The Top 10 Chinese Novel Series: Finding the New Awesome Reads

In China, the word comic is translated as (manhua). The word itself originated from 18th-century literary painting. The word can be translated as impromptu sketches. The word and art did not come into popularity until it was re-introduced by the manhua pioneer Feng ZiKai. Nowadays, instead of physical prints, webcomics are much more popular throughout China. Similar to comics, novels were also able to maintain its popularity thanks to technology. The evolution of technology did not kill these literary cultures but instead helped it spread all around the world. Bigger websites for Chinese Manhua include QQ comics and U17, but today we will take a look at a website called wuxia world. 

Wuxia, in mandarin, means martial arts.This website is similar to Wattpad but their contents focus on translating popular comics and novels from Korean or Chinese to English. As their website name suggests, most of their contents have an element of martial arts to their plot. I tried reading the Chinese translation for novels on this website and I can say, it’s like discovering a new possible world to read. I find the use of Chinese terminologies and names made it easier for me to imagine a glimpse of the world the characters were in. I had fun reading some of their stories and I hope that you do too! So here are their top 10 most popular stories on the website

1. Against the Gods

The genres for this novel include action, comedy, fantasy, harem, mature, mystery, romance, and xuan huan. Xuan Huan is a category and the term can be translated into mysterious fantasy. 

The story talks about the main character Yun Che, who is hunted down for possession of a very strong weapon. He tried to escape by jumping off the cliff bringing the weapon with him but ended up reincarnated to a different body. His new body is named Xiao Che. His new body is weak but he has to be able to overcome the challenges he faces with the clan he was reincarnated into, his fiancee, and the adventure that comes with it. 

I find the novel very enjoyable with an interesting plot. Highly recommend it if you like all things related to the Chinese culture of ancient superpower, poison, martial arts, and other similar cultural practices. I love the character growth and overall a very enjoyable novel to read indeed. I have finished reading, but will hopefully do so in the future. 

2. Emperors Domination

The story is about the tale of Li QiYe. He was captured by an evil master and imprisoned in the body of a crow for hundreds of centuries. His fate was doomed until he was saved by an old man after hundreds and centuries of imprisonment. He then became a disciple of the old man starting his journey for revenge, friendship, and to become the next ruler of the heavens. He had one mission on his head, to beat the evil that had held him down, once and for all. 

I love the fact that this story is a fantasy story. If you like to imagine fighting scenes, shapeshifts and other similar stories, this novel will certainly suck you to that imaginative realm. Highly recommend it!

3. Nine Star Hegemon Body Art

This is a story of a merged soul. The confused main character Long Chen woke up from a brawl with his friends. He was often bullied by his peers, but after waking up, he was reminded of another memory where he was strong, arrogant and nothing like the Long Chen he is now. He decided then and there that he will become someone stronger and left his old self there. He started noticing mysteries surrounding him, suggesting to him that trouble is brewing. He is determined to solve it, even if it means going against the fate of the Gods where he is nothing more than just a pawn.

This series had multiple mentions of medicinal herbs and alchemy which I enjoyed reading. The plot was very interesting as you can see the growth of the main character from one chapter to another. You might find this novel series less interesting if you are not too into alchemy but otherwise, it’s a great series to read and very enjoyable. 

4. A Record of A Mortal’s Journey to Immortality

A poor and ordinary boy from a village joins a minor sect in Jiang Hu and becomes an Unofficial Disciple completely by chance. Nicknamed the second fool in his village, this is a story of an ordinary mortal who, against all odds, clashes with devilish demons and ancient celestials to find his path towards immortality.

The novel’s  synopsis above was taken from the website and in my opinion, is a great trailer to the awesome adventures the series holds. The start of the series is a bit slow as the earlier chapters had to explain all the background of the stories. However, despite the progression being a bit slow, it is worth reading, and would strongly urge you to try and read this series. 

5. Keyboard Immortal

Keyboard Immortal is a system-based story where our lead character Zu An is suddenly struck by lightning! He realized soon that he had entered another universe world where people can level up just like game characters. When the lightning struck, he was given a mission to gather 12 secret scrolls from the 12 unknowable regions, just like the f1-f12 keys on the keyboard, and was left on the streets until his WIFE?! Showed up to help him and started his journey. 

