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Chinese Characters and Scripts Warming up ---What do you know about Chinese characters  When did Chinese characters come into being?  Are Chinese characters.

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Presentation on theme: "Chinese Characters and Scripts Warming up ---What do you know about Chinese characters  When did Chinese characters come into being?  Are Chinese characters."— Presentation transcript:


2 Chinese Characters and Scripts

3 Warming up ---What do you know about Chinese characters  When did Chinese characters come into being?  Are Chinese characters pictographs?  How many types of structure of Chinese characters? Can you name some of them?  Can you say something about the origin and development of Chinese characters?

4 Content  Introduction  I Chinese Characters History of Chinese Characters ---A legend of Cang Jie --- History of Chinese Characters --- The General features of Chinese Character --- Structures of Chinese Characters

5 Introduction  With a view to examining the cultural traits belonging to a certain nation it is imperative to acquire a perspective through a window of the language and characters conceded. Language and script function as a threshold leading human beings from ignorance to civilization. Not molded at random, the specific language and script of each nation hinged on the features and patterns of thinking that had resulted in from its interior, bearing a rich stock of the national cultural heritage.

6  I. Square Chinese Character  The Chinese characters, neat and peculiar in appearance, occupy the same spacing in printed paper, whether drawn in “ 一 ”(one), “ 二 ”(two), “ 了 ”(already) and “ 又 ”(again) with one or two strokes, or copied in “ 骤 ”(assembly) and “ 罐 ”(jar) with over ten strokes. The characters diversify in posture. For example, “ 田 ”(fields) “ 非 ”(not) in upright and foursquare type, and “ 戈 ”(dagger-axe) “ 夕 ”(night) and “ 瓦 ”(tile) in crooked and askew style, all are printed out in identical size. With respect to this trait, therefore, Chinese script is figuratively referred to as “Square Characters”.

7 When did the written language come into being?  Chinese is among the world’s oldest written languages. Chinese characters evolved from pictographs into characters formed of strokes, with their structures very much simpler.  The written language came much later than the oral language, it came into being about 5 thousand years ago.  Ideograph is the original form of Paleography 古字体. Chinese character originated from the logograph 略字 that was invented earlier than the Oracle bone Script.

8 Cangjie 仓颉 Created Chinese Script There have been legends about the origin of the Chinese script, with nearly all ancient writers attributing it to a man named Cangjie. Cang Jie was allegedly believed to be a deity ([‘di:iti:] 神 ) with four eyes on the face, intelligent and touched in divinities 神 ; 上帝, and to be so profoundly enlightened by the beauty in nature as to have invented Chinese characters.

9 Cangjie, according to one legend, saw a divine being whose face had unusual features which looked like a picture of writings. In imitation of his image, Cangjie created the earliest written characters Another story says that Cangjie saw the footprints of birds and beasts, which inspired him to create written language.

10 History of Chinese Character  Chinese is among the world’s oldest written languages. Compared with the other systems of scripts, Chinese characters emerged early with an over 4,000-year history.  Ideograph is the original form of Paleography 古字体. Chinese character originated from the logograph 略字 that was invented earlier than the Oracle bone Script.  Chinese characters evolved from pictographs into characters formed of strokes, with their structures very much simpler.

11 History of Chinese Character  As demonstrated by the archaeological findings, only at Banpo-Yangshao Cultural (半坡仰韶文化) Ruins in Xi’an of Shaanxi Province were discriminated 113 samples in different simple signs that had been carved on the outer part of a vertical-cavity (立窑) pot decorated with wide grains (纹理) or big inverse-triangular veins (纹理). The strokes (笔画) of the signs looked simple in regular shapes, covering more than thirty clans such as a horizontal stroke, a vertical stroke, a bevel (斜角) stroke and a cross stroke. The archaeological experts released the textual research that these engraved symbols could have been the primitive relics of Chinese characters.

12  At Dawenkou ( 大汶口 ) Cultural Ruins that traces from 5,000 years ago were found some pictographic marks that had been carved on the grey pottery vessels and that had virtually developed into the later- arriving pictograph.

