Chinese Etymology

Litmus test

Copyright © 2006 by Tienzen (Jeh-Tween) Gong

For a native Chinese college graduate, he has spent 16 school years in collecting a database on Chinese words. Any genius who knew not a single Chinese word before taking this course is, of course, unable to muster a database comparable to those of native Chinese.

However, a database without a logic system can never reach a critical mass to transform a chaotic database into an organized foundation. It can never become a knowledge for analyzing the unknown. On the other hand, a logic system while it has a small database not only can probe the unknown but is able to build up an organized database with a much faster speed.

In this test, 15 questions are not discussed in this textbook. If the reader of this book is unable to answer those 15 questions with an open book test, he has not truly digested this course.

For native Chinese college graduates, they have never learned Chinese written words in a systematic way. Although they know all those words in this test, they might not know the true and the original meaning of those words. In these 100 questions, if one can answer 30 of them correctly, then, my assessment of his understanding on Chinese word system was wrong. However, I am quite certain that 99.9999% of native Chinese college graduates will not reach this level. If one can answer 60 of them correctly, he is, then, having a foundation the same as the reader who has completed this course. Reader of this book might be interested in finding this out by giving this test to any Chinese friend who is around you.

Part one:

Every word always has an original (the default) meaning at its inception while it can acquire some derived meanings later. Under each word, some of its applications are listed as a hint. Its default meaning must be able to explain all those applications. Please answer two questions for each word.


  1. G
  2. f
  3. B
  4. J
  5. Q
  6. i
  7. N
  8. N
  9. d
  10. \
  11. C
  12. n
  13. C
  14. A
  15. T
  16. K
  17. j
  18. w
  19. t
  20. |
  21. J
  22. s
  23. N
  24. l
  25. U
  26. c
  27. X

Part two:

For the following words, why are they written as they are? Please explain.

Example: @ -- in English , a decade is 10 years, a generation is 20 years. In China, 30 years is one @ which is the fusion of Q (ten) and (twenty).

  1. ~
  2. }
  3. x
  4. R
  5. Y
  6. U
  7. w
  8. B
  9. g
  10. [
  11. d
  12. X
  13. d
  14. i
  15. ~
  16. M
  17. Z
  18. h
  19. W
  20. h
  21. K
  22. H
  23. R
  24. ~
  25. e
  26. d
  27. M
  28. F

The answers of this test are available in the Teacher's Handbook.