Fun Chinese characters – stack them up in multi-dimensional thinking!

Posted by Grace Feng on December 13, 2012

Fun Chinese characters - stack them up in multi-dimensional thinking!As I mentioned in “Things to know before you start to learn Chinese language“, Chinese characters are like mini pictures. You can also think them as legos. If you’re good at stacking legos, you’ll be good at Chinese…. just kidding. However, memorizing Chinese characters does train you with multi-dimensional thinking.

In this post I’d like to stack up some character legos with you and hopefully you’ll learn a few new characters after this fun exercise.

The first lego piece we’ll use is 木 mù (wood), which takes the shape of a tree. If we plant two 木 mù together, we got a bush 林 lín. If we add one more 木 mù to the mix, then we got the forest 森 sēn! As a matter of fact, the word 森林 sēnlín exactly means “forest” – see how many trees we have in that combination?

Fun Chinese characters - stack them up in multi-dimensional thinking!

That one is probably a well-known example that is easy to remember. Now we move on to the next lego piece: 口 kǒu (mouth). If you put two two pieces together, it become 吕lǚ, which is mostly used for last name. What about you stack three of them all together? Then you’ll get a character like this: 品 pǐn, which means “quality”. But why? Well, if so many people are talking (with their mouth) about a thing or a person in a good way, then the “quality” is guaranteed, isn’t it?

Fun Chinese characters - stack them up in multi-dimensional thinking!

Now, this piece is a no-brainer: 人 rén (people). If we line two pieces up, then we got this one: 从 cóng, it means “from”. Just imagine the first “person” is the second “person’s” previous position, which tells you where the second person shifted “from”. That will explain why “two persons” means “from”. Now we stack all three pieces up, you’ll see the character of  zhòng (crowd). Isn’t it obvious? The same rule applied to the transformation from to applies to  to  !

Fun Chinese characters - stack them up in multi-dimensional thinking!

I’m not sure if it happens to other culture that people like to use “rock” to symbolize a man. In Chinese, because of that, character 石 shí (stone), when we stack up three pieces of it, becomes 磊 lěi, which means “open and upright”. That’s the desired image of a man in Chinese culture. That meaning is getting more explicit in idiom 光明磊落 guāngmínglěiluò (straightforward and upright). People also like to use  磊 lěi as a boy’s first name.

Now let’s use another element character 日 rì (sun) to do our stacking game. Wait a minute, what is the most dominant characteristics of the sun? “Shining!” Of course! What if we stack three suns together like this: jīng? Doesn’t it remind you of a sparkling diamond that reflects various colors of light? Here is an example using this character: 亮晶晶 liàng jīngjīng (shining and sparkling).

Fun Chinese characters - stack them up in multi-dimensional thinking!

There are still more element characters that can be used to stack “monster” characters, such as 水 shuǐ to 淼 miǎo 金 jīn to 鑫 xīn etc.

Do you know any character of this kind?  Feel free to share them here, thanks!

Good night, my friends!


Update: The following are probably all the “monster characters” of this kind in Chinese. Most of them are obsolete. Only a few are still used in traditional Chinese or Japanese. (“卉” is used in simplified Chinese too.) I highlighted the ones that I can recognize by myself (with simplified Chinese background). Only four :-(.

垚 焱 靐   畾 厽 馫 飍 灥 厵 犇 猋 赑 贔 蟲 麤 毳 龘 骉 驫 羴 雥 鱻 矗 舙 瞐  掱 叒 惢 譶 劦 壵  孨 歮 晿 飝 刕 尛 嚞 皛 雦


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Do you know each age group has a cool name in Chinese? Which "name" you are under now?
Six Chinese idioms about "eternity" illustrated in pictures - 关于"永恒"的话题


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4 Responses to “Fun Chinese characters – stack them up in multi-dimensional thinking!”

  1. nothing


    12-13-2012 6:45 pm

    Hi Grace, I am not aware of any others, and a quick look through my dictionary didn’t reveal any more. What others are there? I really love the explanation of 品 by the way. :D


    • nothing

      Grace Feng:

      12-14-2012 3:55 am

      For other characters of this kind, please see my update in the post. I believe in ancient China you have to have strong arm muscles if your daily job is writing. How lucky we are now that we can just type! :-)


  2. nothing


    08-25-2013 1:54 pm

    This reminds me of the Chineasy program. You know that one? It puts the characters in a drawing showing the meaning of the character, it helped me in memorizing characters.

    They probably got the idea of Chineasy from this post ;)


    • nothing

      Grace Feng:

      08-26-2013 1:54 am

      This is the first time I hear about Chineasy. I love their neat visual design for individual characters. Very impressive! And I bet it took them huge effort to build that up.

      Thanks for sharing the info, Yueguang :-)


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