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quick questions on Wieger's "Chinese Characters: Their Origin, Etymology..." and on Etymology books in general

Ruben von Zwack

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Hi All!

There are many great online resources for characters but I am looking for an old-fashioned paper book to browse. Not for learning, but really just for pleasure.

The situation is kind of confusing, so please correct me where I'm wrong!

So what I'm wondering is:


From what I understand, the sort of Etymology given by Wieger is either folk etymology or follows the Shuōwén Jiězì and represents the state of research around 1900 (please correct me if I'm wrong), so he completely missed out on the oracle bones that were just discovered around that time, and a lot of it / most of it / absolutely everything (depending on whose opinion you hear :wink: ) is erroneous.

What I still find intriguing though is his grouping of phonemes. Do you reckon the book is still worth buying, just for that?


Is there a "better Wieger" meanwhile?

I was reading this topic, especially post # 22:


"謝光輝 Xìe Guānghuī Ed., (1997). The Composition of Common Chinese Characters: An Illustrated Account, Peking (sic) University Press. ISBN 7-301-03329-x" sounds intriguing but is out of print meanwhile - the topic was from 2004 - and resells for insane prices :(

And "Wú, Teresa L. (1990). The Origin and Dissemination of Chinese Characters (中國文字只起源與繁衍). Caves Books, Taipei ISBN 957-606-002-8" I cannot even find.

Thank you for your thoughts!

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I found China: Empire of Living Symbols by Cecilia Lindqvist entertaining, somewhat scholarly (in that she discusses competing theories and sources) and useful, in that it moves beyond the basic tree-sun-horse stuff. Not a dictionary, though, nowhere near as comprehensive.

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I second li3wei1's recommendation - in fact I was trying to remember the name of this book and author when I read the original post (my copy is in storage.) It's a lovely book and charmingly written and well illustrated.

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