Chinese Character Fun

Chinese Character Fun
OwainLW Mar 06, 2013 15:03

First things first, although living in China does provide me with enough annoyances and frustrations to keep me going until I’m well and truly in the grave, there are some things which keep me happy here and remind me of my decision to come to China in the first place. They usually revolve around aesthetic things such as food, landscape, and architecture, though as someone who’s background is linguistics (and to a larger extent  literature), the Chinese language is what keeps me fascinated the most.

Now I could talk the hind legs of a donkey regarding various aspects of the language from tone and grammatical structure, but that would require an essay’s length of work and surely wouldn’t do justice to all the scholars and professors who have written countless papers on the language partly down to the fact they actually know what they’re talking about. Me, I’m just going to make a few light-hearted observations of the structure of some of the characters and why I think they’re awesome.


1)      “Meng” (dream).

This is currently my favourite Chinese character. Upon first glance, I assumed that the recurring characters on top where in facts stars, and made me imagine this fantasy starry-like world that could be associated with dreaming – pretty creative if you think about it. This assumption was also reinforced when I heard the word “meng” being used in some Chinese dialects as another word for “drunk,” with the “seeing stars” concept proving relevant again. The actual make-up of the character however is consisted of “xi” (夕) which means “night”, with more information being divulged from the oracle bone inscription, which depicts a man lying on an upright bed with his hands on his head.


2)      “Fa” (law, idea)



The shame about this character and many other simplified characters like it is that so much of the meaning is taken away from the traditional form. Therefore, despite the fact the character looks interesting enough, I’ve had to add the traditional form to properly dissect the meaning from it. Looks a lot different right? Well regarding the makeup of it, the two radicals are water (水) and unicorn (廌). But what have they got to do with law/thought process? Well according to folklore, unicorns would use their horns to touch the correct wrongdoers in courtrooms or other similar situations regarding crime and morality. Incredible.


3)      “Jiong” (frustrated, sad, depressed)


I couldn’t think of a character that does a better job in depicting it’s emotion than this one. I mean look at that sad looking face! Although it’s been used as an emoticon recently and can be seen on almost every Weibo post, the character’s original meaning is roughly translated as “patterned window” which given its distinctive appearance, also makes a lot of sense.

That’s all for now folks, maybe I’ll add more in the near future. On final note however is just a quick comment what a shame I think it is that traditional characters have been largely omitted from use in the mainland. Although they’re a pain to write and recognise, they’re full of much more meaning, intrigue, with each story hidden deep inside the character and largely open to interpretation. I for one am trying my best to learn as many as I can as I struggle along with my Cantonese studies. Peace out!  

Tags:Language & Culture Teaching & Learning

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