13 Major Characteristics  Hanyu ( 漢語 ), usually called Chinese language in Hong Kong, belongs to the Sinitic branch of the Sino-Tibetan Family (汉藏语系). In comparison with other languages, the major characteristics of modern Chinese language are as follows -

14 General features:  Square Characters  formed of strokes  occupy the same spacing in printed paper  Ideograph (表意文字) & Pictograph  Rich in Senses

15 Basically Using Monosyllabic (单音节) Characters  Chinese characters are the written symbol of the Chinese language. Generally, a Chinese character represents a syllable and carries a certain meaning. For example, " 水 " (water), " 人 " (human), " 狗 " (dog). However, not every character can be used independently. In modern Chinese, some of the characters must be used together with other characters and form compound words, such as " 習 " (study) in " 學習 " (learn + study) and " 擊 " (strike) in " 攻擊 " (strike + attack). There are also some characters that only have their meanings when grouped in words of two or more characters, such as " 葡萄 " (grape), " 蜻蜓 " (dragonfly).

16 Tonal  Chinese language is tonal (音调). Chinese character has four tones. The same syllable, pronounced with different tones, will become different words and have different meanings. For example, " 剛 " [gang1] is different from " 港 " [gang3] while " 文 " [wen2] is different from " 問 " [wen4].

17 Less Morphological Changes  For example, nouns do not change according to gender or quantity. A book is " 書 ", a few books are also " 書 ". Verbs do not need to change to match the subject. For example, the verb " 去 " (go) in " 我去 " (I go) and " 他去 " (he go) is totally the same. However, Chinese verbs have tenses, such as " 吃了飯 " ("eat perfective rice" for "finish taking a meal") " 吃着飯 " ("eat continuous rice" for "taking a meal") and " 吃過飯 " ("eat experiential rice" for "have taken a meal").

18 Subject-verb-object Order  The basic order of modern Chinese language is "subject-verb-object" (SVO). For example, we will say " 我坐車 " (I sit car), but not " 我車坐 " (I car sit) and " 車坐我 " (car sit I).

19 Use of Classifiers Obligatory In modern Chinese language, the use of classifier between a numeral and a noun is obligatory. For example, we will say " 三隻貓 " (three classifier cats) instead of " 三貓 " (three cats).

20 The Modifier Placed Before the Modified  In modern Chinese, the modifier is to be placed before the modified. For example, we will say " 慢慢喝 " (slowly drink) instead of " 喝慢慢 " (drink slowly); "A red flower" is " 一朶紅花 " (a classifier red flower), but not " 一 朶花紅 " (a classifier flower red).

21 Only Single Consonants Tolerated  Both in Cantonese or Putonghua, there are only single consonants. For example, in the initials of the two syllables " 打破 " [daa2] [po3], there are single consonants [d-] [p-] respectively. There are no consonant clusters like [br-] in "break" in English. Transcriptions like [sh], [ch], [ng] in Hanyu Pinyin all represent single consonants.

22 Methods to keep a record of events in Ancient China  1. Knots ( 打结 ) According to the records, Shennong, a legendary emperor of China, recorded information by means of knots as well.  2. Inscriptions( carvings & pictures)  3. Logographs (drawing pictures, hieroglyphs 象形文字 / 图像文字 )

23 Written Styles of Chinese Characters  jiaguwen ( 甲骨文 oracle bone inscriptions )  jinwen (金文 bronze script )  xiaozhuan or zhuanshu ( 小篆 seal characer)  lishu ( 隶书 official script)  caoshu( 草书 cursive Script )  xingshu( 行书 semi-cursive script )  kaishu ( 楷书 regular script)

24 Structure of Chinese Characters Around 100 A.D. the scholar Xu Shen (许慎) wrote the etymological dictionary ( 《说文解字》 ) which differentiates six types of characters (六书) : pictographs, 象形 ideographs ( referential characters ), 指事 logical aggregates ( indicative characters ), 会意 pictographic-phonetic characters ( phonetic complexes ), 形声 associative transformation, 转注 phonetic loan characters ( borrowings ). 假借

25 Traditional six styles-1  pictographs ( 象形字 ) (illustrating the shape of things)  e.g. 山 mountain, 鱼 fish, 井 well

26 Traditional six styles-2  The referential characters/Simple ideographs 指事字 (to form a new word by adding a symbol to pictographs)  e.g. 母( mother ) : The character is formed by adding two dots in chest of a woman to indicate breasts.

