Sunday, 26 February 2012

Learn one Chinese Character a day - "六"

We are still having a few numbers left to check. Currently we have already learnt "一" to "五". Today we will look at "六". It takes me quite some time to understand why our Chinese ancestors came out the idea that "六" means Six.

Here is most convincing explanation. "六" is a 假借字 (假借 jiǎjiè: Borrowing, in which a character is used, either intentionally or accidentally, for some entirely different purpose.) from "陆".
"陆" -Oracle script is  ,with its right hand side component. And "六" - is a simplified way of writing is to mean a land fully covered with plants and grasses. A fertile land with abundant plants is a place full of changing, growing, and evolving process.

As we have learnt from "三", three “一"s are to mean Sky, Earth and Anything in between. However each element should have a pair to re-produce and multiply so that everything in the universe can change, grow and evolve. So two times of "三", which is Six, contains the meaning of "changing, growing and evolving" of the universe.  "六" - Six, is borrowed from "" then simplified to  and we get what we are using today. And you will also no longer be surprised to see that Chinese sometimes use "陆" - to mean Six as well.

So ”六“ means Six.
"陆" means Land (In special scenarios, it also means Six). We can explain it in more detail when we get into this character "陆".

Let us see "六" evolution history - (image from
六 - Six
And let us see "陆" evolution history - (image from
陆 - Land / Six
As usual, we enjoy a Chinese calligraphy with "六" inside to end this lesson.
 In above picture, we should recognize "五", “六”, "月", "二", "日", "人", "三", "四".

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Learn one Chinese Character a day - "明"

As what we have partially mentioned before, Chinese characters are developed based on six principles, referring to the famous book "说文解字"
  1. 象形 xiàngxíng: Pictographs, in which the character is a graphical depiction of the object it denotes. Examples: 人 rén "person", 日 rì "sun", 木 mù "tree/wood".
  2. 指事 zhǐshì: Indicatives, or ideographs, in which the character represents an abstract notion. Examples: 上 shàng "up", 下 xià "down", 三 sān "three".
  3. 會意/会意 huìyì: Logical aggregates, in which two or more parts are used for their meaning. This yields a composite meaning, which is then applied to the new character. Example: 東/东 dōng "east", which represents a sun rising in the trees.
  4. 形聲/形声 xíngshēng: Phonetic complexes, in which one part—often called the radical—indicates the general semantic category of the character (such as water-related or eye-related), and the other part is another character, used for its phonetic value. Example: 晴 qíng "clear/fair (weather)", which is composed of 日 rì "sun", and 青 qīng "blue/green", which is used for its pronunciation.
  5. 轉注/转注 zhuǎnzhù: Transference, in which a character, often with a simple, concrete meaning takes on an extended, more abstract meaning. Example: 網/网 wǎng "net", which was originally a pictograph depicting a fishing net. Over time, it has taken on an extended meaning, covering any kind of lattice; for instance, it can be used to refer to a computer network.
  6. 假借 jiǎjiè: Borrowing, in which a character is used, either intentionally or accidentally, for some entirely different purpose. Example: 哥 gē "older brother", which is written with a character originally meaning "song/sing", now written 歌 gē. Once, there was no character for "older brother", so an otherwise unrelated character with the right pronunciation was borrowed for that meaning. 


“明” is a Chinese character created with the combination of "日" (Sun) and "月" (Moon). It is a typical Logical aggregates character. Without checking the evolution history of it, we can already start to explain and extend its meanings.

Since “明” is he combination of "日" (Sun) and "月" (Moon) in the same word, it is to be "Bright".
And in a bright environment, you can see your surroundings clearly, so “明” is extended to mean "Understand" as a verb and "Clearly / Publicly" as adv.

And for “明” contains "日" and "月", if we see the Sun then the Mood, it means that one day has passed and it will be next day already. so “明” is also used to mean “Next” when it is used together with time related characters. Like 明日, recall that 日 can also mean "Day" besides "the Sun", 明日 means "Tomorrow". 

