SECRETS OF CHINESE WORDS AND SAYINGS: ANCIENT WISDOM FOR TODAY
Wednesday, 16. December 2009, 23:45:41
SECRETS OF CHINESE WORDS AND SAYINGS: ANCIENT WISDOM FOR TODAYTHE IMPORTANCE OF CHINESE LANGUAGE TO MODERN SUCCESS
BY FRANCIS C. W. FUNG, PH.D.
The importance of learning the Chinese language is not limited to the fact that almost one fourth of the world’s population, in East and South Asia and the rest of the world use it wholly or partly. Neither is the newly discovered importance of Chinese language in world commerce and world affairs. Apart from its uniquely beautiful calligraphy the Chinese language obviously also has inherent world cultural significance. Most of all to the author, the Chinese nation owes its repute as a nation of wisdom to the innovative cultural formation of its language. This I will venture to elaborate in this announcement. Learning the distinctly spatial Chinese words will expand the mental capacity of citizens of the world who speak native phonetic tongues, increasing their capacities for different types of intelligence. Added to this is the cultural wisdom embedded in the formation of the characters, and in the meaning of Chinese sayings.
As most of the major languages of the word are phonetic, a bilingual person who also speaks Chinese will exercise different parts of his brain in their daily undertakings.The Chinese nation with its continuous and uninterrupted history of 5000 years stands out among ancient nations of the world. Its language is early and being non-phonetic is also unique among world languages. Chinese pictographs or characters were discovered as early as 3000 years ago and predated oracle bones. The Chinese characters were created by diverse ingenious and imaginative ways throughout its long history. It is a collective treasure of wisdom and art by design. Different from the world’s major phonetic languages, the Chinese language consists of a system of more than 5000 basic characters instead of a limited number of letters in an alphabet. This larger system of basic characters at one hand presents a challenge to non native learners at the outset but it also renders Chinese a language of wisdom as we shall soon realize.
From this creatively crafted system of basic characters, new words, two- word- “nomenclatures” and four- word- “ Chinese sayings” (CHENG YU) are innovatively created to suit evolution of times. For example the word commonly meaning patience (REN) is the character knife edge (REN) held above the character heart (XIN). The world martial (WU) is formed by the character stop (ZI) and the character weapon (GE). The word war (ZAN) is composed by two parts (DAN) and (GE) meaning unilateral and weapon. The term crisis is formed by the two words meaning danger and opportunity (WEI JI) simultaneously. The term harmony is made up of two words each of two characters ( HE XIE) together they mean content and consensus. Thus the words patience, martial, crisis and harmony impart deeper wisdom above mere meaning for the common use of the words. This continuing development has persisted without major disruption for 5000 years. A well learned Chinese shows his pedigree by frequent use of these cultural related nomenclatures and other famous sayings as explained in the following. Thus the Chinese language incorporates the richness of the Chinese historical development and culture.
There are many modern advantages to the Chinese language. The modern Japanese and Korean languages evolved from heavy dependence of Chinese words into phonetic languages during recent history. Because of the usefulness and versatility of the Chinese characters, today many educated Japanese and Koreans read Chinese characters and still prefer not to totally divorce from the use of Chinese words. Most of all, the Chinese language is attractive to those well heeled in the wisdom and cultural content of the innovative words, nomenclatures and famous sayings mentioned previously. Individual Chinese characters are monosyllabic, and the four character sayings which embody Chinese wisdom are as short and as easy to learn and memorize as acronyms in English. These acronyms like simple wisdom phrases are handed down through generations and become the cumulative reservoir of Chinese cultural jewels with deep meaning. Two most well known four word idioms are (Zhi Ji Zhi Bi, Bai zhan Bai Sheng), together they mean “know thyself and know thy enemy, hundred battles hundred victories.” This has come to be one of the utmost important military strategies of all time. Because it is simple and easy to remember like an eight letter acronym, even Chinese kids know it by heart.
The other modern advantages of the Chinese language are many. Chinese language is concise and compact. A similar length book in Chinese will take half the space of a phonetic language book. Because of its compact pictographs, Chinese writing lends itself readily for speed reading. As a bilingual person of 50 years and receiving most of my education in America, I can read Chinese books much faster than English books. This makes it significantly less of a chore to go through long documents in Chinese than English.Chinese verbal commands are more limited in sounds, because the basic system of characters are finite in number so are Chinese words. English alphabets may be only twenty six but the sounds of phonetic English words are infinite. Thus the first fully functional verbal input computer most likely will be Chinese. The first Chinese language input computer is well advanced is well on its way to commercialization. This will eliminate the key board input disadvantage of Chinese language computer once and for all. Although current key board input Chinese language computers are reasonably efficient, the verbal input Chinese language computer may prove to be even more efficient and easy to use.
As a bilingual person practicing a wide range of disciplines of study from physical sciences to social sciences, from commerce to international affairs I have discovered a curious phenomenon. Over the years I noticed that many of my Chinese associates and myself are more adept in picking up new disciplines of studies. It also seems rather easy for Chinese to practice new discipline in late life. My personal career of over 50 years has included many vastly different fields and professions. The reason may be the threshold of crossing between various disciplines, is lower in Chinese language. Or Chinese culture is a more flexible and harmonious from aeronautics to world affairs. To reach definitive conclusion on this interesting premise will require more detail analysis on the possibilities of the Chinese language and the Chinese learning attitude.
One obvious observation that surfaces is the fact that Chinese nomenclatures in different disciplines are more standardized because the meaning of the common pictographs that makes the different jargons of the trades. In the English language jargons, it is easy to deliberately create different new jargons for different trades. By nature of the phonetic language infinite number of words with different sounds can be created by combination and permutation of the 26 alphabets. This does not necessarily make cross discipline studies any easier. Because the Chinese system of basic characters is finite, even when the Chinese nomenclatures appear to be different in each discipline the pictographs will give away its intended meaning. The beauty of the Chinese pictograph language system as opposed to the phonetic system most of the world uses, is its relative simplicity. Once a Chinese learner knows a relatively small sample of pictographs he is less likely to need the dictionary when pursuing a new discipline. This significantly lowers the threshold of cross discipline studies and communications.
This introductory announcement of the secrets of the Chinese words and sayings is an excerpt of a compilation of the wisdom of ancient Chinese language for modern success. This new compilation entitled “Secrets of Chinese Words and Sayings: Ancient Wisdom for Success Today” goes beyond the usual writings on Chinese wisdom for success. The compilation goes into the secret roots of the Chinese words and language itself beyond the mere scope of Chinese ancient philosophical and military wisdom in print. We welcome comments and contributions on Chinese ancient wisdom and the modern importance of the Chinese language from our interested readers.