|Question: Does Chinese have an alphabet so we can spell out a, b, c ...|
|The answer is no. Chinese is a hieroglyphic language,
Egyptian, in which characters like little pictures are used as words
to represent various meanings.
The Chinese language never had any alphabets, it does not have any
alphabets now and I do not see it having alphabets in the future.
A student of Chinese has to remember all 100 000 words one-by-one,
there is little clue about the pronunciation of an unfamiliar word by just
looking at it. However, the task of learning Chinese is easier than one
might think because each word can be divided into radicals (or parts).
There are only about 200 radicals to learn. Radicals, however, are
not alphabets and do not represent vowels or consonants.
|Question: But what about ? Aren't they alphabets?|
|These are not Chinese alphabets, they are just phonetic
aids. They are similar to those funny letters in brackets after words
in a dictionary. They are called Zhuyin symbols. Chinese students
have to learn them at school, but everyone forgets them after getting
a passing grade. They are seldom used for the rest of the person's life
and they certainly cannot be used to write a letter, etc.
|Question: How can I tell which
is good Chinese calligraphy and which
is just ugly hand-writing ?
Let us start with the basics. A Chinese word consists of vertical
strokes, horizontal strokes, slanting strokes at 45º, vertical dots and
slanting dots at 45º. The whole word forms approx. a square, as
shown: The word is 'painted' by a cone-tip brush, hence the
special effects at both ends of the strokes.
A slightly more artistic calligraphy is formed by 'Italicizing': Vertical
strokes remain strictly vertical, but the horizontal strokes are rising
at a small angle from left to right, as shown: Also, the word
now forms a portrait rectangle instead of a square. The rising
angle of the horizontal strokes should be consistent from word to
Other 'free-hand' artistic fonts basically varies the
|Question: How is the quality of
those automatic 'on-line' dictionaries ?
Can they come up with good Chinese translations ?
Unfortunately, there is still a LOT of work to be done. Most Internet
'on-line' dictionaries available now come up with, at best, barely
acceptable translations for ordinary words. For names, the results
are often idiotic and laughable. For phrases and famous sayings,
they have no chance at all.
A tattoo lasts for a life-time, so if you want to get
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|Question: What is Kanji ? Is it Japanese or is it Chinese ?|
|The Chinese culture has great influence in many neighboring
countries. Starting in the Han dynasty (200BC-200AD), some
Japanese monks and scholars -- the traditional custodians of learning
-- came to China to study. They brought back Chinese writing to
Japan and integrated it into mainstream Japanese. The Japanese
calls these characters Kanji. Most Kanji characters do retain identical
structures and meanings as Chinese. Both Chinese and Japanese
persons do understand Kanji, to a large degree. In recent centuries,
however, some Kanji had evolved to be uniquely Japanese. One
very important fact to note: The number of Kanji characters in
current use in Japan is FAR LESS than the number of Chinese
characters in use in China (9 000 vs 100 000). So if you want to
do a tattoo, do it in Chinese, don't do it in Kanji, because the chance
of finding an elegant translation is far less in Kanji. Now don't get me
wrong, Kanji is being used extensively in Japan. The names of cities,
roads, important job titles such as president, executive, etc, are all
in Kanji. The Japanese even use Kanji to write out their own names
for official use such as in school certificates and passports.
|Question: What is the greatest
work of literature in Chinese ?
The greatest work of literature in Chinese is a classical romantic novel
called The Dream of the Red Chamber (also known as The Story of
the Stone). It is a truly revolutionary work, both unprecedented and
unsurpassed. It was completed in 1791, two years after the French
Revolution, by two different authors: riches-to-rags nobleman Cao
Xue Qin, and a scholar named Gao E.
At first glance, this novel seems to be a Romeo and Juliet type tragic
love story. The main characters Bao-yu (Precious Jade) and his
cousin Dai-yu (Black Jade) suffered the fate of unfulfilled love, and
had no 'happily ever after' ending.
Look closer, and you'll find that it sounds a bit like
The Adventures of
The TRUE REVELATION about
this novel comes when one notices
It is all the more revolutionary that this novel was written
by 2 men in
'Girl Power' tattoos are great, but young girls should
(You can search Amazon.com for the English translations of this book)
Just a word of fore-warning: At first reading, you will
be into a bit of
|Question: What is Pinyin ? Is it alphabets and spelling in Chinese ?|
|Pinyin is the process of using European letters (a,b,c...)
to spell out
phonetically the corresponding Chinese characters. For example:
'Beijing' is the Pinyin representation of the characters
After 1949, the government of the People's Republic of China
attempted to do away with the complicated Chinese characters and
use Pinyin representations instead. But the effort was not successful.
No one in China really accepts Pinyin for normal writing usage.
Pinyin is taught at school as a required subject, though (poor kids).
With the advent of computers and word-processing, Pinyin has
become an important tool for the INPUT of Chinese characters
into a document (using a Windows-type English keyboard). You
type in Beijing and gets put into the document. But still,
Pinyin has severe limitations (to represent the tones of the letters)
and you cannot use Pinyin as is to write an English-looking
Chinese letter and expect people to understand fully what you wrote.
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