Now let us see what is the evolution history of  “明”  (image get from -
Learn one Chinese Character a day - "明"
As you can see early stage Oracle script of “明” -is composed by  at left and at right-hand side, while now “明” with 日 at left and 月 at right.

Now let us end our lesson by enjoying a Chinese calligraphy with 明 inside -
Learn one Chinese Character a day - "明"

Friday, 17 February 2012

Learn one Chinese Character a day - "月"

Today we learn another Pictographs character "月". As usual, we see whether we can guess its meaning from the evolution history (
Learn one Chinese Character a day - "月"
Oracle script of "月" is . it is composed of a semi-circular object () with some darkness inside. Bronze script is more close to the actual image of the object. You might already know its meaning, I show a picture of the meaning of this Chinese character  below -
月 - the moon

So "月" means Moon.
As "月" changed from full moon to full moon again, it is one Month in Chinese Lunar Calendar. "月" also means Month.  

Although "月" is full and bright sometimes, most of the time it is semi-circular. That is the unique outlook of moon compared to other stars or sun in the sky. Chinese ancestors observed this characteristics of moon and draw  to represent it.
Seal script of  "月" -  changed a lot and it followed actually another Oracle script of  "月" - . When it came to Clerical script (, it is close to what we are using now.

let's end our today's learning by enjoying a Chinese calligraphy art with "月" included:
As we have already learnt "月" and "日", what will be the meaning of "明"? 

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Learn one Chinese Character a day - "水"

"水" is a pictographic character. let's check its evolution history and see whether you can guess its meaning? (image get from

Learn one Chinese Character a day - "水" 
 Early stage of Oracle script , is the drawing of "a Splash-down spring  from a rock or cliff ". Later stage of Oracle script uses two  with simplifiedto represent spring. As you will see in the future for other Chinese characters,  half of  - and half of - are used to mean water or something related to water.
Clerical Script changed to and to . It is almost the same as what are using now - "水". Its characteristics of pictogram disappeared.

Original meaning of  "水" is  "a Splash-down spring from a rock or cliff", which is no longer used and that meaning is now represented by “泉” (as you can see that this character has "水" inside).

Currently  "水" is to mean "Water". 
And let us enjoy a Chinese calligraphy art with  "水" inside:

Together with another Chinese character already learnt - "山",when we say 山水, it means an interesting place with beautiful view of hills and springs like the drawing above.

While associate with another Chinese character "田", when we say 水田, it means the Paddy Field where rice is grown.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Learn one Chinese Character a day - "中"

China is called "中国" in Chinese. "中" is the Chinese character we will learn today. "国" means Country. After you understand the meaning of "中", you will see that our Chinese never think our country as just a place produces china.

Let us see the evolution history of "中" as usual. (image get from
Learn one Chinese Character a day - "中"
 Early stage of Oracle script , we can see that it is composed of two army flags , with an indicator symbol  at middle of the two flags (we will seeas indicator in lots of Chinese characters.). It means "the middle place between two armies". Chinese ancestors added another two dotsbesides the indicator symbolto mean that these two armies are confronting each other. As you can see that the original meaning of  is "the middle place between two confronting armies", or we can consider it as "demilitarized zone between  two confronting armies".
Another Oracle script  , is to represent a flag  to be erected at the center of a town . Normally town built in China is in square shape (口). is the outlook of a town with flag seen from a distance.

Later stage of Oracle script,  is simplified to  with a flagpoleto replace flag .

 is very close to what we are using now. "中".

During Bronze script period, there were still three ways of writing of "中". Thanks to Qin Shihuang, who unified the Chinese writing, starting from Seal Script and Clerical Script, there is only one way of writing - .

When "中" is a noun, it is to mean CenterInterior, or Middle.
Since "中" has the meaning of Middle or Center, it is extended to mean Average or Middle as adj.
And when "中" is used as verb, it is also to mean Achieve (follow) or Hit the Mark (follow ).

"中国" is then to mean a country at the center of the world.

Now let us enjoy a Chinese calligraphy with "中" inside:
Learn one Chinese Character a day - "中"