EVOLUTION OF CHINESE CHARACTERS漢字發展
Hieroglyphics Pictures of nature found on ceramics dating from this period. River is three wavy
~ 5000 B.C. lines; horse has mane and four legs.
These pictures would later be a basis for the construction of more complex
ideas. In fact, many modern characters still resemble their ancestral forms,
Preclassical Oracle bone divination introduced. Tortoise shells and oxen shoulder blades are
1500 to 500 B.C. engraved with important questions and their possible answers. Bones then heated by fire, and predictions made based on crack patterns. Divination process elevates Chinese characters and calligraphy to sacred status. Any paper with writing on it was not thrown away, but burned in a “Pagoda of Compassionating the Characters.”
Classical Transition from pictures to stylized symbols. Introduction of radicals to categorize words by
Bronze Age to Han pronunciation and/or meaning. Monosyllabic language becomes polysyllabic.
Postclassical Six Kinds of Characters * 90% of modern Chinese is meaning-sound compounds
200 AD to Present
Pictographs horse mă 馬, pity diào弔, shoot shè 射, omen zhăo 兆
Symbols up shàng上, down xià 下, one yī 一, sān 三, center zhōng 中
Sound-loans scorpion → ten-thousand wán萬
Meaning-sound* 魚 (fish, yǚ) + 包 (to wrap, bāo) = 鮑 (salted fish, bào)
言 (words, yán) + 青 (green/blue, qīng) = 請 (invite, qĭng)
至 (reach, zhì) + 刀 (knife, dāo) = 到 (to arrive, dào)
Meaning-meaning 羊 (sheep, yáng) + 大 (big, dà) = 美 (beautiful mĕi)
禾 (grain, hé) + 火 (fire, huò) = 秋 (autumn, qiū)
立 (stand, lì) + 女 (woman, nǚ) = 妾 (concubine, qiè)
mouth 口 + earth 一 + lance 戈 + surround 囗 = nation guó 國
More super neat ideograms: good好, hurry極, sleep睡, tired累, east東, lake 湖
Reclarified 廷 (tíng, front yard) → 庭(tíng, king’s front yard)
萬 (old scorpion char.) → 蠆 (chài, with bug radical)
● Simplification: There are about thirteen very different Chinese
dialects. If a speaker of one dialect were to write a sentence, a speaker of
any other dialect will immediately understand it. Yet if the two tried to
communicate orally, they wouldn't understand a thing! (So the Chinese writing
system actually allows you to communicate simultaneously in 13 different
languages!) To eliminate such illiteracy, a reform movement arose during the
early 20th century, resulting in simplified characters, Pinyin, and the
adoption of the
● Influence on Western Thinking: The poetic elegance of Chinese ideograms has inspired many great Western thinkers, from Eisenstein on montage to Leibniz on Calculus. (Leibniz developed much math notation, such as “d/dx”.) Also, after WWII, there was a proposal to have traffic signs worldwide prepared like Chinese. We can see this effect today everywhere: railroad crossing, men working, loose gravel, slippery when wet, danger of falling rocks. Computer icons are also a modern form of ideography.
William Wu, Hong Yi Cheng /
EVOLUTION OF CHINESE CHARACTERS
Barbara. The Nature of the Chinese Character.
Hu, Jixuan; Pangaro, Paul, and Xiaoyun Sun. “How Do We Mean?” Online. Internet. Pangaro Inc..
“Mandarin Profile.” Online. Internet. UCLA Language Materials Project. http://www.lmp.ucla.edu/profiles/profm02.htm
“The Written Language.” May 2001. Online. Internet. The Republic of
Ying, Li, and William McNaughton.
For more neat ideograms and etymology, check out http://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~wwu/chinese/intro.shtml
William Wu, Hong Yi Cheng /