27 Traditional six styles-3  The indicative characters/Logical aggregates 会意字 (combine the meanings of different characters to create a new meaning)  e.g. a female is 女, a child is 子, and the two together is good 好

28 Traditional six styles-4  The pictographic-phonetic characters/Phonetic complexes 形声字 ( combine the meaning of one character with the sound of another)  e.g. in the character 想 the meaning of think is suggested by heart and the pronunciation is nearly the same as that of 相.

29 Other examples  上形下声:景,草 (the upper part of the character indicates the meaning and the lower part of it indicates the sound.  下形上声 : 盒, 驾 ( the upper part of the character indicates the sound, and the lower part of it indicates the meaning )  左形右声: the left part of the character indicates the sound, and the right part of it indicates the meaning ) 啊,极  右形左声:战,功  外形内声:圆,府  内形外声: 闷,问

30 Traditional six styles-5  Associative transformations 转注 extend the meaning of a character to related concept.  E.g. 武 (weapon) comprising 止 (stop) and 戈 (dagger-axe)

31 Traditional six styles-6  The phonetic loan characters 假借  The phonetic loan characters are the borrowed homophones.  E.g. 西 (west)

32 Calligraphy The four basic skills and disciplines of the Chinese literati: qin (a string musical instrument) qi (a strategic board game) shu (calligraphy), hua (painting),

33 Calligraphy is an art dating back to the earliest day of history, and widely practiced throughout China to this day. Although it uses Chinese words as its vehicle of expression, one does not have to know Chinese to appreciate its beauty. Because in essence, Calligraphy is an abstract art. While viewing a Western abstract painting, one does not ask, “What is it?” When viewing Chinese calligraphy, one need not ask, “What is the Chinese word?”

34 Tu Meng of the Tang dynasty ( ) developed 120 expressions to describe different styles of calligraphy and establish criteria for them. The first 15 from his list are: ability, mysterious, careful, carefree, balance, unrestrained, mature, virile (阳 刚), grace, sober, well-knit, prolix (冗长), rich, exuberant (生气勃勃), classic.

35 A gracefully executed work has no peer. Bold yet fluid Formal

36 Balance Geometric (几何图形) A carefree style has no fixed directions. The character is Sui (to follow), in cursive style. The movement of the strokes suggests speed, by a dancing rather than a racing speed. By Wang Xizhi.

37 Playful

38 Languages and Script of China A threshold (门槛 / 开始) leading human from ignorance to civilization



41 王羲之







48 A Comparison between Dongba hieroglyphs( 东巴象形文字 ) and the oracle bone scripts

49 Changle bone inscriptions --- Origin of the oracle bone scripts

50 Spoken Chinese  The Chinese language: spoken by the Hans, 94 % of China’s population.  Different, non-Han languages: spoken by the remaining 6 % the so-called minority peoples

51 Eight major dialects in Chinese language  Wu dialect (spoken by 8.4 percent of Han speakers),  Xiang (spoken by 5 percent),  Cantonese (5 percent),  Min (4.2 percent),  Hakka (4 percent),  Gan (2.4 percent)

52 Putonghua  The official or common language of the PRC was based on the northern dialect.  various names: Mandarin, Modern standard Chinese, or Putonghua (“common speech”).  It is spoken in various sub-dialect forms by 70 percent of Hans.

53 Chinese Pinyin  In 1958 : a system of writing-- using the Roman alphabet.  Since 1979: all Chinese diplomatic documents and magazines have used the pinyin system for spelling names and places.

