Questions about the Chinese characters, called Hanzi, about their characteristics and everything that relates to them.

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25
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7answers
3k views

How many characters do I need to learn?

How many Chinese characters would I generally need to learn to be able to handle most text in typical every day circumstances? How many would be required to be considered fluent? Are there any good ...
21
votes
11answers
1k views

Etymology of the Chinese number characters (一二三四五六七八九十百千)

Main Question: What is the etymology of the Chinese number characters (一二三四五六七八九十百千)? Related question: Why isn't 四 four lines? (the origin of 一 二 三 四 五 六 七 八 九) I decide to write a ...
20
votes
7answers
757 views

Can Chinese readers scan large amounts of text faster/more accurately than their alphabet-using counterparts?

I was browsing one day and came across this comment in this discussion(italics mine): I feel English is a reading language, if you are reading an English book, you watch the word and make sound in ...
18
votes
8answers
890 views

How do we choose the correct characters for a westerner name?

Since there are many characters that share a common pronunciation and sometimes also the same tone, how do we properly choose which character best represents our name? Is it totally arbitrary or are ...
18
votes
4answers
964 views

Why isn't 四 four lines? (the origin of 一 二 三 四 五 六 七 八 九)

A common experience of beginner hanzi students is their raised hopes and expectations when they learn 一 二 三 - "what a wonderfully elegant language!" - which are promptly crushed when they encounter 四. ...
16
votes
5answers
889 views

What is the difference between 狗 and 犬?

狗 (gǒu) and 犬 (quǎn) both mean "dog" and both seem relatively common, but is there any difference between them? When should I use one and when should I use the other?
16
votes
5answers
2k views

How can one determine the radical for a given character?

Many times, when reading Mandarin, I will happen across a character that I don't know. Usually, the radical along with some context will clue me into the meaning, but if I can't determine the ...
15
votes
4answers
498 views

Reading handwriting

How can I get better at reading handwriting? Are there fonts that look like it, or web sites with examples for practice? Are there some common shortcuts that people take when writing by hand?
14
votes
2answers
511 views

Words referring to the shape of Chinese characters

Some words in English use (capital) letters to describe the shape of the object to which they refer: A-frame, C-clamp, I-beam, O-ring, T-shirt, T-intersection, T-bone, U-turn, V-neck Chinese ...
13
votes
14answers
1k views

Techniques for learning and retaining characters

For many of us, memorizing characters is a difficult thing. In Chinese, just because you can speak the word doesn't mean you can read it. Just because you can read it doesn't mean you can write it. At ...
13
votes
4answers
186 views

How to Find Characters in a Dictionary?

In English we would look words based on their alphabetical order. But how are Chinese dictionaries ordered to allow you to find what you are looking for - is it based on the radicals, number of ...
12
votes
5answers
595 views

Is any simplified character also a traditional character?

I don't mean traditional characters that weren't simplified, thus being the same in traditional and simplified. What I ask if there is any simplified character which in turn has the same form of ...
11
votes
6answers
445 views

How do Chinese speakers pronounce unknown characters?

I'm wondering what do Chinese speakers do when they are reading aloud and encounter a character they don't know (sometimes it happens, isn't it?). In phonetic languages, there is a possibility to ...
11
votes
4answers
483 views

足: why is “foot” also “enough”?

足 is an ancient character meaning "foot". However, it also means "enough" or "sufficient", and this second definition is also very old. Consider this excerpt: 兵甲已足。——诸葛亮《出师表》 This is from ...
10
votes
3answers
2k views

When and why is right to left writing used?

I have encountered characters written horizontally right to left on signs (at the top of a gate) and on vehicles. When is this used and why? Was this more common in the past? Are the individuals ...
9
votes
4answers
453 views

Why does 首饰的饰 have the 饣radical?

According to my sources 饣 means "food" or "eat". Since when do people eat jewelry?
9
votes
2answers
405 views

Fast-written forms of 草书 characters

Are they frequently used? Which one of the three is applied more often: is it the 章草, the 今草 or the 狂草? Are they different in comparison with the 行書? Are there any online resourses to learn more ...
9
votes
3answers
418 views

What's the actual difference between 文 and 语?

