Deutsch - Chinesische Übersetzungen in chinesische Schriftzeichen
Why Study Chinese Etymology
Chinese "character etymology" is the study of the evolution of a Chinese character. What was it derived from, what did it mean, how was it pronounced and how was it interpreted. When I was a young man of 22 in Taiwan trying to become fluent and literate in Chinese, I was faced with the prospect of learning to write about 5000 characters and 60,000 character combinations. The characters were complex with many strokes and almost no apparent logic. I found on the rare occasions when I could get a step by step evolution of the character from its original form, with an explanation of its original meaning and an interpretation of its original form, suddenly it would become apparent how all the strokes had come to be. The problem is that there is no book in English that adequately explains this etymology and even if you read Chinese there is no single book in Chinese that explains it all. In short it is a research project to understand each character. To have this information at my fingertips in English would have been a great help.
The first advantage of a computerized etymology is that you can do all kinds of analysis which would be limited by the linear nature of books. The second advantage is that etymology is an on going research project. We do not know all the answers when it comes to character etymology. If errors or discrepancies are discovered in a computerized system, they can be corrected. They can not be corrected in a book that has already been published.
There are literally thousands of references on the this subject, most of them in Chinese. Most of them having something new, unique or interesting to say. I only list what I have found to be the top references.
- Pictographs and Ideographs
- Modern Printed Chinese Characters
- Primitives and Remnants
- Cursive and Super Cursive Chinese
- Meaning and Interpretation
- Traditional Chinese vs. Simplified Chinese
- Signific Abstraction
- Seal Characters - ZhuanTiZi ???
- Phonetics and Phonetic Shift
- Bronze Characters - JinWen ??
- Chinese Derived Characters
- Oracle Characters - JiaGuWen ???
- Modern Common Chinese Characters
Those who want to go directly to the readings themselves, rather than browse through the tables of contents of the books below to find the sample chapters and other excerpts, can jump to the list of readings available on this site.
- Chao Yuen Ren (Y.R. Chao, Zhao Yuanren) - Readings in Sayable Chinese sample chapter
- DeFrancis, John - The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy (1984) sample chapter
- DeFrancis, John - Colonialism and Language Policy in Viet Nam (1977)
- DeFrancis, John - Nationalism and Language Reform in China (1950) sample chapter
- DeFrancis, John - Visible Speech: The Diverse Oneness of Writing Systems (1989) sample chapter
- DeFrancis, John (ed.) - ABC Chinese-English Dictionary (2000)
- DeFrancis, John (ed.) - ABC Comprehensive Chinese-English Dictionary (2003)
- Erbaugh, Mary S. (ed.) - Difficult Characters: Interdisciplinary Studies of Chinese and Japanese Writing (2002) sample chapter
- Hannas, Wm. C. - The Writing on the Wall: How Asian Orthography Curbs Creativity (2003) sample section
- Hannas, Wm. C. - Asia's Orthographic Dilemma (1997) sample chapter
- Kennedy, George A. - The Selected Works of George A. Kennedy (1964) sample chapter
- Mair, Victor H. (ed.) - Schriftfestschrift: Essays on Writing and Language in Honor of John DeFrancis on His Eightieth Birthday (1991) sample chapter
- Mair, Victor H. and Yongquan Liu (eds.) - Characters and Computers (1991) sample chapter
- Packard, Jerome L. - The Morphology of Chinese: A Linguistic and Cognitive Approach (2000) sample chapter
- Unger, J. Marshall - Literacy and Script Reform in Occupation Japan: Reading Between the Lines (1996) sample chapter
- Unger, J. Marshall - Ideogram: Chinese Characters and the Myth of Disembodied Meaning (2003) sample chapter
- Yin Binyong and Mary Felley - Chinese Romanization: Pronunciation and Orthography (1990) sample sections
- Zhou Youguang - The Historical Evolution of Chinese Languages and Scripts (2003) sample sections
readings about Chinese characters and romanization.
- Appropriateness [of Chinese Characters] to East Asian Languages. From Asia's Orthographic Dilemma, by William Hannas.
- Basic Rules of Hanyu Pinyin Orthography, from The Historical Evolution of Chinese Languages and Scripts, by Zhou Youguang, translated by Zhang Liqing.
