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A Chinese character, also known as a Han character, is a logogram used in writing Chinese (hanzi).

Unlike purely phonetic writing systems of Western languages, each Chinese character is composed of strokes combined in such away as to form structures that can be called bushou (often mistranslated as radicals), meaning “section headings”. By the definition to be used here, many characters contain more than one bushou.

Chinese characters made up of multiple bushous squash these components together to maintain a uniform size and shape and thus occupy a more or less square area. Because of this, Chinese characters sometimes are referred as “Square-Block Characters” (fangkuai zi).

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In some cases, the bushou(s) grouped together to form a Chinese characters derive directly from pictures. Roughly 600 Chinese characters, around 4% of the total, fall into this category – pictograms – stylized drawings of the objects they represent.

These pictograms are generally among the oldest Chinese characters. A few, indicated below with their earliest forms, date back to oracle bones from the twelfth century BCE.

Oracle Bone Script Ancient Chinese Modern Chinese English

Many others, however, have been standardized, simplified, and stylized to make them easier to write, and their derivation is therefore not always obvious. For example,

Oracle Bone Script Ancient Chinese Modern Chinese English

These pictograms depict the meaning of words in a pictorial way, thus help understand and memorize them.

Besides, a lot of pictograms are the simplest Chinese characters. Many pictograms act as bushous or radicals or components in complex characters, thus help understand the meanings and structures of complex characters.

Therefore, my second advice would be children should learn the pictograms at the very beginning of learning Chinese characters, since they are much simpler, better to understand and easier to memorize.

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Tags: , | categories Chinese Lessons, From Lina | | datetime March 24, 2010 2:14 pm | comments Comments (1)

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