The Thinking of Chinese Characters in Chinese Folklore

Subtitle: On the Application of Chinese Character Blocks and Thinking Modules

Author: Liang Guojian

Translation: Joe Lee

       Abstract: Culture is the root of a nation. For Chinese culture, Chinese characters could be considered as its root. The ancient oracle bone inscriptions of Chinese characters originated from natural pictograms and were used for divination and prayer in the late Shang Dynasty more than 3,000 years ago. From the root of the hieroglyphic structure of oracle bone inscriptions, Chinese characters in different periods,has evolved into a unique way of thinking of Chinese characters, such as inscriptions such as bamboo slips, such as the writing of Chinese characters produced by printing on different carriers. In addition to recording the original texts, the characters are extended to the folk The Taoist talisman for religious exorcism and evil spirits has also become the auspicious symbol of blessing in rural China as a spiritual sustenance, especially reflected in China's Lunar New Year, which affects Chinese folk culture and social values. This thesis traces the roots of the Chinese character squares, lists sporadic cases of folk religions, and summarizes the countless changes that have occurred in the combination of Chinese characters from pictophones, shape and meaning to radicals, radicals, strokes, and graphic design. The decorative symbols of Chinese characters make their sounds, shapes, meanings, and beauty. The thesis also make Link analysis between Chinese characters with the thinking mode and cultural spirit facts of the Han nationality, and discuss the formation and social significance of the thinking module of Chinese characters.

Keywords: Chinese character thinking, tracing the roots, natural images, decorative symbols, Chinese folk customs

Introduction: Its leaves are prosperous becaure the roots was deep


Photography: Liang Guojian

       In southern China's rural areas (take Gangtou Village, Sanshui, Foshan, Guangdong, for example), the symbol of planting a flag to the ground when the folks make wishes for during the New Year, as shown in the picture, is symbolized as the worship service to the god of Saji at the entrance of the village, filled with people’s blessings. This symbol stands in fact for the word Chinese spelling “Tian” 天,(meaning sky and heaven ),in Oracle bone inscriptions, and “Tian” 天also symbolizes at the same the appearance of a person. Since ancient times, there has been a saying in the Chinese culture that man and nature are one. The word "person"人 plus one horizontal line on top means “big”大Chinese spelling” da”, and with two horizontal lines on top means "heaven"“Tian” 天Chinese spelling. It has been important in Chinese social development to clarify the relationship between "people"“人”Chinese spelling “ren”, "da ren" “大人”and "heaven"“Tian” 天. While “People”“人”  are responsible for creating history, and “da ren” “大人”are responsible for leading history, both are playing leading roles in their respective fields, and promoting Social changes. Making social progress in fact requires wisdom, courage, and responsibility. The ancients called government officials "da ren"“大人” to show respect . "Heaven" “Tian” 天is considered a common curse on the head of all mankindWhich cannot be ignored or violated. there is a famous Chinese saying goes, gods are there   three feets above everyone’s heads, and have awe of the heavens and the earth, so that people can thrive in a healthy and happy relationship between the heavens and the earth.

       Writing is a symbol used by humans to record language, writing is a milestone of the emergence of a civilized society, and the Marxist view holds that writing was produced after class society was produced. In the early days, writings were all pictographs (hieroglyphs), and later they gradually formed a visual form system for recording spoken language. Culture is the root of a nation. For Chinese culture, Chinese characters are its root, and its deep roots are its leaves. The "root" of Chinese classical academic and culture with Chinese characters as carrier, there has been a complete and rigorous judgement standard for the calligraphy produced by the writing of Chinese characters andthe extensive and profound history theory of calligraphy, for two thousand years. Chinese calligraphy has always had an aesthetic basis, which is the oracle bone inscriptions, which has been continued and unbroken since the very beginning.


