09 September 2011

Chinese Character Etymology

When learning characters I often find one of the best ways to remember is by learning the etymology of the hanzi. This method helps me a great deal. By looking at how the characters have changed over time and seeing their original forms creates links in my memory. I much prefer this to rote learning the hanzi.

I have found three sites that are useful to look up hanzi etymologies.

YellowBridge has a Etymology Explorer which allows you to draw the character (using a mouse) to aid lookup. There are other methods of lookup too; English, Pinyin and others. After finding the hanzi, the explorer can then show the formation method, simplification method and character decomposition.
Hanzi Etymology Explorer

 Another site Chinese-Characters.org has a Pinyin index and a Radical index. Unfortunately the last entry into the weblog was in 2009 and the home page explains that it was a huge project and a labour of love. Do not expect this site to have everything. 


Third site that you can find much detailed information on hanzi etymology is 中文.com. While I like this site it does look very busy and complex. It displays the hazi with every associated compound. It does have multiple ways to lookup. You can even make quizzes with the learn page. 

So three very useful sites for etymology look-up. 

Does anyone know of any others? Leave a comment if you have a similar site to recommend.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting and helpful links. I will be bookmarking the sites you have provided. I have decided to relearn this Mandarin as it seems that I am starting to forget how to write in Chinese. This will indeed refresh my memory. Thanks for sharing.


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