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Confucius Institute

A tattoo like David Beckham

29 March 2016

Learn about the meaning of Chinese Characters.

Have you ever wanted a cool Chinese symbol tattoo just like David Beckham’s, but didn’t know what it actually meant? You probably wouldn’t want to make the mistake of having the wrong meaning tattooed on your body for the rest of your life. 

You may know that China has a very long  and unbroken history of a distinctive system of various symbols. It actually constitute the oldest continuously used system of writing in the world.

The use of characters, as supposed to letters like in Western languages, carries both, the meaning and pronunciation at the same time. That means, even if we can’t read the articles in ancient Chinese, it is still relatively easy for us to find out the meaning of those. 

We would like to use the next four newsletter issues to describe different ways of composing Chinese characters; through Pictograms, Ideograms, Combined Ideograms and Phonetic-semantic Ideograms

Pictograms

Those are created by mimicking the outer shape of an object. Over time, they have been standardised, simplified and stylised to make them easier to write, and their derivation is therefore not always obvious.  Only a small percentage of Chinese characters, mainly simple words like sun and moon derive from pictures.  

David Beckham’s tattoo quotes the following Chinese proverb: 'Life & Death are predetermined; Wealth and Status are from the heavens’.

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