- Breakup of Homophones, from The Historical Evolution of Chinese Languages and Scripts, by Zhou Youguang, translated by Zhang Liqing.
- Chinese, from Visible Speech, by John DeFrancis.
- Chinese Characters and the Lexicon. From Asia's Orthographic Dilemma, by William Hannas.
- Chinese Writing. From The Writing on the Wall: How Asian Orthography Curbs Creativity, by William Hannas.
- Confusing Language with Writing, from The Fifth Generation Fallacy, by J. Marshall Unger.
- Cultural Independence, from The Fifth Generation Fallacy, by J. Marshall Unger.
- A Dissertation on the Nature and Character of the Chinese System of Writing, by Peter S. Du Ponceau.
- Fenollosa, Pound and the Chinese Character, from The Selected Works of George A. Kennedy.
- The Function of Phonophores (sound-bearing elements of characters), from The Historical Evolution of Chinese Languages and Scripts, by Zhou Youguang, translated by Zhang Liqing.
- The Ideographic Myth, from The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy, by John DeFrancis.
- Implications of the Soviet Dungan Script for Chinese Language Reform, by Victor Mair.
- Introduction to Ideogram: Chinese Characters and the Myth of Disembodied Meaning, by J. Marshall Unger.
- Kanji and Literacy, from The Fifth Generation Fallacy, by J. Marshall Unger.
- The Modern Japanese Writing System, from Literacy and Script Reform in Occupation Japan: Reading Between the Lines, by J. Marshall Unger.
- Modifier-Modified Adjectives [in Hanyu Pinyin], from Chinese Romanization: Pronunciation and Orthography, by Yin Binyong.
- 'Monosyllabic' Chinese. From Asia's Orthographic Dilemma, by William Hannas.
- Morphemes versus Words. From Asia's Orthographic Dilemma, by William Hannas.
- One State, One People, One Language, from Nationalism and Language Reform in China, by John DeFrancis.
- Personal Names [in Hanyu Pinyin], from Chinese Romanization: Pronunciation and Orthography, by Yin Binyong.
- Political Maneuvering, from The Fifth Generation Fallacy, by J. Marshall Unger.
- The Price of Tradition, from The Fifth Generation Fallacy, by J. Marshall Unger.
- Rationale: why investigate Chinese words?. From The Morphology of Chinese: A Linguistic and Cognitive Approach, by Jerome L. Packard.
- Scholarly Neglect, from Literacy and Script Reform in Occupation Japan: Reading Between the Lines, by J. Marshall Unger.
- Sound and Meaning in the History of Characters: Views of China's Earliest Script Reformers, by Victor Mair. From Difficult Characters: Interdisciplinary Studies of Chinese and Japanese Writing, edited by Mary S. Erbaugh.
- Transitivity across Languages. From Asia's Orthographic Dilemma, by William Hannas.
- Transliteration of Foreign Place Names and Personal Names [in Hanyu Pinyin], from Chinese Romanization: Pronunciation and Orthography, by Yin Binyong.
- Unification of Chinese 'Dialects'. From Asia's Orthographic Dilemma, by William Hannas.
- Use of the Hyphen; Abbreviations and Short Forms [in Hanyu Pinyin], from Chinese Romanization: Pronunciation and Orthography, by Yin Binyong.
- Verb-Complement Constructions [in Hanyu Pinyin], from Chinese Romanization: Pronunciation and Orthography, by Yin Binyong.
- Why Chinese Is So Damn Hard, by David Moser. From Schriftfestschrift: Essays on Writing and Language in Honor of John DeFrancis on His Eightieth Birthday (Sino-Platonic Papers No. 27), edited by Victor Mair.
- Hanyu Pinyin
- Gwoyeu Romatzyh (Guoyu Luomazi)
- Sin Wenz (Xin Wenzi)
- Tongyong Pinyin
For more information on writing the Chinese languages using romanization and other systems that do not rely on Chinese characters, see this site's section on romanization-related readings, especially "Sound and Meaning in the History of Characters: Views of China's Earliest Script Reformers," by Victor H. Mair, and "One State, One People, One Language," by John DeFrancis.
