Tuesday, 28 February 2017

云 | yún

In Mandarin Chinese, (Pinyin: yún 🔊) means “cloud”.

is a simplified form of a traditional character . If you look closely at this latter, you’ll notice that it consists of the character for rain, , on top of the very same . (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 : the squiggle under two lines can be thought of as depicting a cumulus cloud under stratus clouds.

More photos of clouds and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Monday, 27 February 2017

气 | qì

In Mandarin Chinese, (Pinyin: 🔊) means “air”, “gas”, “breath” and things of that nature. In traditional Chinese culture, is an active principle contained in any living thing.

Both and Shinjitai kanji are simplified forms of a traditional character . Uncle Hanzi says that it could have been a depiction of (a man) blowing on (presumably just cooked) rice . Ponte Ryūrui points out that

the ancient is not the same character as modern simplified Chinese . 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 .
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 is about blowing.

More photos of sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

风 | fēng

In Mandarin Chinese, (Pinyin: fēng 🔊) means “wind”.

is a simplified version of a traditional character .

On its origin, Uncle Hanzi says:

Originally a sail and a flying insect indicating wind.
The meaning of (fán) has little to do with a sail, but there is a similarly-looking which is also pronounced as fán and means “a sail” or “a sailboat”. (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 as depicting a sail, a flag, or, as Tamara has suggested, a curtain moving with the wind.

A combination of with results in 风水 (fēng shuǐ) which is a name of a famous Chinese philosophical system, Feng shui.

More photos of wind and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

雨 | yǔ

In Mandarin Chinese, (Pinyin: 🔊) means “rain”.

This character, depicting a cloud and drops of rain falling from it, changed little since ancient times.

More photos of rain and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Friday, 24 February 2017

金 | jīn

In Mandarin Chinese, (Pinyin: jīn 🔊) means “gold” or “metal”.

Metal is one of the five elements of traditional Chinese philosophy. The ancient meaning of (now obsolete) was “copper”. Ponte Ryūrui says that “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 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.

More photos of metals and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

土 | tǔ

In Mandarin Chinese, (Pinyin: ) means “earth”, “soil” or “clay”. (Also, “crude opium”.)

Earth is one of the five elements of traditional Chinese philosophy. 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.

More photos of clay, earth, soil, and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

火 | huǒ

In Mandarin Chinese, (Pinyin: huǒ 🔊) means “fire”.

Fire is one of the five elements of traditional Chinese philosophy. You can think of as a representation of wood and flame in a hearth or a bonfire. Historical forms of this character look even more like children’s drawings of fire.

More photos of fire and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

木 | mù

In Mandarin Chinese, (Pinyin: ) means “tree” or “wood, timber”.

Wood is one of the five elements of traditional Chinese philosophy. Some of the historical forms of this character look like a tree with roots and branches.

More photos of trees, wood and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Monday, 20 February 2017

水 | shuǐ

In Mandarin Chinese, (Pinyin: shuǐ 🔊) means “water”.

Water is one of the five elements of traditional Chinese philosophy. Historical forms of this character, similar to those of (chuān) “river, brook, flow”, look like drawings of a steady stream, but I prefer to think of as depicting a splash or a waterfall.

More photos of sea glass, water and waterfalls @ Shutterstock.