I honestly started laughing in the first chapter that I read. Zu An is the epitome of all characters constantly living in the modern world of “last 3 brain cells” working. Very humorous and fun to read. I am not very good with technology but this series is too good to be put down just because of my lack of love for technology. Highly recommend it. 

6. Beastmaster of the Ages

Our main character Li Tianming is on his journey of accession to be the number one beastmaster of the ages. He journeys across many worlds and yet one thing remains the same. No one is ready to face his pets. His pets include a small chicken which is an Eternal Infernal Phoenix that eats suns! His black cat is the Genesis Chaos Thunderfiend that refines worlds with its lightning. And also a cockroach. The Myriad World’s Deathless Beast possesses trillions of undying clones.

I fell in love with the series from reading just the synopsis. If you have not noticed, I love fantasy, and having fantasy pets is one of my favorite things to read. The fight scenes were epic and I fully enjoyed every detail the translation had carefully put in translation.

7. Martial World

In the Divine Realm, countless legends fought over a mysterious cube. After the battle, it disappeared into the void. A young man stumbles upon this mystery object, opening a whole new world to him. His name is Lin Ming, and this is his road of martial arts.

Reading the synopsis at first glance, I thought that the series might be interesting and decided to give it a go from there. Very glad to say that this series does not disappoint me. I’m very impressed with the world-building the novel was able to achieve. Everything is fictional yet felt very real at the same time. The translation team has done an amazing job at using adjectives that help describe and build the story for us readers who just crave all the fantasy that this story pours. I especially recommend this series if you have an interest in martial arts (of course as the title suggests) and love a good game like fight scenes. 

8. Warlock of the Magus World

What happens when a scientist from a futuristic world reincarnates in a world of magic and knights?

An awesome main character– that’s what happens!

A scientist’s goal is to explore the secrets of the universe and this is exactly what Leylin sets out to do when he is reincarnated. Dark, cold, and calculating, he makes use of all his resources as he sets off on his adventure to meet his goal. 

The flow of how the author writes this story still amazed me. It’s very easy to read and you do get a sense of immersion of the universe they had built. I find the new character very interesting and funny especially in the first few chapters when he just arrived at the new game-like world. The translation is high quality in my opinion and did a great job of bringing the world alive while you read. Highly recommend it. 

9. Tales of Demons and Gods

Killed by a sage emperor and reborn as his 13-year-old self, Nie Lu is given a second chance at life. A second chance to change everything, save his loved ones and his beloved city. He shall once again battle with the Sage Emperor to avenge his death. With The vast knowledge he accumulated in his previous life, he shall have a new starting point. Although he starts as the weakest, without a doubt, he will climb the steps towards the strongest. 

Like the many in this list, this series is a reincarnation novel. I find the main character’s growth great and enjoyable to read! More than the main characters, I find the sidekicks of the story’s growth very worth reading. Overall, I would recommend this as a good read. 

10. Necropolis Immortal

A great war raged between cultivators a hundred thousand years ago. Immortals fell by tens of thousands, the path of cultivation itself was severed, and after the dust settled, tombs forested the world. A hundred thousand years after the last legend faded Lu Yun, commandant of the tomb raider descended upon the world. Armed with the Tome of Life and Death, he had some burning questions to answer. 

This series brings a fresh new type of plot into the list, Post-apocalyptic Chinese fantasy. I enjoyed reading the series as it involved communicating with the dead *laughs*. The main character is not strong (just like the several others in this list) but adds depth into the plot making this series an enjoyable one to read. Please do give this one a try. 

Why Not Start Reading?

Surely afterall the reccomendations you may find one of the stories interesting. So why not give the novels a try? If you did try reading the series we mentioned or have read the series, let us know what you think about them in the comments below!

This article is written by Pandanese. Check us out at Pandanese!

Why the Chinese LOVE Their Money

People around the world, not just the Chinese, love their money. But the Chinese culture has a stronger fixation on money than perhaps other cultures. This belief is so popular that it is stereotyped in modern culture today. Stereotypes like the frugal Asian parents you see on tv are one of them. Some comedians, like Ronny Chieng, also mentioned money-obsessed practices in his comedy show.