- Zhuyin Fuhao (bopo mofo, bpmf, bopomofo)
- systems for misc. Asian languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Indonesian, and Burmese
- Murray Numeral Type system
Le chinois ne dispose pas d'un alphabet phonétique au sens où nous l'entendons en Occident mais se compose de caractères qui expriment le sens d'un mot d'une façon symbolique indépendante de la prononciation. Pour cette raison, il n'existe donc pas d'alphabet en Chine.
Origine des caractères chinois
Les caractères chinois sont l'écriture la plus ancienne au monde à être toujours employée aujourd'hui. Les caractères chinois remontent à plus de 4000 ans, on en trouve des traces sur les os d'oracle ou les carapaces de tortue. Environ 1,3 milliards de Chinois (République Populaire de Chine, Taiwan, Chinois expatriés aux Etats-Unis, à Singapour...) emploient ces caractères aujourd'hui, ce qui représente environ 1/4 de l'humanité.
Chaque caractère représentait un mot et une syllabe. Avec le développement d'une société plus complexe, les caractères se développèrent également afin de constituer des mots plus complexes. Les changements de typographie et le développement de différents styles furent le résultat de l'utilisation de différents matériaux pour l'écriture. Pour écrire sur des os un style différent de celui utilisé pour les tablettes de pierre ou de bronze ou le papier a dû être employé.
Les Symboles chinois
A l'origine, les caractères chinois étaient une écriture idéographique. Chaque caractère représentait une certaine chose, par exemple un homme, le soleil, la lune etc. Une fois assemblés les caractères représentaient également des termes abstraits, par exemple le "soleil" et la "lune" ensemble signifiaient " jour ", une flèche et un cercle avait pour signification le "centre" etc.
aigle | amitié | amour | ange | argent (métal) | automne | Balance (horoscope) | beau, belle | Bélier (horoscope) | bois (5 éléments) | bonheur | bonheur, richesse et longévité | Cancer (horoscope) | Capricorne (horoscope) | chance | chanceux | cheval | chevalier | chien | Ciel (Bible) | cinq | courageux | danse | | destin | deux | diamant | dieu | Dieu (bible) | dix | douleur | dragon | eau (5 éléments) | enfant | espoir | été | éternité | fantôme | Feng Shui (Chine) | feu (5 éléments) | fleur | foi | force | fort | Gémeau (horoscope) | généreux | glace | guerrier | héros | hiver | honneur | huit | jade | jasmin | jeunesse | kung fu | lapin | léopard | liberté | lion | Lion (horoscope) | longue vie | lune | marijuana | mensonge | métal (5 éléments) | mission | mort | neige | neuf | ninja (Japan) | Nirvana (Buddhism) | océan (mer) | ombre | opium | or (métal) | paix | pardon | passion | pétale | platine (métal) | pluie | poète | Poisson (horoscope) | printemps | pur | quatre | racine | rapide | reine | renaissance | réponse | requin | rêve | riche | richesse | roi | rose | sagesse | Sagittaire (horoscope) | scorpion | Scorpion (horoscope) | sept | sérénité | serpent | sexy | Shao-Lin | singe | six | soleil | Taureau (horoscope) | terre (5 éléments) | tigre | tonnerre | trois | un | unique | vague | vent | vérité | Verseau (horoscope) | victoire (triomphe) | vie et mort | Vierge (horoscope) | yin-yang | zen
Zhongwen.com contains the complete text of Amazon's (sometimes) best-selling and (frequently) best-reviewed: "Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary" using my character tree system. Distributed by Yale Univ. Press.
Zhongwen.com contains the complete text of Amazon's best reviewed Chinese-English dictionary, : Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary, which uses the new (zipu) system of character trees. Distributed by Yale University Press.
The site contains an easy-to-use dictionary of over 4,000 Chinese characters (approximately 12,000 multi-character words). Look up words by pronunciation, radical, stroke count, or English equivalent. Gives definition, etymology, sound, and usage. Includes bilingual editions of famous Chinese texts, names for prominent Chinese-Americans, Chinese dynasties, Chinese surnames, an introduction to the written language, and help with the pronunciation differences between Mandarin spoken in Taiwan and in China.
