All Chinese character are logograms, but there are several derivative types. A Chinese character, also known as a Han character ( is a Logogram used in writing Chinese (hanzi Japanese ( A logogram, or logograph, is a Grapheme which represents a word or a Morpheme (a meaningful unit of language These include a handful which are pictographic (象形 pinyin: xiàngxíng) in origin, and a number which are ideographic (指事 zhǐshì) in origin, but the vast majority originated as phono-semantic compounds (形聲 xíngshēng). A pictogram ( also spelled pictogramme) or pictograph is a Symbol representing a Concept, object, activity place or event Pinyin, more formally Hanyu pinyin, is the most common Standard Mandarin Romanization system in use An ideogram or ideograph (from Greek idea "idea" + grafo "to write" is a Graphic symbol that represents an Idea A phonetic complement is a phonetic symbol used to disambiguate word characters ( Logograms that have multiple readings in mixed logographic-phonetic scripts such as Egyptian A determinative, also known as a taxogram or semagram, is an Ideogram used to mark semantic categories of words in Logographic scripts In older literature, Chinese characters in general may be referred to as ideograms, due to the misconception that characters represent ideas directly, whereas in fact they do so only through association with the spoken word (Hansen 1993).
Traditional Chinese lexicography divided characters into six categories (六書 liùshū "Six Writings"), which are described below. The pursuit of lexicography is divided into two related disciplines Practical lexicography is the art or Craft of compiling writing and editing dictionaries This classification is often attributed to Xu Shen's second century dictionary Shuowen Jiezi, but it has been dated earlier. Xǔ Shèn ( ca 58 CE – ca 147 CE was a Chinese philologist of the Han Dynasty. The 2nd century is the period from 101 to 200 in accordance with the Julian calendar in the Christian / Common Era. The Shuōwén Jiězì ( "Explaining Simple and Analyzing Compound Characters" was an early 2nd century CE Chinese dictionary from the Han Dynasty The first mention is in the work Zhou Li of the late Zhou dynasty, and the six types are listed in the Hanshu of the first century CE, and in Zheng Zhong (鄭眾) quoted by Zheng Xuan (鄭玄) in his first-century commentary of Zhou Li, although the details vary. The Rites of Zhou ( also known as Zhouguan (Offices of Zhou is one of three ancient ritual texts listed among the classics of Confucianism. The Zhou Dynasty ( POJ: Chiu Tiau 1122 BC to 256 BC was preceded by the Shang Dynasty and followed by the Qin Dynasty in China. The Book of Han ( is a classic Chinese Historical writing completed in 111 CE covering the history of Western Han from 206 BCE to The traditional classification is still taught but is no longer the focus of modern lexicographic practice. Some categories are not clearly defined, nor are they mutually exclusive: the first four refer to structural composition, while the last two refer to usage. For this reason, some modern scholars view them as six principles of character formation rather than six types of characters.
The earliest significant, extant corpus of Chinese characters is found on turtle shells and the bones of livestock, chiefly the scapula of oxen, for use in pyromancy, a form of divination. In Anatomy, the scapula, omo, or shoulder blade, is the Bone that connects the Humerus (arm bone with the Clavicle (collar Pyromancy (from Greek 'pyros' fire and 'manteia' divination is the art of Divination by means of Fire. These ancient characters are called oracle bone script. Oracle bone script ( refers to incised (or rarely brush-written ancient Chinese characters found on Oracle bones which are animal bones or turtle shells used in Roughly a quarter of these characters are pictograms while the rest are either phono-semantic compounds or compound ideograms. Despite millennia of change in shape, usage and meaning, a few of these characters remain recognizable to the modern reader of Chinese.
