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Chinese Symbols

Beauty
Beauty
Buddha
Buddha
Butterfly
Butterfly
Dolphin
Dolphin

Chinese is an ancient and influential language, and until the eighteenth century over half the books in the world had been written in Chinese. It is not an alphabetic writing system like those familiar in the west, but rather each individual word is given its own distinctive symbol or character. Literacy requires knowledge of around 4000 characters, and a large dictionary will contain over 40,000 characters ordered by form or sound.

Dream
Dream
Eternity
Eternity
Friendship
Friendship
God
God

Early characters reflected the objects they represented, with symbols becoming more arbitrary as the language developed. The building blocks of the language are about a thousand basic characters, covering terms like river, woman, horse, love and quarrel. Compound characters can be formed from these, an example being the character for "harvest" and "year" being represented by "man" carrying "grain."

Longevity
Longevity
Love
Love
Luck
Luck
Peace
Peace

The most ancient known texts were found inscribed on cattle bones and tortoise shells, and these were used as oracles by court diviners of the Shang dynasty (1766-1122 BC). The beauty and antiquity of these symbols make them attractive for meditative, decorative or talismanic use today, and this page presents some suitable examples.

Tranquility
Tranquility
Unity
Unity
Virtue
Virtue
Wealth
Wealth

Chinese astrology is based upon a twelve-year cycle, with each of the twelve years named after a particular animal. The Chinese symbols for these astrological signs are detailed on our page of Chinese Astrological Symbols.