Friday, January 30, 2009

Today's Hanzi: Very difficult?

#hanzi #chinese #mandarin #kanji
Chinese Characters can be difficult to remember, not doubt about that. But there is probably a notion that "difficult" character - that is: complex character with many strokes - are more difficult to remember than more ordinary Hanzi/Kanji. What about these mainstream character:

They might be easier than the more complex and stroke-rich character we will look at soon. but remember that you can fill an entire page with these "medium" characters, and the individual characters will soon start to get fuzzy.

I continued exploring animal words/characters after posting Today's Word: Cat-Headed Bird-Bird. I think my experience from Japanese can be applied to Chinese as well: animal names can have pretty tough characters. Here is what caught my eye: Iguana - lièxī.

The right character is the generic one for lizard: insect (see below for another one) + "chop" (divide, separate = tree + axe), i.e. something that chops up insects. A lizard tongue? But it's the left one that is Today's character: mane. I didn't manage to download an image where it's very clear that iguanas have some sort of mane on their back, but this was pretty good:

And here is a close-up of only "mane" liè:
Hmmmm.. A lot of stuff, isn't it? But wait: the difficulty is to identify the components. Once you have done that, it's very unlikely you will forget the character. The left part is a component meaning ... hair. And the bottom part is also meaning .... hair, or to be more precise, a head with hair and beard. Once again the doubling-up we have seen before: hair + hair = mane.

If you look at the most common traditional character and Kanji for hair you find the first component again (on top of the component for "friend"):

The bottom part is slightly more tricky, but if you ignore the fact that < < < style="font-weight: bold;">Taped/crossed over mouth is the symbol for the head here.

And then I have to declare defeat! I have not found any etymological suggestions regarding the lowest 7 strokes, looking like some sort of legs, really. We have already seen these "legs" in the character for mouse/rat. (Weiger suggest that these strokes are the whiskers of the mouse.) But here it is a beard! We have to draw them as graphical elements and memorize them as such.

It's interesting - and sort of a relief - to note that the lower component set in "mane" has been simplified in characters like wax/candle and hunt. Note "insect" again - from above - to the left in the first character and the "wild dog" component in the second one. See cat in Today's Word.

The final challenge is to draw this character so it gets fairly equal in size to other character, but it's perfectly OK to make it slightly higher when writing with a pen/pencil. But DO draw it several times. Promise? Then I will promise less complex characters the next several times here :-) Good luck!

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