Can You Figure Out the Meaning of These Simple Chinese Characters?

J.P. Naomi

Image: Test Hero Credit

About This Quiz

Are you ready to take on all 50,000 Chinese characters? Well, don't worry, you don't need to learn them all. But if you can recognize the few featured in this quiz, you'll be well on your way to fluency! 

You see, according to the experts, it takes knowledge of only 2,000 to 3,000 Chinese characters to be able to read the newspaper. It's the range in which you are considered fluent. Bump that number up to 8,000 characters and, well, you've just become a member of the highly educated class! 

But regardless of how much you know, we have a feeling you'll score well on this quiz. You see, we want to show you that it doesn't have to be too daunting of a task to learn Chinese. The characters featured in this quiz are the "easy" ones - the ones that actually look like their meaning! So do you think you have what it takes to name them all correctly? Is your right brain ready to take on the "pictograms" and "ideograms" seen within these characters?

It's time to pack your bags and head out of the classroom. We're heading to the streets of China! Good luck and remember, sometimes the answer is drawn out right in front of your face!

What is the meaning of this Chinese character?

The written Chinese language is categorized as logographic. This means that a written character represents a word or phrase. Other logographic languages include Japanese and Korean.

What is the meaning of this Chinese character?

In Standard Chinese, the characters, or logograms, are called Hanzi. The literal meaning is "Han characters."

What is the meaning of this Chinese character?

Use of the Chinese characters in written language began during the Bronze Age and continues to present day. The Bronze Age came after the Stone Age and before the Iron Age.

What is the meaning of these Chinese characters?

Over time, Chinese characters have taken on a simplified form. Traditional characters can be extremely detailed and intricate, while the simplified forms are less so.

What is the meaning of this Chinese character?

Chinese characters constitute the oldest continuously used system of writing in the world. They are among the most widely adopted writing systems in the world by number of users.

What is the meaning of these Chinese characters?

Did you know there are tens of thousands of Chinese characters? Most of them, however, are minor graphic variants from others.

What is the meaning of this Chinese character?

Studies have shown that if you were to learn three- or four-thousand Chinese characters, you would be functionally literate. In secondary schools, only a few thousand are actually taught!

What is the meaning of this Chinese character?

Did you know that Old Chinese is also known as Archaic Chinese? It is the oldest attested stage of Chinese and the ancestor of all modern varieties of Chinese. The earliest examples of Chinese are on oracle bones from around 1250 B.C., in the late Shang dynasty.

What is the meaning of this Chinese character?

Modern Chinese has many homophones. This means that the same spoken syllable may be represented by many characters, depending on the meaning.

What is the meaning of this Chinese character?

Did you know that in modern Chinese, characters do not necessarily correspond to words? Most Chinese words consist of two or more characters because of the merging and loss of sounds in the Chinese language over time.

What is the meaning of this Chinese character?

It has been estimated that over two thirds of the 3,000 most common words in modern Standard Chinese are polysyllables. The vast majority of those are considered disyllables - meaning they consist of two syllables!

What is the meaning of this Chinese character?

Many Chinese characters actually have multiple readings, sometimes with different pronunciations. In modern Standard Chinese, one-fifth of the 2,400 most common characters have multiple pronunciations. Confused yet?

What is the meaning of these Chinese characters?

The Chinese characters in this quiz were developed through pictograms. A pictogram is created when the word is displayed through a pictorial representation of the object.

What is the meaning of this Chinese character?

The traditional six-fold classification of Chinese writing was first described by the scholar Xu Shen in the postface of his dictionary "Shuowen Jiezi" in the early second century.

What is the meaning of these Chinese characters?

The book title Shuowen Jiezi, written by Xu Shen, translates to "Explaining Graphs and Analyzing Characters." It was an early 2nd-century Chinese dictionary from the Han Dynasty - the first of its kind to analyze the structure of Chinese characters.

What is the meaning of this Chinese character?

According to legend, Chinese characters were invented by Cangjie, a bureaucrat under the legendary Yellow Emperor. Did you know that Yellow Emperor was also known as Huangdi and is considered a deity?

What is the meaning of this Chinese character?

It is said that the Cangjie was inspired by his study of the animals of the world, the landscape of the Earth and the stars in the sky. He is said to have invented symbols called zì – the first Chinese characters.

What is the meaning of this Chinese character?

