Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Amazing Chinese Characters (256) Hair - 毛

The bronze script for character Hair is


which is grass, lush grass.


The big seal script of the character is

similar to its bronze script.

Let's recall the character Hand - 手 (Post 55), its big seal script is

which is mirror symmetric to character Hair, a little bit confusing.

The small seal script of the character Hair is

compare it to the character Hand

mirror symmetric.

As we have seen, originally character Hair means grass, but it became to mean "hair" - animal and human hair long time ago.




The clerical script of character Hair

in comparison with Hand

the difference is a little bit bigger.

Its song typeface is

which is big different from song typeface Hand,


As time past, the original meaning of Hair has expanded from grass to hair, nowadays, it means human or animal hair in most of time but grass in some cases especially in proverbs, e.g. proverb 不毛之地 - soil with no grass at all (barren land).

Its pinyin is Mao2.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Amazing Chinese Characters (255) Universal - 普

The big seal script for character Universal is

the top is two people standing side by side


which is the bronze script of the character of "Side by Side" (see Post 241)

the bottom is Sun.

There are people who stand side by side in the early morning when the sun is rising.



Every one share the same sunshine, which means universal.

The small seal script for the character is


very similar to the big seal script

The clerical script for the character is


the top is 並, means two people standing side by side, just simplified from the old scripts.

However, 並 as a single character is not used in simplified Chinese any more (see Post 241), but it is still used in characters as a radical or part of the character like 普 above, in which the top is 並, not 并.

Its Pinyin is Pu3.

Nowadays, 普 has the meaning of General too. Same as English, the difference between Universal and General is very subtle, Chinese just share the same character to mean both. People could figure out which meaning in the context.

(Other related blogs
Creative Chinese Calligraphy - https://creativechinesecalligraphy.blogspot.com/2016/05/the-beautiy-of-creative-calligraphy-1.html)
Chinese Calligraphy History - https://leweishang.blogspot.com/2016/02/picto-calligraphy-new-way-to-write.html)

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Amazing Chinese Characters (254) Yang - 阳(陽)

The shell bone script for character Yang is

The left is the cliff, we mentioned in Post 252.


The top right is character Sun (see Post 4).


The bottom part is the sunshine by 《象形字典》(Dictionary of Pictography).


The bronze script for the character is


The right bottom has three slashes on the left of the curve, which is the sweat drops from a person because the hot sun.

The small seal script for the character is
similar to the bronze script. The right is character Easy (Post 548).

The clerical script for the character is
the left part is changed to "Ear radical" with the meaning of cliff as I mentioned in Post 253, the right part is similar to that of old scripts.

The traditional song typeface of the character is

similar to clerical script.

The simplified song typeface of the character is

The sunshine on the right bottom disappeared, which is OK because the Sun is still there.

Its Pinyin is Yang2.

Basically, 日 is sun, 阳 is the sunshine on the cliff in original meaning. 阳 means sun too in most of time too. The difference between the two is very subtle nowadays. 

阳 is not only Sunny, but is part of famous Chinese philosophy 阴阳 (Yin-Yang). I discussed 阴(Yin) in Post 253. 

阴阳(Yin-Yang) is so important and so rich in content that I will discuss it in an independent post under my another blog "Chinese Calligraphy History" (https://leweishang.blogspot.com/2016/02/why-chinese-say-buy-east-west-instead.html)


(Other related blogs
Creative Chinese Calligraphy - https://creativechinesecalligraphy.blogspot.com/2016/05/the-beautiy-of-creative-calligraphy-1.html)
Chinese Calligraphy History - https://leweishang.blogspot.com/2016/02/picto-calligraphy-new-way-to-write.html)

Amazing Chinese Characters (253) Yin - 阴(陰)

The shell bone script for character Yin is not found, so we start the bronze script for the character,


Left is a cliff, ancient Chinese lived in caves in the bottom of cliff.


From their view, they see cliff all the time.

The right top is mouth (the triangle), the low part is cloud.Why is there a mouth on top? No explanation is found. I think that the ancient Chinese believed that there is a King in the sky who is in charge of weather.  When he spits clouds from his mouth, it is a cloudy day.


The big seal script for the character is

very similar to its bronze script.

The small seal script for character Yin,


which is similar to the old scripts but a little bit more complex.

The clerical script for the character is

The left has changed big, but still has some similarity to the old script. The left part is called Ear Radical because it is like an ear. This one is called Left Ear Radical because it is on the left of the character. As we discussed above, it has nothing to do with ear. It is cliff, which most people including Chinese don't know that.

The traditional song typeface of the character Yin is

which is very similar to the clerical script.

The simplified song typeface of the character is

which is changed a lot, the right part is 月(Moon), totally different from that on old scripts.

Is this change rational? Some degree. The original scripts emphasize the Shade in the day time, the sun is blocked by clouds. The simplified song typeface uses Moon to replace the right part, which means "night with moon", different from shade in day time. But it has no sun too. Some degree rational.



Its Pinyin is Yin1.