At present, more than 90% of Chinese characters are phono-semantic compounds, constructed out of elements intended provide clues to both the meaning and the pronunciation. However, as both the meanings and pronunciations of the characters have changed over time, these components are no longer reliable guides to either meaning or pronunciation. The failure to recognize the historical and etymological role of these components often leads to misclassification and folk etymology. Folk etymology is a term used in two distinct ways A commonly held misunderstanding of the origin of a particular word a False etymology. A study of the earliest sources (the oracle bones script and the Zhou-dynasty bronze script) is often necessary for an understanding of the true composition and etymology of any particular character. Chinese Bronze inscriptions are writing in a variety of Chinese scripts on Chinese bronze artifacts such as zhōng bells and dǐng tripodal cauldrons Reconstructing Middle and Old Chinese phonology from the clues present in characters is part of Chinese historical linguistics. Middle Chinese ( or Ancient Chinese as used by linguist Bernhard Karlgren, refers to the Chinese language spoken during Southern and Northern Old Chinese ( or Archaic Chinese as used by linguist Bernhard Karlgren, refers to the Chinese spoken from the Shang Dynasty ( Chinese Historical linguistics (also called diachronic linguistics) is the study of language change In Chinese, it is called Yinyunxue (音韻學 "Studies of sounds and rimes"). Historical Chinese phonology deals with reconstructing the sounds of Chinese from the past
Roughly 600 Chinese characters are pictograms—stylised drawings of the objects they represent. These are generally among the oldest characters. A few, indicated below with their earliest forms, date back to oracle bones from the twelfth century BCE.
These pictograms became progressively more stylized and lost their pictographic flavor, especially as they made the transition from the oracle bone script to the Seal Script of the Eastern Zhou, but also to a lesser extent in the transition to the clerical script of the Han Dynasty. Seal script ( Chinese: Simplified 篆书 篆書 Pinyin: zhuànshū is an ancient style of Chinese calligraphy. The Zhou Dynasty ( POJ: Chiu Tiau 1122 BC to 256 BC was preceded by the Shang Dynasty and followed by the Qin Dynasty in China. The clerical script ( pinyin lìshū; Japanese 隷書体 Reishotai; formerly also chancery script is an archaic style of Chinese calligraphy which The Han Dynasty ( 206 BC–220 AD followed the Qin Dynasty and preceded the Three Kingdoms in China. The table below summarises the evolution of a few Chinese pictographic characters. Where no modern simplified form is provided, it is identical to the traditional character.
|Oracle Bone Script||Seal Script||Clerical Script||Semi-Cursive Script||Cursive Script||Regular Script (Traditional)||Regular Script (Simplified)||Pinyin||Meaning|
N. Oracle bone script ( refers to incised (or rarely brush-written ancient Chinese characters found on Oracle bones which are animal bones or turtle shells used in Seal script ( Chinese: Simplified 篆书 篆書 Pinyin: zhuànshū is an ancient style of Chinese calligraphy. The clerical script ( pinyin lìshū; Japanese 隷書体 Reishotai; formerly also chancery script is an archaic style of Chinese calligraphy which Semi-cursive script is a partially cursive style of Chinese calligraphy. Cursive script ( simplified草书 erroneously translated as Grass script is a style of Chinese calligraphy. The regular script or standard script, or in Chinese kaishu ( and Japanese kaisho, also commonly known as standard regular The regular script or standard script, or in Chinese kaishu ( and Japanese kaisho, also commonly known as standard regular Pinyin, more formally Hanyu pinyin, is the most common Standard Mandarin Romanization system in use The Sun (Sol is the Star at the center of the Solar System. A mountain is a Landform that extends above the surrounding Terrain in a limited area with a peak Water is a common Chemical substance that is essential for the survival of all known forms of Life. Rain is Liquid precipitation. On Earth it is the condensation of atmospheric Water vapor into drops heavy enough to fall often making it to Wood is hard fibrous lignified structural tissue produced as secondary Xylem in the stems of Woody plants notably trees but also shrubs Rice is a Cereal foodstuff which forms an important part of the diet of many people worldwide and as such it is a staple food for many A man is a Male Human. The term man (irregular plural "Mom" "Mum" and "Mommy" redirect here Eyes are organs that detect Light, and send signals along the Optic nerve to the visual areas of the brain Cattle, colloquially referred to as cows, are domesticated Ungulates a member of the Subfamily Bovinae of the family The domestic goat ( Capra aegagrus hircus) is a subspecies of goat Domesticated from the Wild goat of Southwest Asia and Eastern Europe The horse ( Equus caballus) is a hoofed ( Ungulate) Mammal, one of eight living species of the family Equidae. Birds ( class Aves) are bipedal endothermic ( Warm-blooded) Vertebrate animals that lay eggs. Tortoises or land Turtles are land-dwelling Reptiles of the family of Testudinidae', order Testudines. The Chinese Dragon or Oriental dragon is a mythical creature in East Asian culture with a Chinese origin Fenghuang are mythological Chinese birds that reign over all other birds B. :
Ideograms express an abstract idea through an iconic form. For other uses of the term see Icon (disambiguation. For a list of icons for use on Wikipedia see WikipediaIcons. This includes iconic modification of pictogram, such as added dots or lines to indicate which part or action is intended. In the examples below, abstract notions like numbers are represented by a matching number of strokes and the parts of trees are represented by marking them on a pictogram of a tree.