Talking about money may come across as being too bold, intrusive, and even disrespectful in some cultures. Talking about money, however, is very normal and common in Chinese culture. The topic is so normal that the top 3 questions you get asked are always “Where are you from?”, “What do you do?” and “how much you make”. People asking you these questions are not just families and relatives, but can also be strangers you met on the bus. These questions are often used to determine a person’s reputation and credibility.

Cultural practices done during the Chinese New Year are one of the examples of the money-obsessed things you can notice. The simple greeting of 恭喜发财 (gong xi fa cai) is a must said phrase during Chinese New Year. This phrase literally means “I hope you get rich”. Additionally, there are traditions of giving red envelopes filled with money during Chinese New Year. This is to wish the receiver (most of the time kids) good luck at the beginning of the year.

The Mindset of Happiness: Money CAN Buy You Happiness

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I dare say that in Chinese culture money is very important, closely similar to the phrase “Money is everything”. Countering this is the phrase “money can’t buy happiness”. There are many things money can buy but there are also other things that it can’t. Money surely can’t buy happiness but when asking people who were raised in Chinese culture, they would probably disagree. Their thoughts once hearing the statement “Money can’t buy happiness” is that “No! Money CAN buy you happiness!”. 

Money can buy you a fancy house, a car and provide you with luxury vacations all on your single command. You would be happy when you can own the things you want and do the things you want to do! However, they would probably agree that even with all the money in the world, you can never buy true love. Love is another sensitive topic that we can discuss in another article.

Stability is very important in Chinese culture. Having money can buy you certain forms of happiness though not all forms. One should really be thinking at this point, where does such a mindset come from? 

Centuries-Old Cultural Practice

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It is said that this particular obsession with money could be influenced by centuries-old cultural practices. The Buddhism religion that helped build the society in China taught about the concept of karma. Karma means that whatever you do will come back to you. If you do good things, then good things will come back to you. If you do bad things, then bad things will come back to you. If you are born in a rich family, it’s because you were a good person in your previous life. Your good deed in the previous life has rewarded you with good luck and prosperity in this life with karma. Money is a symbol of luck and fortune in the culture. Money is also one of the rewards of Karma you can get in Chinese culture.

The Taoism belief also contributes to the concept of fortune and money in society. Taoism introduces gods and goddesses that can help you if you pray and worship them in return. One of the most worshipped, however, is possibly the god of wealth or money 财神(chai shen). By praying to the god of wealth, it is believed that you can gain more money or luck for your business.

Another cultural practice that you might find most familiar is perhaps the fish tank. In Feng Shui, the Chinese cultural belief of the flow of energy,  fish, and water symbolizes good fortune, prosperity, and wealth. Thus, putting a fish tank in the living room is believed to bring fortune to your house. Chinese restaurants around the world also often did this practice. You can also call a Feng Shui expert to determine the best flow of energy in your house or establishment. He can help you decide in which room should you put the fish tank. This is so you can retrieve the maximum amount of prosperity by putting the fish tank strategically.

Political History

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Another possibility that affects the importance of money in Chinese culture can also be the political history of China. This factor might just be the most important factor to influence the Chinese view of money. During the reign of general Mao, he enforced cultural reform as a means to eradicate capitalism in China. However, this change in system sent the country to the worst poverty recorded in history. During this period ⅓ of the country’s population went below the poverty line and starvation was everywhere. After the death of general Mao in 1976, Deng Xiaoping rose to replace his position. He made reforms to the economy and made China rise to wealth in one generation. One of the quotes he infamously said was, “To be rich is glorious”.  After China rose from the poverty line, they have continued to be one of the strongest economies we see today.

Imagine that when you are 7 years old, your house was small and food was hard to come by. Fast forward to when you were 17, you moved to live in a mansion and live in luxury. You see your family change for the better and gain the connection between money and happiness. The parents can also see that money has brought them better lives for their children and their needs. The things that they cannot do before, they can do now because they have money. The stability and safety that money provides are strongly ingrained in people’s heads during this time. That’s why many Asian parents encourage their children on certain career paths like doctors and lawyers. This is because these jobs are stable with a great reputation and bring great income in the long term. 

