Introduction to Chinese:
Lesson 2

By Linas

Let’s learn another important character. This is the character for sun:

If we add a bit to the sun we get the word for white:

How would you draw:

the white sun

Answer: 白日
Not correct. Please try again.

I am going to teach you the word for spoon now. It’s a picture of a spoon that is bent in the middle and there is a bit of food dropping from it. Take a look at the spoon:

So here’s the deal... if you combine white with spoon you get Reese Witherspoon... just kidding... you actually get the most frequently used Chinese word! What could that be? Well, that is the word of. It’s white with spoon combined. Here’s what it looks like:

It is the most frequently used word in Chinese! Only it works the opposite way than it does in English. In English, you say spoon of king and in Chinese you say king of spoon to mean king’s spoon.

We already had the character for king but if you want to use it in writing, you have to say country king instead of just king. Here is the phrase king’s spoon written in Chinese:


This is the most common of the characters ever. You can try using it yourself. Write:

King of China

Answer: 中国的国王
Not correct. Please try again.

This is not technically correct because the Chinese call their king the emperor and 国王 can only mean a foreign king but I guess we can make exceptions.

I’m going to let you guess the character for mouth. It is very similar but even simpler than that for sun. How would you write:

king’s mouth

Answer: 国王的口
Not correct. Please try again.

So, remember.... white(=sun+bit)+spoon=of. Nice. Let’s get back to the character of the sun because it will also help us learn the third most frequently used Chinese character. This one consists of two characters the top of which is the sun. The bottom one is correct.

The Chinese probably fancy predicate logics because their character for correct is coming from there. It is the English word iF (which is so common in logics) with a line over and under it. Here is the word for correct:

iF... I am correct then everything is fine under the sun. That’s probably the logics they followed because the combination of sun and correct gives you the third most frequently used character which is is:

The characters have been stretched a bit (especially the one for correct) but it still is recognizable. This character is (sun+correct) can not only mean is but also am, are, be and so on. How would you write China’s a country which is literally Middle Kingdom is kingdom:

China is a country.

Answer: 中国是国
Not correct. Please try again.

Nice. That works (although you would usually say 国家 for country i.e. you would say country country but let's allow us this).

Since we are talking about sun and day let’s also learn the character for moon or month. It is basically the same character as the sun only it has its legs turned to the left. Instead of just ending. It also kind of looks like the letter R (from JanuaRy, FebRuaRy, MaRch, ApRil... SeptembeR, OctobeR, NovembeR, DecembeR - one of the most common letters in months) turned the other direction.

Apparently, if you add a small cross to protect you from the magic of the moon, the magic does not work and you can have it. Thus a sign for cross and moon is the character for have:

Talking about moon, if you have it double then you have the character for friend:

It’s just one character that looks like two. Having that knowledge, you should be able to say friend already but unfortunately the Chinese are a bit more cautious - they require you to draw another character which is basically the body of your friend without a head protected by the same cross that protected the moon. That makes the second character for friend:

Also it is worth mentioning that this character consisting of the body of your friend alone without the cross is the character for also:

That’s secondary, though. In practice, if you want to say friend, you have to use both of these characters for friend (it happens too often in Chinese) and the word friend is written as:


You could now probably write the phrase the king has two friends which would come out as kingdom king have two 个 friend. Try it out:

The king has three friends.

Answer: 国王有三个朋友
Not correct. Please try again.

Good effort. We also (also is , remember?) now know the three most common characters. Look at them:

的 一 是

The character for one is so common because it is not only the word for number one but also the article a/an. You need not worry about that, though. We will return with more characters in the next lesson.