Comparing the “characters” used in early Chinese writing with those used now can be disarming. Once again, one must be aware of the period’s extent and the difficulty to unify at first. The first real standardization of writing occurred in the third century BC. J-C., fourteen centuries after the first appearances of Chinese inscirptions.
When we look at the ear character 耳, which is a pictogram, we observe many variations. A pictogram reproduces the form. The four pictograms below belong to the writing of inscriptions on bones or shells :
With the brush and the different writing styles, the variations take more amplitude:
Let’s take a concrete example with 光 guāng, whose first meaning is light. At night, servants on their knees held torches or whatever was used as a lamp to have light in the palaces.
The first character reminds us of it ：
The two dots above evoke the light, and the other part a man on his knees carrying a utensil, similar to the photo :
On the other hand, the later spelling are less eloquent:
Wang Guiyan, professor at the People’s University of Beijing, calls this character a “亚形象 lower pictogram” because it no longer reproduces the form.
The modern character 光, we have the man’s legs below and above the utensil, and the two dots vaguely reminiscent of light or fire.
The course of Wang Guiyuan on the subject:
Articles classified by character :
31 August 2020