Hi everyone,

I’m Madelaine and I just started my internship in Business Development and Marketing at the InternChina Office in Qingdao! I did my Bachelors and my Masters in Chinese Studies because… China is just my favourite place on earth!

One reason I love it here so much (but there are thousands of other reasons, but I don’t want to write a novel!) is the INCREDIBLE LANGUAGE that is spoken by the people here. What is commonly known as “Chinese” outside of China, usually refers to Mandarin Chinese. “Chinese” is a bit misleading because it gives the impression that it is one sole language, but really there are many ‘Chineses’.

Ok ok, but I am getting carried away, aren’t I! I’m here to talk about my all-time favourite characters, so here we go!

chuan character Chuan Skewers

Number 1: 串 chuàn

How cool is this one!!?! This is a character that you can see all over the place, denotes something really yummy and…. is possible to understand even if you’ve not learned any Chinese at all! Can you guess? A hint:

The pronunciation is chuàn but people usually call them chuàrrrr with that nice Beijing rrroll 🙂

Number 2: 竄 cuàn

This character is really cute. It is kind of two-in-one, since it is made up of two separate characters. The one on top is this one: 穴 (xué) and means hole. The second character underneath it means mouse (鼠, shǔ). So, if the mouse is disappearing into the hole at top speed, what is the mouse doing? Well, it is fleeing, isn’t it! And that’s just what 竄 means!

Cuan character Cat waiting at the mousehole

If I were a mouse I would flee too!

Number 3: 森林 sēnlín

Hehe, this one is awesome too. 木 (pronounced mù) means tree. So if there are many many many mus, what do you get? A forest of course! 🙂

Number 4: 家 jiā

Jia character House

This character means family or home and is pronounced jiā. It is made up of the radical for roof (宀, pronounced mián) and豕 (shǐ), which means pig. Hmm, a pig under a roof, how does that constitute family/home?! Ah, for that we must dig a bit in history! Traditionally in China, families would keep their domesticated animals in their home, so having a pig under the roof indicated that this was a place where people also lived, hence the meaning home/family.

Number 5: 嬲 niǎo

男(nán) means guy and 女 (nǚ) means girl. Now, imagine two 男男in a club or a bar, and in their midst a pretty girl. What are they doing? Flirting, I suppose! And exactly that is the meaning of嬲 (pronounced niǎo).

Number 6: 焚  fén

If you have already learned some Chinese, maybe you will know that林 (lín) means forest and 火 (huǒ) means fire. So, if we put the two together, where will that get us? Well, surely somewhere that’s on fiiiiiire! Ruuun!

Zhong character Crowd

Number 7: 众 zhòng

人 is a character you’ve probably seen before, am I right? This character is pronounced rén and means person. Now, what do you get if there are many réns人人人all milling around together? A crowd, I dare say! And exactly that is the meaning of众 zhòng!

Number 8: 口 kǒu

This seemingly simple character is trickier than meets the eye! It has many meanings, but most commonly it is used to describe a mouth or an opening of some kind. Maybe you have seen this sign before?

Kou character exit

出口 is read chūkǒu and means exit. The kǒu looks like a little door, doesn’t it? Another fun character made up of three mouths 口+口+口= 品, pronounced pǐn. It means to savour something. Makes sense, right? 🙂

Number 9: biáng

biáng character

Just look at this one!!! Biangbiang noodles are a famous dish from Shaanxi province and are known as one of the “Ten Strange Wonders of Shaanxi” (陕西十大怪 Shǎnxī shí dà guài). This AMAZING character is made up of no less than 58 strokes and is therefore the most complex Chinese character that exists. However, I have heard rumours that this character was invented by a clever restaurant owner who wanted to attract customers, so he simply dreamed up this crazy character. A friend of mine once compared it to naming a dish LKSIGNSIRKGSNGSLO (just random letters that don’t mean anything at all) (only it doesn’t look half as cool as in English). Well, anyways the trick seems to have worked its magic, because today, Biangbiang noodles are known and loved all over China!

Biangbiang noodles

I will never forget the first time I ordered Biangbiang noodles. A huge bowl was placed down in front of me, filled to the brim with thick noodles covered in a spicy red sauce. When I lifted up one of the noodles with my chopsticks, I realized that in fact, there was just ONE noodle in that bowl! But it was so long and thick that it filled the whole thing! My Mum was very surprised to hear that I had had ONE noodle for dinner and felt really full after it!

Number 10: 傘 sǎn

This adorable character is pronounced sǎn. As you can see, there are four people squeezed together under a cover…. What might this be? A tip: Usually this character can be found after the character for rain (雨, yǔ), forming the word 雨傘 yǔsǎn. I will leave it to your imagination what it might mean!

Totoro San character

Well folks, now you know all about my top 10 all-time favourite Chinese characters! Hope you enjoyed reading about them! Some of you may notice that some of these ten characters I just talked about are traditional ones (used in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao), while some of them are simplified characters (used in the PRC (People’s Republic of China), Singapore and Malaysia). I will write a blog soon on the differences between simplified and traditional characters, be sure to check it out!

Bye for now!