China’s Trade History

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The earliest record of trade in China dates back to the Qin dynasty in 2000 BC. China has been handling trade as a business ever since then and created a monetary system to support it. At this point in time, the rest of the world’s civilization is nowhere near what China was doing. Later they created the silk road during the Han dynasty which brought merchants from all around the world. The creation of the Silk road has made China a center for trade centuries before the existence of modern technology. Paper money was later invented along with a system of depositing. This system was very similar to the modern banking system that we know, minus the machines and internet.

For centuries that Chinese culture has understood the concept of doing business, trading, investing, and saving. Talking about money is as common in daily life now as it was 2000 years ago. 

China Now

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China is now the second country in the world with the most number of billionaires. Their average billionaire’s age is 37, one of the youngest averages in the world. However, with such high pressure and competition to make money, it has become unbearable for some. The cities have more job opportunities to make money compared to the rural area. This has made income disparity a problem in China. To make ends meet, many parents left for the city leaving their children and family behind. They had to leave their children behind as moving the whole family to the city would be too expensive. This led to the common situation for many families to only meet once a year during the Chinese New year. They have gone so far from their home country to make ends meet for their families back home.

Despite the crucial importance of money in society, there have been significant cultural shifts that focus more on finding happiness. Money will still remain a crucial part of the Chinese culture, but the growing importance of happiness might just match that of money. How does your culture view money? Let us know in the comments below!

10 Chinese Foods To Take You on a Tour Around China

When we learn about culture, food may not be the first thing that comes to mind. We probably first think of language, tradition, and religion when we hear the word culture. But food has remained an important aspect of culture that withstands the boundaries of language barriers. China is one of the few countries where they have a variety of cultural heritage in different regions. The term “Chinese Food” is sadly a generalization of the existing wonderful variety of cuisine that China has to offer. 

We often think that the best-tasting food comes from expensive ingredients or 5-star rating restaurants but this can never be further from the truth. In the words of Paul Prudhomme, an American Chef, “You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food” indicates that oftentimes the cheapest food found in humble market stalls and family recipes offers the most embodiment of culture into one single plate.

The Region Matters

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China is a huge country and the country is separated from the Qin mountain and the Huai River in the center planes of China. Geographers use the reference 秦岭淮河线 (Qin Lin Huai He Xian) which translates to the Qin mountain Huai River Line. This makes it very hard for the people to travel in between the region of North and South. This separation influences the cultural diversity and the development of cuisine between the North and South.  

The North

The North region loves their flour. I repeat they LOVE their flour. Originally, millet was more of the staple source of grain the people used for food. However, wheat gained mass popularity and became the staple source of food during the fall of the Tang dynasty. This preference led us to the wheat-based dishes the northern Chinese cuisine is famously known for. 

1. Knife Cut Noodles – Biang Biang Noodles

Knife-cut noodles originated from the Shaanxi province in the northwest region of China. They were originally a part of a poor man’s daily meal but now have gained popularity all over the world. The noodles are made of wheat, and instead of hand-pulled they were cut with knives, thus the English name knife-cut noodles. The name Biang Biang however, is what gives it the popularity it has now. The name Biang Biang is a dialect and its written form is not recorded in any Mandarin dictionary. Not only that, the written form of Biang has a whopping 58 strokes, 42 if it’s simplified which then went viral and rose to popularity for the noodles. You can check Wikipedia for the writing form because I can’t even type the characters here. The noodles are known to be wide and long just like a belt. It is later served with hot oil, mixed with chili and spices, giving it a fragrance that makes your mouth water. 

2. Dong Xiang Lamb – Gansu Province

Dong Xiang is a name of a region in the Gansu province in northern China. This region boasts to have the best lamb meat sources in China. If you ever visit the Gansu province, it is highly recommended for you to try their lamb dishes braised, stir fry, or even skewered. 8 months old mutton will be cooked delicately stir-fried as they have the softest texture of meat. The meat of up to 1-year-old lamb will be used in braised dishes and skewers as they maintain their fat and texture in higher heat better.

