Category Archives: Chinese

Ash Wednesday 天地社会

里 li3

dirt tu3 土
IN a field 田tian2

In, Lining the idea is also the LIning INside of a coat. 裡 li3

黑/黒 hei1

Black. Both these mean black. They are the image of a person with a blackened face, their face is blackened with ash. The character has been simplified from a picture of a big man (da4 ren de da). His face is up on top with  2 dots of ash to show the idea of BLACK DARK. These are the same character one is a Japanese variant.

Four burning coals on the bottom, two dots of ash on the face in China, no need to bother with the extra 2 dots in Japan.

墨 mo4

smudge stick

Dirt tu3 on the bottom is the idea of the inkpot. This is the mo of moshui, Chinese ink. It’s made from water and burnt ashes.

黯 an4

an4 dark, deep black, probably matte black as opposed to glossy black since this character also means dull.

hei1an4 dark, darkness

hei1ban3 blackboard


hei1 she4hui4

Criminal society.

hei1 shi4 black market
Linkword: Hei! Shi’s a prostitute!


literally black hand; criminal; refers to an individual not a group, cf. English “the black hand”,  an historical criminal society.

memotechnique: Hey! Show?


Secret society 秘密社团, 秘密社会


闭嘴?不行!bi zui? no way! mouth closed? oppose! (oui gotta stop meting like This)

闭 bi4
門 men2 means door
才cai2 says sprout

cai2 is literally a sprout or half a block of wood. As a standalone it looks to have lost its literal meaning an retains only its metaphoric meaning of genius, talent. However, as a pictorial or semantic element of a character it may still indicate its literal meaning (sprout/sprouting) or be a pictorial element (half block of wood)
What’s a door with a block of wood in front of it? It’s a closed door!


嘴 zui3
嘴 = 口+此+

口 is a picture of a mouth
此 means this and sounds like ci3.


止 zhi3 stopped + 匕 bi3 spoon = 此 ci3 this

角 is a picture of a single bull’s horn. sharp point on top, scales in the middle. It means horn, corner.
Memotechnique: This Corner of the Mouth = Zesty cItrUs

How to remember Chinese words and characters? Repetition.

There is no royal road to learning; you can’t buy knowledge. The hammer to hammer characters and vocabulary into your brain is repetition.

But Repetition doesn’t have to be boring! In fact, the more interesting the repetition the more likely it is to be remembered. We don’t remember boring experiences well, and certainly not gladly.

We remember music best because of rhythm and rhyme, because of emotional intensity, and also because of repetition. Watch Chinese movies. Listen to and learn Chinese songs.

Keys to remembering vocabulary and characters:
Exposure – immerse yourself as much as possible in the language you are learning.
Meaning – information which is significant is likelier to be remembered.
Emotion – link words to feelings
Music – music raises emotional intensity augmenting likelihood of memory. Mnemonic
Biography – relate that which you wish to remember to that which you have personally experienced
Eselsbruecke – use mnemonics, limericks, witticisms and jokes as memory hooks
Relate new words to known words, new characters to known characters.

Associate characters with biographical, spatial, and social experiences.
Relate new information to known information.

I personally don’t use memory palaces or biographical memory. I link new information to known information. Rhythm rhyme and repetition and relating new to known are how I remember best it seems.

Pictogram Palace: free supplement

It may be useful to study characters in sets which look alike but are in fact quite different. For example:

za1 on the left is the idea of a winding bucket carried up from a well on a spool of rope. The cloth character in the middle represents the cloth rope and the spindle (tambour) on which the rope is wound. The idea in modernity is around, round, circumference.

On the right is nao4 which means noisy. It’s the market character at the door character.

