Home Chinese Traditions and Culture Writing Characters
Chinese characters (some people call them Chinese symbols) have evolved from their primitive forms to their modern styles through many phases.
The major styles include oracle bone inscriptions, bronze inscriptions during the Western and Eastern Zhou, scripts popular during the Warring States Period, and the seal script characteristic of the Qin Dynasty.
These are the archaic forms and styles.
Modern styles include the official script, regular script.
Bronze inscriptions were those marked on bronze objects.
Large and small seal scripts are characteristic of the Spring and Autumn and Warring States Period. After the Qin Dynasty had unified China, and designated the small seal scripts as the standard written script. History has called this the "unification of characters".
Regular script appeared later and came to be the popular and standard style of the Chinese written language, and is the one still in use today.
As for the running and cursive scripts, both were created for efficiency in writing and as a form of art; they are supplemental to the regular script.
The early stages of the development of characters were dominated by pictograms, in which meaning was expressed directly by the shapes.
There are six ancient categories of Chinese characters, sorted according to the way they were created:
Samples of the development of characters: The first row: horse; the second row: fish; the third row: chariot (it also can be used as a general term for vehicles).
Four percent of Chinese characters are derived directly from individual pictograms.
Of the remaining ninety-six percent, some are combined-meaning characters, which are characters combined from multiple parts indicative of meaning. But most characters are pictophonetics, characters containing two parts where one indicates a general category of meaning and the other the sound.
Due to the characteristics of characters, Chinese people have developed a unique art form of writing the characters: Chinese calligraphy.
Chinese words are normally composed with two or more characters. Chinese idioms are characterized with four characters. They are also Chinese fables, because there is usually a story behind the idiom, such as "
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