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Introduction to Chinese Symbols

Chinese is one of the most popular languages in the World with over 1.4 billion people speaking and writing Chinese. Chinese integrates both meaning and pronunciation information in its characters.

While Chinese symbols are often thought of as overly complex, in fact they are all derived from a couple hundred simple pictographs and ideographs in ways that are usually quite logical and easy to remember.

The Chinese symbols, also known as Chinese characters, are one of the oldest known written symbols in the world. The evolvement of Chinese symbols have been through three stages, they are oracle and Bronze Inscriptions, bamboo Inscriptions and modern Chinese writings.

Oracle Bone and Bronze Inscriptions
The earliest Chinese symbols were carved by the ancient Chinese of the Shang Dynasty (1200-1050 BC) on tortoise shells and ox scapula (shoulder blades), also known as Oracle Inscriptions (Jiaguwen) which were found at the site of the last Shang capital near present-day Anyang, Henan province. On the oracle inscriptions, one finds many pictographs in their primitive picture forms. The pictographs, the earliest forms of Chinese written symbols, already possessed the characteristics of a script. As is well- known, written Chinese is not an alphabetic language, but a script of ideogram.

Bamboo Inscriptions
The next stage in the history of Chinese symbols was the Bamboo Inscriptions. The practice of writing on Bamboo slips began probably from the Shang Dynasty to the Eastern Han, extending over a period of 1,700 years. Chinese symbols were written with a writing brush and black ink, with one line on each slip. Writing on wood slips was done from top to bottom, with each line comprising from 10 to at most 40 symbols. At that time, a book was formed when all slips bearing all lines of an article were joined together. Many important and famous ancient Chinese books were written on Bamboo slips, such as the Analects of Confucius, Book of Rites and so on. Bamboo books held an important position in Chinese cultural and history. bamboo slips gave way to paper documents after paper was invented and used for writing. Bamboo slips were the earliest form of "books" that carried valuable history records.

Modern Chinese Writings
The two main Chinese writing systems in use today are the traditional and simplified Chinese Symbols. The former is only used in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macao and Chinese speaking communities (except Singapore and Malaysia) outside mainland China, takes its form from standardized character forms dating back to the late Han dynasty. The simplified Chinese symbols in use today are the result of the works moderated by Chinese Government in 1950s. Simplified symbols were created by decreasing the number of strokes and simplifying the forms of a sizable proportion of traditional symbols. Some symbols were simplified by applying regular rules. for example, by replacing all occurrences of a certain component with a simpler variant, but some symbols were simplified irregularly. some simplified symbols are very dissimilar to and unpredictable from traditional counterparts. Finally, many symbols were left untouched by simplification, and are thus identical between the traditional and simplified Chinese symbols.

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