Photography: Liang Guojian

       Chinese characters have been spread through the ages since Oracle bone inscriptions, why have they succeeded to be carried on by the Chinese for thousands of years? Chinese characters are great in its context and structure, and Chinese characters are the crystallization of the highest wisdom of mankind. Every Chinese character we write, when running horizontally and vertically on the tip of the pen, we deeply feel the powerful effect of Chinese characters on the enhancement of civilization, and our cultural life is blessed by the mosaic of poetic history and philosophy. Today, we are proud of having the 54,678 Chinese characters in the "Chinese Dictionary" and the massive 85,000 Chinese characters in "The Sea of Chinese Characters"; on the other hand, we actually only need a tight grasp of about 3,000 Chinese characters, which is more than sufficient to survive daily life use as a Chinese. The Chinese consider this as a step backward, and they feel ashamed comparing with the profound culture of our ancestors!

       Chinese characters have a refined and accurate linguistic scientific basis. They have developed from the roots of oracle-bone inscriptions and hieroglyphic structures and have been used in different periods of writing, from literary works to architectural components, such as inscriptions and bamboo slips, printed on different carriers, forming a unique set of Chinese writing styles. The way of thinking in Chinese characters has always influenced the development of Chinese society, especially to the rural civilization.

Tracing the Origin of Chinese Characters

       In China, the appearance of strokes and characters has long history of 5,000 years. The reason why Chinese characters are called Chinese characters began in the era of “Han Gaozu Liu Bang”, the founding emperor of the Han Dynasty in 202 BC. Different names in contemporary Chinese language with the word “Han”, have the origin in the Han dynasty. (Such as Hanzu as Chinese ethnicity and Hanfu as Chinese traditional dress).The systematic Chinese character ancestor oracle bone inscriptions are originated from natural pictograms and were used for divination and prayer in the late Shang Dynasty more than 3,000 years ago. The earliest found oracle bone inscriptions discovered in China were unearthed at the Yin Ruins site in Anyang, Henan province. Oracle bone inscriptions, as the earliest known systematic writing in China, were mostly divination records by the Yin and Shang royal family. They were direct records of the merchants' most authentic political and cultural life, reflecting the religious beliefs and ritual concepts of the time. Together with ancient Egyptian papyrus script, Babylonian clay script and ancient Indian script, it is called one of the world's four major ancient scripts. Together with Hanjin wooden slips, Dunhuang documents, and cabinet library books and archives, they are collectively called the four major discoveries of modern Chinese academics.


       Regarding the invention of Chinese characters, I hereby quote the "Preface" of Xu Shen's "Shuowen Jiezi" in Eastern Han Dynasty."The ancients (Fuxi) knew the king of the world. He was one of the three emperors and five emperors in ancient China. (Fuxi) looked up at the sky and looked down at the ground. Watching the patterns of birds and beasts is suitable for the earth. He took everything from a distance, so he began to write the "Yi" Bagua, to show the rules and the Shennong family, tie the rope to record and manage the work, many trivial matters, many mistakes and omissions. An official of the Yellow Emperor called Cangjie, he observed Seeing the footprints of birds and beasts, I learned the truth of the difference between patterns, so I began to create words and writing”.The text above illustrates that the origin of Chinese characters is attributed to three aspects. One is Fuxi, the humanistic ancestor of the Chinese nation, who observes the changes Yi ching; the other is Shennong's knotting records; and the third is the Yellow Emperor's literary and historical official Cangjie's observation and creation of characters. Xu Shen, a philologist in the Han Dynasty, also suggested: Cangjie created characters "according to pictograms". "Class" refers to all things in nature. Cangjie created words based on the image of all things in nature. Zhang Huai, a calligraphy theorist in the Tang Dynasty, also said: Cangjie "looks up to the momentum of Kuixing's round music, looks down at the signs of tortoises, scriptures and birds, learns from all the beauty, and merges into words."

       Before writing was invented, people relied on knots to record information, and there was a very complicated set of recording rules. A big knot is tied to big things, a small knot is tied to small things, and a chain knot is tied to connected things. Later, it developed to use a knife to engrave symbols on wood and bamboo as a note. With the development of history and the gradual progress of civilization, things were getting complicated and there are too many names and objects. The method of knotting and carving wood is far from being sufficient to be able to meet the demand to record information. This has been an urgent demand to create ne characters. Cangjie was the historian of the Yellow Emperor, and used the old method of ancestral knotting to record historical facts. Over time, Cangjie was no longer able to recognize those big and small, weird-shaped knots which were written by himself, so he began to make a book contract to replace the knot.The myth and legend "Huainanzi · Ben Jingxun": "The former Cang Jie wrote a book, and the raindrops in the sky, the ghosts cry at night."The rain in the twenty-four solar terms in the traditional Chinese yellow calendar is the sacrificial festival for people to commemorate the creation of Cangjie characters, so that the pioneering spirit of the cultural patriarch Cangjie can be passed on.

