no clue to relate it with bird, which is the major reason why foreigners are very confused on unit characters. They became far away from their original pictography and ideography form.

Its Pinyin is "Zhi1".

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Amazing Chinese Characters (107) Short - Tailed Bird - 隹

The shell bone script for character Short-Tailed Bird is


It is a small bird.


The big seal script is

In comparison with Character Bird


which has long tail.  Both are pictographic characters.

The small seal script of Short-Tailed Bird is


similar to the older scripts, but more like a stationary bird, not a flying bird.

Its clerical script is


the curves disappeared, but still some similarity to the small seal script.

Its current standard printing script is


I need to point out that this character is not used popular alone. But it is a very important radical in characters. All of times, it means "bird", or something related to "bird".

Its Pinyin is "Zhui1".

We should know, most characters with 隹 are related to, or evolved from small bird. E.g. 隻,雙,维,雀,...... which will be discussed in later posts.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Amazing Chinese Characters (106) Pavilion - 亭

The shell bone script for character Pavilion is



The top is the roof and high attic, the bottom is the support, here is only pillar, a little bit unstable.

Let's see its small seal script



We can see at least three pillars right now. See the following Chinese pavilion


There are actually 6 pillars. But if we see it from a certain angle, we just see three of them because the back three are blocked by the front three.

It is a pictography character.

Its clerical script is


Its bottom changed a little bit, the two legs on the sides become much shorter than the middle one, the middle one has a hook which is added by calligraphists for some unknown reason.

The current standard printing script is


very similar to its clerical script.

Its Pinyin is Ting1.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Amazing Chinese Characters (105) Liquor - 酒

The shell bone script for character Liquor is


On the left is Water (Post 13), means liquor here, on the right is a Jug or Jar (Post 104), the container for the liquor. It is an ideography character.

Its small seal script is


similar to the shell bone script, more smooth, round lines.

Its clerical script is


Similar to the older scripts with broad-brush strokes.

Its current standard printing script is


Same as the clerical script.

Its Pinyin is "Jiu3". 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Amazing Chinese Characters (104) Liquor Jug - 酉

The shell bone script for character Liquor Jug is


which meant also alcoholic beverages in the ancient time. But the original meaning is Liquor Jug used for making alcoholic beverages.


Its small seal script is


more round jar.


The bottom became flat.



Its clerical script is


similar to the small seal script.

Nowadays, it is not used very often in spoken Chinese, even rarely used in writing. But it is a very common part in characters, normally means wine, alcohol, or fermentation.

Its current standard printing script is


Its Pinyin is "You3".

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Amazing Chinese Characters (103) Friend - 友

The shell bone script for Friend is


two hands holding each other (Post 102) means that the  two people are friends.


The small seal script is


similar to its shell bone script, just there two small seal script hands.

The clerical script on the Mawangdui silk text (马王堆帛书)


which was discovered from Mawangdui Han Tomb, Changsha, China in 1971, the tomb is believed to be built in 168 B.C., the West Han Dynasty, early Han Dynasty.

We see that there are two hands.

The clerical script is


which should be the script of late Han Dynasty. It is changed on the top, but if we imagine that the top horizontal line bent down to the right, the "又“ disconnected from the top, we could see a similar "hand" as the one above. The bottom part is character Again -又,meaning "hand" originally (Post 102). So it actually is two "hands" overlapping.

We can think that the clerical script put the two hands touching together - hand in hand.

which means "Friendship" everywhere in the world.

Its current standard printing script is


same as its clerical script.


Its Pinyin is "You3".


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Amazing Chinese Characters (102) Again - 又

The shell bone script for character Again is


which original means right hand (side). It is simplified to have only three fingers.



The hand side view emphasizes that it is a hand holding something, which means that the hand is doing something.

Let's compare this hand with Hand in Post 55


which is a open hand, empty and relaxed.


It is just a hand.

The character changed its meaning to Again long time ago, the reason is unknown. One possible reason is that the original meaning of the character was not just hand but working hand,  people have to use hand do something again and again in order to finish the job. Therefore it has meaning of Again.

It means "Again" as a single character, but it means "hand holding something" when it is a part of a compound character.

Its big seal script is


Its small seal script is


similar to the shell bone script.

Its clerical script is


which changed a lot, the top two fingers close together.

Its current standard printing script is


Its Pinyin is "You4".