Some of you may have heard Yin-Yang, a famous Chinese philosophy. Yin-Yang in Chinese is 阴阳, the first character is 阴. I will discuss Yang - 阳 in next post. We will see what they Yin-Yang really mean in the view of original pictography.

(Other related blogs
Creative Chinese Calligraphy - https://creativechinesecalligraphy.blogspot.com/2016/05/the-beautiy-of-creative-calligraphy-1.html)
Chinese Calligraphy History - https://leweishang.blogspot.com/2016/02/picto-calligraphy-new-way-to-write.html)

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Amazing Chinese Characters (252) Meat - 肉

The shell bone script of character Meat is

which is a Knife


and a vertical line in Knife, something is cut by knife, which is Meat.


The big seal script of Meat is

two lines in knife, more meat.

The small seal script of the character is


similar to its big seal script.

But it is almost same as the small seal script of Moon


It is difficult to distinguish the small seal script Meat from that of Moon.

Next the clerical script for the character is
the knife is a door-like shape, different from clerical script of Knife, or a little bit similarity.

inside there are two 人(Human), top part is extending out. Here 人 should mean something related to body or meat.

which is similar to character Inside (Post 249),


which is only one 人 inside.

Let's see the clerical script of Moon,

significant different from Meat.

The Pinyin for character Meat - 肉 is Rou4.

I have to point out that the similarity of the two characters has great influence on related characters. Most radical 月s do not mean Moon, but Meat or Body Organ or Body related. For example

 肝 - liver;  肥 - fat; 肺 - lung; 肌 - muscle, etc.

We call the radical 月 to be Meat-Moon radical (肉月旁), because it means Meat but it is written as Moon.

Fortunately, the confusions have not caused much problem. People have got used to. The reason may be because people just memorized the characters, don't know and care the original meaning of any character. Is it good or bad?

Friday, November 8, 2019

Amazing Chinese Characters (251) Slowly - 冉

 The shell bone script for character Slowly is


which is a fish traps made from bamboo, still used nowadays.


Inside of the trap is similar to a fish hook


Fish could get in easily but difficult to get out. It is used most in rice field to catch loach whose body is very slippery, hard to hold. Also in the rice field, the water is very shallow (1 or 2 inches), it is impossible to use fish hook. The fish trap is the best tool to catch the loach.


Why does it mean "Slowly"? I think that the trap is set in paddy or small paddy canal where the water flow is  slow, sometimes very slow. 

The big seal script of character Slowly is

which looks like the bamboo fish trap.

The small seal script of character Slowly is
which has some similarity to big seal script, but more real in the bottom opening for fish to get in. However, the hook direction is wrong, should be V alike, not ^ alike, because fish should be easy to get in but difficult to get out.

The clerical script of character Slowly is
similar to big seal script.

Its Pinyin is Ran2.

The character is used in writing only, and not often being used. Most common using is "冉冉“ to describe the Sun rising slowly in the morning. 


Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Amazing Chinese Characters (250) You - 尔(爾),你

The shell bone script for character You is


which is an arrow, or multiple arrows.

Is it a character of Arrow? No, because there is a character of Arrow in shell bone script (Post 38). So it must be something else.

There is no explanation why the character of You is like arrow. What I think is that the character original presents the enemy, not our people. It gradually became to present other people, then You who is a person not in your side.

Another explanation I think is that the ancient Chinese shoot arrows with message to enemy positions  to communicate each other. In order to make sure the enemy could receive the message, they shoot multiple arrows at the same time.

The big seal script for You is


which is still like an arrow.

The small seal script for you is


It changes a lot, not like arrow very much. It may be just to make it looks better.

The clerical script for You is


which is similar to its small seal script.

The traditional song typeface is
Similar to clerical script.

The simplified song typeface is

which is little similar to all older scripts.

Its Pinyin is Er3.

爾 or 尔 have been used in Classical writing Chinese (文言文), not the modern writing Chinese, or Vernacular Chinese (白话文)which is from oral Chinese.

Since Sui Dynasty (581 - 619), the Vernacular Chinese added a Person radical to the side of 尔 to get 
which is current character of You.

Its Pinyin is Ni3.

Even though not many people know 尔,but 尔 is still used as You in classical writing Chinese, and it is the original character of 你。

If you are a foreigner who take a Chinese class, most likely, your teacher will teach you 你好!as your first Chinese word.


好 - Good (see Post 27), 你好! means You (are) Good! which is most popular greeting word.

你好! is similar to Hello, or How are you? but not the same to either one.

When you say 你好!to a person who just needs to respond 你好!back, which is similar to Hello. But 你好 has a wish: I wish you would be good. "How are you?" is more formal, people needs to respond "Fine, thanks. and you?". Also "How are you?" has no wish, just a neutral question.

(Other related blogs
Creative Chinese Calligraphy - https://creativechinesecalligraphy.blogspot.com/2016/05/the-beautiy-of-creative-calligraphy-1.html)
Chinese Calligraphy History - https://leweishang.blogspot.com/2016/02/picto-calligraphy-new-way-to-write.html)