No.1 of 30 Easy Chinese Characters to Jumpstart Your Chinese Learning Online

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1. 一 (yī)

English: One

The character for “one” in Chinese is simply one horizontal stroke.

Incidentally, the characters for two 二 (èr) and three 三 (sān) are also simple horizontal strokes. One, two and three are quite easy to remember, since one is one stroke, two is two strokes, etc.

One in Chinese is used in references to the singular, such as a single person 一个人(yī gè rén).

For example:

我一个人来。(wǒ yī gè rén lái) I came here by myself.

One is also used when ordering or purchasing items, for example:

我要一个。(wǒ yào yī gè) I would like one.




2. 人 (rén)

English: Man

The Chinese character for “man” is two simple strokes. The character looks like a person with legs apart.

When you put two of these characters together, producing 人人 (rén rén),the meaning is “everyone.”

 For example:

 人人都爱喝可乐。 (rén rén dōu ài hē kě lè) Everyone loves drinking soda.

3. 日 (rì)

English: Sun

The character for “sun” looks like a box with a line in the middle. It’s supposed to approximate the image of the sun. You might have to use a little imagination, but in ancient bronze script, this character was more circular like the sun.

日 not only refers to the Earth’s source of light, but it also means “day.” It’s used when talking about dates, e.g. 7日 is the seventh day of whatever month you’re talking about. If you put two sun characters together 日日 (rì rì) it means “every day.”



4. 月 (yuè)

English: Moon

The character for “moon” originally resembled a crescent. If you look at the oracle bone script you’ll see what I mean.

月 not only refers to the nightly crescent, but it also means “month.”

For example, 8月 7日 is how you’d write “August 7.”

You can write all the months in Chinese simply by putting a numeral (or Chinese character if you like—either works) in front of 月. Here are the names of January through March:




Too easy, right?

5. 山 (shān)

English: Mountain

Can you tell that this character looks like a mountain range? Check out the ancient script, and you’ll see that it has much closer resemblance.

When combined with other characters, it means even more things related to nature and scenery. For example, when combined with the character for “water,” 水 (shǔi), you get 山水 (shān shǔi), which means “landscape.”

Therefore 山水画 (shān shǔi huà) refers to a landscape painting. Check out how the character for “painting” or “drawing,” 画 (huà), looks like a little picture in a frame!


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