“Christmas” in Chinese is, of course, 圣诞节, but in the spirit of my previous Character Creations, I’ve created two new single characters that mean “Christmas.”
Character Notes: some radicals in the creations above were chosen for semantic reasons, but many elements were chosen for purely visual purposes. In some cases I purposely shunned a more obvious option (such as 木 for “tree” or 星 for “star”) because they didn’t have the visual effect I wanted. In the case of 光, it not only looks more like a traditional star-shape than 星, but it has Biblical meaning as well.
I’ve written about this before. I like creative ways of writing of Chinese characters. Here’s a simple one by 工商银行 (Industrial and Commercial Bank of China):
The characters read 融汇贯通, a kind of financial service the bank offers. The red part in 融 is the bank’s logo. The red part in 汇 looks similar to the bank’s logo, but actually more closely resembles half of an old-style Chinese coin, with the square hole in the middle. (The character 汇 refers to “currency.”)
An older post by ChinoChano brought my attention to an amusing page on Chinese-Tools.com called New Chinese Characters. The characters are created by foreigners using existing character components (some knowledge of Chinese required). Some of them are pretty funny. Anyway, the page inspired me to create a few new characters of my own:
1. 口 (mouth) + 蒜 (garlic)
2. 口 (mouth) + 死 (death)
3. four 口 (mouths) + 女 (woman), arrangement based on 器
4. 肉 (meat) on top of 凹 (which means “concave” but represents the taco shell here). (Variant form adds the 鱼 (fish) radical.)
5. 贝 (cowrie, used in characters to mean “money,” as in 财, 购) over 众 (used as a pictographic representation of downlines)
6. 山 (mountain, but broken)
I suspect I will do more of these in the future. It’s kinda fun.
Last week Tian at Hanzi Smatter had a really cool post on the “Book From The Sky,” an art exhibit consisting of a book printed from hand-carved wood blocks. What makes the book so special is that the thousands of characters in the book were all created by the artist, Xu Bing, using existing character elements — a sort of “faux Chinese.”
This sort of reminds me of a game I used to play with my tutor back when I first started studying Chinese at UF. I would “make up” a Chinese character based on existing elements I knew and write it out, and my tutor would tell me what character it was. The idea was to “stump” my tutor by coming up with a nonexistent character. The simpler the character, the more glory. It was very hard for me to stump my tutor as a first year Chinese student (although I had had two years’ study of Japanese). I was amazed at how many characters I could “invent” that already existed. Xu Bing has done it thousands of times and made it into a book. None of his characters appear to be very simple, however.
Visually, the characters remind me of the characters of China’s Western Xia civilization (西夏文字). They, too, look like Chinese characters, but are, on average, much more complex.
Here’s a corny picture of me posing with some 西夏文字:
The name of the script in English is apparently Tangut.
I tried to find a good book on Tangut script in Yinchuan, but I couldn’t find one. I did learn in the museum, though, that the Tangut script was created by a king of the short-lived civilization. They were also extremely complex — possibly needlessly so. For example, why does the character meaning “one” need to be 5 strokes (in Chinese it’s simply “一”)? You may say, “sure, it’s 5 strokes for ‘one,’ but the script makes up for that in other ways.” But no, I don’t think it does. According to the information at the museum, all the Tangut characters were at least as complex as their Mandarin equivalents, most being more complex.
Not all civilizations value simplicity and efficient orthography, I guess. And not all civilizations survive. (By this logic, the Koreans will be our overlords one day.)