       The combination of horizontal long and short lines in The Yi ching is also a way of recording by the ancients. Under the comprehensive influence of Yixue thinking, Chinese characters have formed ideographs with a unified Taoism, a unity of Yin and Yang, a unity of five constants, a unity of image and image, and a unity of images and numbers. Chinese characters contain the hologram of Bagua: the sky, the earth, the sun, the moon, the thunder, the wind, the mountains, the land, the ocean, and the river, which can also be called the "eight pieces in the universe". Yi ching is a derivative of Chinese characters. The Chinese characters are square characters. Each square can form a square circle by itself. The upper and lower sides, the four corners and the eight corners are available, and they are inherently connected with Yi ching Bagua, Tai Chi and the four directions. From the origin of Chinese characters, it is believed that not only the Chinese characters have been integrated into Yi ching theoretical thinking and the Yin-Yang principle at the beginning of their construction, but also the square structure of Chinese characters and the Yi ching Yin-Yang Bagua theory have a high degree of congenital conformity.

       Why Chinese characters are squared? The ancients see, "the sky is round and the earth is square" ,and this is also the way how ancients observed the world. The same is true when establishing a position. The word "中" is one of the earliest Chinese characters, and it is also the character that best represents the way of thinking of the ancients. Fuxi forecasted the weather to plan his farming life. The Chinese character of “Zhong” in Oracle bone inscriptions was Fuxi's wind-measuring flag. Coincidentally, the second tone of the Chinese character pronunciation Zhong, in Henan Province which is considered the origin of Chinese civilization, the way of saying “Yes” is also pronounced as Zhong (in second tone). Although the ancients had the concept of the four smaller squares forming a bigger square . The center is considered as the "Chinese" square. The Shang Dynasty had the concepts of "five directions" and "Central Plains", which means "中". It refers to the central city capital; the four sides are east, west, south, north. As can be seen from Oracle, all characters are basically squared. By the end of the Western Zhou dynasty, writing one Chinese character per square block has been clear and become standard. Since then, in the Spring and Autumn Period and Warring States Period, from seal script to official script, to regular script written formal official document; then in the Song Dynasty, Song Ti formally became the standard printed form of documents and emerged in the hands of engravers in the printing industry, and the fonts were similar to regular script. Chinese characters have undergone changes from time to time, and they are reflected in the shape of the characters, which is from the slender and slender in the past to the square and square characters.

Character application

       The development of writing, in addition to recording the original scriptures, was extended to be a religious symbol for exorcising demons, and it has also become a sustenance symbol for folk prayers, especially in the Chinese Lunar New Year. To quote Canadian paleoanthropologist and petroglyph research expert Genevieve von Pekinger in his work "The First Signs: unlocking the Mysteries of the world's Oldest Symbol" (The First Signs: unlocking the Mysteries of the world's oldest symbol). ) Tries to use symbols as clues to find answers to these questions. She suggested: "Some of the changes that occurred in the ancient ancestors are of great and far-reaching significance to the evolution of the modern human brain. In this process, some key changes that are very beneficial to our species have occurred. In fact, Without these changes, we humans might not exist." These changes are just the glimmer of modern people's thinking.

1.Feng Shui Symbols

       The invention of Chinese characters enabled the Chinese Yixue symbol system to make the transition from abstract mathematical symbols, hexagrams and lines, to concrete names, text symbols, and Chinese character symbols. The Five Elements Bagua of YI CHING represents early Chinese philosophical thoughts. In addition to divination and feng shui, the influence involves Chinese medicine, martial arts, music, mathematics, etc. The feng shui numerology produced by his Yi learning has long become a Chinese folk belief. The traditional Chinese Taoism is designed by overlapping characters and collocation to form a symbol, which was created by wizards and Taoists. These early Taoist symbols were once the most important way of forming characters. Chinese religious feudal superstitious ruling ritual instrument. Taoism believes that the supreme ruler of the fairy world can issue Taoism to someone, and those who obtain the Taoism have the right to summon ghosts and spirits and suppress demons. Therefore, the wizard wearing the Taoist amulet has a noble and irresistible mana

