Recently a friend of mine from Australia recently confided that while he likes learning Chinese, he still fails to see the utility of characters. “I still don’t see why they just don’t use pinyin,” he said with a shrug.
I began to explain why characters are, in fact, useful, beginning with the sheer number of cognates in the Chinese language. The relative paucity of different pinyin combinations would make reading a Chinese text in the system maddening and difficult.
But here’s an aspect of characters that I would miss would they been discarded; their aesthetic beauty. I was thinking the other day of compiling a list of my favorite characters and words, and came up with a few:
1. 雨林 “rainforest”. What better illustration of a rainforest can you think of?
2. 图书馆 “library”. I love the character “tu”, particularly in calligraphy. With “shu”, I picture the character as a stack of books, while “guan” indicates “house” pretty clearly.
3. 凸凹 “convex/concave”- this one is just brilliant.
What are some of your favorite characters/words?