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How Chinese characters were formed 1? 12 basic radicals/characters

Date: May 13, 2013 Author: Jing Wang Categories: Chinese characters

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I have been using picture representing Chinese characters (象形文字 Xiang xing wen zi)to teach my students. After the last couple of years’ teaching, I now can put them together with the method I have developed and I call it 象形图像识字法 Pictogram-Visual Chinese character learning method.

You will be be able to learn 150 Chinese characters within 5 hours if you follow my method.

Let’s start with 10minutes to learn 12 characters and have a look of the drawing I made.

天

It contains 12 ancient Chinese Characters.  You can spend a couple of minutes to guess what they are.  Lets see if you have got them right.

 

In the sky, we have sun, moon, cloud, rain and the flying bird.

This is a sun 日. We read it in pinyin: rì

sun

 

This is a moon 月. We read it in pinyin: yuè

moon

 

This is cloud 云. We read it in pinyin: yún

The ancient character of “云” resembled cloud in the air with cloud layer above and cloud cluster below.

cloud

 

It rains.

This is rain 雨. We read it in pinyin: yǔ

The original pictograph showed rain pouring down from clouds. The horizontal stroke indicates the clouds, and the seven short lines hanging down indicate the raindrops. Later, another horizontal stroke was added above, most probably to indicate the “sky”.

rain

 

There is a bird flying in the sky as well.

This is flying 飞. We read it in pinyin: fēi

飞 looks like a bird bearing the extended meaning of “fly”.

fly

 

On the ground, we have mountain, water, field, tree.

This is a mountain 山. We read it in pinyin: shān

山

 

This is water 水. We read it in pinyin: shuǐ

The original pictograph showed rain pouring down from clouds. The horizontal stroke indicates the clouds, and the seven short lines hanging down indicate the raindrops. Later, another horizontal stroke was added above, most probably to indicate the “sky”.

water

 

Chinese people grow rice in the rice field.

This is rice field 田. We read it in pinyin: tián

田 represents the checkerboard of rice paddy fields.

field

 

This is a tree 木. We read it in pinyin: mù

tree

 

There are people living in the house.

This is a door 门. We read it in pinyin: mén

门 (門) door is a pictographic showing a set of double doors. The ancient Chinese doors usually have a solid doorframe which is joined together by several pieces of square timber. Nowadays, doors have turned from two-leaf doors to single-leaf ones.

door

 

This is a person 人. We read it in pinyin: rén
person

 

People use fire to cook.

This is fire 火. We read it in pinyin: huǒ

It is a pictographic representation of flames.
But most of my students like another explanation—-
It looks like a person with arms on either side, and yells: “Help, I am on fire!”

fire

So we have learnt 12 basic Chinese characters. We call them radicals. Image the radicals are bricks, we use the radical bricks to build door, window frame, wall eventually a house. In my next post, I will show you how to start to build the house a bit by bit.