The Chinese Language


A brief introduction to the Chinese Language


Writing


Chinese script developed from pictograms. Early pictograms were in use about 3,500 years ago. Originally these were something like the pictograms we are familiar with from the ancient Egyptians. Over the years these gradually changed from depictional to be increasingly abstract although in some cases the similarity of original pictogram and modern character can still be seen.


Many characters are composed of two or more simpler characters. Some words are composed of two or more characters. The meaning of such words of more than one character may be based on the combined meanings or the combined sounds.


To be reasonably proficient one would need to know about 2,000 characters although there are many many more. On the mainland of China, the characters exist in a 'simplified' form, though perhaps do not look so to the western eye!


The order that the strokes of a character are written is important. One starts at the top and then left to right as one works one's way down. When writing with speed, cursive styles are possible. Historically, this behaviour will have contributed to the evolution of characters. Cursive styles are also sometimes used in Chinese calligraphy, which is an important art-form in Chinese culture.


What we call Chinese script is not the only script still used, but is the official common language (along with Mandarin for spoken Chinese). There are also Tibetan, Manchurian and Mongolian scripts. The Tibetan script, because of geographic location, resembles Indian and Arabic scripts.


Pin-Yin, an alphabet-based phonetic rendition of spoken Chinese is learned by young schoolchildren as an aid to pronunciation, just as it is for the foreigner learning Chinese. Pin-Yin enables non Chinese speakers to get a rough idea of the sound of Chinese and also allows words to be more easily recognised and remembered by westerners. Hence, place names are usually marked in Pin-Yin as well as traditional Chinese script.


Note that older Chinese people cannot read Pin-Yin.


Spoken Chinese


The official spoken language of China is called Mandarin and is based on the dialect native to Beijing.


Mandarin is a tonal language with four tones: flat, rising, falling and falling then rising. Ideally, Pin-Yin would be written with accents to indicate the tones but seldom is. For example, the sound 'ba' means 'eight' if said with a flat tone but 'father' if spoken with a rising tone.

Related Videos

Featured Videos

Beautiful HangZhou 杭州 and West Lake 西湖
Capitol city of ZheJiang province, near ShangHai in east China. Plus a beautiful time-lapse film by MaoShan Tang 走進浙江秋季 ...
ChongQing  重庆 musical fountains night shows
ShangHai 上海 city in timelapse
Beautiful JiuZhaiGou 九寨沟 Valley, SiChuan
Exquisitely beautiful ... An episode of Happy Chinese at JiuZhaiGou ...
Beautiful YiChang 宜昌, HuBei province
Includes the Three Gorges Dam.
An introduction to GuiZhou 贵州 province
The provincial capital is GuiYang.
A visit to the Forbidden City 紫禁城 in BeiJing
And JingShan Park. Filmed in early summer, 2012.
ShiJiaZhuang 石家庄, provincial capital of HeBei
LeShan Giant Buddha 乐山大佛, Mount Emei 峨眉山 Scenic Area
The LeShan Giant Buddha 乐山大佛 is located in SiChuan province and is a 233 foot tall stone statue constructed during the Tang Dynasty. Emei Shan (3,100 meters / 10,200 feet) is one of the four Chinese Buddhist sacred mountains. Emei Shan is UNESCO World Heritage Site (together with the Leshan Giant Buddha) : ".
This is LuoYang 洛阳, HeNan province …
LuoYang is one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China. The LuoYang Museum features ancient relics dating back to the Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties. The LongMen Grottoes, south of the city, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. GuanLin, a series of temples built in honor of Guan Yu, a hero of the Three Kingdoms period, and the White Horse Temple are also nearby.
TianJin 天津 !
30 minutes east of Beijing by high speed rail lies the important coastal port city of TianJin
Wild Great Wall : JianKou 箭扣 to MuTianYu 慕田峪
An hour or so north of Beijing.

A selection of popular videos

Keyword / tag search :