47 Facts About Chinese characters


Chinese characters are the oldest continuously used system of writing in the world.

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In Japan, common Chinese characters are often written in post-Toyo kanji simplified forms, while uncommon Chinese characters are written in Japanese traditional forms.

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These foreign adaptations of Chinese characters pronunciation are known as Sino-Xenic pronunciations and have been useful in the reconstruction of Middle Chinese characters.

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Many Chinese characters have multiple readings, with instances denoting different morphemes, sometimes with different pronunciations.

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For example, many additional readings have the Middle Chinese characters departing tone, the major source of the 4th tone in modern Standard Chinese characters.

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Chinese characters represent words of the language using several strategies.

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Peter Boodberg and William Boltz go so far as to deny that any of the compound Chinese characters devised in ancient times were of this type, maintaining that now-lost "secondary readings" are responsible for the apparent absence of phonetic indicators, but their arguments have been rejected by other scholars.

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Also, a few Chinese characters coined in China in modern times, such as platinum, "white metal" belong to this category.

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Chinese characters used purely for their sound values are attested in the Spring and Autumn and Warring States period manuscripts, in which was used to write and vice versa, just lines apart; the same happened with ? for, with the characters in question being homophonous or nearly homophonous at the time.

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Chinese characters are used rebus-like and exclusively for their phonetic value when transcribing words of foreign origin, such as ancient Buddhist terms or modern foreign names.

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Each Chinese characters character is an attempt to combine sound, image, and idea in a mutually reinforcing fashion.

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All these Chinese characters have on the left a radical of three short strokes, which is a reduced form of the character ? shui meaning "water", indicating that the character has a semantic connection with water.

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Occasionally a bisyllabic word is written with two Chinese characters that contain the same radical, as in "butterfly", where both Chinese characters have the insect radical.

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The legend relates that on the day the Chinese characters were created, grain rained down from the sky and that night the people heard ghosts wailing and demons crying because the human beings could no longer be cheated.

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Soon, people in the Movement started to cite the traditional Chinese characters writing system as an obstacle in modernising China and therefore proposed that a reform be initiated.

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Recent commentators have claimed that Chinese characters were blamed for the economic problems in China during that time.

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In 1935, 324 simplified Chinese characters collected by Qian Xuantong were officially introduced as the table of first batch of simplified Chinese characters, but they were suspended in 1936 due to fierce opposition within the party.

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Since the education of Chinese characters is not mandatory in South Korea, the usage of Chinese character is rapidly disappearing.

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Chinese characters adapted to write Japanese words are known as kanji.

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Chinese characters are sometimes used to this day for either clarification in a practical manner, or to give a distinguished appearance, as knowledge of Chinese characters is considered by many Koreans a high class attribute and an indispensable part of a classical education.

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In South Korea, educational policy on Chinese characters has swung back and forth, often swayed by education ministers' personal opinions.

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Therefore, a good working knowledge of Chinese characters is still important for anyone who wishes to interpret and study older texts from Korea, or anyone who wishes to read scholarly texts in the humanities.

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Chinese characters are thought to have been first introduced to the Ryukyu Islands in 1265 by a Japanese Buddhist monk.

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In Vietnam, Chinese characters are now limited to ceremonial uses, but they were once in widespread use.

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Until the early 20th century, Literary Chinese characters was used in Vietnam for all official and scholarly writing.

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Oldest writing Chinese characters materials found in Vietnam is an epigraphy dated 618, erected by local Sui dynasty officials in Thanh Hoa.

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The oldest writing Vietnamese chu Nom script written along with Chinese characters is a Buddhist inscription, dated 1209.

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The Mongols, Manchu, and Japanese constantly select unaspirated Chinese characters to represent the sounds g, d, b, and j of their languages.

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Use of traditional Chinese characters versus simplified Chinese characters varies greatly, and can depend on both the local customs and the medium.

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Indeed, this desire by the Kuomintang to simplify the Chinese characters writing system nursed aspirations of some for the adoption of a phonetic script based on the Latin script, and spawned such inventions as the Gwoyeu Romatzyh.

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Some of the simplified Chinese characters adopted by the People's Republic of China, and some simplified characters used in Japan, are derived from the cursive script.

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Every character from the Chinese characters scripts is built into a uniform shape by means of assigning it a geometric area in which the character must occur.

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Nature of Chinese characters makes it very easy to produce allographs for many characters, and there have been many efforts at orthographical standardization throughout history.

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Just as each region that uses Chinese characters has standardized character forms, each has standardized stroke orders, with each standard being different.

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Some Chinese characters are written with different stroke orders due to character simplification.

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Chinese characters are primarily morphosyllabic, meaning that most Chinese morphemes are monosyllabic and are written with a single character, though in modern Chinese most words are disyllabic and dimorphemic, consisting of two syllables, each of which is a morpheme.

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Some of these can be considered logograms, where Chinese characters represent whole words rather than syllable-morphemes, though these are generally instead considered ligatures or abbreviations, and as non-standard.

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However, in the 19th century these were often written via compound Chinese characters, pronounced disyllabically, such as for or for – some of these Chinese characters were used in Japan, where they were pronounced with borrowed European readings instead.

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Since polysyllabic Chinese characters are often non-standard, they are often excluded in character dictionaries.

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In most other languages that use the Chinese family of scripts, notably Korean, Vietnamese, and Zhuang, Chinese characters are typically monosyllabic, but in Japanese a single character is generally used to represent a borrowed monosyllabic Chinese morpheme, a polysyllabic native Japanese morpheme (the kun'yomi), or even (in rare cases) a foreign loanword.

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Newspapers have dealt with this problem in varying ways, including using software to combine two existing, similar Chinese characters, including a picture of the character, or, especially as is the case with Yu Shyi-kun, simply substituting a homophone for the rare character in the hope that the reader would be able to make the correct inference.

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The fact that it represents a syllable that does not exist in any Standard Chinese characters word means that it could be classified as a dialectal character.

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Chinese characters are theoretically an open set and anyone can create new characters, though such inventions are rarely included in official character sets.

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The number of entries in major Chinese characters dictionaries is the best means of estimating the historical growth of character inventory.

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However, when no obvious cognate could be found for a word, due to factors like irregular sound change or semantic drift in the meanings of characters, or the word originates from a non-Chinese source like a substratum from an earlier displaced language or a later borrowing from another language family, then characters are borrowed and used according to the rebus principle or invented in an ad hoc manner to transcribe it.

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Specifically, Chinese coined new characters for chemical elements – see Chemical elements in East Asian languages – which continue to be used and taught in schools in China and Taiwan.

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In Japan, in the Meiji era, new Chinese characters were coined for some (but not all) SI units, such as ( "meter" + "thousand, kilo-") for kilometer.

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