Questions tagged [history]

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

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
35
votes
11answers
7k 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
votes
11answers
82k 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 ...
31
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
votes
5answers
7k 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 ...
25
votes
12answers
13k 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 ...
14
votes
3answers
1k 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 ...
13
votes
5answers
5k 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?
13
votes
4answers
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 ...
13
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 ...
12
votes
2answers
3k 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 ...
11
votes
4answers
4k 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,...
11
votes
2answers
928 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 ...
11
votes
2answers
610 views

Why does Mandarin Chinese have a smaller inventory of unique syllables?

From How languages compare with the number of different syllables from all words?, considering the 20,000 most frequent words in each language, Mandarin Chinese has 1274 different syllables (see also ...
11
votes
2answers
800 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
3answers
7k 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 '...
10
votes
3answers
410 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,...
10
votes
1answer
514 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
6answers
928 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
3answers
469 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 ...
8
votes
3answers
482 views

How old is the expression “老百姓”?

I have searched on line text bases, especially for 三国志 since the 2010 television version of that is what made me wonder. But I do not seem to get reliable results that way. Perhaps if I understood the ...
8
votes
2answers
4k 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
2answers
557 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
262 views

What musical instrument does "敫" refer to?

I found the character 敫 whose definition apparently is "ancient musical instrument" according to Wiktionary. However, the English Wikipedia's List of Chinese musical instruments doesn't seem to ...
7
votes
1answer
290 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 (...
7
votes
1answer
106 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,...
7
votes
1answer
301 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?
7
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 ...
6
votes
2answers
701 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 -&...
6
votes
1answer
749 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
3answers
822 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
252 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
2answers
509 views

Meaning of early written versions of 地 and etymology?

The glyph origin section of https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E5%9C%B0 shows characters that look nothing like the modern "地" (with the exception of the "Small Seal Script" in "...
5
votes
2answers
1k views

What title did Qing China use for US presidents?

What title did Qing China use for the US president, given that US presidents are periodically "deposed"? Certainly not 王 as the office is not hereditary and could not be held for life. I am ...
5
votes
3answers
216 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?
5
votes
1answer
165 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
475 views

How did 漢 come to represent the Han people and civilization?

It appears that this character consists of a meaning part and a sound part: a water radical (i.e. section header for water in Kangxi dictionary) for meaning, and the character 𦰩 for sound. Radical - ...
5
votes
2answers
221 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
5answers
601 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
588 views

Is there an ancient chinese name for Asia?

The Chinese word for Asia is 亞細亞 (yaxiya). The root of these words seems to be the greek word "Asia", derived from the Akkadian "asu" which means "to rise". Thus, Asia is ...
5
votes
1answer
236 views

What did Eastern Han Chinese sound like?

As I was improving an answer to this question in the History SE, I discovered that the prestige Luoyang dialect of the Eastern Han and Three Kingdoms period didn't actually fall under Old Chinese but ...
5
votes
2answers
358 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 ...
4
votes
5answers
1k views

Why is 德国 the “virtue country”?

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 ...
4
votes
1answer
449 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 ...
4
votes
4answers
650 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
2answers
283 views

How to find earliest usage of a term?

This question could be split into two types of terms: new expressions & old expressions. For new expressions one could open Google &/or Baidu go to "News" (资讯) and then "Order By Date" (按时间排序)...
4
votes
4answers
183 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。 三國演義 ...
4
votes
1answer
922 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
2answers
225 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
1answer
269 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 ...
3
votes
2answers
152 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 ...