Monday, 10 September 2018

Learn one Chinese Character a day - 羊

The modern Chinese character for sheep or goat is 羊. It does not look like a sheep / goat any longer. Its ancient scripts might help us to reason its meaning, which is shown below (image taken from

Evolution history of 羊

Looking at its Oracle script  and , or its Bronze script  , we can see 羊 is the drawing of a head of sheep or goat. It is because of the same reason that sheep or goat is also a mainly used sacrifice offered to gods.
Sacrifice offered with a head of a goat

We can also see that at certain age of Bronze script whole body of 羊 was drawn to represent sheep or goat, which was eventually abandoned.

So 羊 means sheep or goat. As Chinese character is a drawing, it can be used to represent any animals looks like a sheep or goat. With this understanding, we will no longer be surprised to see Chinese can use either sheep or goat for their year of Chinese zodiac 羊.

As 羊 is always considered as a quiet, gentle and peaceful species, especially it is always used as sacrifice to gods for blessing, 羊 itself has the meaning of peace, gentle, auspicious and being blessed, especially when 羊 was used as a component to create other Chinese characters.

Now it is time to enjoy a Chinese calligraphy with 羊 inside:

Monday, 27 August 2018

Learn one Chinese Character a day - 牛

Our character today is 牛, which is a pictograph character. Hard to guess what it is due to the transformation and simplification along the time. We will need the help from its ancient scripts.

Let us examine its revolution history as below: (image taken from
Evolution history of 牛

It is kind of clear that its Oracle script  or is the stick figure of the head of a buffalo, comparing to the picture of a Buffalo below:

you might be wondering that how come we draw the whole body for 马, 龟, 鱼, 象 and other animals, but only head of a bull? the answer is that, same as other civilisations, 牛 is one of the major sacrifice Chinese offered while worshipping gods. Head of 牛 will be mainly used:
Head of a Boffalo

Yes, 牛 means bull, buffalo or cow, and any animal that looks similar to buffalo. for example: 野牛

Since 牛 has great strength and is the main labour force Chinese ancestor used for farming, 牛 is extended to mean very strong and powerful.

牛 sometimes can become very stubborn and not willing to listen to the commands of a farmer, thus 牛 also has the meaning of stubborn.
Stubborn Buffalo

that is all for 牛, let us enjoy a Chinese calligraphy with 牛 inside:

our next character will be for sheep or goat, if it were you who was creating it, how would you do?

Monday, 13 August 2018

Learn one Chinese Character a day - 像

We have just learnt 象. Today we move on to one Chinese character which is composed of 象 and 人: 像. Based on our understanding of 象, the possible combination is as below:

a. a person (人) with an elephant (象) (doing something?);
b. the (abstract) things or characteristics (象) of a human being (人);

Chinese ancestors does no special activities with 象 in ancient China as Chinese did not know how to train elephant to work together.

Option b is a more reasonable combination: what human being looks like!

So 像 means appearance of a person. for example: 人像.

Similar but different from 象, 像 is used to represent the appearance of someone or something by the action or art of imitating, including the way of reflection or refraction of lights on mirrors and etc. For example 录像机, and 图像.

Below is the evolution history of 像: (image taken from
evolution history of 像

We can see that Seal Script  is composed of exactly the same components as what we write today:  (a person)and  (elephant).

That is all for today, time to enjoy a Chinese calligraphy with 像 inside:


Monday, 30 July 2018

Learn one Chinese Character a day - 象

today we move to a new pictograph character 象. it is also an animal. Could you guess which species it is?

Modern form 象 has been transformed a lot from its ancient scripts along the long history. If we look at its Oracle script and Bronze script , we will immediately know what it is: elephant, as shown below:

 As usual, below is its evolution history: (image taken from:
evolution history of 象

When it came to Seal script , it started to lose its photographic presentation, and became more abstract.

象 is a huge creature that impressed Chinese ancestors so much that they believed 象 could contains everything inside. thus 象 is extended to mean anything or everything. Since elephant does not really be able to put everything physical into its stomach, 象 usually refers to abstract things, like the form or looks of nature, human and physical materials,  for example 包罗万象 or 意象.

