Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Amazing Chinese Characters (224) Expensive - 贵

The shell bone script for character Expensive is


The top is two hands, the bottom is Soil (see Post 223). Two hands pick up a handful soil.

Let's see another shell bone script for Expensive (there were multiple writing for a single character before small seal script about 2200 years ago)


Between the hands and soil, there is a box, which is a container for the soil. People who leave home to far away place liked to keep some soil from hometown to reduce home sick, which is priceless = expensive.

The big seal script for the character is

The top are two hands, and the bottom is the Shell (貝), currency of the ancient time, the middle vertical bar is unknown. People carried Shell (money) when they went out. The Shell was expensive.

The small seal script for the character is

The top are two hands, and the bottom is 貝,Shell used as currency in the ancient time. The middle triangle is the cover for the Money.

The clerical script for the character is
The two hands changed to a 中 and a long horizontal line, which should be from simplified writing. The bottom is Shell.

Simplified song typeface is

The 貝 at the bottom became to 贝, less strokes, but lost the pictography.

Its pinyin is Gui4.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Amazing Chinese Characters (223) Soil - 土

The shell bone script for character Soil is

A big soil clod is on the horizon.

The big seal script for the character is

The big soil clod became to a vertical line with a big dot in the middle, which is a pointer to emphasize the soil above the horizon.

The small seal script for this character is
The dot became a horizontal line.

The clerical script is
The song typeface is
Its Pinyin is Tu3.

土 is one of the Five Elements, a famous Chinese traditional philosophy which explains the universe natural phenomena by the relationship of Five Elements: Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, and Soil.


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Amazing Chinese Characters (222) Pig - 豬

Chinese has two characters of Pig. Post 111 discusses character Pig - 豕, here we discuss another character Pig.

Let see the earliest big seal script for another character of Pig


on the left is like a character Dog, and on the right, it is character 者, which means cooking including grilling, and boiling (see Post 220). The character means "grilling the pig (pork)" in the early time, "boiling the pig (pork)" in later time. It is formed by two characters, and called ideogram character.

Why does the character mean Pig right now? I don't know.

The small seal script for the character is

in which, the left is 豕 (not radical of dog), right part is similar to that in big seal script.

The clerical script for character 猪

The left is radical of dog, and the right is 者, same as the big seal script.

So the left radical is either of radical of 豕,or radical of 犬 (dog).

The song type face for traditional character is


similar to small seal script.

Song typeface for simplified character is

which is similar to big seal script.

豕 is not used to be a radical in simplified Chinese any more, replaced by radical 犬. It is good to eliminate a radical, but lost the pictography of 豕 for pig related character.

豕 and 豬 both mean Pig, the 豕 is used more in writing, 猪 is used in oral and writing.

The pinyin for 猪 is Zhu1.


Sunday, January 20, 2019

Amazing Chinese Characters (221) Glory - 荣

The shell bone script for character Glory is


which is a flower (bottom part) with pollen (the dots on the top), which means blooming.



The small seal script for Glory is


The top are two characters 火(Fire), meaning the flowers are like color of fire. The bottom is 木 with a door like cover, which means all trees, and grasses.


The clerical script for Glory is


Similar to the small seal script.

The meaning has changed from original flower blooming to Glory as the time past. The character is used very often with 华 (Magnificence, Post 217) to 荣华, which means Glory too.

The song typeface for traditional character is


It is similar to the clerical script.

The song typeface for simplified character is


The top changed to Grass radical from the two Fires, which is not related to blooming any more, away from the original meaning.

Its Pinyin is Rong2.



Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Amazing Chinese Characters (220) -ist, -er, -or - 者,and Boil - 煮

The shell bone script for character Boil is


The bottom is Fire
The top is Wood
and the two dots are fire sparks.


Burning the wood to grill food - the only way to cook food at that time because they didn't know how to make pots for boiling food. At that moment, the character had no meaning of -ist, -er, -or.

In small seal script, the character became -ist, -er, -or (such as cooker, scientist, tutor, etc)


The top is complicated, but we can see the Wood


but the lines are changed a little bit. The firs sparks are two curved lines on the top.

Experts believe that the bottom right now it is 曰(say), very similar to 日(sun). Experts think that ancient people sit around the fire and talked when the food was grilled. But I think that it is not a 曰(say), it is just a picture of fire pit with metal bar. There was metal produced at the time when small seal bone script created. The metal bar made the fire to have space for air, and easier to keep the fire burning.

At that time, the small seal script for Boil is


The top is same as the one above, the bottom has a Fire

The extra Fire is to distinguish the character from the above character for -ist, -er, -or.

Why did ancient Chinese make two different characters from the same one at that time?

I think the reason is because the food was insufficient, and cooking is very skillful and technique task,  unexperienced person could undercook or overcook to make the food uneatable, which is a mistake people could afford at that time. So the person who was best at cooking took the task to make sure no food was wasted. So the character became a special character for this kind person, which means that the character has -ist, -er, -or.

They added a Fire at the bottom of the character to make a new character for Boil - Boil water or food, people knew how to make pots. People created another character 烤 for grilling, which will be discussed in another post.

The clerical script for -ist, -er, -or


The top changed a lot, could not see the fire sparks and wood. The reason why it changed to that form is unknown. The bottom is like 日 (sun), not 曰(say), which means the explanation for people talking during the grilling process may be not right.

The clerical script is

the four dots on the bottom is fire radical. The character is specific for Boiling, not grilling anymore. Probably people found that Boiling is better than Grilling in cooking meat.



The yin pin for 者 is Zhe3
The yin pin for 煮 is Zhu3.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Amazing Chinese Characters (219) Island - 岛

The earliest character for Island is big shell script


the top is a Bird (鸟)
The bottom is Mountain (山)
Mountain with birds on or over it is Island.


It is not very accurate, because island is a mountain surrounded by water. But in the ancient time, all islands had a lot of birds living on, much more than that on the mountain inland,  which impressed ancient Chinese, so they used bird-on-mountain to be the character of Island.

The small shell script for Island

The top is small shell Bird, and the bottom is small shell Mountain.



The clerical script for Island
The bottom is Mountain of clerical script. The top is partial Bird of clerical script.

The four dots of Bird have replaced by character Mountain.

Simplified song typeface


Its Pinyin is Dao3.