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Chinese characters

Characters: 人(rén)、女(nǚ)、子(zǐ)、好(hǎo)、你(nǐ)、叫(jiào)、中(zhōng)、国(guó)

The English language relies on an alphabetic language system, meaning that it uses letters to represent sounds. Unlike English, the Chinese writing system is logographic, meaning each character represents a syllable.

When we write a Chinese character, not only does it represent a sound, but it also represents a meaning. Chinese characters are mainly created through four processes. 

  1. Pictographs 象形(xiàngxíng)
    Examples: 人(rén, person) 日(rì, sun)
  2. Self-explanatory characters/Ideograms 指事(zhǐshì)
    Examples: 上(shàng, above) 下(xià, below)
  3. Ideographic compounds 会意(huìyì)
    Examples: 好(hǎo, good) 明(míng, bright)
  4. Phono-semantic compounds 形声(xíngshēng)
    Examples: 叫(jiào, to be called; to call) 妈(mā, mother) 请(qǐng, please)
Chinese characters:
  • 人(rén, person):This character is derived from the image of a standing person.
  • 女(nǚ, woman):This character is derived from the picture of a woman sitting with her knees bent.
  • 子(zǐ, son):This character is derived from the image of a swaddled infant.
  • 好(hǎo, good):女(nǚ, woman)and 子(zǐ, son) are put together, as if a mum is holding her baby in her arms. It carries a new meaning.
  • 你(nǐ, you):The left part人(rén, person) is used as a radical of a compound character. The right part means 你(nǐ, you)in classical Chinese.
  • 叫(jiào, to be called; to call):The left part means “mouth”. The right part gives the clue to its pronunciation.
  • 国(guó, country):The outside part of this character represents a circle, which means the boundary of the enclosure. The inner part represents a piece of jade, which indicates the country is precious.

After learning this video, you can write these characters as their order in the worksheet to help you better understand what you have learned.

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Learn Chinese: Introduction to Chinese Conversation

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