Kunming College of Eastern Language
Kunming College of Eastern Language
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The Evolution of Chinese Characters

Chinese characters, originated from China, are the longest-used characters in the world.

Chinese characters are different from the alphabetic characters in European and American countries. Chinese character is a fairly difficult part for people from European and American countries when learning Chinese. Many European and American students have made it clear that they won't learn Chinese characters. What I want to say is that even so, if you want to learn Chinese well, Chinese characters are an essential part of learning.

The development history of Chinese characters from ancient to present:
At present, the earliest thing that is found to be equivalent to Chinese characters is prehistoric symbol, which has undergone the evolution of oracle bone inscriptions of Shang, Jin Wen Zhuan characters of Zhou Dynasty, Xiao Zhuan of Qin Dynasty, Li script of Han Dynasty, regular script of Tang Dynasty, cursive script, running script, etc. The font of Chinese characters has changed several times. Today's simplified Chinese characters are first used in the Republic of China. During the period of the Republic of China, the First List of Simplified Chinese Characters was promulgated, giving the name of "simplified Chinese characters" a place in Chinese history for the first time. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, it passed the Simplified Chinese Character Scheme and Simplified Chinese Character List. The most recent innovation was in 2013, when the Ministry of Education issued relevant documents such as "Notice on Publication of a General Standard Chinese Character List", clarifying the latest standards for Chinese characters.

Four common basic Chinese character construction methods:
There are four basic ways to form the existing simplified Chinese characters: pictography, phonogram, representing and implying.
1. Pictographic character, as the name implies, is a method of creating characters by simulating the shape of things. For example, mountain, water, sun and moon.
2. Phonogram is divided into shape and sound. The shape indicates the shape of the word, and the sound indicates the pronunciation of the word. For example, "胡"” is a root and its pronunciation is hu. Then, many Chinese characters with the word "胡" are also read as "hu". For example, 蝴、湖、糊、葫 etc. Therefore, "胡" is a sound part, while the other parts are the ones that represent the meaning of Chinese characters.
3. Representing words are mostly used to represent abstract Chinese characters. On the basis of a pictographic character, add something to change it into another character. For example, the word “刃” means adding a dot to the word "刀" to indicate the sharpest point of the knife.
4. Implying words are new words using more than two words to form. For example, "明" is a combination of "日" and "月", which means light.

In addition to the above four commonly used basic word formation methods, there are other word formation methods such as loan and annotation, which are not commonly used.

Because of its particularity, Chinese characters naturally have very distinct characteristics. One of the most prominent features is that a Chinese character can represent a meaning. And according to the different four tones, Chinese characters with the same pinyin have varied meanings. This is also what makes many non-native Chinese learners feel it difficult to understand Chinese characters.

The Evolution of Chinese Characters