STICK – Mnemonics for 1600 Chinese simplified characters

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Late Medieval Chinese, representing Ming dynasty ca. A Handbook of Old Chinese Phonology. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter. Ting, Pang-hsin. Taipei, Taiwan. The materials in this script are a good reflection of the phonetic system of the Mongolian language of that time. The square script was adopted not only for transliterating foreign loan words, but also for recording entire texts in Chinese, Tibetan.

Sanskrit and Turkish. In view of this, the prominent Mongolist B. The legend tells that Cangjie was hunting on Mount Yangxu today Shanxi when he saw a tortoise whose veins caught his curiosity. Inspired by the possibility of a logical relation of those veins, he studied the animals of the world, the landscape of the earth, and the stars in the sky, and invented a symbolic system called zi -Chinese characters. It was said that on the day the characters were born, Chinese heard the devil mourning, and saw crops falling like rain, as it marked the beginning of civilization, for good and for bad.

Modern archaeological evidence suggests that the characters are more ancient still. The earliest evidence for what might be writing comes from Jiahu, a Neolithic site in the basin of the Yellow River in Henan province, dated to c. It has yielded turtle carapaces that were pitted and inscribed with symbols. Later excavations in eastern China's Anhui province and the Dadiwan culture sites in the eastern part of northwestern China's Gansu province uncovered pottery shards, dated to c.

It is unknown whether these symbols formed part of an organized system of writing, but many of them bear resemblance to what are accepted as early Chinese characters, and it is speculated that they may be ancestors to the latter. Inscription-bearing artifacts from the Dawenkou culture culture site in Juxian County, Shandong, dating to c. The Chengziyai site in Longshan township, Shandong has produced fragments of inscribed bones used to divine the future, dating to - BC, and symbols on pottery vessels from Dinggong are thought by some scholars to be an early form of writing.

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It is possible that these inscriptions are ancestral to the later Oracle bone script of the Shang Dynasty and therefore the modern Chinese script, since late Neolithic culture found in Longshan is widely accepted by historians and archaeologists to be ancestral to the bronze age Erlitou culture and the later Shang and Zhou Dynasties. Only about 1, of the 2, known Oracle Bone logographs can be identified with later Chinese characters and therefore easily read.

However, it should be noted that these 1, logographs include most of the commonly used ones. VII Written Styles There are numerous styles, or scripts, in which Chinese characters can be written, deriving from various calligraphic and historical models.

Most of these originated in China and are now common, with minor variations, in all countries where Chinese characters are used. It evolved organically out of the Zhou bronze script, and was adopted in a standardized form under the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. The seal script, as the name suggests, is now only used in artistic seals. Few people are still able to read it effortlessly today, although the art of carving a traditional seal in the script remains alive; some calligraphers also work in this style.

The basic character shapes are suggested, rather than explicitly realized, and the abbreviations are extreme. Despite being cursive to the point where individual strokes are no longer differentiable and the characters often illegible to the untrained eye, this script also known as draft is highly revered for the beauty and freedom that it embodies. Some of the Simplified Chinese characters adopted by the People's Republic of China, and some of the simplified characters used in Japan, are derived from the Cursive Script.

How to Write in Chinese?

The Japanese hiragana script is also derived from this script. There also exist scripts created outside China, such as the Japanese Edomoji styles; these have tended to remain restricted to their countries of origin, rather than spreading to other countries like the standard scripts described above. The development of the script, both to cover words for abstract concepts and to increase the efficiency of writing, has led to the introduction of numerous non-pictographic characters.

The various types of character were first classified c. While the categories and classification are occasionally problematic and arguably fail to reflect the complete nature of the Chinese writing system, the system has been perpetuated by its long history and pervasive use.

While characters in this class derive from pictures, they have been standardized, simplified, and stylised to make them easier to write, and their derivation is therefore not always obvious. There is no concrete number for the proportion of modern characters that are pictographic in nature; however, Xu Shen c.

Characters of this sort are X composed of two parts: a pictograph, which suggests the general meaning of the character, and a phonetic part, which is derived from a character pronounced in the same way as the word the new character represents. All these characters have on the left a radical of three dots, which is a simplified pictograph for a water drop, indicating that the character has a semantic connection with water; the right-hand side in each case is a phonetic indicator.

In this case it can be seen that the pronunciation of the character has diverged from that of its phonetic indicator; this process means that the composition of such characters can sometimes seem arbitrary today. Xu Shen c.

How Many Characters?

This category is small, as most concepts can be represented by characters in other categories. Characters of this category are rare, so in modern systems this group is often omitted or combined with others. This technique has become uncommon, since there is considerable resistance to changing the meaning of existing characters. However, it has been used in the development of written forms of dialects, notably Cantonese and Taiwanese in Hong Kong and Taiwan, due to the amount of dialectal vocabulary which historically has had no written form and thus lacks characters of its own.

