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Chinese Characters and Scripts


Title: Languages of China Author: MC SYSTEM Last modified by: Created Date: 2/19/2008 1:52:06 AM Document presentation format: – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Chinese Characters and Scripts

Chinese Characters and Scripts
Warming up ---What do you know about Chinese
  • When did Chinese characters come into being?
  • Are Chinese characters pictographs?
  • How many types of structure of Chinese
    characters? Can you name some of them?
  • Can you say something about the origin and
    development of Chinese characters?

  • Introduction
  • I Chinese Characters
  • History of Chinese Characters
  • ---A legend of Cang Jie
  • --- History of Chinese Characters
  • --- The General features of Chinese
  • --- Structures of Chinese Characters

  • With a view to examining the cultural traits
    belonging to a certain nation it is imperative to
    acquire a perspective through a window of the
    language and characters conceded. Language and
    script function as a threshold leading human
    beings from ignorance to civilization. Not molded
    at random, the specific language and script of
    each nation hinged on the features and patterns
    of thinking that had resulted in from its
    interior, bearing a rich stock of the national
    cultural heritage.

  • I. Square Chinese Character
  • The Chinese characters, neat and peculiar in
    appearance, occupy the same spacing in printed
    paper, whether drawn in ?(one), ?(two),
    ?(already) and ?(again) with one or two
    strokes, or copied in ?(assembly) and ?(jar)
    with over ten strokes. The characters diversify
    in posture. For example, ?(fields) ?(not) in
    upright and foursquare type, and ?(dagger-axe)
    ?(night) and ?(tile) in crooked and askew
    style, all are printed out in identical size.
    With respect to this trait, therefore, Chinese
    script is figuratively referred to as Square

When did the written language come into being?
  • Chinese is among the worlds oldest written
    languages. Chinese characters evolved from
    pictographs into characters formed of strokes,
    with their structures very much simpler.
  • The written language came much later than the
    oral language, it came into being about 5
    thousand years ago.
  • Ideograph is the original form of Paleography???
    . Chinese character originated from the
    logograph?? that was invented earlier than the
    Oracle bone Script.

Cangjie?? Created Chinese Script
  • There have been legends about the origin of the
    Chinese script, with nearly all ancient writers
    attributing it to a man named Cangjie .
  • Cang Jie was allegedly believed to be a
    deity (diiti?) with four eyes on the face,
    intelligent and touched in divinities ? ?? , and
    to be so profoundly enlightened by the beauty in
    nature as to have invented Chinese characters.

  • Cangjie, according to one legend, saw a divine
    being whose face had unusual features which
    looked like a picture of writings. In imitation
    of his image, Cangjie created the earliest
    written characters Another story says that
    Cangjie saw the footprints of birds and beasts,
    which inspired him to create written language.

History of Chinese Character
  • Chinese is among the worlds oldest written
    languages. Compared with the other systems of
    scripts, Chinese characters emerged early with an
    over 4,000-year history.
  • Ideograph is the original form of Paleography???
    . Chinese character originated from the
    logograph?? that was invented earlier than the
    Oracle bone Script.
  • Chinese characters evolved from pictographs into
    characters formed of strokes, with their
    structures very much simpler.

History of Chinese Character
  • As demonstrated by the archaeological findings,
    only at Banpo-Yangshao Cultural(??????) Ruins in
    Xian of Shaanxi Province were discriminated 113
    samples in different simple signs that had been
    carved on the outer part of a vertical-cavity(??)
    pot decorated with wide grains(??) or big
    inverse-triangular veins (??). The strokes(??) of
    the signs looked simple in regular shapes,
    covering more than thirty clans such as a
    horizontal stroke, a vertical stroke, a bevel
    (??)stroke and a cross stroke. The archaeological
    experts released the textual research that these
    engraved symbols could have been the primitive
    relics of Chinese characters.

  • At Dawenkou (???) Cultural Ruins that traces from
    5,000 years ago were found some pictographic
    marks that had been carved on the grey pottery
    vessels and that had virtually developed into the
    later-arriving pictograph.

Major Characteristics
  • Hanyu (??), usually called Chinese language in
    Hong Kong, belongs to the Sinitic branch of the
    Sino-Tibetan Family(????). In comparison with
    other languages, the major characteristics of
    modern Chinese language are as follows -

General features
  • Square Characters
  • formed of strokes
  • occupy the same spacing in printed paper
  • Ideograph(????) Pictograph
  • Rich in Senses

Basically Using Monosyllabic(???) Characters
  • Chinese characters are the written
    symbol of the Chinese language.
    Generally, a Chinese character represents a
    syllable and carries a certain meaning.
    For example, "?" (water), "?" (human), "?" (dog).
    However, not every character can be used
    independently. In modern Chinese, some of the
    characters must be used together with
    other characters and form compound words,
    such as "?" (study) in "??" (learn
    study) and "?" (strike) in "??" (strike
    attack). There are also some characters that
    only have their meanings when grouped in words of
    two or more characters, such as "??" (grape),
    "??" (dragonfly).

