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February 1, 2011

Dragon letters

Dragon letters

Are you interested in Chinese Ideogram? It would be of great benefit to you.  Most of Asian leaders understand English and get much information from the opened and huge on-line data base. While Asians see through the competitors, Americans and Westerners have not enough information on the Eastern culture and their ideas. As a beginning, I will start to show one hundred chinese ideogram. It can be interesting and worthful to read once.

China is rising astonishingly. How much do you know them? How will you estimate their potentials? You can do if you know their culture. I think that you can do only if you know some part of their culture and history. English is the actual international language. It is an advantage that your mother tongue is English. You do not have to have difficulties to learn the foreign languages. And you take granted that the world can communicate with English.  But, now can you ignore the necessity of knowing a part of Chinese letters when China and eastern Asian economy take the serious portion of the world so fast? Now, it is the time to take out ‘Yellow Peril’ theory from your mind. Forget the forecast of the possible being broken down of China by many so-called China experts. You need to understand the cohesion force of the eastern Asian value and their source of philosophical view.

China’s population is over 1.3 billion. They have huge emigrant communities. Many countries neighboring China are sharing the core literal codes. Chinese ideogram!

Korea(50 millions) Japan(130 millions) Vietnam(90 millions) and other Asian countries have shared  a long history with China. They had been using the Chinese ideogram as the main letters for over thousands years.  At least 2 billions of people are under the influence of Chinese ideograms. Now Vietnamese use the slightly modified Roman alphabet as their main letter system.  But, high portion of their words are based on the Chinese ideogram.  Japanese have their letter system, called ‘Kana’. But, they cannot communicate without ideograms.  They must learn at least 2,000 characters in order to read books by themselves. Japanese call the Chinese ideogram Kanji.  Korean has the unique letter system, called Hangul.  500 years ago, King Sejong, the Great ordered scholars to invent the new letter system and his majesty had leaded the project directly.  Hangul is the successful letter system based on the knowledge and the linguistic science.  It is very easy to learn and powerful to use. Thanks to King Sejong and Hangul, Korean had been freed from the big burden of memorizing Chinese ideograms. But, over 80 percent of Korean words are based on the Chinese Ideogram.  It is as many English words have the Greek or the Latin syllable roots. Chinese and Japanese children are feeling a headache to learn the Chinese ideograms.  They need at least 2,000 characters. They should spend 3-7 years to memorize the letters and to master writing those.  It is said that there are hundreds thousand letters in Chinese ideogram.  It overhelms many Chinese to give up to be literate and some people cannot write their name even in the modern times.  Mao and communists tried to make those burden less with some efforts. They simplified many letters. 300-400 letters were selected and specified as the main characters.  Hopefully, those letters could be the minimum characters to guarantee the mutual communication.  But that is a just hope. They do need at least 2,000 letters. It is also a big problem to type the ideograms into the computer. Chinese and Japanese engineers invented all kinds of input system before this digital age started.  But no way is satisfactory till now. Japanese information Technology companies were focused on the facsimile system at 80’s. The hidden reason is the  difficulties to input ideograms through the keyboard. For a while, the  facsimile machines lead the electronic communication industry.  But ‘e-mail’ is the more convenient, the faster, the economical way of the communication.  Now we can mix the text, the graphic, the voice file and the movie clip altogether on the e-mail.  Who and which countries will insist on the facsimile?  Ironically, Japanese are bothered to input the text into the e-mail. They must type in Kana characters (based on the pronunciation) and select the Kanji(Ideogram) letter among the letters which have the same pronunciation.  It takes 2-3 times longer than the hand writing. Chinese are in the similar situation.

While the Ideogram is based on the symbols and the pictograms, Alphabet and Hangul characters represent the pronunciation. So these letter systems need only 20 and some characters. The differences make the history and the culture. It is a difficult job to make people literate full with the ideogram. Of course, the ideogram provided the societies with some benefits.  It gave the chance to develop the exotic form of art, the calligraphy.  At the Far Eastern countries, the calligraphy is the most respected janre in the art. Japanese cartoon(Manga) had been prospering from the difficulty to learn the ideogram. Comic books help Japanese children and adults to understand the contents with the minimum use of letters.

Words are the warehouse of ideas, thoughts and spirits. There are mountains of treasure in the ideogram. But… it takes too much efforts to learn.

I hope this web pages help you interested in the Chinese ideogram.  I selected 200 letters carefully.  The simpler, the better. There are the basic letters consisting of a few strokes and the complicated ones constructed from the basic ones.

For example, 3 letters are shown at the below.

The first letter is Mu meaning ‘tree’. The second one is ‘woods’ and the third one is ‘forest’.

Mu can be classified as one of basic letters.

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