As a character set za1 recurs in

gu1 to bind with hoops

It’s also useful to learn characters which are antonyms. My favorite is qu to go and zhi to arrive

Qu4. it’s an arrow being launched into flight from earth

zhi4 it’s an arrow which has plunged from above and dug into the dirt 土. It’s arrived

It’s also useful to distinguish similar looking but different characters like 土 tu3 clump of earth (sideways x marks the spot) and shi master (he is sitting with his arms stretched wide head on top). The arms of shi are much wider than tu. Tu’s upper horizontal line is shorter than the width of the lower horizontal line. In contrast shis upper horizontal line is always longer than the lower horizontal line.

Seems like a remake of 青蛇 is coming out Tomorrow! :)


No one dares speak his name! Is there any who dare speak his name? The divine god protects and reveals!
Do not gasp desire is empty empty is desire desire changes empty space empty space becomes desire!
The end of an era is this moment of unchanging desire
This beautiful desire emerges, desire births desire asks who cannot love and cherish
Sing forth the song of cherished desire, the end of this era, the upright woman is me!
Do not dare speak his name! None dare speak his name! The divine god protects and reveals!
The divine dragon's daughter, a swirling song of the great mother, her heart's eye appears bewitched! 
Exhausted my role, consciousness of beautiful desire comes bidding you all to cherish and love
A good night again falls on the end of this world. man, treasure and cherish this night, remember me.

凤凰 pictogram palace free supplement PHOENIX

Feng4 huang2 is the Chinese phoenix. It looks like this

Let’s break it down! The hand character is a stylization of an owl from oracle bone script. Owls are symbols of wisdom, vigilance, 360 vision, with vision penetrating the blackest night. The fan  character means ordinary and is related to feng wind Feng1 in this character is both phonetic and semantic
This is the bird that sounds like the wind itself!

And let’s talk about this NOT ordinary bird! (凡人 fan ren means ordinary person i.e. everyman). We know it is BRILLIANT BLINDING AND WHITE bai white is the sun itself with a ray of light. IT’S EYE IS THE SUN.
And it is NOBLE and ROYAL means king.
So? What bird is blindingly brilliant as the sun, with a song like the wind, and noble?
The phoenix!

凤凰 Flying hand, bright white bird-king! 就是凤凰!

Nine Heads

Brilliant White Royal PHOENIX
白 王 的 凰

Pictogram Palace Free Supplement: 弋戈成或

This character series deals with weapons of war. :/  China, like Europe, had a bloody feudal history of war after war. This is reflected in Chinese characters (hanzi) The following characters are all pictograms: pictures of literal objects.

yi4 is a picture of a retrievable throwing dart on a sling: the throwing dart could be drawn back by a rope. The dot is the dart’s head. The horizontal line is the retrieval rope. The vertical line is the sling bow or launcher.
It’s a

ge1 is a pole-arm, halbred, i.e. a long handled war ax. The vertical line is the ax pole. The bottom line is the pommel the top line and dot are the forward edge and backward edge of the two-edged pole-arm.
My big brother (哥哥 gege) the half-breed has a Giant Enormous HALBRED A DOUBLE-EDGED LONG AX.

cheng2 is pole-arm plus ding nail . Ding1 here is pictographic, it is a simplification of the city conquered by the ax-men on the right. Cheng2 originally meant conquest of a city. It has since been extended metaphorically to mean achievement, achieve, become: the metaphore has come to mean more than the original literal meaning.

huo4 means “or”. It is a phono-semantic character. The left hand kou is the phonetic element: in oracle bone scripts the square sign was used to indicate dwellings, enclosed spaces, i.e. buildings or even villages.. The right hand ge1 is the semantic idea of city from cheng2 . Either you defend the city or it falls!


I at first found these characters quite difficult: they are HIGHLY stylized and simplified pictures but are indeed pictures. I took solace in that they seem to follow a logical development and do in fact: we are looking at the evolution of the simplest of war-weapons, the slingshot, into more complex ones, axes and pole-arms resulting finally in the emergence of the greatest achievement of civilization: CIVITAS, The CITY



huo4 means “or”. It is a phono-semantic character. The left hand kou is the phonetic element: in oracle bone scripts the square sign was used to indicate dwellings, enclosed spaces, i.e. buildings or even villages.. The right hand ge1 is the semantic idea of city from cheng2 .

I at first found these characters quite difficult: they are HIGHLY stylized and simplified pictures but are indeed pictures. I took solace in that they seem to follow a logical development and do in fact: we are looking at the evolution of the simplest of war-weapons, the slingshot, into more complex ones, axes and pole-arms resulting finally in the emergence of the greatest achievement of civilization: CIVITAS, The CITY


Hanzi Character Series (Pictogram Palace)

Chinese characters exhibit a powerful attractive and compelling logic. E.g. 乂中史吏更
Let’s look at how this character series unfolds for it is logical, and thus memorable.

yi4 regulate govern control
Mnemonic: Yes It looks like x. X Marx the spot for government control!

zhong1/4 middle, within, center bullseye (it is the image of an archery target as symbol of “middle”)
Mnemonic: BULLSEYE! Zap! Hit it! One New Goal!

shi3 history: history is the record of governance of the middle kingdom. China is the middle kingdom.
Stories? Here It is! HISTORY
Stories? Hear It! HISTORY

li4 minor government official – for example a recorder of legal instruments, of official records, a historian, the recorder of history! Official government records are a central part of history.
Mnemonic: Licensing Inspector
Licensing Librarian

geng4 furthermore: this character is the records of history. Furthermore, The minister adds one more mark to the official record. In first tone is the Night watchman of the state.
Given Even Newer Grants MORE, STILL MORE, EVEN MORE research is possible.

Next time we will do

义 使便


辛苦 bitter (work)

ku3 means “bitter”: on top is the grass determinant, below is 10 mouths. The ten mouths symbolize ten generations and is the idea of old, ancient. gu 古。 Apparently in ancient Chinese “old plants” meant bitter; the plant dries out and loses its sweetness with age.

xin1 is the image of a dagger which was used to inflict punishment for crimes: branding or scarring the criminal in ancient societies is common, in China cutting of the nose e.g.. The top is li4 the standing man character

head is the dot on top line on the bottom is the dirt two vertical lines for legs and the top horizontal line is the arms。 beneath li is 10

This is the same as Roman numeral X but is tilted on it’s side in Chinese!

Xin is a pictogram; it’s a picture of a dagger but the pictogram is composed of two other characters, the
standing man+ten=dagger.
shi li  十 立

Ku is a symbol: this is called an associative idea character – two ideas are brought together to express a third
kou shi cao 口十草




Pictogram Palace Supplement: Look Alike Characters 亢 冗

Look alike characters are another way to think of hanzi. Today’s characters are kang4


which means arrogant, haughty, high and mighty; kang is powerful, knows his power, likes the thought of his power, and may abuse his power. 亢 can be a positive or negative word depending on context, like so many other Chinese words. There is also the sense of the joy of power, joy in the sense of awareness or memory of one’s capacities.
Kang is the image of a mounted KNiGht.


in contrast means superfluous, extraneous. 冗 rong’s image is of a table covered with a cloth. The cloth is superfluous.

Notice that a cloth has no handle.
But a cloth covering can have sides.
So rong has no dot but does have sides.
In contrast kang has a dot, which is the knight’s helmet.
The line under it are the knights arms.
His mount is the table character.


arrogant, powerful, the joy of power.


Red Orange Needlepoint
Gilded cloth mi4 on the
table! ji1

请保重 ; 走吧 character break-down (Pictogram Palace: Free Supplement)

Chinese characters are fundamentally built out from pictures. So for example bao3 保 indeed IS a picture of a guard!(人person口mouth木tree) Qing 请 is a pictophonetic compound character. On the left is the yanzipang which means to say or speak: in simplified yan is a mouth with sound waves 言. In modern it is the english letter i! because I the worker (工人) want to say something, something revolutionary. The phonetic element 青 is on the right that is a compound character. on top right is zhu 主 which is a column with a torch on it symbolizing the lordly manor. beneath that is the moon character yue 月 which here is symbol of that which is changeable (moon goes through phases). Qing itself is the shifting shade of blue-green which may be seen in the sea water or in the flame of a candle (see also zhu above). So qing is the idea of a color, then changeability, and thus by metaphore emotion (情). This Qing 请 exactly means the same as German “bitte”, I bid thee,
So “I bid thee guard”
guard what? Heavily!
Zhong 重 is a tougher one. On the bottom is tu3 土 the dirt character it means a clump of earth (in jia gu wen it is the clay wall of a primitive cave-house). Above tu3 is tian 田 the farmer field / rice paddy character. Tu3+Tian in that combination means 里 li, the hometown, the home village, your neighborhood, which is obviously something important.
But above 里 are 2 additional lines! What could they mean? qian 千 1000. It is the number 1000. I guess 1000 home-villages 1000 farmers houses and fields would be mighty important!

Chinese characters are combinations of pictures, symbols, some of which may also be phonetic clues as to pronunciation.

So: literally 请保重 means “I bid thee guard thy neighbor hood and they neighbors’ hoods”!

ba 巴 is a picture of a coBrA snake. It symbolizes the idea of alterity, the other. Here it is used as a phonetic element 吧 means ok.
zou 走 is a clump of earth tu3 土 on top of 正 zheng which means upright just or tu3 土 on top of 止 zhi which means stop. zhi 止 is a picture of a foot though i found it easier to think of it as a person on the left forced to stop by a tall high tree or wall on the right 上 shang means tall.
foot+dirt = go rhymes with zou
foot but no dirt means stop because you can’t walk without something to walk on, i guess.
hanzi are pictures and symbols which in turn are used as phonetic clues for more complex compound characters which are comprised of highly stylized pictures with abstract symbols and sound clues.

Pictogram Palace Freebie: Yan 颜 Color 颜色的颜

Freebie for Pictogram Palace 颜 yan2

Character break-down for yan2 颜:

li4 on the top left it means standing it’s the image of a person standing. and that person is right on top of han/chang3

a cliff. together

chan3 means production it’s the image of a factory on a cliff building standing on a cliff. there are shan shadows

cast onto that cliff. Beside the man on the cliff standing over shadows on the cliff is the image of a persons face ye4

(chopstick as a hair-tie).
This is the idea of color: colors on one’s face, the colors cast by shadows.
页 on the left is the phonetic clue to the initial sound Y shan 彡 on the left is the phonetic clue to the final sound. Imagery: A man standing on a cliff stroking his beard as shadows fall onto the cliff, we can clearly see the COLORS of his face the COLORS on the cliff.
Nuance =

楹 ying2 PILLAR(Pictogram Palace)

From the author of Pictogram Palace

Ying2 means pillar. a wood determinant 木 to the left (mu), so we know it’s either something wooden or a strong structured patterned object. on the top right is a pregnant woman yun 孕。 On the lower right is a dish or a pan min 皿.

ying2 is at least a phonetic clue. 盈 ying2 means overflowing, so the pillar here is a powerful pillar, imposing。The image on the right then is of a mother with overflowing nourishment for children.



仞 “MAN is the MEASURE of things” -Protogoras



ren+feng dao  = REN4

Renzipang on the left is a person it means “man” and sounds like REN. On the right is a knife with a dot on the blade to draw attention to that part of the knife. It too sounds like REN! So this character obviously says “REN”. It means MEASURE because it is the idea of a MAN touching the Edge of a Blade to get the MEASURE of how sharp it is, to use the tool as a MEASURE of length too.



Merciful 仁
Man 人
Recognizes 认
Measures 刃
Appointment 任

Baidu translates that as:
Benevolent people know the edge and shoulder their duties

variants on 水 shui3 water (pictogram palace)

求 qiu2 
to be request ask beseeach
Is it

silk scroll snout shui3
Jade is the imperial stone, it is green, thus auspicious. auspicious records written in green liquid ink (moshui=ink)

record register
bristles+water=ink+pen=symbol of recordation.

球 qiu
sphere, globe, the world 地球 di qiu.

king's question is unimportant?
queen is uninformed.


Chinese Poetry



one’s-self as ancient nation
true love and friends abide
thousands of songs and ten thousand tomes
praise Lady Zhaojun
her political marriage put out
the fire and flame of war
this solemn verdant tomb
draws the present to past once more

Pictogram Palace: Free Supplement!

Pictogram Palace: Free Supplement

Civitas, city, is the origin the idea of civil. Civil as in civilized originally meant “Roman” (da qin) then the states successors to Rome and then extended to the idea of those cultures which had escaped barbarism such as cannibalism, human sacrifice and other fundamental violations of human right.

节决 =

xi4 jie2 jue2 ding4 cheng2 bai4

xi4 means fine. it is a strand of silk next to a lattice work. silk itself is fine. to the right of the silk determinant is the character for field. hanzi may use the same shape to depict different physical objects! I believe this one is an embroidery. In any case the character means fine, detailed.

jie2 usually means festival; a festive occasion. It also means node joint section, its use here. Festivals are but one node, one section in the social fabric.
The grass determinant on top means the character is about vegetation somehow. the lower character 卩 is a royal seal, or the image of a person bowing, or of a person from the back with their right arm hooked. This festival has the royal seal of approval! xi+jie = positive details, details which require perhaps hard work but which are positive, happy!

jue2 is the image of a jade pendant worn at one’s waist symbol of ancestral and even royal power. the ice determinant emphasizes the idea of decisional royal and ancestral power.

ding4 means condition, state. It is the image of “to be upright” (zheng1) underneath 宀 “a roof”. It conveys the idea of a certain condition, the condition of certitude.

cheng2 is the image of ge1 halberd (military spear) at the cliffs han3 outside the city. it means by metaphor the idea of to make, to become, to succeed. Because the city (cheng shi) can only exist if the citizenry manning the ramparts, otherwise it is conquered and destroyed.

bai4 means defeat. on the left is a pictograph of a clam shell (bei4: shell on the outside, meat on the inside). beside bei clamshell/money is the image of a person’s hand (you2) holding a stick 攵(chinese pictographs are highly stylized and simple). Bai4 is an associative compound character: namely two ideas are brought together – a clam, which was MONEY in ancient china – and a man with a stick. Well, a good beat down will ruin the fine cowrie shells, huh! Stick beats Shell (and breaks it) as a symbol of the idea of defeat.

This phrase “details make the difference between success and defeat”.

Free supplement to Pictogram Palace: The Treasure House of Chinese Characters


Lemon Grass on
Chicken Claws on
Pine Tree Nuts make for a




A jug of wine fromt the former times is vinegar
A jug of win put under two clumps of earth for 20 years turns to vinegar


The Master holds a strip of Meat in his hand to make the dog GUESS what his command is.



Metal which has been under twenty clods of earth for twenty revolutions of the sun i.e. twenty years will rust out and is WRONG ERROR

former times the past

Two strips of meat which are hung up in the sun to dry for a long time as representation of FORMER TIMES THE PAST

Idea of

智慧 zhi hui – wisdom – character decomposition and analysis (free supplement to Pictogram Palace)

Free supplement for Pictogram Palace 智慧

智 zhi is the left character. it means intelligence.
The top left part is a picture of a big man with an arrow going over his head. To his right is a picture of a mouth. The idea is spoken smart words. Without the mouth the idea is just an arrow, i.e., pointed, directed. Bottom left part is a picture of the sun. So this is sharp spoken words which are really bright. Intelligent!
Mnemotechnique: it went over his head.

The top of the right character is feng1 repeated twice which means fertile abundant. it’s a picture of a growing plant ripe with fruit and seed. Beneath it is a picture of the bristles of a broom. That changes the meaning and pronunciation to hui which means comet. Add the heart character below it (three dots on top and below a curve, that’s a picture of the heart) to transform the meaning a bit from comet to an idea which sweeps all clean in its path purifies. So this is purification by the super-abundant divine power which cleans all foolish ideas from its path in other words: WISE.

What’s wise and intelligent put together? Wisdom.

There is a very popular childrens program called “small wisdom tree” xiao zhi hui shu which uses these two characters.

Pronouncing Pinyin: Free supplement for Pictogram Palace

Did you ever notice how people from China generally have thick accents? Guess what that means? Right. Your accent in Chinese probably sounds terribly bad is thick and incomprehensible. If you actually want to communicate then you need to pronounce properly.
In Pictogram Palace (free sample) I did not discuss proper pinyin pronunciation. This is because I am obviously not a native speaker. I have however been reading what lots of native speakers write and listening to what they say. Problem pinyin initials follow in the table below.
Common pronunciation points for each row are on the right.
Common pronunciation points for each coloumn are at the final row.
My own romanization of these sounds is in bold italic because pinyin often does not correspond to English.








(it’s a heavily
aspirated j)
It is equal to pinyin T + pinyin X



X tip of tongue touching back of lower front teeth, middle top of tongue touching top of mouth at the hard palate. This sound doesn’t exist in English but can be approximated as HS or HSH
This sound should be easy to make while smiling, unlike pinyin sh.
hs, hsh, khs, khsh


these sounds stress
the surface of the tongue.they don’t exactly correspond to sounds in English. the tip of the tongue touches the back of the lower teeth. the top of the tongue is raised toward the roof of the mouth (hard palate)
(this is much gentler, subtler than the Russian Zh)
Ch Sh tip of tongue is
touching the top
of the teeth
(ds, tz, z)
tongue is flat
ASPIRATED sound is soft and prolonged

Where do Words come from? Color and Language

An interesting thing about human language is that color terms and variegation arose relatively late and are one of the more easily traced aspects of language for that reason.  Thus, some languages have shades in common use which are not commonly used in others. Russian — ordinary street Russian — has two words for blue, not “light blue” and “dark blue” (which they are) but two completely different words (голубой, goluboy and синий, siniy). Meanwhile the Chinese word qing (青) is a color which is by nature changeable: it originally referred to the point in a flame or fire where the fire shifted from red into blue-and-green and thus 青 means both blue and green and connotes the idea of mutability.

This is one example of the fact that Chinese etymology can be traced back much further to roots and sources than Indo-European etymology goes. We don’t know why tree and three rhyme, but we do theorize that 木 and 目, which are sound-alikes are so called, perhaps, because to the ancients there were trees as far as the eyes could see. 相 and since tree and eye are sound alikes put them together as the symbol for “alike”/”similar”.

There are many other examples of words in Chinese where we know that figurative uses arose out of literal things. I don’t see that level of specificity in origins of Indo-European words. From Chinese etymology however we can and should hypothesize that sound-alikes are figurative extensions from literal uses of the same term. Thus it is a valid hypothesis that mutter and mother are related words in that only your mother would understand whatever you mutter, e.g.

The more I study Chinese the more I beleive in proto-world.

Vignettes to Memorize Chinese Characters: 特 等 寺

I think one can use vignettes to associate related Chinese characters with each other and better remember them.
For Example:
特 等 寺
Te Deng Si
te bie de te
deng deng deng de deng
si miao de si

A Bull is Waiting beside Bamboo at a Temple. It is PARTICULARLY SPECIAL, AND SO ON.
特 等 寺:

I have noticed that I learn the meaning much quicker than the sound (since almost none of the sounds are cognate to English).

I would like to be able to write simple sentences using e.g. 特 等 寺 to relate the meanings and sounds of the characters in a meaningful way.

San dian shui on top?

Some characters have 3 dots on top and then kou 口

these characters often seem to rhyme with -ANG

Apparently this may be an instance of san dian shui…
deng deng deng…