Knowledge of Chinese Culture
The Chinese divide their writing into six
classes. The first class, "imitative symbols", include about 600 characters,
amongst them some of the first characters invented, but they have been modified by the
exigencies of time and convenience in writing, the metal stylus having been replaced by
the modern pencil,or brush, so that angular strokes have given place to curves, and
circles to squares and oblongs, while parts of the original character have dropped out as
the writing became more contracted. Examples are child, hill, and eye.
The second class, which only contains about
100 characters, is called "symbols indicating thought." For example, the sun
appearing above a line indicates the morning.
The third class contained about 700
characters, called "combined ideas." These ideographs are built up of two or
three of the other symbols. For examples, "sun" and "moon" are put in
juxtaposition to represent brightness.
The fifth class is called "uniting sound
symbols," containing about 22,000 characters; nearly all words, it will thus be
seen,belong to this class. They are formed of two distinct parts: one called the phonetic,
giving the sound to the complex character thus formed, while the other component part of
the character is formed of an imitative symbol.
The sixth class contains about 600
characters, and is styled "borrowed uses," including "metaphoric symbols
and combinations, in which the meaning is deducted by a fanciful accommodation. As an
example of this, there is the word for character, or work (zi), which is a child under a
shelter - characters being considered as the well-nurtured offspring of hieroglyphics.