Fun Facts about Chinese Culture and History

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Chinese Characters - Hieroglyphics, Ideograms, and Semantic-phonetic Compound Characters

In the history of China, there are four methods of creation of Chinese characters, three of them are most frequently used. 

 

Hieroglyphics

Hieroglyphics, the earliest type originated in the history of China, now still exist in modern Chinese characters. They are easy to recognize and understand, and can also be used as an easy start to learn some Chinese words. 

 

Ideograms

Ideograms always consist of more than one part. These parts together can make new characters with obvious meanings.

 

Semantic-phonetic Compound Characters

Semantic-phonetic compound is the most widely used formation in Chinese culture.

 

Each semantic-phonetic compound character contains of usually two parts: one represents the pronunciation and another explains the meaning. 

Some Common Meaning Expression Parts

Some Examples of Semantic-phonetic Compound Characters

雨 rain/weather related

 

雪 snow

霜 frost

露 dew

雷 thunder

雾 fog

霏 thin and floating clouds; rain or snow falls fast

霁 clear up after rain or snow

 

They all have 雨 part, which means moist weather related phenomena.

 

But they have different pronunciations based on the other part.  So 雨 is the meaning part, while the other part presents pronunciations. 

贝 shell, money related. Because the first exchange currency in the history of China was the shell. 

 

财 money, property

贡 tribute

贫 poor, poverty

贪 greedy, corrupt

货 product

购 buy

帐 account 

贵 expensive 

贷 loan

 

They all have 贝 part, which represents money related activities. But, they have different pronunciations based on the other part. 

 

So 贝 is the meaning part, while the other part presents pronunciations.