  • Chinese language is tonal(??). Chinese
    character has four tones. The same syllable,
    pronounced with different tones, will become
    different words and have different meanings.
    For example, "?" gang1 is different from "?"
    gang3 while "?" wen2 is different from "?"

Less Morphological Changes
  • For example, nouns do not change according to
    gender or quantity. A book is "?", a few books
    are also "?". Verbs do not need to change to
    match the subject. For example, the verb
    "?" (go) in "??" (I go) and "??" (he go)
    is totally the same. However, Chinese
    verbs have tenses, such as "???" ("eat
    perfective rice" for "finish taking a
    meal") "???" ("eat continuous rice" for
    "taking a meal") and "???" ("eat
    experiential rice" for "have taken a meal").

Subject-verb-object Order
  • The basic order of modern Chinese language is
    "subject-verb-object" (SVO). For example, we
    will say "???" (I sit car), but not "???"
    (I car sit) and "???" (car sit I).

Use of Classifiers Obligatory
In modern Chinese language, the use of classifier between a numeral and a noun is obligatory. For example, we will say "???" (three classifier cats) instead of "??" (three cats).
The Modifier Placed Before the Modified
  • In modern Chinese, the modifier is to be
    placed before the modified. For example,
    we will say "???" (slowly drink) instead
    of "???" (drink slowly) "A red flower" is
    "????" (a classifier red flower), but not "? ???"
    (a classifier flower red).

Only Single Consonants Tolerated
  • Both in Cantonese or Putonghua, there are
    only single consonants. For example, in
    the initials of the two syllables "??"
    daa2 po3, there are single consonants d-
    p- respectively. There are no consonant
    clusters like br- in "break" in English.
    Transcriptions like sh, ch, ng in Hanyu
    Pinyin all represent single consonants.

Methods to keep a record of events in Ancient
  • 1. Knots (??)
  • According to the records, Shennong, a
    legendary emperor of China, recorded information
    by means of knots as well.
  • 2. Inscriptions( carvings pictures)
  • 3. Logographs (drawing pictures,
    hieroglyphs????/???? )

Written Styles of Chinese Characters
  • jiaguwen (??? oracle bone inscriptions )
  • jinwen (?? bronze script)
  • xiaozhuan or zhuanshu (?? seal characer)
  • lishu (?? official script)
  • caoshu(?? cursive Script )
  • xingshu(?? semi-cursive script )
  • kaishu (?? regular script)

Structure of Chinese Characters
  • Around 100 A.D. the scholar Xu Shen (??) wrote
    the etymological dictionary (????) which
    differentiates six types of characters(??)
  • pictographs, ??
  • ideographs (referential characters), ??
  • logical aggregates (indicative characters),??
  • pictographic-phonetic characters
    ( phonetic complexes), ??
  • associative transformation, ??
  • phonetic loan characters (borrowings).??

Traditional six styles-1
  • pictographs (???) (illustrating the shape of
  • e.g. ?mountain, ?fish, ?well

Traditional six styles-2
  • The referential characters/Simple ideographs ???
    (to form a new word by adding a symbol to
  • e.g. ?(mother) The character is formed by adding
    two dots in chest of a woman to indicate breasts.

Traditional six styles-3
  • The indicative characters/Logical aggregates
    ???(combine the meanings of different characters
    to create a new meaning)
  • e.g. a female is ?, a child is ?, and the two
    together is good ?

Traditional six styles-4
  • The pictographic-phonetic characters/Phonetic
    complexes ???( combine the meaning of one
    character with the sound of another)
  • e.g. in the character ? the meaning of think is
    suggested by heart and the pronunciation is
    nearly the same as that of ?.

Other examples
  • ?????,? (the upper part of the character
    indicates the meaning and the lower part of it
    indicates the sound.
  • ???? ?, ? (the upper part of the character
    indicates the sound, and the lower part of it
    indicates the meaning)
  • ???? the left part of the character indicates
    the sound, and the right part of it indicates the
  • ?????,?
  • ?????,?
  • ???? ?,?

Traditional six styles-5
  • Associative transformations ??extend the meaning
    of a character to related concept.
  • E.g. ?(weapon) comprising ?(stop) and ?

Traditional six styles-6
  • The phonetic loan characters??
  • The phonetic loan characters are the borrowed
  • E.g. ? (west)

  • The four basic skills and disciplines of the
    Chinese literati
  • qin (a string musical instrument)
  • qi (a strategic board game)
  • shu (calligraphy),
  • hua (painting),

  • Calligraphy is an art dating back to the
    earliest day of history, and widely practiced
    throughout China to this day. Although it uses
    Chinese words as its vehicle of expression, one
    does not have to know Chinese to appreciate its
    beauty. Because in essence, Calligraphy is an
    abstract art. While viewing a Western abstract
    painting, one does not ask, What is it? When
    viewing Chinese calligraphy, one need not ask,
    What is the Chinese word?

  • Tu Meng of the Tang dynasty (618-905)
    developed 120 expressions to describe different
    styles of calligraphy and establish criteria for
    them. The first 15 from his list are
  • ability, mysterious, careful, carefree, balance,
    unrestrained, mature, virile(??), grace, sober,
    well-knit, prolix(??), rich, exuberant(????),
    classic .