3. Lanzhou Beef Noodle Soup

Beef noodle soup is a staple in several regions in Northern China. The most popular, however, are the Lanzhou Beef Noodle soup. As the name suggests, the dish is best produced in the region of Lan Zhou. The dish is known for its elastic noodles, bone broth and tasty beef pieces served together. There are 5 features of an excellent Lan Zhou beef noodle soup. Those 5 features are clear soup, clean white turnips, brilliant red chili oil, green parsley, and yellow noodles. If one of these features did not exist, consider the dish, not a true Lanzhou beef noodle soup. 

The South 

The Southern Region, when compared to the North, has rice as their favorite food source. The southern preference for rice is similar to the modern meme of “Asians love rice”. The spread of millet and wheat only made their way in the northern region but never really made their way to the south as the region is separated by the Qin mountain and Huai river. The lack of transportation development then made it impossible to bring millet and wheat to the south. Instead of wheat and millet, the south has its own fixation with rice. Rice has been growing in the southern region since 3000 – 4000 years ago. These centuries of rice planting heritage have made rice an important part of the Chinese culture especially in the south. 

4. Rice Noodles

The first rice noodle is said to first originate in Guangzhou. Rice noodles still remain popular today. During the Qin Dynasty, an invasion from the North to the South started. The North people enjoy eating noodles made of wheat flour. However, when they invaded the south, wheat was scarce and there was only rice in the southern region because the southern people loved rice. This led to the northern people creating noodles from the rice in the south during their time of the invasion. Rice noodles still remain popular today. One of the most popular dishes of rice noodles would be the fried rice noodles. This is a Cantonese dish that signifies a Cantonese chef’s true skill. Because you would have to make all the ingredients cooked equally while still managing that the noodles do not stick to the wok or burn. 

5. Char Siu

Char siu originated from the Guangdong region in the south of China. Char siu is a dish although the name was given to the method of how the dish was made. Char siu is a Cantonese dialect and the word can be literally translated to “fork roast”, in Mandarin reading it is read as cha shao (叉烧). Although there are no specifications of which meat should be used, pork loin and pork belly remain some of the more popular cuts to be used when making char siu. 

Common and Popular Dishes all over China

Despite most dishes being divided based on their regions, many of these dishes gain popularity throughout the country. Here is a list of dishes that have made their way far and wide from their origin to the rest of the country and even internationally. 

6. Dumplings

Dumplings are popular everywhere in China. The creation of dumplings also differs from region to region. Take for example the infamous xiao long bao (小笼包). They originated from the Jiangxi province. The skin is made out of wheat flour, with broth and pork filling inside. Xiao long refers to the name of the bamboo basket to which they are steamed, whereas the bao refers to the buns. There are several ways to make this dish depending on where you are visiting. In the south, the dough of the skin is unleavened, thus they are thin and translucent with pork and soup fillings inside of them. If you go further to the northern regions, they are made with leavened though, thicker and usually bigger, sometimes twice the size of that made in the south. 

7. Dim Sum

Dim Sum is a Cantonese word where it can be translated as “to touch the heart”. Dim sum is strongly associated with “Yum Cha” or the practice of drinking tea accompanied by several small portioned snacks. This practice originated in the Guangzhou region and became popular in the 10th century when the region had an increasing number of tourists and travelers visiting the area. The Hong Kong dim sum style is now the most popular and well-known around the world thanks to their carts that circle the restaurant floors and offer guests to choose their dishes of choice from the carts. This tradition still lives on today and is an especially popular choice for family brunch. 

8. Hot Pot

Hot pot originated in Mongolia 800-900 years ago. Ingredients for hot pot then only include mutton and horse meat as they are the most staple ingredients available in the region. However, as they make their way to popularity across China, each region put their own signature twist to this ancient dish. The most famous is probably the Szechuan style. Hot pot is Huo Guo in Mandarin, but the Szechuan style was so popular because Szechuan peppercorn and other chilis are put in the broth giving the broth ma and la very fitting for Huo Guo (火锅) in the sense of “fire pot” instead of hot pot.

9. Buns

Buns are one of the most common dishes in China but are most popular in central China. The central region of China was said to be one of the earliest regions to use steam in cooking. Thus spreading the popularity of steamed buns across the northern regions of China and later to the whole country. Buns in mandarin are called bao () and are often equalized with the bread in the west and have different recipes and serving styles depending on the region. In the north, the buns are made from the north using millet flour or wheat flour.  In the south, rice flour is used instead of millet flour or wheat flour. This gives the buns created by the southern region, softer and gluten-free. The buns created from steaming are often called mantou (馒头). When the steamed buns are given filling “sweet or savory” then they are called “baozi” (包子). 

