Chinese character -- Ideographs zhi3 shi4 指事

Ideographs or ideogram are the second way of forming Chinese characters.There are very few of these types of Chinese characters in Chinese writing.

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The dictionary defines an ideograph as a symbol that directly but abstractly represents the thing or concept itself rather than the word for it.

Ideographs are symbols.

Like the symbols for Chinese numbers one, two, and three 一,二,三 .

Ideographs are also formed by “adding things” to pictographs.

In this way, simple ideas of abstract things can be represented.

By adding a horizontal stroke to the pictograph wood mu4 木 gives ben3 本 which is the root of a tree.

By adding a horizontal stroke to the pictograph mouth kou3 口 gives gan1 甘 which is a sweet taste.


In ancient Chinese writing, the Chinese character gao1 looks like a two-storey building.

The upper part of the building has a roof pointing upwards and the bottom part looks like a wall with a door in it.

This tall building gives gao1 its meaning of “high”.

From this primary meaning arises the meanings “tall and big”,“high and far away”, “profound”, “advanced”,“brilliant” etc.

You have gao1 ren2 “a profound person”,

gao1 ling2 “advanced in age”,

gao1 ming2 “brilliant”.

Since there are few pictographs to start of with, ideographs are naturally very few in number.

About 100 of them.



Next: the third way of forming Chinese characters