云 is a simplified form of the traditional character 雲. If you look closely at this latter, you’ll notice that it consists of the character for rain, 雨, on top of the very same 云. (One would think that it is more logical to place rain under the cloud, but here you are.) There is a variety of historical forms of this character, some of them have got rain and some don’t, just like some clouds bring rain and some don’t. Back to 云: the squiggle under two lines can be thought of as depicting a cumulus cloud under stratus clouds.
Tuesday, 28 February 2017
Monday, 27 February 2017
Both 气 and Shinjitai kanji 気 are simplified forms of the traditional character 氣. Uncle Hanzi says that it is a cloud 气 over (presumably just cooked) rice 米, “meaning steam from food”. Could it have been a depiction of a person blowing on hot rice? Ponte Ryūrui points out that
the ancient 气 is not the same character as modern simplified Chinese 气. The former is a pictograph of a breath in the form of vapour, as observed on a cold day, whereas the latter is a simplification of 氣.In any case, since the symbol for rice could be either present or absent from the character, I’d suggest we forget about rice for now and simply try to remember that 气 is about blowing.
More photos of sea glass @ Shutterstock.
Sunday, 26 February 2017
风 is a simplified version of the traditional character 風. Uncle Hanzi derives this latter character from phonetic 凡 (fán) “sail” and semantic 虫 “insect” or “snake”. (The meaning of 凡 has little to do with a sail, but there is a similarly-looking 帆 which is also pronounced as fán and means “a sail” or “a sailboat”.) 虫 (chóng) means “insect”. According to Wiktionary, “Ancient Chinese thought insects appear with wind”. So far so good, but then it goes, “Insects refer to any kind of animal, such as tigers”. Maybe not too straightforward way to memorise it for a modern learner. Forget the insects: you still can think of 风 as depicting a sail, a flag, or, as Tamara has suggested, a curtain moving with the wind.
Saturday, 25 February 2017
Friday, 24 February 2017
Metal is one of the five elements of Wǔ Xíng. The ancient meaning of 金 (now obsolete) was “copper”. Ponte Ryūrui says that 金 “is a pictograph of copper ore cast in a mould”. You are unlikely to remember that, however, unless you have studied metallurgy. Alternatively, you can think of 金 as a representation of a Chinese bell made of bronze or some other copper alloy. Uncle Hanzi gives a number of historical forms of this character that look convincingly like such bells.
Thursday, 23 February 2017
Earth is one of the five elements of Wǔ Xíng. There are many historical forms of this character that look very much like a lump of clay on a potter’s wheel. The modern symbol, however, is more like a scribble of a grave with a simple cross.
Wednesday, 22 February 2017
Fire is one of the five elements of Wǔ Xíng. You can think of 火 as a representation of wood and flame in a hearth or a bonfire. Some historical forms of this character look even more like children’s drawings of fire.
Tuesday, 21 February 2017
Monday, 20 February 2017
Water is one of the five elements of Wǔ Xíng. Historical forms of this character, similar to those of 川 (chuān) “river, brook, flow”, look like drawings of a steady stream, but I prefer to think of 水 as depicting a splash or a waterfall.