Chinese Character Classification 1

All Chinese characters are logograms, but several different types can be identified, based on the manner in which they are formed or derived. There are a handful which derive from pictographs (象形 pinyinxiàngxíng) and a number which are ideographic (指事 zhǐshì) in origin, including compound ideographs (會意 huìyì), but the vast majority originated as phono-semantic compounds (形聲 xíngshēng). The other categories in the traditional system of classification arerebus or phonetic loan characters (假借 jiǎjièand "derivative cognates" (轉注 zhuǎn zhù). Modern scholars have proposed various revised systems, rejecting some of the traditional categories.

(象形 xiàng xíng, "form imitation")
Chinese characters are pictograms (象形 xiàng xíng, "form imitation")  drawings of the objects they represent. These are generally among the oldest characters.


Ideograms (指事 zhǐ shì, "indication")
deograms (指事 zhǐ shì, "indication") express an abstract idea through an iconic form, including iconic modification of pictographic characters. In the examples below, low numerals are represented by the appropriate number of strokes, directions by an iconic indication above and below a line, and the parts of a tree by marking the appropriate part of a pictogram of a tree.

·          běn "root" - a tree ( ) with the base indicated by an extra stroke.
·           "apex" - the reverse of  (běn), a tree with the top highlighted by an extra stroke.
Compound ideographs
(會意 huì yì, "joined meaning")
Compound ideographs (會意 huì yì, "joined meaning"), are compounds of two or more pictographic or ideographic characters to suggest the meaning of the word to be represented.
Characters commonly explained as compound ideographs include:
1.        "truthful", formed from  "person" (later reduced to ) and  "speech"
2.        lín "grove", composed of two trees
3.        sēn "forest", composed of three trees
4.        xiū "shade, rest", depicting a man by a tree
Jiajie (假借 jiǎjiè, "borrowing; making use of")
Jiajie (假借 jiǎjiè, "borrowing; making use of") are characters that are "borrowed" to write another homophonous or near-homophonous morpheme.
For example, the character  was originally a pictogram of a wheat plant and meant "wheat". As this was pronounced similarly to the Old Chinese word lai "to come",  was also used to write this verb. Eventually the more common usage, the verb "to come", became established as the default reading of the character , and a new character  was devised for "wheat". (The modern pronunciations are lái and mài.) When a character is used as a rebus this way, it is called a jiajiezi 假借字 (lit. "loaned and borrowed character")

Dear students,
We organized some information about Chinese characters to help you have more understanding of our characters. ;)
** Information from Wikipedia.
Katrina Lee