Learning Chinese Characters Without Rote Learning

To learn Chinese characters, first of all we will need to know some history and features about this ancient writing. The history of Chinese characters can be traced back into more than 3000 years ago, and at the very beginning of its development most Chinese characters are “pictographic”, which means you can easily guess the meaning by looking at the shape of the characters. The examples are 木(mù) (wood or tree),目(mù) (eye). Both characters have the same pinyin. The former character ‘木” used to be looking like , which by the shape looks like a tree. The top horizontal stroke imitates the branches of a three whereas the bottom two strokes imitate the roots of a tree.  The latter character “目” originally looks like  and is actually a picture of an eye.

As time goes by, only using picturesque characters could not meet the increasing demand of Chinese characters. There then came other groups of Chinese characters. One of those groups is called “indication”, which means you can guess the meaning by looking at different parts of the characters. For example, the character “林(lín)” has two trees in one character. The word “林” means “forest”, which actually indicated by the parts of the character. Instead of using rote learning to remember Chinese characters, we can learn characters much more efficiently by analysing the development of the characters and their features.

Another important group, which represents a very characteristic feature of Chinese characters, is called “picot-phonogram”. The characters in this group are often composed of two parts (mostly left-right structure), and the left part indicate meaning of the characters (usually pictographic characters) whereas the right part indicate the pronunciation of the characters. For example, the word “淋(lín)” (meaning “get wet”) has its meaning part  in its left and the phonetic part “林” in its right.

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