N. B. :
In ideogrammic compounds, also called associative compounds or logical aggregates, two or more pictographic or ideographic characters are combined to suggest a third meaning. For example, the character 各 gè originally meant "to arrive". (It was long ago borrowed for "each". ) The oracle-bone form of this compound, very similar to the modern glyph, shows 夂 a foot (the inverted form of 止 zhǐ, originally a foot) at a 凵 or 口 walled object, perhaps a dwelling. The meaning of "arrive" is thus suggested jointly, as a footstep at the door. As another example, the character 明, composed of the characters for the sun and the moon, means "bright".
As these characters became more stylized over time, one or more of the components was often compressed or abbreviated. For example, the character 人 "human" was reduced to 亻, 水 "water" to 氵, and 艸 "grass" to 艹.
A few further examples:
|木×2 = 林|
|木×3 = 森|
|人+木 = 休|
|a man leaning against a tree|
|隹+木 = 集|
|隹×2 +又= 雙|
|女+子 = 好|
|手+木 = 采 (採)|
|a bird on a tree*|
→ gather together
|two birds in the right hand|
|a girl with a boy|
|a hand on a bush|
|日+月 = 明|
|木×2+火 = 焚|
|禾+火 = 秋|
|sun and moon|
|fire under woods|
|grain and fire|
Note: Earlier forms of the character 集 ("gather together") show three birds (隹) on a tree.
The majority of Chinese characters by far—over 90%—were created by combining a character with approximately the correct pronunciation (the phonetic element, or rebus, similar to a phonetic complement) with one of a limited number of characters which supplied an element of the meaning (the semantic element or "radical", a determinative by which one would look up the character in a dictionary). A rebus ( Latin: "by things" is a kind of word puzzle which uses pictures to represent words or parts of words for example H + = A phonetic complement is a phonetic symbol used to disambiguate word characters ( Logograms that have multiple readings in mixed logographic-phonetic scripts such as Egyptian This disambiguation page differentiates the various historical uses of the term radical in the context of Chinese characters A determinative, also known as a taxogram or semagram, is an Ideogram used to mark semantic categories of words in Logographic scripts Such compounds remedied the difficulty of using iconic forms to represent physically similar objects (e. g. , dogs versus wolves), actions, and abstract notions, without creating undue homophony. In Music, homophony (hoʊˈmɒfəni from Greek "homófonos" where ομοιο = the same and φωνή = a sound tone is a texture in which two or more Phono-semantic compound had already appeared by the time of the Shang Dynasty oracle bone script.
As an example, a verb meaning "to wash one's hair" is pronounced mù. Although difficult to draw, it happens to sound the same as the word mù "tree", which was written with the simple pictograph 木. The verb mù could simply have been written 木, like "tree", but to disambiguate, it was combined with the character for "water", giving some idea of the meaning. The resulting character eventually came to be written 沐 mù "to wash one's hair". Similarly, the water radical was combined with 林 lín "woods" to produce 淋 lín "to pour".
mù "to wash one's hair"
lín "to pour"
However, the phonetic component is not always as meaningless as this example would suggest. Phonetic components were sometimes chosen that were compatible semantically as well as phonetically. It was also often the case that the radical merely constrained the meaning of a word which already had several. 菜 cài "vegetable" is a case in point. The radical 艹 for plants was combined with 采 cǎi "harvest". However, 采 cǎi does not merely provide the pronunciation. In classical texts it was also used to mean "vegetable". That is, 采 underwent semantic extension from "harvest" to "vegetable", and the addition of 艹 merely specified that the latter meaning was to be understood.