We have done our study today, let us enjoy a Chinese calligraphy with 象 inside:

Monday, 16 July 2018

Learn one Chinese Character a day - 莽

today we examine another character created with 犬 - 莽. Recall what we have learnt before: 莫 and 暮, we will see that 莫 and 莽 was created in the same way: the only difference is the middle part - 日 VS 犬.

Following the same reasoning we given to 莫 / 暮, 莽 represents: a (hunting) dog disappeared into high grasses, as shown below:

before continuing to examine its extended meanings, let us check the evolution history of 莽: (image taken from
Evolution history of 莽

we can see that in Oracle script () era, 莽 is created with "hunting dog inside woods". 
When it came to Bronze script () and Seal script () era, Chinese ancestors obviously thought that drawing of hunting dog inside grasses can present the idea of 莽 better.

bearing in mind of the evolution from Oracle script, to Bronze script and then to Seal script, based on the scene described, Chinese ancestors used 莽 to mean lush woods full of high grasses. for example 草莽.

Woods with high grasses is usually the place with few human activities, 莽 is thus used to mean desolated or uninhabited. for example 莽莽苍苍.

Normally only agitated and careless hunters would took their dogs to hunt preys inside lush woods with high grasses, this is why 莽 is also used to mean agitated and careless. for example 莽汉.

That is all for 莽, time to enjoy a Chinese calligraphy with 莽 inside:

Monday, 2 July 2018

Learn one chinese character a day - 龟 | 龜

After learnt 鱼, 鸟, 犬, today we move on to a new character for another animal, which is 龟. Its Traditional Chinese character is 龜. Let me zoom it out so that you can see it clearly: .

From 龟 or 龜 you might not have any idea what kind of animal it is. Once you see its Oracle script , or its Bronze script , you immediately know what it is. They are just drawings of the animal below:


Yes 龟 means turtle or tortoise.

Its evolution history demonstrates how it has evolved into current form - 龟: (image taken from
Evolution history of 龟 | 龜

龟 | 龜 is treated as a very special species in China. It symbols long live and prosperity. Ancient Chinese wizards engraved words onto shells of 龟, then burned them in fire to reveal the will of gods based on the pattern of the cracks. That is why we have luckily recovered what characters ancient Chinese uses - the Oracle scripts.
Below is a Chinese calligraphy with 龟 inside:

Monday, 25 June 2018

Learn one Chinese Character a day - 戾

we have known the meaning of drawing 犬 under 穴 (a cave) - 突. What does it mean by drawing 犬 under 户 (door), which is our character today: 戾? 

Recall how 突 is created and its meaning, we can guess now what 戾 describes: the dog dashing out of a house or barking inside a house (to scare the strangers away to protect the house).

the difference is that 突 is describing the scene that dogs dashing out of cave (to catch their pray). while 戾 describes the scene that a dog guarding the house of its owner.

From this understanding, 戾 has an obvious meaning of dashing or charging to reach (somewhere).

And since the dog rushing out of house to bark fiercely towards the strangers,  戾 thus has the meaning of fierce or fiercely, depending whether it is used as adj or adv. Sometimes the dog attacks the strangers without reason, 戾 thus contains the meaning of offence

Dog barking at the door

and let us examine its evolution history to see if there is any more hints we can get. (image taken from:
evolution history of 戾
We can see that its Bronze script has two components: 立 () and 犬 (). it is to show the idea of a dog attacking or barking at the people who just stand there. That is probably the reason why 戾 pronounces exactly the same as 立.

Another bronze script contains the same component as its modern form 戾: 户 () and 犬 (). And its Seal Script  followed and  was abandoned.

The reason Chinese ancestors considered  a better representation of 戾 is probably that: a dog guarding the house shows the idea of 戾 better than a dog attacking / barking at a standing person.

And another reason could be that: drawing a person together with a dog () is very similar to 伏, thus was eventually abandoned and 戾 continued with .

That is all for 戾 and let us enjoy a Chinese calligraphy with 戾 inside now: