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Reference Book on Chinese Characters

Chinese Characters Dictionary
  • About the Chinese character: Chinese writing dates back to over 5000 years ago. Chinese characters evolved from pictographs to more abstract ideograms to the modern-day character, which bears a slight resemblance to its pictographic origins. The characters are divided into 3 main categories : pictographs , ideograms , phonograms . Each character is a word by itself, and is written in a flowing and balanced way.

    You will notice that your browser has the option of viewing Chinese characters in Traditional or Simplified forms. Some other sites provide your translation in simplified characters which are abbreviated forms which might not be recognizable to all Chinese . This site provides you with standard traditional Chinese characters which are not only recognized by Chinese but also by Japanese and Koreans. More importantly, our site is determined to preserve the history and artistry of the traditional character.

    Why are there traditional and simplified characters? Traditional characters are the standard characters with centuries of history and culture embodied in them. There is a true meaning and history behind each traditional character which is derived from centuries of usage as a pictogram, phonogram or ideogram.

    In an effort to wipe out illiteracy, the Communist government in China introduced in 1956 a system of simplified characters which were easier to remember than the intricate traditional characters. The intention was good, but the result is devastating. Over 2000 Chinese traditional characters have been changed by the government into the simplified form by reducing the number of strokes, and thus changing the entire form and balance of the character. (see example to the right)

    In some cases, even the meaning of the butchered character has been changed. . As many have complained: 親(亲)不見,愛(爱)無心, 產(产)不生,廠(厂)空空, 麵(面)無麥,運(运)無車, 導(导)無道,兒(儿)無首, 飛(飞)單翼,湧(涌)無力; 有雲(云)無雨,開關(开关)無門, 鄉(乡)里無郎 e.g. the symbol of "heart" has been taken out from the character for "love", the "head" has been chopped off the character for "child", the double wings for the character of "fly" has been truncated to a pitiful single wing, the symbol of "life" has been eliminated from the character for "giving birth"... This type of "short-hand" writing has utterly no regard for the Chinese art, culture and history.

    We are against this mutilation of the Chinese character and annihilation of our Chinese culture. The characters provided by this site are all traditional characters so that the form, beauty and essence of THE CHINESE CHARACTER can be fully appreciated. Now that the Chinese government has effectively eliminated illiteracy, it is our sincere hope that the present leaders will take on the task of reinstating traditional characters as the official writing system, and simplified characters as a supplementary system. Only then will our beautiful heritage be continued and chinese culture be preserved.













  • About written Chinese and spoken Chinese: The same Chinese character, though written the same way, may be pronounced differently in different dialects. There are many dialects in Chinese, with the 2 major ones being Mandarin and Cantonese. Many Chinese software offer pronunication input methods for both dialects. Mandarin (also known as Putonghua) is widely spoken in China, Taiwan and Singapore, while Cantonese is prevalent in Hong Kong, southern China, Southeast Asia, Macau and Chinatowns overseas. Many words sound similar in these dialects but there are more tonal variations in Cantonese than Mandarin. Our translation team is fluent in both dialects, and thus will pick a phonetic translation which will sound right in both Mandarin and Cantonese.

    Some history : Cantonese has preserved more elements of classical Chinese in its pronunciation. Many ancient poems (for instance, from the Tang dynasty 700 AD) do not rhyme in Mandarin, but rhyme very well in Cantonese.

    In 1911, the government of Sun Yat-sen had overthrown the Qing dynasty and founded the first Chinese republic. Officials found themselves governing people spread across a vast country, so besides a unified writing system, they needed a unified spoken dialect. Cantonese lost out to Mandarin - as it was called then - by only one vote in a historic poll taken in 1913 to decide on a unified spoken language for China.(*source) The Communist government continued its use after its takeover in 1949, and has referred to Mandarin as Putonghua. However, the different regions of China still speak Mandarin with heavy local accents. People in the southern part of China has also continued using Cantonese as the mother tongue.
  • Chinese Characters and Kanji: The Chinese pictographic system of writing was imported to Japan many centuries ago, and is known as " Kanji " (In Japanese, kan+ji = Chinese+word). Most kanjis have the same meaning as the original Chinese characters, but some have evolved over time in Japanese usage and the meanings are different from the Chinese characters used nowadays. As a matter of fact, there are three forms of Japanese writing. The oldest, originating in China, is Kanji. The other 2: Hiragana based on the characters of Kanji, and Katagana based on imported foreign words were invented in Japan. Hiragana and Katakana are phonograms, which represent sounds, unlike the Kanji ideograms, which express concepts.


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