We're not going to try to convince you that Chinese is an easy language and five lessons will do you. It is an amazing, subtle, humorous, maddening and sophisticated form of communication and, in that, shares its bones and skin with Kung Fu. Many people have asked about our dictionaries and some translation material. What we've done here is to assemble some lessons, by no means comprehensive, that might be of special interest to martial enthusiasts. We try to show you some words, and we also try to tell some of the story. Hope you enjoy.

Chinese words love to morph from one to another. Don't expect this change to be predictable and it certainly won't be boring. We take a common word here and try to "ride its changes" for a minute...

MARTIAL CHINESE Lesson #4: previous      
"The Right Box".

This lesson we are going to consider components which occupy the RIGHT side of the character and which give the overall figure its meaning

This lesson we use the base Shǎo (-4 strokes) which means "young" as in the famous 少林寺 Sháolìn Sí or the translation of "Young Forest Temple" named after a local forest. The word" Shǎo" is itself a variation on the word "Xiǎo" (- 3 strokes) which means "small". The extra stroke which converts small to young still retains some of the smallness connotation.
P.S. You will note that "Shǎo" doesn't just lend meaning but some phonetic resonance to the following words ...

Shā sand

Water + small gives us that little stuff at the edge of the lake or ocean, namely SAND.

Chǎo stir fry

To stir fry. Fire plus small or young. When you stir fry you cut up all the food first. Not everyone knows that one reason for the use of the wok and the stir fry technique in China was that, after thousands of years of human habitation, most of the trees in some areas were gone and quick stir frying was developed to a high art to conserve fuel. "Green" thinking is nothing new.

Miào wonderful, subtle

A woman plus young, therefore a girl. A young girl can indeed be a wonderful and subtle creation of nature.

Chāo to copy, take a short cut, fold one's arms

Remember last lesson? When the hand (on the left) creates a new and smaller version of something else it is indeed copying it. But look at some of the other meanings. A hand doing something small is taking a "short cut". And what about the hands making themselves smaller, folding them of course.

Now you've seen how Chinese characters are constructed from a left or a right component. Next we work from the top down...

If you like this approach to Chinese chracters you may look at our Chinese langauge page and especially our Chinese Fast Finder text.

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