Monday, 15 January 2018

Learn one Chinese Character a day - 鸣 | 鳴

Our character today is also related to 鸟, with an extra 口 added to create the combination: 鸣, whose Traditional version is 鳴.

What does 鸣 | 鳴 mean? We know that 鸟 is already the complete drawing of a bird. So 口 added should be used to emphasise the beak of 鸟. What the beak of a bird can do? Two major functions: "eat food" and "make sounds". Which one do you think it should be?

From we human being point of view, creating a dedicated character to represent the idea of a bird eating food does not make much sense, for that is not something special to a bird.

However many birds can sing melodiously which amuses people. That is something specially related to bird. Then it makes sense for Chinese ancestors to create 鸣 to represent such a special characteristic of 鸟 only. Let us listen to nice 鸣 of a certain bird below:

Yes, 鸣 means singing of a bird. for example : 鸟鸣

And it is eventually used to represent any nice, crisp and loud sounds like singing of bird. for example: 蛙鸣, 警钟长鸣.

Since birds sing to communicate with each other, 鸣 is then also used to mean "express someone's idea, thoughts or complains loudly", for example 百家争鸣, 鸣冤.

Now we know the meaning of 鸣 | 鳴. It is still worthy of going through its evolution history (image take from: as shown below:
evolution history of 鸣 | 鳴
That is all, let us enjoy a Chinese calligraphy with 鸣 | 鳴 inside:

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Learn one Chinese Character a day - 乌 | 烏

Today our character 乌 looks very similar to what we just learnt 鸟.  And its Traditional version 烏 to that of 鸟 - 鳥. Check carefully their differences.

Because of their similarity, 乌 must be something related to bird. to refresh your memory of 鸟, please go to to review its ancient scripts.

the which is missing in 乌, comparing to 鸟, refers to the eyes of a bird. So what does 乌 mean here? There are two possibilities:
a. the bird without eyes;
b. certain bird, whose eye is kind of invisible.

If you still remember what we learnt of character 西 (, you know the existence of a black bird called 金乌, which Chinese ancestors believed to carry Sun around the world in sky.

Yes 乌 is created specifically to represent such a black bird, with its black eyes not visible, as shown below. It is amazing that the Chinese ancestors so intelligent and creative in inventing all kinds of Chinese characters, isn‘t it?
乌鸦 - crow
From the creation of character 乌, it does demonstrate a very important philosophy of Chinese that "Less is more"!

Here is the evolution history of 乌 | 烏: (image taken from:
evolution history of 乌 | 烏

Oracle script of 乌 is missing. While its Bronze script is just drawing of another type of bird. Starting from Seal scripts of 乌 (which is ) and that of 鸟 (which is ) , we can see clearly the idea of "not drawing the eyes of 乌".

So 乌 is specifically created to mean crow. For example:
As time passes, 乌 is also used to mean colour black as well. For example:
And since 乌, comparing to 鸟, has no eyes, 乌 carries the meaning of no / not as well. For example 子虚

that is all for 乌 | 烏, let us enjoy a Chinese calligraphy to end our lesson today:

Monday, 18 December 2017

Learn one Chinese Character a day - 鸟 | 鳥

Today we are going to check another Pictogram character - 鸟, whose traditional version is 鳥.

Once you know the meaning of 鸟 | 鳥, you will like its traditional version 鳥 more. 鳥 is a closer drawing of the object it represents.

Let us examine its revolution history as shown below : (image taken from
evolution history of 鸟 | 鳥

Its Oracle script is a drawing more than a proper character. I assume you would already know what , or  or  refers to?

Starting from Oracle script, to Bronze script, then Seal script, till its current modern form,  鳥 inherits most of its ancient scripts, while 鸟 is simplified too much.  

鸟 | 鳥 is another example which explains why we appreciate our traditional version 鳥 more than its simplified counter party - 鸟.

yes, 鸟 | 鳥 means bird. And  is indeed a vivid drawing of a singing bird.
鸟 | 鳥

that is all for 鸟 | 鳥, now let us enjoy a Chinese calligraphy with 鸟 | 鳥 inside:

Monday, 4 December 2017

Learn one Chinese Character a day - 驭 | 馭

From today onwards, we start to pick up some of the low hanging fruits in Chinese character vocabulary . Our character today is 驭, whose Traditional version is 馭.

We have already learnt the character 马 is a drawing of horse, and original meaning of 又 is hand.