Some additional examples:
pái "to clap, to hit"
to dig into
jiū "to investigate"
Originally characters sharing the same phonetic had similar readings, though they have now diverged substantially. Linguists rely heavily on this fact to reconstruct the sounds of Old Chinese. Old Chinese ( or Archaic Chinese as used by linguist Bernhard Karlgren, refers to the Chinese spoken from the Shang Dynasty ( Chinese When people try to read a two-part character of which they are ignorant, they will typically follow the folk wisdom of you bian du bian (有邊讀邊) "read the side" and take one component to be a phonetic, which often results in errors. Youbian dubian ( or dubanbian (讀半邊 dú bàn biān "Read the halve" is an (often erroneous method people use to read a
Since the phonetic elements of many characters no longer accurately represent their pronunciations, when the People's Republic of China simplified they characters, they often substituted a phonetic that was not only simpler to write, but more accurate for a modern reading as well. (Note for the example that many radicals were simplified as well, usually by standardizing cursive forms. )
Jiajie are characters that are "borrowed" to write another homophonous or near-homophonous morpheme, as in English "4ever" for "forever". In linguistics a homonym is one of a group of words that share the same pronunciation but have different meanings and are usually spelled differently For example, the character 來 was a pictogram of the wheat plant and originally meant *mloi "wheat". As this was similar to the Old Chinese word *mlois "to come", 來 was also used to write that verb. Eventually the more common use, the verb "to come", became established as the default reading of the character 來, and a new character was devised for "wheat", 麥. (The modern pronunciations are lái and mài. ) When a character is used this way, it is called a jiajiezi (假借字 "borrowed character"), or a phonetic loan character.
As in Egyptian hieroglyphs and Sumerian cuneiform, early Chinese characters were used as rebus to express the abstract meanings that were not easily depicted. Egyptian hieroglyphs (ˈhaɪərəʊɡlɪf from Greek grc-Grek ἱερογλύφος " sacred carving " also hieroglyphic = grc-Grek A rebus ( Latin: "by things" is a kind of word puzzle which uses pictures to represent words or parts of words for example H + = Thus many characters stood for more than one word. In some cases the rebus would take over completely, and a new character would be created for the original meaning, usually by modifying the original character with a radical (determinative). This process of disambiguation is the source of phono-semantic compound characters.
|Rebus||New character for|
|四||sì "nostrils"||sì "four"||泗 (mucous; sniffle)|
|枼||yè "leaf"||yè "flat, thin"||葉|
|北||bèi "back (of the body)"||běi "north"||背|
|要||yāo "waist"||yào "to want"||腰|
|少||shā "sand"||shǎo "few"||沙 and 砂|
|永 yǒng "swim"||yǒng "forever"||泳|
The term jiajie dates to the Han Dynasty. The Han Dynasty ( 206 BC–220 AD followed the Qin Dynasty and preceded the Three Kingdoms in China. The related term tongjia (通假 tōngjiǎ "interchangeable borrowing") is first attested from the Ming Dynasty. The Ming Dynasty ( or Empire of the Great Ming ( was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644 following the collapse of the Mongol -led The two terms are commonly used as synonyms, but there is a distinction between jiajiezi being a rebus for a word that did not originally have a character, such as using 東 "a bag tied at both ends" for dōng "east", and tongjia being a rebus that replaces an existing character, such as using 蚤 zǎo "flea" for 早 zǎo "early".
The practice of tongjia creates one of the most notorious diffculties in the reading of ancient Chinese, particularly pre-Qin texts. Not to be confused with the Qing Dynasty, the last dynasty of China The origins of many Chinese characters are debated.
This classification is of purely historical value, and is the least understood of the liushu principles of character formation. It may refer to characters which have similar meanings and often the same etymological root, but which have diverged in pronunciation and meaning. The English words chance and cadence would fit this pattern, as they share a common Latin root, cadentia "to fall". If English were written the way Chinese is, these two words might have similar characters.
The characters 老 lǎo "old" and 考 kǎo "a test" are the most commonly cited example. The words derive from a common etymological root (approximately *klao’), and the character differ only in the modification of one part.
The liushu had been the standard classification scheme for Chinese characters since Xu Shen's time. Generations of scholars modified it without challenging the basic concepts. Tang Lan (唐蘭) (1902-1979) was the first to dismiss liushu, offering his own sanshu (三書 "Three Principles of Character Formation"), namely xiangxing (象形 "form-representing"), xiangyi (象意 "meaning-representing") and xingsheng (形聲 "meaning-sound"). This classification was later criticised by Chen Mengjia (陳夢家) (1911-1966) and Qiu Xigui. Both Chen and Qiu offered their own sanshu. (Qiu 2000:chp. 6. 3)