Both mean "language" with some other related meanings. A friend of mine told me that while 文 refers more to the written language, 语 is more related to the spoken one. Is this a difference and is it ...
9
votes
2answers
352 views

In Chinese typesetting, is there a version of Lorem Ipsum?

I know relatively little about typography but I know that Lorem Ipsum or other similar bodies of text appear a lot in the world of typesetting. Because Chinese characters are pretty much square, is ...
9
votes
2answers
144 views

Is there a rule that tells what characters can be omitted?

I have a habit of using too many characters when I speak and write. For example: 我回我的家。 我的 is not needed, and we can simply say 我回家。 Is there a grammar rule for when to cut characters? A ...
8
votes
3answers
573 views

Confusion about the ice radical 冫

As far as I know, the character for "ice" is 冰, and the radical derived from it is 冫 . I find it a bit weird that the ice radical 冫 is the radical for the ice character 冰 itself (ice + water = ice ...
8
votes
5answers
500 views

Is there a site that can split characters into radicals?

For example, let's examine character heaven. It has a Ren radical (men). And then we add a strip to become Tha (big). And then we add another strip to get heaven. Now, is there a site to do so? I ...
8
votes
2answers
182 views

Does “坊” also mean “square”, “plaza”, “piazza” like “广场”?

Where I am in Kunming there is a square that seems to go by two names: 金碧广场, Jīn bì guǎngchǎng, "Golden Square" 金马碧鸡坊, Jīnmǎ bì jī fang, "Golden Horse and Green Rooster Square" When I look ...
8
votes
1answer
177 views

Have any fonts been released that are based on slender gold?

I remember the first time I saw slender gold I had something like an 'am I dreaming?' moment. That's not how characters were supposed to look! The lines aren't supposed to cross, etc., etc. But ...
8
votes
1answer
222 views

Is there a difference between 夂 and 夊?

Looking at the list of Kangxi radicals over at Wikipedia, I just noticed something I haven't noticed before. Radical number 34 (夂) and 35 (夊) are virtually identical. I write these radicals in the ...
8
votes
2answers
125 views

What is the part without the radical called?

For example, these characters have different radicals: 根 跟 恨 狠 But the part of the characters minus the radical is the same. Does that part (艮 in this case) have a name?
8
votes
3answers
149 views

Why does the radical for water and ice often look so weird

When I see the radical being used in 洗 and 凉 in some books or even sougou. They break it up into a broken radical that looks nothing like it. Is it one of those things that are related only to ...
8
votes
1answer
207 views

How to differentiate “radical plus 0 strokes” characters?

There are (at least) six characters that consist of radical 102 plus 0 strokes: 田 由 甲 申 甴 电 In each of the variants the middle vertical stroke is made shorter, longer or twisted at the end. Is there ...
8
votes
1answer
328 views

Analog of Hong Kong grade level for Chinese characters?

The Unihan database lists a kGradeLevel for each entry. This is the primary grade in the Hong Kong school system by which a student is expected to know the corresponding character. Is there a similar ...
7
votes
4answers
461 views

Origin of beautiful kingdom and hero kingdom

Why in Mandarin chinese, USA is beautiful kingdom and England is hero kingdom?
7
votes
4answers
463 views

Where can I find a list of commonly mistaken characters?

I want to quickly identify potential mistakes created by OCR software. Where can I find a list of all Chinese characters that visually look very similar and might often be confused?
7
votes
5answers
2k views

Take away (when ordering food): is it 带走 or 打包?

I was told that when you are ordering food you can say either 带走 or 打包. However, when you are not ordering food and you mean "take this away", then you use 拿走。 Is there a difference in context or ...
7
votes
6answers
6k views

Does 危机 really mean both crisis and opportunity?