54 English words with Chinese roots  ginseng ( 人参 ), silk (丝), dimsum (点心), oolong (乌龙), fengshui (风 水), kow-tow (叩头), typhoon (台 风), tao (道), yin and yang (阴阳), T’ai Chi (太极), Kung-fu (功夫), tofu (豆腐)

55 Chinese character and calligraphy  The writing of Chinese characters was developed into an artistic form.  In addition, the traditional seal carving and engraving assumes a dainty presentation of the graphs or strokes in the characters.

56  The following is the emblem of 2008 Olympics: “Chinese Seal, Dancing Beijing”.  Please ponder on the rich connotations and charms of these Chinese characters and the traditional Chinese calligraphic art.

57 The Olympic emblem (奥运会徽) for the 2008 Olympic Games

58 Simplification of Chinese Characters  Over thousands of years, Chinese characters had been written in vertical lines from right to left.  In the interests of promoting universal literacy, the Committee for Reforming the Chinese Language was set up by the government in Around 2200 Chinese characters were simplified.

59 Minority Nationality Languages, and Characters  21 own writing systems & Different language families  The most minority languages belong to the Han-Zang family( 汉藏语系 )  E.G. the languages for Zhuang( 壮 ), Zang( 藏 ), Bu Yi( 布依 ), Tai( 傣 ), Tu Jia( 土 家 ), Miao( 苗 ), Bai( 白 ), Yao( 瑶 )…  the Indian Europe family( 印欧语系 )…

60 Four Treasures Describe the “four treasure of the study”.





65  Brush (Hubi) The brush is the traditional Chinese writing tool. Its tip is made of soft hairs from a sheep, weasel( 黄鼬 ) or rabbit. The carefully selected hairs are tied together, trimmed into a tapering shape and fixed onto one end of a bamboo or wooden holder( 笔管 ). The hair is both soft and elastic. The ourter layers of the brush are shorter making it easier to absorb ink. The tip end has longer hairs which come to a tiny point, so that both wrinkle dotting and line drawing can be done easily.

66  Chinese Ink (Huimo) Chinese ink is made by mixing soot( 煤 烟 ) from burning tung oil( 桐油 ) and pin tar( 松木炭 ) with gelatin( 明胶 ), Chinese herbs and spices. Ink is produced by grinding the solid ink with water against an inkstone. There is a saying that “black ink has five colors,” because Chinese painters use ink meticulously to produce a number of subtle shades.

67  Paper (Xuanzhi) Xuan paper was originally produced in Xuanzhou in Anhui province in the Tang Dynasty. Xuan paper has a close texture, making it pliable yet tough, and resistant to ageing and insects.

68  Ink Slab (Duanyan) Ink slabs can be date back to the Han Dynasty, and it is a sort of millstone on which water is turned into ink by rubbing an ink stick. Duan ink slabs produced at Duanxi, Guangdong Province, are valued for their fine, smooth surfaces which look glossy with moisture. They are also good for keeping left-over ink.

69 Questions to answer  What did Emperor Qing Shihuang do ?  Chinese calligraphy is an Oriental art. But what makes it an art ?  Why has calligraphy stayed popular since ancient times?  What practical functions does calligraphy still have? Do you think computer will lead to the disappearance of Chinese calligraphy?

70  Emperors like Li Shimin and Qian Long sponsored calligraphy.  The Imperial Civil Service examinations were focused on writing and provided a way for ordinary people to achieve a better life.  It had practical values because it was a good way to make friends and was more presentable as a gift rather than jewelry or money.  Many people practice calligraphy as a way to raise their cultural accomplishment.  Older people use calligraphic writing as a method to keep fit. They believe that when a person concentrates on writing calligraphy, his inner wellbeing is stimulated.

71 Assignment  结合观看纪录片《中国艺术大观 — 水墨意 境》,讨论书画艺术的文化内涵以及在当 今社会的发展现状。

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