Questions tagged [characters]

Questions about Chinese characters, called Hanzi.

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47
votes
9answers
19k 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 ...
41
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9answers
4k 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 ...
35
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11answers
6k views

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

Main Question: What is the glyph origin 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 Q&A-style ...
35
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9answers
6k 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?
32
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10answers
4k 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 ...
29
votes
5answers
3k 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 ...
26
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4answers
2k views

Why is 足 both “foot” and “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 《出师表》, ...
25
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15answers
4k 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 ...
25
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5answers
8k 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 radical, ...
22
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12answers
4k views

Why do native speakers often say a character has “no meaning”?

Many times I will know all the characters in a name but one & I'll ask what that one character means. 9 times out of 10 the response is, "That character has no meaning". While it might be true ...
22
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4answers
3k views

How can I get better at 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?
20
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2answers
1k views

How do new Chinese characters get added to the language?

For example there are characters such as 熵 which as far as I know only means one thing - in this case entropy - and which have to have been deliberately added by some person or organization. An ...
20
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7answers
10k 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 ...
19
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2answers
2k 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 seems ...
18
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8answers
16k views

Is there a site that can split characters into radicals?

For example, let's examine the character 天 (heaven). It has a 人 radical (men). And then we add a strip to become 大 (big). And then we add another strip to get 天 (heaven). Now, is there a site to do ...
17
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3answers
5k 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 ...
16
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3answers
3k views

Why 纹 is the wrong character to write for tattoo?

I've only ever known tattoo (wénshēn) to be written as 纹身. I was reading an article from 凤凰财经 yesterday called 猪躺着也能挣:一张纹身猪皮值百万. What struck me, though, were all the comments on the article saying ...
16
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5answers
17k views

How many characters do Chinese pupils know at different ages?

I'm looking for data that would let me estimate how much written language young Chinese at different ages know, in terms of number of characters they can read/write. Examples of materials that would ...
16
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2answers
985 views

Are 乒 and 乓 used in classical chinese?

乒乓 is the modern word for ping pong, based around onomatopoeia (and similarity to 兵 for phonetic element) and, as some people claim, shape. I was wondering if this shape explanation is true, or little ...
15
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4answers
22k views

How to look up seal script characters?

When we know a modern Hanzi, finding its seal script equivalent in a dictionary is not a problem. However, a more common case is that we have an existing seal script character we cannot identify, and ...
15
votes
1answer
317 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 ...
14
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3answers
924 views

Why is 月 used when speaking about anatomy?

One thing I've been curious about while learning Chinese is the use of 月 in many 汉字 representing anatomical features (for example, 脸, 腰, or 腿). What is the etymology of the use of 月 as a radical?
14
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4answers
309 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 ...
14
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3answers
2k 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 ...
13
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14answers
41k 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 ...
13
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5answers
1k 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 ...
13
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8answers
25k 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 ...
13
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7answers
1k views

What is the glyph origin of '奇'?

Lost Glyph Origin 奇 ( jī | qí ) is a character that means strange but the glyph origin appears to have been lost. At least as far as I can tell after researching offline books, zhongwen.com, and ...
13
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3answers
8k 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 ...
12
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4answers
2k views

List of hanzi and their components

I would like to be able to compute the distance between 2 hanzi according to their components. My idea is that a hanzi like 式 is made of 工 and 弋. 2 hanzi are close if they share common components. ...
12
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2answers
1k views

How are blanks indicated for placeholders in Chinese (like ???)

In English, in the middle of a sentence if data is being left blank (such as an unknown date, or a name to be filled in at a later time), commonly you see ???, ___ (underscore(s)), or -- to mark this. ...
12
votes
1answer
598 views

How come 東/东 has a second meaning 'owner/master' or 'host'?

Examples include 房东 or 财东 and 东道, respectively. What is the etymology behind this additional meaning?
12
votes
1answer
23k views

What is the character with the greatest number of strokes?

I have seen an old and very rarely used character that consisted of four traditional dragons (龍). As I remember it meant "talkative." That makes a total of 64 strokes, are there any other characters ...
12
votes
3answers
2k 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 ...
12
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3answers
2k 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 ...
12
votes
2answers
523 views

Why do HSK lists differ from character frequency lists?

I have been wondering how come the HSK list be so different from the list of the most used Chinese characters. The only list I know about character frequency is Jun Da's list. On the first 2635 most ...
12
votes
1answer
460 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 ...
11
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5answers
3k 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 ...
11
votes
2answers
1k views

Is there any connection between the choice of characters for 九 and 丸?

I just learned the character 丸 and naturally noticed that it is similar to 九 with the additional 点. Is there any interesting connection between these two characters or is it just a random coincidence ...
11
votes
2answers
811 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 ...
11
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7answers
7k views

Can one learn to comprehend Chinese texts while being unable to read aloud?

I've been enjoying the book Chineasy and it make me wonder if it would be possible to read Chinese without knowing how to speak it phonetically. Technically it might not be "reading Chinese" because ...
11
votes
5answers
778 views

Why was the rice component added to 气 to form 氣?

气 is an ancient character that has roots in an oracle bone pictogram, but according to this, the rice radical was added in the Tang dynasty to form 氣. What were the reasons for this? What does 气, ...
11
votes
2answers
5k views

Stroke order database

I'd like to provide SVG, or at least GIF stroke order diagrams on my website. Is there a database similar to the Japanese KanjiVG, but for Simplified and Traditional hanzi? If not, is there a free ...
11
votes
3answers
290 views

Is 了 a pictogram (象形字)?

當我看 Hinen 的答案時,看到近代書將「了」分為象形字。 大概是因為《說文解字》曾提及「象形」二字如下: 了,尦也。从子,無臂。象形。 作者許慎的意思應該是將「了」判為象形字。 《說文解字》的序文有象形字的定義: 象形者,畫成其物,隨體詰詘,日月是也。 象形字是依物體的彎曲樣子將它的形狀畫出來,譬如,日和月。 也就是說,象形字是直接描繪該物體。 但是,段玉裁的《說文解字注》...
11
votes
2answers
2k 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 ...
10
votes
4answers
4k views

Apple Watch has a built in response of “一个字。非常棒!👊”. Is this correct?

When you respond to a text message on Apple Watch, there are a number of autoreply options. One of them: 一个字。非常棒!👊 I translate this to English as "One word. Excellent! 👊". This makes a lot of ...
10
votes
4answers
583 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?
10
votes
5answers
2k 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 ...
10
votes
4answers
787 views

What is the original Chinese text to “liquid jade”?

The Wikipedia article on the history of tea mentions that Laozi described tea as "the froth of the liquid jade." What is the original text in Chinese? If the original text cannot be found, could I ...
10
votes
3answers
490 views

Should 屋 and 居 use radical 户 instead of 尸?

户 means home. So these examples are not suprising: 房 fáng (house), 扁 biǎn (flat), 扇 shàn (fan [mostly used indoor]), 扉 fēi (door) 尸 means corpse, and it looks like it refers to tail or something ...

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