So what is the meaning of 驭 then? A natural guess would be "use hand (又) to control a horse (马)". As shown in below the pictures:

A recent photo:
 And a ancient Chinese drawing:
We can double confirm our guessing with its evolution history: (image taken from:
evolution history of 驭 | 馭
Looking at its Bronze Script , we can see that it is composed of (马) and  is drawing of "a hand holding something". Since it is related to 马, that something must be horsewhip. Below is a modern art which uses metal to represent .

 When it came to Seal Script,  is simplified to , with its  simplified to . Amazingly the simplified Seal Script presents the meaning of  even better.

驭 | 馭 is thus the continual version of .

驭 | 馭 means "use hand to control a horse", for example 驾驭

For 驭 | 馭 has the meaning of control, it is then eventually used to mean "to control, to manage, to rule, or to supervise". for example: 统驭, 以简驭繁

That is all, now let us enjoy a Chinese calligraphy with 驭 | 馭 inside:


Monday, 20 November 2017

Learn one Chinese character a day - 卡

As what mentioned in our last post, our character today is 卡. 卡 is a compound ideographs character which was created quite recently, during Regular Script period. Could you try to guess its meaning?

Recall what we have just learnt, 上 and 下.  is not卡 composed of, but not exactly, 上 and 下, with 一 of 上 / 下 overlapped? Yes,卡 has the representation of "not 上 and not 下", which is used to describe a situation that somebody or something is stuck at a position that he cannot move. for example, 卡住.

a cat is 卡 at the door
As same Chinese character can be used as verb, 卡 means "stuck somebody or something at a position that he cannot move", for example: 卡脖子

when English word card is introduced to China, it sounds quite similar to 卡. And also卡 has "上 and 下", which can present well the meaning of card which has prints at both sides. Yes,卡 means card. For example 贺卡.

Now it is time for us to enjoy a Chinese calligraphy with 卡 inside:

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Learn one Chinese Character a day - 下

We have learnt 上, Then to your best guess, what would be the meaning of 下, whose Oracle Script is ? Before revealing the answer, let us examine its evolution history first: (image taken from

evolution history of 下
that is right, 下 is the opposite of 上. To refer back to explanation of 上, please visit

For 上 has the meaning of "upward or above or up", 下 thus has the meaning of downward or below or down. For example 向下.

For 上 has meaning of "on, on top of, upon and etc", 下 thus has the meaning of below, beneath or under, for example 下面.
For 上 has meaning of "superior", 下 thus has the meaning of subordinate. For example 下属.

For 上 has meaning of "preceding, previous or last", 下 thus has the meaning of following, next or subsequent. For example 下次.

For 上 has the meaning of "go up", thus 下 has the meaning of "go down". for example 下楼. 

下, as a very frequently used Chinese character, has still many other subtle meanings besides what we listed above, however they are a good starting point for us to know what 下 means.

Now let us enjoy a Chinese calligraphy with 下 inside:
And with understanding of 上 and 下, can you guess what could be the meaning of 卡?

Monday, 23 October 2017

Learn one Chinese Character a day - 典

Today we move back to the series of 册 and our character is 典.

Looking at 典, we are very certain that its upper part is 册 (recall what we just learnt - 扁 and 匾). And what about its lower part - ? does it look like a small table?

So Chinese ancestors created this character 典 to represent the idea of “books put on top of a table”? What kind of useful meaning can be derived from?

Before we jump into conclusion, let us examine its evolution history first and see if we can get some hints from them: (image taken from
Evolution history of 典
Its Oracle Script  is composed of (册) and  (which we should know now: two hands), It represents the scenario of "holding up a book carefully with two hands", as show below:
What does that mean then? Some good and valuable books we handle very carefully and respectfully: the classics!
From its other Oracle Script -, we can actually double confirm our reasoning. Looking at , it has an extra , comparing to , at the bottom. We just learnt that  is actually the Oracle Script of 上. Adding  to  emphasizes the meaning of top classics.

It is believed that Bronze Script  was simplified from by removing that two hands - . Surprisingly enough that represented the meaning much clearer: top books

When it came to Seal Script, its lower part is commonly believed to be simplified from two hands . However if we perceived it as "books on a consecrated table", it did represent the same idea of top classics.

Now we know that the original meaning of 典 is top classics. for example: 经典

Since we can always refer to classics for research and guidance, 典 is slowly extended to mean good example, standard, regulations and laws. For example: 字典

And developed from the meaning of referring to classics, 典 started to have a special usage, as the reference or contract of <something>. for example: 典当.

That is all for 典, now it is time for us to enjoy a Chinese calligraphy with 典 inside: