Friday, September 27, 2019

Amazing Chinese Characters (244) King - 王, and Jade - 玉

There are two very similar characters.

The shell bone script for character King is

the top is ax handle, the bottom is the ax. In 3000+ years ago, China was in early of Bronze Age, people made big ax for King. So big as means the power of King.


The bronze script for King is


It is clear that the bottom is ax.


The big seal script for King is


which the curve of the bottom became a line, which is a simplification of the bronze script.

The small seal script for King is

All strokes are straight lines.

The clerical script for King is
The pinyin for 王 is Wang2.

王 is also a popular family name.

Now let's see the shell bone script for Jade



three pieces of jade connected by a rope, which is totally different from the shell bone script of King.



The big seal script for Jade is

Now we see almost same image as that of big seal script of King. However, if we compare the two carefully, we can find the difference.

The big seal of King has the middle line or stroke closer to the top line because it is an ax, top two lines represent the handle, which is close. The big seal script of Jade has the middle line in the middle or a little bit closer to the bottom line because there are pieces of Jade, the distance between pieces is same or close.

The small seal script for Jade is


Compare it with the small seal script of King, we can find the distance between the horizontal lines in Jade is same, and different in King.

The clerical script for Jade is

it looks like the clerical script of King except the dot in the right bottom, which is added to distinguish the two characters.

The pinyin for 玉 is Yu4.

We see 王 radical in many characters, it is really a 玉, not 王. We call it as 斜玉旁 -  skew jade radical. There is no dot in the jade radical because the old script of Jade has no dot.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Amazing Chinese Characters (243) Grandson - 孙

The shell bone script for character Grandson is
The left

is Child or Son (Post 55)

The right a simplified Tie (Post 91).

The character means that a generation younger than son, or descendant of son.


The bronze script of the character is

Son on the left, Tie hanging on the right arm of the Son.

Its small seal script is
Son on the left, and Tie on the right.

The clerical script of the character is

Similar to the small seal script, just the Son and the Tie changed to clerical script.

The traditional song typeface is
Which is very similar to clerical script.

The simplified song typeface is

The left is Son, and the right is Small or Young (Post 135). The simplified character changed the right part from Tie to Small or Young, which is good too.

The Pinyin for the character is Sun1.

孙 is a popular family name. Sun Yat-sen, the founder and provisional first president of Republic of China in 1912 right after the Qin Dynasty was turned over, has Sun family name.


Friday, September 20, 2019

Amazing Chinese Characters (242) Strange - 奇, and Ride (horse) - 骑

The shell bone script for Strange and Ride is


The left is a person who is riding a horse, the top is the person, the bottom is the horse. The right is simplified a picture of the left, especially the horse on the bottom. The shell bone script is not unified, one character could be written or drawn differently by different people. This is why The First Empire wanted and did unify the characters to small seal script.


The character meaning was Ride.

Back to 3000+ years ago, Chinese didn't ride horse, only barbarian from western regions rode horses.
Explanation in the "象形字典“ (The dictionary of pictography) is that Chinese felt very strange for people to ride horse. So the ride-horse = strange.


I think there may be another possibility: Chinese considered that the horse riders (foreigners) were strange because they looked different, they spoke differently, they thought differently. So the Ride means Strange too.

Its big seal script is

The top is like a person, the bottom is not like the bottom of the shell bone script, but we can image that the 口 is the stirrup, the right hook like is the right leg of the rider. The left leg is on the other side of the horse, blocked by the horse body.

Because the character had two meanings, people added a Horse aside of the character to present Ride:


the left 

is Horse (see Post 14).

The character without horse on the left means Strange.

The small seal script for character Strange is



The small seal script for character Ride is

The clerical script for character Strange is


The clerical script for character Ride is

Song typeface for simplified Ride is


The Pinyin for both characters are same: Qi2.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Amazing Chinese Characters (241) Side by Side - 並

The bronze script for character  is

two people stand side by side.


