Chinese Pictograph For Children & Why Is It Useful?

Chinese Pictograph For Children & Why Is It Useful?

There are three main types of Chinese character in the Mandarin language that comprises pictographs, ideographs and determinative-phonetics. However, in this blog article, we are mainly going to share in-depth on the most ancient and simplest type of all – Chinese Pictograph.

What Is a Chinese Pictograph?

Just by looking at the name itself, we are likely to interpret it to something related to picture and we are actually right! Or at least close. To make it easier to understand, a Chinese pictograph is a pictorial drawing-like word that the illustration depicts the meaning behind the word. In the Mandarin language, we call it 象形文字 ((xiàng xíng wén zì).

From ancient times, people start to use symbols to represent the meaning of concepts and developing them into picture-like writing systems. These picture-like words are in fact the oldest kind of Chinese character and as they were from ancient times long before civilization, the pictograph shows mostly objects of nature like the mountain, sun, fire, animals and etc. This is probably also why the Chinese pictograph only makes up 5% (or even less) of the existing Mandarin characters.

Why Chinese Pictograph is useful for children?

Although Chinese Pictograph only comprises less than 5% off the Chinese characters and it may seem like it’s way too little for children to learn, here are a few points why it can be really useful for your little ones.

  1. Interesting to learn. Nothing occupied children more than something they like or attracted to. Learning Chinese characters, the regular way might possibly bored or overwhelmed them especially if they have completely zero foundation of the Mandarin language.
  2. Beginner-friendly. Most of the pictograph represents the most common and basic words (大/山/日) that is good for young children to start learning with.
  3. Consist of important Chinese character components. These important words like
    木 (mù) "tree, 口 (kǒu) "mouth, 人 (rén) man are components that are commonly found in a lot of other words. Thus, having a strong foundation of these components makes the learning of other Mandarin characters easier. Some example of words with those components are:


How to introduce Chinese Pictograph to children?

  • Get some resources online and start exposing your child to it by drawing it to them. This sharing from Hollie is pretty helpful and educational.

  • Alternatively, get a set of Chinese Pictograph Flashcards that compiles 300 commonly used words for children's learning. They might not be the original pictograph from ancient times but be assured they are designed specially to cater to maximize the learning of Chinese characters.

  • Search for related videos on YouTube to expose your child in multiple ways!

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  • Garfield Smith
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