汉字 Chinese Characters
The Chinese characters constitute one of mankind's oldest systems of writing, and have the most users in the world. There are many Chinese characters, totaling about 60,000, with about 6,000 basic ones.
Chinese characters have a long history. The oldest Chinese characters discovered till now are jiaguwen (ancient Chinese characters carved on tortoise shells or animal bones), dating back 3,400 years, which were already mature characters. As scientists estimate, Chinese characters have a history of about 5,000 years.
Chinese characters originate from pictures for keeping records. From ancient to modern times, the form and structure of Chinese characters has changed a lot, evolving from jiaguwen, jinwen (ancient language used in inscriptions on ancient bronze objects), xiaozhuana (small seal character), lishub (official script), and kaishuc (regular script). The current script of Chinese characters is kaishu (regular script).
There are mainly four word-formation methods as follows:
Pictography refers to the method to draw the form of a thing, such as 月, 羊.
Self-explanatory characters are made up by adding self-explanatory symbols on pictographs, or totally made up of symbols, such as 刃, which is made up by adding a point on the cutting edge of a knife, pointing out the position of the blade.
Associative compounds are combination of two or more symbols to represent a new character of a new meaning. For instance, 休is a person leaning against a tree, meaning "rest".
Pictophonetic method is a word-formation method combining one element of a character indicating meaning and the other, sound, into a new word. Form element indicates the word's meaning and characteristic. Phonetic element indicates the pronunciation of the word. For example, 湖(lake) is composed of three dots indicating water and 胡, indicating the sound.
In history, Chinese characters were borrowed by Korea, Japan, and Vietnam, thereby promoting international communication. In modern times, Chinese people have by many means solved the problem of inputting Chinese characters into computers to serve information processing. It has been borne out that Chinese characters are of vigorous vitality.