Questions tagged [history]

Questions related to the history of the Chinese language(s).

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
34
votes
11answers
55k views

Is it easier to learn Chinese after learning Japanese or vice versa?

For those who speak both Chinese and Japanese, would first learning Chinese make it easier to learn Japanese? Knowing that Japanese Kanji are derived from Chinese characters, how hard is it to do the ...
33
votes
11answers
5k 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-...
26
votes
5answers
2k 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. ...
25
votes
4answers
6k views

Historical: How was Chinese written in telegrams and early computers?

I know about "Chinese Typewriters", the question here is how Chinese was represented in earlier information systems. For example, Japanese Telegrams were always written in Katakana and many early ...
21
votes
13answers
10k views

Why is stroke order important when writing Chinese characters?

I often see people having a big focus on correct stroke order for writing Chinese characters. My question is, for most learners, is it important to know the stroke order, and if so, why is it ...
13
votes
3answers
918 views

Do 之 and 的 come from the same word?

In modern Chinese 之 is thought of as the literary genitive particle and 的 as the colloquial. In most reconstructions of Old Chinese 之 looks very similar to the way 的 is pronounced now. For example in ...
12
votes
1answer
1k views

When was punctuation introduced into Chinese?

I have seen some old Chinese books. The words flowed from top to bottom on the page and there was no punctuation. How did readers know when the sentences began and ended? Were any older forms of ...
11
votes
6answers
3k views

How were Chinese characters taught to Chinese children before the introduction of pinyin?

Before schools started to use pinyin for teaching characters to Chinese children, how and/or what was used to teach it instead? And what about how dictionaries showed the pronunciation of characters?
11
votes
3answers
1k views

Dog radical (犭) for non-Han ethnic groups

As far as I understand, the dog radical (犭) was used for all non-Han ethnic groups before the Chinese Communist Party took power on the mainland. Is there truth to that? If so: Why did the CCP stop ...
11
votes
2answers
698 views

Which period in Chinese history produced the most chengyu?

There are tens of thousands of chengyu, many of them are historical in nature, whilst others are loaned from foreign sources such as Buddhism. Which period or dynasty in Chinese history produced the ...
10
votes
4answers
2k views

Reasons for Chinese changing from monosyllabic to disyllabic?

Classical and Middle Chinese are often considered monosyllabic languages - most words are single syllables. Modern Chinese however is considered disyllabic - most words are two syllables. For example,...
10
votes
2answers
878 views

How was 辣 used before the Columbian Exchange?

I'm assuming the character (and word/morpheme) 辣 is not a recent creation and goes back far in history. These days it means "chili/chilli", "pepper", "spicy". But chili peppers only came to China ...
10
votes
2answers
1k views

乐 Le and Yue: When did they diverge?

In the character 乐, it has two readings in Mandarin. In pinyin, yue4 and le4 (plus other readings I take are literary) In other dialects too, there seem to be 2 distinct forms. In cantonese, lok and ...
10
votes
1answer
460 views

Geopolitical History of Simplified Chinese

I've always been fascinated about the etymology of languages and believe that we are seeing a significant series of changes within chinese. There are some fairly good technical references for the ...
9
votes
3answers
380 views

Origin of -的干活?

There is a facetious phrase for asking someone what they do, using "的干活", most commonly in the fragment "什么的干活", or in this example exchange: A: 你的,什么的干活? (Who are you?) B: 我的,农民的干活. (I am a ...
9
votes
3answers
3k views

哪儿 vs. 哪里, Difference in Meaning?

Is there any difference in meaning between 哪儿 and 哪里? If not, then how did the two different words come to be employed? Does 儿 have a meaning, or is it just a sound? I know that there are many '...
8
votes
6answers
630 views

A unified theory of 就 meaning

就 always bothered me. I couldn't (and maybe still can't) get a hold of its meaning. By looking at many examples of the usage I came to realization that 就 marks a process of becoming a subject to or ...
8
votes
2answers
2k views

Are the Cantonese word 係 and the Japanese word はい related?

