Chineasy Everyday: learn 6 Mandarin characters in 6 minutes

ShaoLan Hsueh, a Taiwanese entrepreneur based in London, couldn't find an effective way of teaching her children Chinese, so she developed a groundbreaking visual method to make reading characters fun and easy.

By learning the most commonly occurring characters – the building blocks of the entire language – readers of all ages can swiftly grasp basic concepts and words. Here are six from her new book Chineasy Everyday to get you started.

Learn 6 Mandarin characters in 6 minutes:

person (ren²)

The character for 'person' looks like the profile of a man walking. Most Chinese nouns make no distinction between singular and plural, so this character can also mean 'people'.

大 big (da⁴)

This character depicts a man stretching his arms wide. Imagine that he is saying, 'It was this big.' What is your first impression when you see a rikishi (Japanese sumo wrestler)? He is BIG! 

木 tree (mu⁴)

In oracle-bone inscriptions, this character depicted a tree with roots in the earth and two branches reaching towards the sky. Over time, the branches became a single horizontal line (一) and the tree trunk was kept as a vertical line (丨). The roots became similar to two arms falling down, one towards the left side and one towards the right. 

日 sun/day (ri⁴)

Originally, the character for 日 was a circle with a dot in the middle, so it looked more like a ‘sun’  than the modern character. Eventually, the dot in the centre became the horizontal line we see in the middle today, and the circle became a rectangle. This character also means 'day', because we think that the day starts when the sun comes up and finishes when the sun goes down.

女 woman/female (nu³)

In oracle-bone inscriptions, this character depicted a woman squatting down with her arms folded across her body. This was a sign of submission, as women were regarded as the possessions of men. ShaoLan loathes the origin of this character, so in Chineasy it is represented as an independent, witty and feminine lady. She is her own person. In the context of family relationships, 女 means 'daughter'. When used as an adjective, it means 'female'. 


birth/life (sheng¹)

The original form of this character depicted a handful of sprouts emerging from the earth. The idea of shooting sprouts was extended to the current meaning: 'birth', 'life', 'to be born', 'to give birth', 'to grow' or 'to generate'.


About the book:

Chineasy Everyday teaches over 400 of the most used and useful Chinese characters, phrases and sentences. It brings the stories and myths behind the characters to life, providing a unique perspective into Chinese history and culture. Arranged in eleven practical themes from people, nature and animals to food and drink and telling the time, it’s for readers of all ages. 

"Learning Mandarin just got Chineasy...This may revolutionise the teaching of Chinese around the world" - The Sunday Times

Win the entire Chineasy range by filling out the form below.

About the author:

ShaoLan Hsueh launched Chineasy after an incredibly well-received TED Talk in 2013, which has now had over 2.5 million online views. She will give her second TED talk in 2016. Born in Taipei and now living in London, ShaoLan is an entrepreneur, writer, traveller and dreamer. 

Win the entire Chineasy range, worth £85, plus a Chineasy tote bag

Just answer a simple question and fill out the form. Competition ends 30 April 2016.

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Last updated: over 1 year ago