In recent decades, a series of inscribed graphs and pictures have been found at Neolithic sites in China. These include Jiahu, Dadiwan, Damaidi and Banpo.

What is the meaning of these Chinese characters?

Did you know that the earliest confirmed evidence of Chinese writing was the inscriptions carved on oracle bones from the late Shang dynasty? In 1899, pieces of these bones were being sold as "dragon bones" for medicinal purposes when scholars identified the symbols on them as Chinese writing.

What is the meaning of these Chinese characters?

The earliest form of Chinese writing is known as Oracle bone script. Oracle bones were pieces of ox scapula or turtle plastron which were used for pyromancy, a form of divination, in ancient China.

What is the meaning of this Chinese character?

The newest of the many versions of Chinese script is known as simplified Chinese script or regular script. It was developed by Zhong Yao during the Eastern Han dynasty.

What is the meaning of these Chinese characters?

Zhong Yao was a government official and calligrapher who lived in the late Eastern Han dynasty and Three Kingdoms period of China. He is regarded as one of the Four Talented Calligraphers in the history of Chinese calligraphy.

What is the meaning of these Chinese characters?

Did you know that in modern times the People's Republic of China has issued several rounds of official Chinese character simplification? The first round came in 1956 and the second in 1964. By 1991, a single set of unified characters had been created.

What is the meaning of this Chinese character?

Ever heard of the CJK languages? That's the Chinese, Japanese and Korean languages! In 1991, a single set of unified characters was completed for the purposes of Unicode.

What is the meaning of this Chinese character?

Ever heard of Unicode? It is a computing industry standard for the consistent encoding, representation and handling of text, expressed in most of the world's writing systems! It aims to unify characters from languages such as Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, Korean and more.

What is the meaning of this Chinese character?

Did you know that the People's Republic of China is the world's most populous country? There are about 1.4 BILLION people living on over 3.7 million square miles of land.

What is the meaning of this Chinese character?

While the capital of China is Beijing, it's not the largest city. That honor belongs to the city of Shanghai.

What is the meaning of this Chinese character?

Did you know that China is the world's largest exporter and second-largest importer of goods? Since 1978, the country has been one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

What is the meaning of this Chinese character?

Did you know that China is a recognized nuclear weapons state? They also have the world's largest standing army and second-largest defense budget.

What is the meaning of these Chinese characters?

Mandarin Chinese is spoken by about a billion people worldwide - more than any other language. This means that by learning Chinese you unlock the potential to speak to over 13% of the world’s total population.

What is the meaning of these Chinese characters?

Did you know that there is a famous poem called "Shī shì shí shī shǐ" (The Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den) in Chinese? It is comprised of 120 characters, all of which have the pronunciation “shi,” but with 5 different tones.

What is the meaning of these Chinese characters?

Learning Chinese language, both spoken and script, can seem like a daunting task. The best practice, experts say, is to practice and interact with books and people every day - the rest will fall into place.

What is the meaning of this Chinese character?

Did you know that Chinese is the fastest-growing language in the world? It is also the fastest-growing second language in the West.

What is the meaning of these Chinese characters?

The ability to speak, read and write Chinese requires use of both temporal lobes of the brain. This differs from English speakers, who only require use of the left side of the brain. Perhaps that's why English speakers have more difficulty learning Chinese!

What is the meaning of these Chinese characters?

Did you know that Chinese was originally written from right to left in vertical columns? Today, the writing has changed to horizontal rows from left to right as is done in European languages.

What is the meaning of this Chinese character?

Chinese writers can choose from a set of 12 basic strokes to create the various characters. Some Chinese characters contain just one or two strokes, while others can contain up to 84 strokes.

What is the meaning of these Chinese characters?

Although there are no spaces between characters in Chinese sentences, the writing system has adopted some basic punctuation since the late 19th century. For example, hollow circles mark the end of sentences and Western conventions such as the comma, exclamation point and question mark have been introduced.

What is the meaning of this Chinese character?

Did you know that Simplified Chinese is the now the standard writing system for the People's Republic of Chine and Singapore? Traditional Chinese, however, continues to be the standard for Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau.

What is the meaning of this Chinese character?

Did you know that at the inception of written Chinese, spoken Chinese was monosyllabic? That means that Chinese words were usually one syllable.

What is the meaning of this Chinese character?

Did you know that Chinese scripts are written in various calligraphic hands? These are known as the seal script, clerical script, regular script, semi-cursive script and cursive script.

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