       Taoist magic talisman is the patterning of Chinese character information. It contains the principle of synchronization between heaven, earth, man, and god. It is so powerful that it can prohibit ghosts and gods and change demon objects. Ghost ”gui“鬼,the original oracle = (field田, mask) + (big, wizard), like a person wearing a mask, means a wizard with a scary mask on his head during the sacrificial ceremony. The pronunciation of ghost characters is the same as "归", and death is like going home. Ghost’s head is written as "田", and 田 is also soil. "Book of Rites" says: Death must return to the soil. In the Eastern Han Dynasty, Xu Shen explained in "Shu Wen Jie Zi": "Ghosts are classified as people like thief, Congsi." Si means selfishness,. In other words, ghosts are the meaning of the death of human beings. People are yang when they are alive, and yin after death. After the ordinary people died, without ancestral temple sacrifices, they would turn into ghosts and go to the underworld, while some princes and generals would have ancestral temple sacrifices after their deaths, and they could rely on the ancestral temple to absorb incense and become immortals. "Rain 雨gradually 漸ears耳", the name of ghosts and gods, old superstition said that they can subdue ghosts. "聻灵符" is a magical rune that has been used more since the Tang Dynasty. "Strange Tales from a Lonely Studio" once mentioned, "when people death to be a ghost , and the ghost deathwould be a jiàn,become more powerful. The reason why ghosts are afraid of miracles is just like people are afraid of ghosts. "Therefore, the ancients believed that people were afraid of ghosts and ghosts were afraid of jiàn, so they regarded Hao as the nemesis of ghosts and hung them everywhere to drive away ghosts and ward off evil spirits. If the word in the seal script is pasted on the door, everything is sneaky and far away. "Take poison to fight poison with supper poison"! Therefore, the seal script with the character "聻" can achieve the purpose of eliminating demons and curing demons in the talisman. "聻" pronounced jiàn means: people who are superstitious call ghost death as 聻.


       As one of the four great Chinese masterpieces "Journey to the West" contained the goddess Xi Wangmu in ancient Chinese mythology, also known as Queen Mother Empress and Yaochi Golden Mother. Every three thousand years, when the flat peach that bears fruit grows, she puts on a birthday banquet, and all the immortals would come over to join the banquet and got one peach offered. The folks regard Queen Mother of the West as a symbol of immortality, and also use peaches to symbolize longevity as a birthday gift. The design of the "Ling Talisman" is a peach shape. The front is engraved with a long life and a hundred years old. The back is "雨漸耳". This coin was used as an amulet by the ancients to ward off demons!

2.Auspicious patterns

       China's auspicious culture is rich and colorful, and the auspicious symbols are also diverse. "Chinese knots" are a metaphor that continues the "knot to remember things", "big things are tied to the big ropes, and small things are tied to the small ropes". For example, the ancients liked to use silk tapes to form a series of palindrome-like knots to express their love for each other. And took a wonderful name called "Tongxin Knot". The Chinese knot is so popular because the Chinese knot represents the characteristics and essence of different Chinese ethnic groups. "Rope" and "God" are homophonic “sheng”“绳”and “shen”“神”, so the Chinese people worship the "Rope". "Knot" means reunion and happiness. It has meanings such as unity, friendship, bonding, and eternal union. "Knot" is also homonymous “jie”“结” with "Ji"“吉”,means luck and together, so people even think that "knot" is a symbol of auspiciousness and can bring good luck. The major events in Chinese life include auspicious culture, such as spring planting and autumn harvesting, marrying a wife and having children, prolonging life, doing business, taking exams, career promotion, moving to a new home, etc.; in recent years, Chinese knots are also widely used at the national level during national activities and ceremonies.


