Chinese characters are magic capsules of history and culture, and this book celebrates the richness that attaches to each one. The Chinese written language is today the only language in the world which is basically non-phonetic, using pictograms to convey meaning. The history of the characters goes back over 3,000 years, and their impact extends over most of East Asia. The Genius of Chinese Characters details the breadth and depth of the thousands of pictograms that make up the script, starting with the most simple and commonly-used, presenting one word per page from a variety of different perspectives, for a total of 250 in this volume. It looks at the many ways in which each character can be pronounced, including in Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese, as well as a variety of Chinese languages and dialects. But it also shows the breadth of meaning each character possesses and the range of ways in which they have been written throughout history. In short, this book is a celebration of a writing system.
“One of the difficulties of fully understanding the Chinese script has always been the sheer amount of information embedded in each character. The Genius of Chinese Characters does a truly remarkable job of distilling and displaying this information into a clear and authoritative format. It is a much-needed new reference source that will be invaluable to sinologists and lay readers alike.”— David Moser, author of A Billion Voices: China’s Search for a Common Language, Penguin Books