Stories from Ancient China: Changjie, Creator of Chinese Characters

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According to ancient Chinese legend, Chinese characters were created by Changjie. He was the personal historian to Fu Xi and the Yellow Emperor.

Changjie, creator of Chinese characters. (Ilustrated by Yeuan Fang, Epoch Times Staff)

One day, while walking in the mountains, Changjie came across a giant turtle. The blue lines on that turtle’s shell drew his attention.

He studied the lines carefully and found intrinsic meaning in their patterns. He had the idea that people also could express thoughts and meaning or record things by simple symbols like those on the turtle’s back.

Changjie observed the distribution of the stars, the landscape of the earth, the shapes of creatures and vegetation. From these observations he created various symbols and gave different meanings to them.

Then he tried to express his thoughts by using these symbols and he found people could understand the symbols and the meaning he wanted to communicate. Changjie then translated these symbols into “words” and Chinese characters were born.

Each character created by Changjie had its own meaning. This is different from languages such as Arabic, Russian and English where letters represent sounds that form words, which carry meaning. In Chinese the symbol itself carries meaning.

Thus, those Chinese characters that retain ideographic meaning preserve in their every stroke the reality of our Chinese ancestors’ lives. One can grasp the spirit of Chinese culture by studying Chinese characters.

The Chinese character is not just a symbol for language and human civilization, it is also pregnant with human experience. With characters, our cultural history can be recorded and preserved for generations.

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