A lot of people, mostly those who haven't studied Chinese, like to claim something along the lines of "In Chinese, the word for crisis 危机, also bears the meaning of opportunity." This is usually ...
7
votes
1answer
194 views

How is the Kanji character 豚 related to the chinese 猪 / 豬

The Chinese character for pig is 猪 / 豬 (zhu1) In many Japanese restaurants around Hong Kong I've seen this somewhat different character 豚 which appears to also mean pig. How would you say it in ...
7
votes
2answers
255 views

Character and meaning for the 四川话 sentence-ending particle 'ga'?

Scholars of Chinese will have a lot of work to do in the next 100-200 years, because eventually academics will take notice and want to document the self-emergent standardization of orthography for ...
7
votes
2answers
237 views

What characters are on this ceramic jar?

What characters are depicted on this old jar? My (art-)sources have all different opinions: "fu2 shou4 an1 kang1" or "fu2 lu4 shou4 xi3" or 4 x shou4 or "fu2 shou4 kang1 ning2" and all without telling ...
7
votes
2answers
545 views

Characters which have several different shapes

For those who might not read the question fully: this not about simplified vs traditional characters. While the traditional and simplified version of a character can be considered the same, they at ...
7
votes
2answers
439 views

How does CJK Decomposition compare to the Wikimedia Commons Chinese characters decomposition data?

I found two public databases that describe the composition of Chinese characters. 1 - CJK Decomposition Data 2 - Chinese Characters Decomposition on Wiki Commons I can see how the formats they use ...
6
votes
6answers
791 views

Which fonts show the stroke order of all characters?

For academic purposes, I need to print out some pages of characters with stroke orders shown. Which computer fonts (e.g. TrueType or OpenType) are available which show the stroke order of each ...
6
votes
1answer
167 views

Is the traditional character for 雪 the same as itself?

Is the traditional character for ? Or are both and considered the same character (汉字) with simply different font styles?
6
votes
3answers
331 views

How are the terms for “male/female” and “man/woman” divided exactly?

I know that daughter in Chinese is 女儿, and son is 儿子. A little side-question: Why isn't "son" 男儿? My main question is this one though: apart from son and daughter stated above, what are the ...
6
votes
3answers
229 views

What's the difference between 蝦 and 鰕?

I found there are two characters for "xia1" (ghra as in Middle Chinese), 蝦 and 鰕. Could someone explain what the difference is?
6
votes
1answer
155 views

General guidelines for learning stroke order

A friend asked me for a brief description of the general guidelines for writing Chinese characters. What are the simplest ways to describe those "rules" that apply across most characters?
6
votes
3answers
179 views

Visual puns and phrases

Some characters are visual puns: 尜 (小大小), 尖 (小大); others are a phrase written as a single character: 膥 (未成肉), 籴 (入米), 汆 (入水), 奀 (不大). What are some other characters which fit into these categories?
6
votes
1answer
172 views

What is the difference between 升, 陞 and 昇?

There are some characters in Chinese which give me severe headaches, especially those that have the same pronunciation and mean more or less the same thing. I have learnt three characters which are ...
6
votes
2answers
200 views

Is there an authoritative reference for the stroke order of simplifed characters?

It seems various people often have various ways to write the same characters. For instance, I have seen the radical "忄" being written in three different ways (left, middle, right; left, right, middle; ...
5
votes
3answers
369 views

What's the difference between 江 and 河?

My daily newsletter contained the following sentence: 长江是中国最长的河。 According to the dictionary, 江 and 河 both mean "river", but they seem to be used differently. Am I right in assuming that 长河是中国最长的江 ...
5
votes
2answers
372 views

Looking for very common dialect words which have no Standard Mandarin Chinese hanzi characters

I'm basing this question on several assumptions, so if they are wrong please say so as an answer: Written Chinese is mainly used for Standard (Mandarin) Chinese. Mostly other Chinese languages ...
5
votes
4answers
231 views

Searching for characters by parts

Are there any online or computer dictionaries that allow searching for characters by any sub-part of the character? Occasionally it I see a character the parts of which I can already type. But I ...
5
votes
3answers
234 views

Learn the characters at the same time as the language?

Should I learn Mandarin basics first through pinyin and worry about the characters later, or should I learn them together? Pros and cons?