However, steamed buns are not the most classic way to enjoy buns in Chinese cuisine. The most classic way to enjoy buns is to bake them and eat them with marinated meat. Baked buns with marinated meat are popular throughout China but especially in the region of Xi An. This dish where the buns are baked instead of steamed and served with meat is named Gua Bao (挂包). Gua bao is now the most classic way to enjoy buns throughout China and pop culture around the world.

10. Pork Belly

Pork belly is a staple cut of meat in Chinese cuisine. You might recognize crispy pork also known as Shao Rou (烧肉). This style of pork belly cooking used a charcoal furnace and the meat seasoned with spices, vinegar, and salt. The most popular however is the red braised pork belly of Hong Shao Rou (红烧肉). The dish has several variations like the Dong Po pork from Hangzhou. But the most famous version of the red pork belly is the Hunan version where it was dubbed to be general Mao’s favorite dish. This later gave the dish a new nickname, Mao’s style braised pork (毛氏红烧肉).

What to eat next?

China serves many variations in its cultural heritage and practice. Their food dates back centuries old and has included many traditions, practices, and history in the way they are served, ingredients, and cooking methods. Let us know which dish made it to your next list of must eat!

Learning Mandarin: A Hard Must Thing To Do

Today, Chinese Mandarin is spoken by 15 percent of the world population. That is 1.3 billion people worldwide! So if you have 6 friends, know that 1 person in your friend group should speak Mandarin. Although spoken widely, it is undoubtedly one of the hardest languages to learn. The characters, the grammar, and the pronunciations are some of the most difficult aspects to learn. This is because Mandarin is completely different from English,  with different alphabets, grammar structure, and pronunciation. But are these really the only things that make Mandarin hard to learn? 

1. Hanzi

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The thing with the mandarin languages is the use of Hanzi, or simply known as the Chinese characters. They do not use Latin alphabets like English or many other languages, which makes it hard. There are 50,000 recorded Hanzi characters in the Mandarin language. However, only 20,000 out of the 50,00 characters recorded are still used on a  daily basis. Each character has different meanings and is read differently. A character is a combination of several strokes. You would have to remember all those lines, woosh, and slashes that made up the 50,000 characters that existed today. If you want to master Hanzi fast, you might want to consider learning them now 🙂

2. Tones and Pronunciation

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Writing and reading Chinese using Hanzi is one aspect of the language. But speaking it is a whole different spectrum you have to get to. Chinese is a tonal language. This means that all the words are differentiated by the pitch of the sound they make and their pronunciation. Two words can be read the same way but have different tones, which gives them different meanings. Give an example of shu (book) and shu (tree). If you get the tones wrong, people would understand the other meaning instead of the one that you meant. 

There are also challenges in pronunciation. The Mandarin language is a “monosyllabic” language. Each word only has one syllable to its pronunciation. Getting your pronunciation correct and accurate will need a lot of practice. For instance, beginner learners may find the pronunciation for “b” and “p” or “ch” and “zh” similar. Many beginner learners think that these words “sound the same” when in actuality they do not. Pronouncing them correctly just needs extra attention and practice. You need to put the effort into shaping your tongue and the shape of your mouth to get the correct sound. A hard challenge indeed.

3. Dialects and variations

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If you think that being able to speak and read Mandarin can get you everywhere in China, chances are, not really. This is because Mandarin Chinese has dialects and variations! These variations of the language and dialects vary from region to region and have a lot of differences as well as similarities. 

If you visit the Southern parts of the Chinese regions like Hong Kong, you will find that most of their populations do not speak Mandarin Chinese but Cantonese. Cantonese is not considered a dialect but more of a separate language as they are another linguistic form of Mandarin that was developed separately after the fall of the Han dynasty in 220 AD. They have 9 tones instead of the normal 5 tones in the Mandarin language. Additionally, they have different consonants, such as “l”, and different word endings, such as “k”. Cantonese still use the simplified characters of the Hanzi although there are some applications of the traditional mandarin characters in their writing systems. 

