The character is the equivalent of an English word. Since Chinese is a pictographic language, it contains pictures or characters. There are approximately 50,000 Chinese characters. However, if one knows 5,000 characters, that person could easily read a newspaper or modern novel. Scholars who read ancient Chinese literature and documents must learn many more characters. Characters are written with special strokes and in a special order. Usually the order consists of writing a character from the left to the right and from top to bottom. The character is written starting in the upper-left corner and ending in the lower-bottom corner.
a Simple Picture of a Person
A character usually looks similar to the object it represents. This evolution of characters is very similar to that of hieroglyphics. For instance, the character for mountain looks very much like a mountain. The character for man also looks like a man. Since ideas and other abstracts objects cannot be represented by pictographs, other types of characters exist in Chinese.
a Representation of a Mountain
Types of chinese characters:
- 1.Pictographs - physical resemblances (person)
- 2.Simple ideographs - representation of ideas (up)
- 3.Compound ideographs - two or more characters together representing ideas (trust - combines "man" and "word")
- 4.Character borrowing - same character to represent words with similar pronunciation
- 5.Phonetic compounds - two elements: one gives character meaning, other its pronunciation