Course Outline and Syllabus

  1. In the book The meeting of East and West, Dr. Northrop wrote, "... in the symbols of the Chinese language, where each solitary, immediately experienced local particular tends to have its own symbol.... This automatically eliminates the logical whole-part relation between one symbol and another that occurs in the linguistic symbolism of the West.... ... the ideas which these symbols convey particulars rather than logical universals, and largely denotative rather than connotative in character. Certain consequences follow.... the type of knowledge which a philosophy constructed by means of such a language can convey tends necessarily to be one given by a succession of concrete, immediately apprehendable examples and illustrations, the succession of these illustrations having no logical ordering or connection the one with the other.... ... Nowhere is there even the suggestion by the aesthetic imagery of a postulated scientific or a doctrinally formulated, theological object." (page 322)

    If Chinese written language were the same as Dr. Northrop's description, there would have been absolutely no need of any China study, as China could not have mounted any true and meaningful rising.

    Yet, Dr. Northrop was not truly wrong. All native Chinese learns the Chinese written language in the same way as Dr. Northrop's description for over two thousand years. Most of them do not learn it as a knowledge. It is a part of their life, and they learn it by burn-in. Today, the college graduated native Chinese knows about 6,000 Chinese words, about 10% of all Chinese words (60,000). Furthermore, every new word is just as new and as difficult for them the same as the first word they learned. The accumulated knowledge (6,000 total) is of no use because every Chinese word for them is, indeed, solitary, denotative and without any logical whole-part relation, exactly the same as Dr. Northrop's description. For a foreigner to learn Chinese written language in the same way as the native Chinese does, the best that he can be is a second class Chinese, a tag-along.

  2. Furthermore, in an analogy, the nuclear engineering is an application of nuclear physics. Without knowing the detail of nuclear physics, no one can be a true nuclear engineer. In another analogy, steam engine could be invented before the development of Thermodynamics. Yet, without Thermodynamics, the invention of jet engine would be near impossible. The applications (read, write) of Chinese written language can be as the case similar to the invention of steam engine which could be done without the knowing of Thermodynamics. Yet, in order to master Chinese written language truly, one must learn it as a knowledge. However, no comprehensive textbook on Chinese written language as a knowledge was ever written during the past five thousand years. It was treated as foods. One must digest hundreds of books in order to discover the true essence.

    This course to Chinese written language is similar to nuclear physics to nuclear engineering and Thermodynamics to the jet engine design. This course will cover all fundamental issues on Chinese written language, many of which were not discussed ever before.

  3. Picking up a bad habit in golfing, it is a killer for the game. The nuclear physics and genetics are two different subjects. There is no reason to mix them up. English is a perceptual language with parts of speech and tenses, etc.. Chinese is a conceptual language without parts of speech, nor tenses. Please see the article The Culture energy of China at

    In short, there is no reason to mix up the English grammar with Chinese language logic. Any teaching of verbs and predicate in Chinese language is, at least, going to catch a bad habit as Chinese words have no parts of speech, nor numbers, nor cases. It is, in fact, flatly wrong. It could even be intentional misleading. In conceptual language, all actions are treated in the conceptual level. That is, there are action describing words but no verbs in terms of grammar. In fact, every word can become an action word in Chinese. Even the word "one" can become an action word, such as, "I one it," which means that "I make it to become one." Of course, a comparison between Chinese language logic and English grammar is the most helpful. As we must teach nuclear physics as nuclear physics and genetics as genetics, we must teach Chinese language as Chinese language, not placing a sheep head on a wolf's body.

Table of content

  1. Sample textbook

  2. About Chinese word roots:
  3. About making the written words.
  4. About words with identical pronunciation and one word with different pronunciations.
  5. About Chinese sentence pattern.
  6. About reading the meaning of each Chinese word out loud from its face. 解 文 釋 字

  7. 成 語 (Chinese idioms):
    English idioms are purely language entities. On the contrary, Chinese idioms are not simply grammatic language phrases. If we read them grammatically, they will not always make any sense and often become jokes.

    Chinese holidays, cooking and even history are, of course, parts of Chinese culture. Yet, they will not show the Chinese value system and Chinese ways of thinking directly.

    Behind every Chinese idiom, there was a story, and that idiom describes the virtue of that story. It uses 4 to 6 words to describe that very complicated story. So, every Chinese idiom encompasses three important dimensions,

    In this course, two hundred commonly used Chinese idioms will be described. The original text ( 出 處 ) of those idioms will be provided in the teacher's handbook.

  8. Advanced topic (see example)

Appendix -- the meaning of word roots in the sample textbook.

  1. M10 ( 搴 、 寨 ) is the compound root for 人 之 「 險 地 」 。 險 地 有 冰 為 寒 。 險 地 有 貝 ( 寶 ) , 人 競 賽 之 。
  2. M11 ( 蠻 、 戀 ) is the compound root for 人 關 心 之 「 細 物 」 。 孌 , 美 女 , 人 盼 之 女 。
  3. M12 ( 寮 、 僚 ) is the compound root for 燎 。 地 上 火 坑 為 燎 。 燎 原 。 台 上 之 火 為 「 燭 」 。 棍 上 之 火 為 「 炬 」 。 室 中 地 上 有 火 為 「 寮 」 。 同 寮 者 為 「 僚 」 。
  4. M13 ( 股 、 投 ) is the compound root for 手 持 杖 打 … ( 人 、 物 ) 。
  5. M17 ( 假 、 暇 ) is the compound root for 狐 假 虎 威 。

Course Outline and Syllabus for AP Chinese

Copyright © 2006 by Tienzen (Jeh-Tween) Gong