The small seal script for the character is


very similar to the big seal script

The clerical script for the character is


The two dots on the top, which are two heads, and the two vertical lines plus two dots on the sides in the middle of the character, which means two bodies. But the two shoulders, four feet tother, become horizontal lines. We can imagine that the two person stand very very close, because they are best friends.



Its Pinyin is Bing4.

I have to point out that the 並 - side by side, is not used in simplified Chinese any more. There is another character 并 (Abreast, Post 115), originally, it means that two people move with the same steps.

Let's review the character briefly.

The shell bone script for character Abreast is


The one horizontal line indicates that two people or animals keep in step with each other.



Its big seal script is


The two short horizontal lines emphasize the same pace.

Its small seal script is



the lines are not continuous but the meaning is the same.

Its clerical script is


In 1950s, Chinese Simplification Group decided that the two characters 並,并 combined into one character 并, which has both meanings of the two. 並 is removed from simplified characters. But traditional Chinese still keeps both.

Simplification of Characters is not only done by reducing the strokes of some characters, but combineing two characters into one, which is not many, 并/並 is one of them.

However, this kind simplification not only cut off the connection of character's evolution history but causes some confusions.

並 is still used in traditional Chinese.


Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Amazing Chinese Characters (240) Beautiful - 美

The shell bone script for Beautiful is


which is a person normally a young girl who wears a garland and other decorations on her body, which looks very beautiful.



The big seal script for the character is


Similar to the shell bone script, but two long whip on the head.


The small seal script is

The top becomes 羊 (Sheep).  Some experts believe that it is mistake to wrongly replace the garland with the Sheep, because it looks like garland. Other experts believe that people put sheep horns as decoration on the head for better looking.

The clerical script for the character is

Top is Sheep or Goat, bottom is Big. Big Goat is Beautiful? It is delicious. In Chinese, Delicious = Beautiful taste.

The character pronunciation (Pinyin) is Mei3.

I want to point out, U.S.A. in Chinese is 美国, which means Beautiful Country.







Saturday, September 7, 2019

Amazing Chinese Characters (239) Benefit - 益, and Overflow - 溢

The shell bone script for character of Benefit and Overflow is



The top is 水 (Water)


The bottom is 皿 (Pot)

Water is boiling in the pot.

Both characters shared the same shell bone script, or we can see that the original meaning of benefit is overflow: You have more than you need.

Because the creation of characters is not easy, at the beginning there were not many characters, so it was common for character to have multiple meanings, normally related meanings.


The boiling water is overflow the pot if the pot is full of water, just like the water overflow the dam


The small seal script for the character of Benefit is


The top is 水 (Water) in horizontal position, which means the water flow in horizontally, not vertically. The bottom is Pot or Cup, like a cup of overflowing beer.

Small seal script was created during 221 BC to 200 BC when people created another character for Overflow (you will see later in this post).


The clerical script for the character is

Similarly, the top is horizontal Water, and the bottom is the Pot.

It looks like overflow: too much to hold on, or  more than we need, which is similar to benefit, or good for, which is Benefit.

In order to avoid confusion, ancient Chinese created another character in big seal script for Overflow back to 3000 years ago right after shell bone script time, and long before the small seal script was created

The big seal script for Overflow is

There is a Water on the left, and the right part is character Benefit. The water on the left indicated that the character is related to water, so it is overflow, not benefit.

The small seal script for Overflow is

Similarly, the water on left to indicate Overflow,  not Benefit.

The clerical script for Overflow is
The left is "Three drops" radical, means water.

The two characters are from the same shell bone script, but evolved to different meanings. To distinguish them, ancient Chinese added a water to the character for Overflow, and original character became Benefit.

The Pinyin for Benefit (益)is Yi4, and the Pinyin for Overflow (溢)is Yi4.

Both are pronounced exactly same which is very confusing to beginner of Chinese learning students. But it is very clear to see the difference of the two in writing. So if you only learn oral Chinese, it is difficult soon after you learnt some words, you will be confused by too many homophones and 4 tones.