Decomposition of the Chinese Character 天 tiān ‘sky’ Poll

  1. 二 èr, 人 rén
  2. 一 yī, 大 dà
  3. 一 yī, 大 dà, 一 yī, 人 rén

5 Answers 5


大 is just a person standing, see the old forms of 大 http://www.zdic.net/z/17/zy/5927.htm

Old forms of 人 show a person with his back bent, maybe working in the fields or praying or bowing.

儿 shows 2 legs, draw them together and you have 人。

If you put a line on 2 legs, 儿 you get 丌, which is a pedestal or some kind of small table, not 'heaven'.

More interesting is what the ancients thought of when they wrote 天。

Perhaps they thought 'the one, 一 that is above and bigger than mortals 大' which neatly uses the senses of big and person in 1 character.

  • Learning Chinese characters using associations is a very interesting method. It works well for simple Chinese characters. When a character consists of a large number of components are associations applicable? How could Chinese character 我 wǒ be associated? Feb 11, 2017 at 3:04
  • Learning Chinese characters is very hard, at least for me! I think 我 is only used for it's sound. What picture could you draw to represent I?? Didn't someone ask this just yesterday? 你, you, is 人+尔。 Often a component of a complex character is just used for its sound. However, I'm not an expert
    – Pedroski
    Feb 11, 2017 at 4:01
  • It is better to understand complicated Chinese characters. I mean their structure, radical and components. Analysis of the Chinese character helps us to better understand and write Chinese character correctly. As for the Chinese character 我 wǒ 'I' I would offer this mode of decomposition: Decomposition of the Chinese character 我 wǒ ‘I’ 丿 piě slash, 找 zhǎo look for, 扌 shǒu hand, 一 yī one, 亅 jué hook, 戈 gē spear, 弋 yì shoot, 一 yī one, 丿 piě slash, 丶 zhǔ dot. 我 wǒ ‘I’ 丿找扌一亅戈弋一丿丶 Feb 11, 2017 at 5:27

The newly released Outlier Dictionary of Chinese Characters decomposes 天 into 一 and 大. The authors of the dictionary are very concerned about providing information based on serious scholarship, so I would trust it.

  • 1
    It's about time; I've been waiting for it for a while!
    – Brian Tung
    Feb 10, 2017 at 21:22
  • The final goal of the Chinese characters decomposition is to help learners better memorise Chinese characters. For achieving that purpose it might be pretty useful to analyze Chinese characters from all points of view. I mean to see as many decomposition options in the character as possible. When a Chinese character better analyzed it will easily be remembered. See how many decomposition options are possible for 天: 1. 二 èr two, 人 rén man 2. 一 yī one, 大 dà big 3. 一 yī one, 大 dà big, 一 yī one, 人 rén man 4. 一 yī one, 一 yī one, 大 dà big, 一 yī one, 人 rén man 5. All options are correct Feb 11, 2017 at 2:40
  • @NicolayShinkin If you are already convinced that all options are correct, then what was the point of posting this question? Decomposition may have other goals, by the way. One may, for example, want to decompose a character in order to understand how it was created. If that's the case, usually only one option is correct.
    – 米好 '-'
    Feb 11, 2017 at 11:25
  • Not all options are correct. Option 4 is false. Radical 二 èr 'two' is missing. When we analyze the Chinese character 天 tiān ‘sky’ we can't do without 二 èr 'two'. Should you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact me, friend! ;) Feb 11, 2017 at 12:25
  1. 二人:

    enter image description here

  2. 一大:

    enter image description here

  3. 一一人:wrong, since is not 一一, it is a radical itself, which is composed of 2 horizontal strokes (横)

    enter image description here

  • Chinese character 二 èr 'two' in its turn can also be decomposed into 一 yī, 一 yī, isn't it? Feb 10, 2017 at 15:35
  • @NicolayShinkin: That's not exactly wrong, but I would say it's misleading. They're just two strokes, thereby representing the number two. The concept one doesn't combine with the concept one to make a new concept two. Yes, it so happens that one plus one equals two, but I would call that arithmetic, not conceptual combination, not 會議.
    – Brian Tung
    Feb 10, 2017 at 21:22
  • I suppose that it is very useful for training purpose to break down Chinese characters to as many decomposition options as possible. We can pretty often see that one Chinese character might be split in 3, 4 and even more options. And all of them are correct. Let us take Chinese character 田 tián ‘field’ . At least four decomposition options are possible here. Can you admit that? Let us analyze this character together. Feb 11, 2017 at 2:52
  • is also a radical itself composed of five strokes.
    – 阿尔曼
    Feb 11, 2017 at 3:48
  • I suppose that complicated radicals can also be decomposed to a simplier radicals. What can you say about this mode of decomposition for the Chinese 田 tián ‘field’ : 口 kǒu ‘mouth’, 十 shí ‘ten’. It is just one of the possible options for decomposition. Feb 11, 2017 at 5:23

『說文解字』says it's "一大", and gives an explanation:


That is, it means "highest", "biggest". You can interpret "一大" as "number 1 in terms of size".


I draw a picture before my lunch... enter image description here

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