Character Introduction 1 – What Are Chinese Characters?

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Introduction to Chinese Characters :

Thanks for joining ChineseFor.Us Hands-on Writing Course. In this introduction to Chinese characters, we will answer the following questions: What is the Chinese language?  What are Chinese characters and Pinyin? When we start to learn Chinese, these are probably the first a few questions we might wonder. Let’s watch and find out!



  • the Chinese language
  • mandarin (or Putonghua) vs Dialects
  • Chinese characters
  • Pinyin


  1. What is the Chinese language?
  2. What are Chinese, Mandarin, Cantonese and other Chinese dialects?
  3. What are Chinese characters?
  4. What is Pinyin?
  5. What are the differences between Chinese characters and Pinyin?
  6. What are the relationships between Chinese characters and Pinyin?


What is the Chinese Language?

Chinese is also known as the followings:

  • Mandarin
  • 中文 zhōng wén
  • 汉语 hàn yǔ
  • 普通话 pǔ tōng huà
  • 国语 guó yǔ
  • 华语 huá yǔ

Usually when we say “Chinese”, we’re talking about the official language spoken in China, which is based of the pronunciation in Beijing and China’s northern dialects. So when we ask what is the Chinese language? We are asking about the official language, not all the dialects in China. In China There’re are hundreds of dialects, if not thousands. For example, Cantonese or 广东话 (guǎng dōng huà), or 粤语(yuè yǔ), is the dialect spoken by the people in China’s Guangdong Province, Hong Kong and Macau. Luckily a lot of people, especially the younger generations, understand and are able to speak Mandarin.


What Is the Chinese Writing System? What are Chinese characters?

In China, people use Chinese characters as the written form of the language. The characters do not indicate the sound, but carry meanings. To transcribe the pronunciation of the language, people use Pinyin as supplementary system.


Chinese Characters and Pinyin

Pinyin was introduced in 1958, it uses a Roman alphabet to transcribe the Mandarin Chinese pronunciations. It’s necessary to learn Chinese characters and Pinyin both because Pinyin helps us remember the sound and to type Chinese characters, while characters carry the meanings. These characters 风 疯 封 峰 丰 锋 枫 蜂 烽 are all pronounced: “fēng”, which is how the syllable is written in Pinyin system. But they have totally different meanings.So in order for us to learn Mandarin Chinese, we need to know that there are two systems: (1) characters—Chinese writing system; (2)Pinyin—Chinese phonetic system.

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JamiePremium Student April 14, 2023 at 10:40 pm

你好 Lili and Chuck! I’m loving the courses. Would you consider teaching a Chinese calligraphy course next? I would sign up!

ChineseFor.UsAcademic Team April 18, 2023 at 2:11 pm

Do you mean traditional ink brush calligraphy or general writing Chinese characters with a pen? But either way that seems to be a great idea!

martin007Premium Student July 14, 2023 at 7:14 am

I would sign up, too!

charlieauradicePremium Student December 24, 2021 at 10:02 pm

Some people say Zhong Wen for “chinese letters” and hanyu. which is right?

The two words are synonyms like dark and murky. Hanyu means “Chinese language” in the sense of “the language that Han people speak.” The majority of people in China are Han although China officially has 52 minority ethnic groups. Zhong means “middle” and “guo” means country so China is called Zhonggou; you could think of it as “middle earth!“ Ha! A machine translation tells me wen means “arts” but I’m not sure that is completely correct. However, zhongwen also means “Chinese language” but implies “zhongguo hua” which means the langauge spoken in China. So, in reality, hanyu, zhongguo hua, and zhongwen can all be translated into Chinese as “Chinese” or “Chinese language” or “the language spoken in China.”
Who knows? Maybe Tolkien got the name “middle earth” from the Chinese idea that China is the center of civilization, surrounded by barbarians! Both hanyu and zhongguo have two syllable which means they are each written with two Chinese characters. I like to illustrate that this way (but my Chinese friends will say “diannao” means “computer” and not “electric brain.”
diannao = the words for electric and brain = computer
dianhua = electric speaking = telephone
dianshi = electric seeing = television

ajwahkhan1620@gmail.comStudent November 10, 2020 at 12:10 am

Nìhao,Jia jia, where can i find the work sheet of chinese writing?? Lot’s of love from Pakistan we love u jia jia

Fernando CruzPremium Student September 16, 2020 at 9:08 pm

Does the characters are the same for all different China’s dialects?

Chinese dialects share the same writing system.

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