Chinese characters made easy

Neih hou! (Hello!)

Our Cantonese lessons have mostly involved speaking and using the romanised script (such as neih hou, above), but Tom has been teaching me some of the Chinese characters. It’s really interesting! Chinese characters have evolved from a pictoral language, so some of them are fairly obvious. See if you agree…

Chinese characters one twoChinese character three

一, 二, 三 = 1, 2, 3

I thought we’d start with some numbers. Nice and easy.

Chinese character - centre中 = centre/middle

This character also looks like what it’s trying to convey. A box with a line down the middle = middle. It’s also the first character of ‘China’ in Chinese, which literally translates as ‘middle country’.

Chinese character - man人 = man/person

You can sort of see that this looks like a person. In a museum I saw a video showing how different characters had evolved over the centuries, and this one started life as a much more intricate picture of a person but has been simplified over the years.

Chinese character - big大 = big

I remember this one because it looks like a man stretching out his arms, saying “It was this big!”

Chinese character - fire火 = fire

And this one looks like a man waving his hands in the air saying “Help! Help! There’s a fire!” (or that’s how I remember it…)

Chinese character - west西 = West

Now they get a bit more tenuous. To me, this character looks like pi on a table. So that’s how I remember what it is!

Chinese character - noon午 = noon

And this one looks like a bird on an aerial…

Ok, that’s enough characters for today. As you can see, some of the characters are fairly easy to recognise, and I reckon I’ve learned somewhere between 20 and 30 already. However, they aren’t all as simple as the ones I’ve learned so far! For example:

Chinese character - bay灣 = bay

Thanks for reading!


One thought on “Chinese characters made easy

  1. Pingback: Chinese characters made easy – part 2 | the Little Koo blog

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