The Cantonese word meaning "to be", written as 係 (Jyutping: hai6) sounds similar to the Japanese word はい ("hai" in various Romanizations). Both words are used to answer "yes" or "it is correct" to yes-...
7
votes
3answers
398 views

Why does Chinese lack some level of abstraction in some idioms? (e.g. 兄弟姐妹)

Example: in Chinese, you can't* speak of siblings in a general term, and in turn you have to enumerate all 4 combinations of sex and age: 兄弟姐妹 ( older brother, younger brother, older sister, younger ...
6
votes
1answer
697 views

勇 character on soldiers' uniforms in movies

I don't know much about Chinese military history, but I do see this character appearing on historical uniforms (fictitious or actual) worn by soldiers in movies, some are set in the Qing dynasty some ...
6
votes
2answers
402 views

Character 瞓: where did the pronunciations come from?

The character 瞓 is a Cantonese character meaning "sleep". It is pronounced xùn in mandarin and fan3 in Cantonese. I was wondering how two so different pronunciations (I would expect xun to match syun ...
6
votes
3answers
737 views

What does it say on the stamp?

I was requested by a friend to find out what this stamp is. Do you know what it says on the stamp?
6
votes
1answer
162 views

What is the oldest known Chinese audio recording?

I have tried search engines and Wikipedia articles on the history of audio recording, in English and Chinese, but couldn't come closer to this. What is the oldest known recording of anyone speaking (...
6
votes
1answer
4k views

Are there some free fonts for the small seal, large seal, and even oracle bone script styles?

I'm very interested in the old forms of Chinese characters that you still see in many contexts including historical, artistic, and design contexts. So I'm wondering if there are free fonts for these ...
5
votes
2answers
605 views

How come 驚 evolves to 惊 in mainland China

Isn't it more intuitive to just replace 馬 with 马 at the base of 驚 to get a well inductive simplified one? Quite weird, uh? Any historical, geopolitical, or other reason for the simplification of 驚 -&...
5
votes
2answers
179 views

Was the word 男朋友 borrowed from English (or maybe the opposite)?

男朋友 and 女朋友 have the same thought process as their English counterparts, as in both words are compounded of (the gender) + ("friend"), even though they're actually used to refer to a romantic partner ...
5
votes
1answer
182 views

When was 华/華 first used as a reference to China?

E.g. as in 中华 or 华语, and other similar words.
5
votes
1answer
86 views

Were 蒸 and 祯 homonyms?

Wu Dalang, a character in Water Margin, which takes place during the Song dynasty, sold steamed buns called "炊饼". These buns were originally called 蒸饼: 凡以面為食具者,皆謂之餅,故火燒而食者呼為燒餅,水淪而食者呼為湯餅,籠蒸而食者呼為蒸餅。 ...
5
votes
1answer
264 views

Why is there a special pronunciation of 论 just for 论语?

The character 论 has pinyin lùn for all uses except in 论语 where it is lún. Is there some known historical reason for this change in pronunciation?
4
votes
4answers
563 views

Did phonological systems (namely bopomofo) standardize Chinese phonemes?

As far as I know, Zhuyin fuhao, or Bopomofo, is the first system of phonetic symbols devised to aid to write Chinese phonology. That was in 1910, so we could say very recent in the history of Chinese. ...
4
votes
4answers
163 views

砲響: were there cannons in ancient China?

After reading Romance of the Three Kingdoms, I was surprised to see a lot of references to 砲響 (the sound of cannonade). Here's a few examples: 嚴綱鼓譟吶喊,直取麴義,義軍見嚴綱兵來,都伏而不動;直到來得至近,一聲砲響,八百弓弩手一齊俱發。 ...
4
votes
2answers
186 views

What is the original meaning of 匈 (besides “chest/breast/thorax”)?

The Wikipedia article on the 匈奴 gives a literal translation as 'fierce slaves'. Did 匈 mean 'fierce' in former times? What is the etymology of this character?
4
votes
3answers
192 views

What is the 门 in 厦门 and 澳门?

Are there other Chinese cities besides 厦门 and 澳门 which end in 门 and what does 门 mean in this context?
4
votes
1answer
529 views

Is there strong evidence that Classical Chinese was ever spoken?