  • A gracefully executed work has no peer.
  • Bold yet fluid


A carefree style has no fixed directions. The
character is Sui (to follow), in cursive style.
The movement of the strokes suggests speed, by
a dancing rather than a racing speed. By Wang
Languages and Script of China
  • A threshold(??/??) leading human from
    ignorance to civilization

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A Comparison between Dongba hieroglyphs(??????)
and the oracle bone scripts
Changle bone inscriptions --- Origin of the
oracle bone scripts
Spoken Chinese
  • The Chinese language spoken by the Hans, 94 of
    Chinas population.
  • Different, non-Han languages spoken by the
    remaining 6 the so-called minority peoples

Eight major dialects in Chinese language
  • Wu dialect (spoken by 8.4 percent of Han
  • Xiang (spoken by 5 percent),
  • Cantonese (5 percent),
  • Min (4.2 percent),
  • Hakka (4 percent),
  • Gan (2.4 percent)

  • The official or common language of the PRC was
    based on the northern dialect.
  • various names Mandarin, Modern standard Chinese,
    or Putonghua (common speech).
  • It is spoken in various sub-dialect forms by 70
    percent of Hans.

Chinese Pinyin
  • In 1958 a system of writing-- using the Roman
  • Since 1979 all Chinese diplomatic documents and
    magazines have used the pinyin system for
    spelling names and places.

English words with Chinese roots
  • ginseng (??), silk (?), dimsum (??), oolong(??),
    fengshui(??), kow-tow(??), typhoon (??),
    tao(?),yin and yang(??), Tai Chi (??),
    Kung-fu(??), tofu(??)

Chinese character and calligraphy
  • The writing of Chinese characters was developed
    into an artistic form.
  • In addition, the traditional seal carving and
    engraving assumes a dainty presentation of the
    graphs or strokes in the characters.

  • The following is the emblem of 2008 Olympics
    Chinese Seal, Dancing Beijing.
  • Please ponder on the rich connotations and charms
    of these Chinese characters and the traditional
    Chinese calligraphic art.

The Olympic emblem(????) for the 2008 Olympic
Simplification of Chinese Characters
  • Over thousands of years, Chinese characters had
    been written in vertical lines from right to
  • In the interests of promoting universal literacy,
    the Committee for Reforming the Chinese Language
    was set up by the government in 1954. Around 2200
    Chinese characters were simplified.

Minority Nationality Languages, and Characters
  • 21 own writing systems Different language
  • The most minority languages belong to the
    Han-Zang family(????)
  • E.G. the languages for Zhuang(?), Zang(?), Bu
    Yi(??), Tai(?), Tu Jia(??), Miao(?), Bai(?),
  • the Indian Europe family(????)

Four Treasures
Describe the four treasure of the study.
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  • Brush (Hubi)
  • The brush is the traditional Chinese writing
    tool. Its tip is made of soft hairs from a sheep,
    weasel(??) or rabbit. The carefully selected
    hairs are tied together, trimmed into a tapering
    shape and fixed onto one end of a bamboo or
    wooden holder(??). The hair is both soft and
    elastic. The ourter layers of the brush are
    shorter making it easier to absorb ink. The tip
    end has longer hairs which come to a tiny point,
    so that both wrinkle dotting and line drawing can
    be done easily.

  • Chinese Ink (Huimo)
  • Chinese ink is made by mixing soot(??) from
    burning tung oil(??) and pin tar(???) with
    gelatin(??), Chinese herbs and spices. Ink is
    produced by grinding the solid ink with water
    against an inkstone. There is a saying that
    black ink has five colors, because Chinese
    painters use ink meticulously to produce a number
    of subtle shades.

  • Paper (Xuanzhi)
  • Xuan paper was originally produced in Xuanzhou
    in Anhui province in the Tang Dynasty. Xuan paper
    has a close texture, making it pliable yet tough,
    and resistant to ageing and insects.

  • Ink Slab (Duanyan)
  • Ink slabs can be date back to the Han Dynasty,
    and it is a sort of millstone on which water is
    turned into ink by rubbing an ink stick. Duan ink
    slabs produced at Duanxi, Guangdong Province, are
    valued for their fine, smooth surfaces which look
    glossy with moisture. They are also good for
    keeping left-over ink.

Questions to answer
  • What did Emperor Qing Shihuang do?
  • Chinese calligraphy is an Oriental art. But what
    makes it an art?
  • Why has calligraphy stayed popular since ancient
  • What practical functions does calligraphy still
    have? Do you think computer will lead to the
    disappearance of Chinese calligraphy?

  • Emperors like Li Shimin and Qian Long sponsored
  • The Imperial Civil Service examinations were
    focused on writing and provided a way for
    ordinary people to achieve a better life.
  • It had practical values because it was a good way
    to make friends and was more presentable as a
    gift rather than jewelry or money.
  • Many people practice calligraphy as a way to
    raise their cultural accomplishment.
  • Older people use calligraphic writing as a method
    to keep fit. They believe that when a person
    concentrates on writing calligraphy, his inner
    wellbeing is stimulated.

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