- Search Dictionary | Pronunciation | Radical | Stroke count | Dictionary Web
- Cool Links: Clavis Sinica | Wenlin Software | Get a Chinese Name | Study Mandarin | M. Chan's ChinaLinks | Chinese Numbers | Chinese Culture | Chinese Family Titles | Chineselanguage.org
- Online Readings: Art of War | Tao Te Ching | The Analects | 300 Tang Poems | A Madman's Diary | Mao Sayings
- Vocabulary: Chinese dynasties | English names | Chinese-Americans | Chinese surnames | Character frequency | Simplified characters | Guoyu/Putonghua
- Learn Chinese: Write Characters | Learning Online | Wenlin CD
- Pinyin Chat
- Chinese FAQ: Are characters pictures? | How many characters are there? | How old are characters? | What English words come from Chinese? | Does Chinese have an alphabet? | Why are characters so complicated? | How are Chinese words created? | How are foreign names written?
- Chinese News
Despite these unparalleled achievements, many people in the last century viewed Chinese characters as inferior to the more purely phonetic writing systems of Western languages. As a result, China nearly decided to abolish characters in the 1950s and even now most Chinese are not taught the rich tradition behind their writing system. This website counters the simplistic myth of character inferiority by translating traditional Chinese character etymologies into English to show how Chinese themselves have used and understood the symbols they created.
While Chinese characters are often thought of as overly complex, in fact they are all derived from a couple hundred simple pictographs and ideographs in ways that are usually quite logical and easy to remember. These "wen" (or "zigen") are the true radicals of Chinese as identified by Xu Shen in his classic Shuowen Jiezi nearly 2000 years ago. Xu Shen also devised the "bushou", meaning "section headings", to help organize his dictionary into more manageable parts. With minor changes this "bushou" system has been the foundation of almost all subsequent Chinese dictionaries. Often mistranslated as "radicals", not all of the "bushou" are true radicals in that some of them can be further broken down into their component "wen". Moreover, many of the true radicals are not included in the list of "bushou".
Since the zipu are based on traditional etymologies, which themselves are based primarily on the "seal" characters from about 2,200 years ago, this dictionary does not represent the current state of research into character etymologies. In the last century far older characters have been uncovered, allowing modern researchers to go beyond the traditional etymologies and obtain a better understanding of the true history of Chinese characters. As this research is systematized and made available on the web, I will link the character entries into the relevant research. I also hope to link the entries directly into web versions of traditional Chinese sources on etymology. For now almost every character entry includes page references to various printed reference sources on traditional etymology.
Since English understandably does not have a specific word for "character etymology" relative to "word etymology", many English speakers unfamiliar with Chinese terminology mistakenly conflate the two. This site deals only with "character etymologies". Characters form the basic unit of meaning in Chinese, but not all characters can stand alone as a word and most Chinese words are formed of two separate characters. For instance "zhongwen", meaning the "Chinese language", has two characters as explained above. The etymologies of these words are usually quite obvious as long as the individual characters are known - a feature of Chinese which is probably its greatest strength and cannot be adequately duplicated in a simple phonetic writing system. This website does not discuss these word etymologies but rather helps students understand the less transparent "character etymologies" which are the object of most traditional research on "Chinese etymology".
Copyright 1996-2006 by Rick Harbaugh.
The strokes used in Chinese characters were originally fashioned after bird tracks and shadows cast by trees. They are beautifully expressive even to those who do not understand their meaning. To the Chinese, writing is not only a means of communication, it also has the force to transform reality. The book in this box introduces the history of Chinese writing and gives many examples of the way in which simple brush strokes are combined to convey not only words but also complete ideas. The Chinese character tattoos that accompany the book can be harmlessly and temporarily adhered to the body for a wonderful and exotic effect
Über den Autor
The Book Laboratory, Inc. is the book publishing and packaging company of Philip and Manuela Dunn. The Dunns have created and authored many best-selling volumes, including Huston Smith's "Illustrated World Religions", Professor Stephen Hawking's "The Universe in a Nutshell", and Thomas Moore's "The Illustrated Care of the Soul". Their own writings and translations include "The Illustrated Rumi", "The Buddha Box", "Kama Sutra: The Erotic Art of Love", and many more.
This work examines the use of Chinese characters in East Asia. It tackles the issue from many different perspectives, along the way deflating several popular fallacies.