       Chinese characters provide a broad space for homophonic puns due to their own characteristics. In Chinese, one single pronunciation often corresponds to several Chinese characters. Therefore, rhetorical effects can be achieved by using the same and similar pronunciation for two different characters. For example, the homonym of the bottle is "ping", which means peace平安"ping an", the homonym of bat and bergamot is "fu"which means happiness, the homonym of magpie is mean happy "喜" xi, the homonym of osmanthus and longan means rich “贵”"gui", and the homonym of lily and cypress is "Hundred" 百bai,means long life. Auspicious patterns can also be directly expressed in various auspicious Chinese characters, such as blessing, longevity, and joy. This method of expressing people’s good wishes in words has been widely used in Han brocade.

       寿,每一个人都会祈求健康长寿,长命百岁的祝福自我们降生就被家族精心设计的汉字符 号所包围,从拜祭的器皿道具香烛纸钱,到老人生日的寿包,我们服饰,房屋上的瓦当,寿 字,亦是处处可见,满目文字信息对生命的加持。到了明清时期则得到了空前的发展,如“寿” 字早已被图案化、艺术化了,成为一个吉祥符。


       Everyone would pray for health and longevity (Shòu). The blessing of a hundred years of life has been surrounded by the Chinese characters carefully designed by the family since our birth. From the utensils and props, incense candles, paper money, to the birthday bags for the elderly, our clothing, the tiles on the houses and the words for life are also visible everywhere, and the text messages are full of blessings to life. In the Ming and Qing Dynasties, it has achieved unprecedented development. For example, the character "Shou" has long been patterned and artistic, and it has become an auspicious symbol. The "Shou" character has a rich variety of graphics and can be expressed in a variety of fonts. Those with long glyphs are called "longevity", and those with round glyphs are called "yuanshou" (end without disease), and they can also be expressed in multiple words, such as "hundreds of longevity".

       "Fu" is the most charming and most sought-after word in the minds of Chinese people! In Chinese characters, it can be said that it has a long history and is very well-known. As early as three thousand years ago, the Shang and Zhou bronze inscriptions had different structures of blessing characters. The variability of the calligraphy of Fu is the process of its own beautification; Zheng正, Cao草, Li隶, and zhuan篆 have various writing methods. The "Hundred Fu Tu百福图" of later generations show even more artistic beautifulness. The Chinese calligraphers, with their exquisite calligraphy, the book "Fu" is in the form of a book, which is hung in the courtyard to show the elegance and interest, present the well-being and traditions . The word "Fu" has become a symbol of people's spiritual pursuit and is a popular cultural phenomenon. The "Fu Character Stele" written by emperor Kangxi in the Mansion of Prince Gong in Beijing. This should be the most famous Chinese character for blessing! But strictly speaking, that character should be considered as incorrect, nevertheless it is a graphic design font that has been artistically processed. The word "Fu" written by Kangxi combines the two characters of Fu"福" blessing and Shou"寿"life, and also contains four different Chinese characters: Zi”子“Progeny, Cai“才” wealth, Tian“田”land and more. Is a typical imperial power aesthetics.


       The sound, shape, meaning and beauty of Chinese characters are in fact integrated with the way of thinking and cultural spirit of the Chinese Han people. The unique expression of symbolic decorative Chinese characters plays a critical role that is unattainable in the development of Chinese culture. This is where the vitality of Chinese characters lies. The composition of the thinking module of Chinese characters, the function of Chinese characters in each social class has a certain degree of independent development, and has its own progress of evolution. Chinese character thinking is widely known in the application field of Chinese folk culture. The input and derivation of the rural civilization system, such as reading, listening and language, are the functions of the application of Chinese character thinking. The imperceptibility of the decorative graphic symbols of Chinese characters is mandatory in religious and folklore behaviors. It is not only a spiritual comfort but also a spiritual dominance, and it can also be used as a spiritual navigation for the thinking of Chinese characters.

       Symbolized decorative Chinese characters, as carrier of thoughts and ideas, give thoughts a vitality beyond time and space; symbolized decorative Chinese characters consolidate consensus, and spread and become a tool for inheriting this consensus. Summarizing the above fragments of folk culture of Chinese characters, these scattered perspectives carry intangible heritage of feudalism and superstition. The texts derived from the physical images of natural things actually carry human visual perception of things and their attributes, and they also carry metaphorical rhetoric. On the other hand, the rational cognition of the commonality of things, the application of Chinese character blocks and thinking modules for thousands of years will inspire the future.

References and citations

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