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History of Chinese Writing

Evolving over 6000 years, Chinese characters are the words of a living language that continues to evolve. Starting with carved marks into stone, then later raised lines in cast bronze, or marks pressed into clay like bird tracks, the marks led to the invention of brush, paper and ink. Today the Chinese characters continues to change. In 1967 the language changed to a “simplified” version trying to make education possible for all the people of China. At that time they also added the “Pin yin” transliteration into the western alphabet. Before this revolutionary change the standard dictionary was last codified in 1717. Today there are over 48,000 written Chinese characters using 24 different strokes.

Humanity Blue


Collaboration/He (Larger Than Others)


(larger than others)


Chinese characters are organized into six different families of characters. Pictographs are stylized illustrations of objects. Indicators are abstract ideas represented in lines. Ideograms are combining two or more pictographs to create a new meaning. Phonograms are combining one character for meaning with a second phonetic clue (90% of existing Chinese characters are Phonograms).  Deflectives are characters that reflect an interlinked meaning and history between these characters; knowing one gives more meaning to the other.  And finally Loan Characters have no explicable relationship to meaning, pronunciation or design.

The PattieFirestoneDesign Chinese character earrings portray the simplest and often the oldest characters for MAN/HUMANITY/Ren and  WOMAN/FEMALE/Nu and the five Chinese elements – EARTH/Tu, WATER/Shui, WOOD/Mu, FIRE/Huo, and METAL/Jin. Most of these characters are recognized by Japanese and Korean cultures as well because they have such ancient origins.



Susan with Wood/Mu



Sometimes when you combine two characters, you change the meaning of both. For instance if you wear one WIND/Feng and one WATER/Shui, you will be saying Feng Shui, the famous Chinese study of the flow of energy.

Another example of how a character builds its meaning is the character for GOLD/METAL/Jin; it is made up of brush strokes for HUMANITY/Ren with EARTH/Tu hanging below with sparks like FIRE/Huo. Thus, GOLD/METAL/Jin says - Man takes earth and fire to make metal.

It has taken thousands of years to develop this beautiful visual, expressive writing. Now YOU can enjoy and share a few words of Chinese or just enjoy the shapes. Let us know what you think of our products.