Pictographic "Alphabet"

shì

show [v.], *altar

This character was originally a picture of an ancestral tablet for worship, so when used as a component, it retains this meaning of altar.

alternative breakdown: 二+小 two + small, two small altar boys under the altar

derivative: 礻*Eastern altar

gōng

bow [n.]

derivative: 丂 *broken bow

guàn

string of shells

dǎi

malicious, *carcass

alternative breakdown: 一+夕 ceiling + evening, haunted house: carcass hanging from the ceiling in the evening

pán

*slat

wood being sliced in half 爿片

gān

sweet, *basket

rain

alternative breakdown: 一+冂+丨+4丶 ceiling + hood + stick + 4 drops

derivative: ⻗ *weather

xīn

heart

“心字底”

derivatives: 忄*meme, ⺗ *valentine

shǐ

sow [n.]

top stroke is the side of the pen, then head, then back, then two piglets, then a splash of milk like the last two strokes of water; derivative: (㇇勿) *piglet

how many?, *wind

derived from: 风fēng wind/windstorm

wéi

*enclose

“围字框” or "方匡"

yuè

month, *body part/moon

body part when on left, moon when on right

“月字旁”

derivative: 夕 *evening

dīng

fourth, *nail

eight, *animal legs

eight can be /divided and /divided again

a spider has eight animal legs

zhuī

*special bird

Choose a "special bird" that is memorable to you to distinguish this component from 鸟 niǎo bird. A special bird to Americans is the turkey.

jiù

*rib cage

derivative: 叟 *skeleton

clothing

modified version: 衤 ; derivatives: 𧘇 *scarf, *𧘇 *kerchief, 长 long

yāo

youngest, *cocoon

youngest in the moth family is still a cocoon; derivative: 纟*thread

ya

*beret

Yakov wears a beret

háng

a business, *intersection

alternatively: 彳+一+丁 queue + one/ceiling + nail, queue at the hardware business to buy the one nail available

mǐn

dish

originally a bronze container

yòu

again, *right hand raised

ancient meaning of this character was "right hand", which it still retains as a component

derivative: 乃 *fist

gān

dry [adj.], *clothesline

inside, *computer

in the movie Inside Out, emotions are stored in something like a computer

alternative breakdown: 田+土 field + soil; anciently, a li was a measurement of distance one could use to measure a field

enter

a picture of a wedge

*broom

derived from: 扫 sǎo sweep

door

alternative breakdown: 丶+尸 drop + corpse/flag

cǎo

*flowers

derivative: 1 *bouquet; “草字头”

also, *scorpion

bèi

shellfish, *shells
目 + 八
"shell" + animal legs

the traditional character 貝 is a picture of a shell with legs; shells were used for money in ancient China, so this component often takes on the meaning of money

zhǐ

*walking legs

you can think of the first stroke as a fanny pack, “折文”

mián

*house

cái

genius, *genie

ér

son, *human legs

*pinnacle

on the left side of the character; “左耳旁”

chǎng

factory, *cliff

“厂字头” or “偏厂“

Y

*RMB
丷+干
horns + clothesline

alternatively: 丷+干 horns + clothesline, devilish laundered money

huǒ

fire [n.]

derivative: 灬 cooking fire

*sheaf, *X

Jacob, renamed Israel, has 12 sons. It is his last son, Joseph, who will carry on God’s covenant, so he is favored. Joseph has a dream about sheaves of grain, where his brother’s sheaves all bow to his. He shares the dream with his brothers in hopes they will see the favoritism is God’s will. They don’t buy it.

bāo

*bound up

yǒu

*whiskey bottle

originally an ancient wine vessel

qiě

moreover, *shelves

shuǐ

water [n.], *pool of water

derivatives: 氵*water, 冫*ice, 氺 *snowflake

zhú

bamboo

“竹字头”, modified version: ⺮

shān

*bird tail

chóng

insect
中zhōng + "sw"
middle + "silkworm"

category "insect" with Chinese characteristics: anything creepy-crawly

shì

soldier

broad soldiers, feet at attention

jié

*stamped

“单耳刀” or “单耳旁” originally a picture of a Chinese chop

gōng

work [n.], *I-beam

derivative: *经 *crane

soil

“土字底” “土字旁”

F

kuì

*purse

alternative breakdown: 中+一 middle + “base”, a purse in China

not, *knot

"not" has such an abstract meaning that we'll play on the English word and get the concrete image of a "knot"

ròu

meat

originally a picture of meat

alternative breakdown: 冂+人+人 hood + person + person

a person hanging in a meat locker with a hood over their head

*crown

divination, *magic wand

modified version:⺊; alternative breakdown: 丨+丶 stick + drop

X阝

*city walls

on the right side of the character; “右耳旁”

*monument

kǒu

mouth

“口字旁”“口字底”

hài

*acorn

top hat covering the roots inside the acorn seed; alternative breakdown: 亠+厶+人 top hat + monument + person

mother

dǒu

big dipper

alternative breakdown: 冫+十 ice + ten, ten scoops of ice

*thatched roof

yáng

sheep

notice 丷 horns on top; derivative: ⺶ *wool

female, *woman

jiōng

*hood

shī

corpse, *flag

wǎng

net [n.]

modified version: 罒; alternative breakdown: 冈gāng+乂 ridge + sheaf/X OR 冂+乂+乂 hood + sheaves

shí

ten, *needle

tián

field

alternative breakdown: 囗+土 enclose + soil; derivatives: 由 *sprout, 申 *beet, 甲 *radish

spine

alternative breakdown: 口+口 mouth + mouth

day, *sun

guāng

ray

alternative breakdown: 小+儿 small + human legs, small human legs run in to wake you like a ray of sunshine

feathers, *wings

Pictographic "Alphabet"

Quiz

Show Answers