Classical Chinese (Wenyan) diverges sharply from modern varieties, as any student of classical texts will note whether foreign or native Chinese. Wenyan has a long written history, but is there ...
4
votes
4answers
357 views

酵: jiào vs. xiào

I'm always hearing the pronunciations jiào and xiào being used interchangeably by native speakers for the character: 酵. What's the deal? Is there a standardized pronunciation for 酵? What's the ...
4
votes
1answer
237 views

What's the Mandarin equivalent of the Hardcore History podcast?

So I'm looking for an very interesting and in-depth history podcast, in Mandarin, for native speakers. It's doesn't have to be about Chinese history, or any particular place or period. Any ...
4
votes
2answers
286 views

What are these “riddle jokes”?

In Chinese there are these jokes which are delivered as a small riddle followed by the answer. They are often used humorously, with the answer used as an insult. Here are some examples: 哑巴吃黄莲/有苦说不出 ...
3
votes
6answers
1k views

What is 德国 and naming history in China?

Here is what I think and how it is named: In Google translate it says it means "virtue country". My guess is probably wrong but here it is: China is an alliy of America, and America boosted up the ...
3
votes
1answer
398 views

What's the significance of 家 in 国家?

国家 and 国 both mean "country" or "nation". However, what's the significance of the character 家 in the word? Does it really add the meaning of "home" or "family"? Is there a cultural or historical basis ...
3
votes
5answers
5k views

What is a good English translation of 土豪?

土豪 [tǔ háo] seems to be a popular Internet slang term in the last couple years. The idea that I get is that it is a rich person who flaunts their money and is somewhat snobbish or spoiled. Is this ...
3
votes
2answers
79 views

How many supplies did Liu Bei have at Dangyang?

I was attempting to translate this passage from the Records of the Three Kingdoms: 比到當陽,衆十餘萬,輜重數千兩,日行十餘里,別遣關羽乘船數百艘,使會江陵。 The background of this is: Cao Cao had invaded Jingzhou, Liu Bei was ...
3
votes
1answer
110 views

Why did people sometimes call Liu Bei “明将军”?

Reading some historical texts on Liu Bei, the famous Three Kingdoms warlord, I was surprised to see that in more than one occasion, he is referred to as 明将军. What does this name mean, and where did it ...
3
votes
1answer
131 views

Antique Chinese painting

Before I ask I'd like to say how much I admire Chinese culture and art. Hence I always dig in antique shops for something from China. A few years ago I bought these beautiful twin paintings (not ...
3
votes
1answer
100 views

Any historical connection between 筵席 and 宴席?

宴席 and 筵席: I know what both words mean, and I think it's quite funny they have similar pronunciations with quite similar meanings (give or take on both). Do the two words have similar origins? Any ...
3
votes
2answers
380 views

Hong Kong Cantonese variations

I am interested to learn whether the changes in Hong Kong pronunciation of Cantonese came about, was it because the English in Hong Kong had difficulty understanding the Cantonese? For instance, I ...
2
votes
2answers
117 views

Are radicals a relatively new invention for looking up dictionaries?

According to this article, radicals were invented for looking up characters in a dictionary, and didn't exist until after the publication of the Shuōwén Jiězì [說文解字] (around 100 AD). Is it true that ...
2
votes
4answers
213 views

Which non-sinitic languages contributed to the wordstock of common chinese words before 1800?

I am not interested in modern words like telephone, aeroplane, but words that were incorporated into the more frequent used part of the vocabulary from languages different than sinitic.
2
votes
4answers
362 views

Where does the phrase 镜中花,水中月 come from?

I was helping a friend from Pakistan to improve his English translation for a long, complicated assignment. He had the sentence below. I'd like to know where '镜中花,水中月' comes from. I just translated it ...
2
votes
1answer
91 views

Historical Question, Possible Wade-Giles, Sichuan river name

I am currently reading an entomologists diaries from the late 19th Century - A.E. Pratt. He travelled Sichuan Province and published his journal, To the Snows of Tibet through China, in 1892. Pratt ...
2
votes
3answers
130 views

Through which processes became words in classical Chinese that tautological?

There are a lot of different words for many concepts in classical Chinese, for instance for the personal pronouns. Due to which circumstances could this happen?