chinese mnemonics

The Loci Method – The Best System of Chinese Mnemonics

We have introduced you to the Chinese Mnemonics method and nine types of mnemonics to improve your memory. This article will guide you to the Method of Loci – the best system of Mnemonics and explain how it saves you years of time and frustrations in learning Chinese characters. 

The origin of Mnemonic

The term “Mnemonic” is derived from the name Mnemosyne, the Greek goddess of memory. By that, a mnemonic is any device that helps us to memorize a piece of information more effectively. Mnemonics have been around for thousands of years, and there are several widely used systems of mnemonics today. The most ancient and most popular of these is the “Loci method.”

So, what exactly is the “Loci method,” and how can we apply this method to Chinese mnemonics?

What is the “Loci” method? 

The method of Loci was implemented over 2000 years ago to help ancient Greek and Roman orators memorize speeches. “Loci” means “place” in Latin. It refers to particular spots within your memory palace (such as in the hallway, on the sofa, on the coffee table, etc.) where you place imaginary objects or people that represent what you need to remember. This memory technique is based on the idea that a person can best remember places they are familiar with. As a result, if you can link something (keywords, main ideas, items or a list, etc.) with a familiar area, the location can be the cue to help you remember what you are trying to memorize.

Using the Loci method, or the “journey method,” you can create a fixed route through your memory palace and visit it in a specific order. On the way through this route, you can interact with imaginary objects or people at each location that represents the information you want to remember. The Loci method can be very helpful in remembering things like shopping lists or speeches. To be more memorable, you can try to imagine unusual or even weird people or objects. For example, to remember to buy a flower vase, you might imagine it on your sofa with beautiful yellow flowers. 

These techniques were critical for copying information accurately before the days of paper (or smartphones), but they have since fallen by the wayside.

Proven effectiveness of the Loci method 

Over the years, memory athletes have developed many different variations of the Loci method to memorize certain kinds of information better. Most of these methods share four key elements in common: locations, people, objects, and actions. These are things that (almost) everyone can imagine very easily.

According to memory athletes, they usually apply these key elements to various sets of information and then create a series of scenarios involving remembering certain things, such as cards, numbers or digits of pi, or even lines from poems. For example, Marilyn Monroe in a diamond gown represents the queen of diamonds, Mohammed Ali wearing boxing gloves signifies the king of clubs, and so on.

Here are some world records using the Loci technique over the years: 

  • In 2002, Dominic O’Brien (England) memorized a shuffled sequence of 2,808 playing cards after looking at each card only once. He correctly recited their order, making just eight errors, four of which he immediately corrected when told he was wrong.
  • In 2015, Marwin Wallonius (Sweden) memorized 5,040 random binary numbers within 30 minutes.
  • In 2016, Alexander Mullen (USA) memorized a deck of cards in under 20 seconds by looking at each card only once.

According to fMRI scans and other brain research, these feats are unrelated to intelligence or a unique brain structure. On the other hand, it depends on different mnemonic strategies. Chinese mnemonics are no different; learners can improve their vocabulary over a period of 1-3 months of practicing. 

How to use the Loci method in Chinese mnemonics

First, think of a familiar route, such as a walk through your house. Next, imagine each part of the information you want to memorize in a different room or area of your house. Then, mentally put each item that you want to remember at one of the locations.

Finally, whenever you want to remember the items, just visualize your house and go through it room by room in your mind. Each time you walk through the memory palace, a memory should arise.

For example, here’s how it would work if you wanted to memorize these key talking points for a speech:

  • Mission
  • Customer service
  • Money-saving
  • Design

Imagine a huge banner with your company’s mission statement hanging on the door as you visualize your house. Don’t just imagine the words, try to imagine the lights flashing around the banner.

Now, open the door and walk into the living room, try to imagine a group of people rushing across the room to help someone (customer service) in the far corner. Then, walk through the living room to the dining room and visualize a piggy bank (money-saving) on the dining table. And last, envision beautiful paintings on your kitchen walls. 

Once you have walked through the memory palace, when you try to remember everything on your list, all you need to do is start from the front door. 

You can expand your vocabulary by applying the Loci method. Try to remember vocabulary for the furniture, decoration of the house, and each room, and then remember the “keyword” for your talking points or the paragraph you need to learn by heart. But how to remember a large number of words in a short time?

The best choice is to use flashcards. You can make your own flashcard collection with specific topics (such as Weather, Food, Clothes, etc.). Each flashcard should include the Hanzi character and the Pinyin on one side and its meaning (and possibly some illustrations) on the other side to help you remember better. You can carry them anywhere and revise the new words in your free time as the flashcards are small and lightweight. Don’t forget to make sentences or try to write a paragraph with each new word or topic so that you can bring Chinese closer to your life! 

You can also check out some of Pandanese‘s helpful tips on learning Chinese vocabulary: 

Pandanese is a Spaced Repetition Learning platform that allows you to learn up to 6,000 Chinese words in a year! You will be given a batch of flashcards in each lesson on a specific learning purpose (e.g., business, school, or travel). Each flashcard presents a radical, character, or vocabulary. With radicals, you need to remember the name. For characters and vocabulary, remember the meaning and spelling.

An example of Pandanese’s Mandarin radical flashcard

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The bottom line

The Loci method and other Chinese mnemonics have proven effective memorization techniques from ancient to modern times. Such learning methods allow you to recall greater amounts of information at a time. However, each of them has its strong point. While Loci is a great method to use when attempting to memorize speeches, lectures, or lists, Chinese mnemonics improve your memory by creating a strong mental connection between the one-to-be-remembered and the easily memorable ones. 

What is your favorite learning method? Share with us by dropping a comment!

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