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I decide to write something introducing Chinese character. Please give me some advice.


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I decide to write something introducing Chinese character. Before beginning this, I studied some items on etymonline.com (I really like this website, and benefit a lot from it) and other English etymology book, esp. the style and usage. However, problems came out one by one, for instance, punctuations, standardization, tenses, adoption among “mean, represent, portray, depict,” and so on. It is really a great challenge because the longest article I wrote in English before was just some GRE compositions.

These are some experimental examples I just finished, fresh and unexamined. Would these help you? Please give me some advice. Thanks in advance.


OBS Oracle bone script

BI bronze inscription

SS seal script

CLS clerical script

RS regular script

SCS semi-cursive script

CS cursive script

TC traditional character

SC simplified character

imp. implication

pc. phonetic component

sc. semantic component

cf. compare

> 1) meaning A > meaning B: A extends to B;

2) character A> character B: B derives from A;

< the opposite way to >

>> to be borrowed to express/ as a phonetic loan word

~ to represent a pronunciation of

* statement should be examined further

*** unwarranted statement


嵒>癌. From 疒 “illness, disease” + 嵒 “rock” and pc. Tumor is often rough, uneven, solid and hard to remove like a stone. 嵒yan2, a variant form of 岩 “rock,” composed of 品 like piled up stones + 山 “mountain, hill.”

The changes of pronunciation of 癌 from yan2 to ai2, is a successful example of artificial adjustment. 炎 “inflammation” and 癌 “cancer” shared the same pronunciation “yan2” before. It was horrible to mix up these disparate diseases. For instance, patients could not make sure what they were suffering was whether 肺炎 “pneumonia” or 肺癌 “lung cancer” when told by doctors. In 1961, editors of Xinhua Dictionary recommended ai2, a dialect pronunciation for癌, which turned welcome. And this alteration was finally settled down officially in 1985.


奧, composed of 宀 “roof” + 釆 like a bunch of wheat (opinions diverges here, but most people agree that 釆 is a tribute, whatever it is) + 大 a variation of 廾 “both hands,” hence to salute with hands joined. Originally meaning “secret corner of house,” where people pay tribute to deities or ancestors. > “profound.”


composed of 田, a variation of 囟 *“head, brain” & pc. xin4~si1 + 心 “heart.” It is suggested that this character revealed wisdom of ancient people who might have already perceived the relation between thinking and brain. However, numerous characters relating to thought and feelings still comprise 心, with 思 being an exception formed with 囟. Also 思 and 囟 did share a similar pronunciation in a early stage. Maybe it is too hasty to jump to the conclusion that 思 has sense relation with 囟.

It is like a coincidence that nearly all ancient cultures seemed to have a tacit agreement that 心 is responsible for the mental activities. Egyptians eviscerate the dead body to make mummy, preserve the heart carefully in a can and leave brain alone. It is no wonder brain is ignored. It can’t pump fast when people get either nervous or excited, and always keep silent.


In terms of “four”, 亖 first prevailed. However, it is easy to mix up亖 with 三, so 四 is adopted. This phonetic loan character originally stands for a nose, emphasizing the two nostrils (cf 泗).


水 “water” + 四 “nose” & pc. Meaning water discharged by nose, hence “snot, sniver.”


Composed of 舟 “boat” + 殳 “to hold a pole.” Meaning rotating a boat, hence revolving. Perhaps a original form of 搬 on the notion of moving by boat. According to a more convincing opinion substantiated by OBS, it is the original form of 盤, composed of 舟, a alteration of 凡 portraying a dish or salver + 殳 “to hold a stick,” here a spoon.(confusion of 舟 & 凡, cf. ) However, 般 itself >> “kind, sort” and has no sense relation with how it is constructed.


The originally form of 遨 “to roam,to wander,” composed of 士, a variation of 出 “outside” + 放 “to release, free.” 敖 Itself >> a surname.


八 “against” + 厶 “private.” Publicity is the reverse of privacy and justice goes against with selfishness. It is also suggested that instead of公 being combined by 八 and 厶, actually厶 acquires the meaning of “privacy” by a “back-formation” of 公. In OBS, the under part of 公 is not 厶 but 口. However, why the formation of OBS 公 rendered a meaning of publicity remains unknown.


Composed of 尸 a curved or reclining person + 辛 sword for torture or punishment + 口 an embellishment or representing flesh cut from the body. Portraying a scene of people receiving cruel punishment. Meaning “law” originally.


厶>私. 私, composed of 禾 “grain” + 厶 “private.” Food such as grain is among the most precious in ancient society, so characters which deal with property may be constructed with 禾. A much more common component relating money is 貝.


首 “head” + 辶 “ to walk” on the notion of heading for some place on a way.


道>導. Composed of 道 “road, way” & pc. + 寸 “hand.” Meaning to direct the way, hence to lead.


Pictograph of a nail. The original form of釘.

Pc. ~ding, cf. 釘 盯 etc.; ~ting, cf. 亭 汀 厅 etc.

Imp. To strike a snail is to focus power onto one sharp point, so characters with 丁as a phonetic component sometimes gain an implication of “to fix, settle down” and “at one point”


金 “metal” + 丁 “a nail”


目 “eye” + 丁 pc. with imp. To stare is to look fixedly at one point.


言 “speech” + 丁 pc. with imp. To make a deal is to converge opinions to one point.


頁 “head” + 丁 pc. with imp. Head is the topmost point in human body.


手 “hand” + 丁 pc. ding1~da3. ***Composed of 手 + 丁 “a nail,” to strike a nail.


口 “mouth” + 丁 pp with imp. To sting is like piercing into the skin with a sharp point.

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You are trying to write a book? There are a lot of mistakes. Here is a much better version of one of your paragraphs:

The change in pronunciation of 癌 from yan2 to ai2 is a successful example of artificial adjustment. 炎 (inflammation) and 癌 (cancer) used to share the same pronunciation yan2. These homophones were a source of great confusion as patients could not understand, for instance, whether they were suffering from 肺炎 (pneumonia) or 肺癌 (lung cancer) upon hearing their doctors' diagnosis. In 1961, the editors of Xinhua Dictionary recommended that the pronunciation of 癌 be changed to ai2, a dialectal pronunciation for 癌. This alteration was well-recieved and was officially adopted in 1985.

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