XII Simplification in China The use of traditional characters versus simplified characters varies greatly, and can depend on both the local customs and the medium. Because character simplifications were not officially sanctioned and generally a result of caoshu writing or idiosyncratic reductions, traditional, standard characters were mandatory in printed works, while the unofficial simplified characters would be used in everyday writing, or quick scribblings.

Since the s, and especially with the publication of the list, the PRC has officially adopted a simplified script, while Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan retain the use of the traditional characters. There is no absolute rule for using either system, and often it is determined by what the target audience understands, as well as the upbringing of the writer.


In addition there is a special system of characters used for writing numerals in financial contexts; these characters are modifications or adaptations of the original, simple numerals, deliberately made complicated to prevent forgeries or unauthorized alterations. Although most often associated with the PRC, character simplification predates the communist victory. Caoshu, cursive written text, almost always includes character simplification, and simplified forms have always existed in print, albeit not for the most formal works. In the s and s, discussions on character simplification took place within the Kuomintang government, and a large number of Chinese intellectuals and writers have long maintained that character simplification would help boost literacy in China.

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Indeed, this desire by the Kuomintang to simplify the Chinese writing system inherited and implemented by the CCP also nursed aspirations of some for the adoption of a phonetic script, in imitation of the Roman alphabet, and spawned such inventions as the Gwoyeu Romatzyh. The PRC issued its first round of official character simplifications in two documents, the first in and the second in A second round of character simplifications known as erjian, or "second round simplified characters" was promulgated in Many of the simplifications adopted had been in use in informal contexts for a long time, as more convenient alternatives to their more complex standard forms.

This clerical form uses two fewer strokes, and was thus adopted as a simplified form. The simplified form reverted to this original structure. Southeast Asian Chinese communities Singapore underwent three successive rounds of character simplification. These resulted in some simplifications that differed from those used in mainland China. It ultimately adopted the reforms of the PRC in their entirety as official, and has implemented them in the educational system. Malaysia promulgated a set of simplified characters in , which were also completely identical to the Mainland China simplifications; here, however, the simplifications were not XIII generally widely adopted, as the Chinese educational system fell outside the purview of the federal government.

However, with the advent of the PRC as an economic powerhouse, simplified characters are taught at school, and the simplified characters are more commonly, if not almost universally, used. However, a large majority of the older Chinese literate generation use the traditional characters.

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Chinese newspapers are published in either set of characters, with some even incorporating special Cantonese characters when publishing about the canto celebrity scene of Hong Kong. Many variant forms of characters and obscure alternatives for common characters were officially discouraged. This was done with the goal of facilitating learning for children and simplifying kanji use in literature and periodicals. Comparisons of Traditional characters, Simplified Chinese characters, and Simplified Japanese characters 1 Chinese simp. The answer remains unknowable because new ones are developed all the time; characters are theoretically an open set.

The number of entries in major Chinese dictionaries is the best means of estimating the historical growth of character inventory. Number of characters in Chinese dictionaries[3] Date Name of dictionary Number of characters Shuowen Jiezi 9, ?

Planning Chinese Characters

One recent dictionary, the Zhonghua Zihai, advertises as many as 85, characters, but that remains unverified. Modified radicals and obsolete variants are two common reasons for the ever-increasing number of characters. This practice began long before the standardization of Chinese script by Qin Shi Huang and continues to the present day. One consequence of modifying radicals is the fossilization of rare and obscure variant logographs, some of which are not even used in Classical Chinese. XVI Chinese It is usually said that about 3, characters are needed for basic literacy in Chinese for example, to read a Chinese newspaper , and a well-educated person will know well in excess of 4, to 5, characters.

Note that it is not necessary to know a character for every known word of Chinese, as the majority of modern Chinese words, unlike their Ancient Chinese and Middle Chinese counterparts, are bimorphemic compounds, that is, they are made up of two, usually common, characters. GB, an early version of the national encoding standard used in the People's Republic of China, has 6, code points. GB, the modern, mandatory standard, has a much higher number. The Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi proficiency test covers approximately 5, characters.

The Chinese Standard Interchange Code CNS —the official national encoding standard—supports 48, characters, while the most widely-used encoding scheme, BIG-5, supports only 13, In addition, there is a large corpus of dialect characters, which are not used in formal written Chinese but represent colloquial terms in non-Mandarin Chinese spoken forms.

Using mnemonics to learn Chinese characters

One such variety is Written Cantonese, in widespread use in Hong Kong even for certain formal documents, due to the former British colonial administration's recognition of Cantonese for use for official purposes. In Taiwan, there is also an informal body of characters used to represent the spoken Min Nan dialect. The list is a recommendation, not a restriction, and many characters missing from it are still in common use. The one area where character usage is officially restricted is in names, which may contain only government-approved characters.

It currently contains characters, bringing the total number of government-endorsed characters to See also the Names section of the Kanji article. The highest level of the Kanji kentei tests on kanji, though in practice few people attain or need this level.