A common dialect that is still spoken today includes Hokkien which you can find spoken in mostly easter regions of China like Pu Jian. Hokkien sounds more similar to Cantonese but has 6 tones instead of 9. Their writing is more similar to Mandarin Chinese although they have incorporations of the traditional Chinese characters.

Variation of the Mandarin language, not only include the way they are pronounced but also the way they are written. The most popularly known variations of writing Mandarin are the traditional Chinese characters. Although the traditional characters are older and more complicated, some of these characters are still used in Cantonese and Hokkien as mentioned previously. Traditional Chinese characters are widely used in the region of Taiwan. Taiwanese people still speak Mandarin Chinese but write with traditional characters which makes it, of course, a lot harder than it already is.

4. Practice hours to mastery

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Learning Mandarin takes time. Learning it takes A LOT of time. One of the most time-consuming parts of learning the language starts with the Hanzi characters. Earliest records of Hanzi date back to the bronze age. Currently, there are 50,000 Hanzi characters on record with 20,000 used daily.  To read these characters, you have to learn them ONE BY ONE. You can’t expect yourself to automatically guess the reading of the characters. When learning how to read the Hanzi, you might find yourself learning simple Hanzi characters. Another method to learn the Hanzi characters is to learn starting with the radicals and their meanings. Learning the Hanzi in this way will create a great base to essentially create a guessing sense to know the meaning and or reading of the character. It is said that you need 2000 hours of practice to master the language. So getting you to the level of comfort for Mandarin will take 1000 hours. If you practice for one hour every day, that will take you 3 years to get comfortable with Mandarin and 6 years to master the language! Talk about investing time in learning.

Why Must I Learn Mandarin? Is It even Worth It?

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After all the difficulties that come with learning one language, you might be re-thinking your decision of NOT learning the language. But why is it a hard must thing? Must we really go through all the struggle and spend A LOT of time? Well, truth be told, learning ANY language takes time, dedication, and skill. Mandarin just takes more time and more skill but does not mean it cannot pay you back as learning other languages in the future. Consider it a must, because learning Mandarin has just as much worth as learning English. 

Making Friends

Although main speakers of Mandarin Chinese reside in China, being able to speak the language will help you spread your network, make friends and possibly open up new opportunities in the future. There are 40 million Mandarin speakers that live outside of China. One of them, or more, could just be your friend! Why miss an opportunity to make friends with someone who could be just as cool and awesome as you?

Business

If you are in business, chances are, you might have some connection to China later in the future. 13 percent of the world’s export and trade is led by China in 2020. Chinese businessmen are more likely to accept business deals when they know that someone on the other side speaks Chinese and understands the culture. This strong preference can be seen in the movie Crazy Rich Asian when Aunty Eleanour mentioned the term “Ka Ki Lang ”, meaning “our own kind”. This preference goes way beyond marriage partners with deep roots even in Chinese business culture today.

Travel

If you ever consider traveling to China, then why not learn Mandarin? China is also rich in culture with a vast number of unique traditions waiting to be discovered. Learning mandarin can give you a whole different experience. While learning Chinese, you will slowly learn their culture too. Learning a people’s culture will always give you an upper hand when you travel. You will know where to ask, what to do and what to look for. Essentially, you can get an authentic unique experience of culture and traditions without getting confused.

So, why not start learning Mandarin? Who knows what opportunities lie in the future for you!

500 Chinese Hanzi Characters Are Enough To Speak Like Natives?

In recent years, as China’s international influence continues to increase, the Chinese language is getting more and more popular around the world. Dignitaries around the world love to speak Chinese, business elites are keen to learn Chinese, and more schools include Chinese as the language test subject for graduation exams. Times magazine said: “If you want to be one step ahead of others, learn Chinese!”. However, for those whose mother tongue is Latin, learning English might be a piece of cake while learning Chinese is another story.

The important questions to ask about learning Chinese characters

So, the questions are: 

  1. How many Chinese hanzi characters do you need to know to achieve fluency in the language? 
  2. Will you be able to have a fluent conversation with the vocabulary of 500 Chinese characters?

In fact, this is a very interesting topic. Because, while there are so many topics about how many English words to learn to have fluent English communication, there is little discussion on the general guideline to learn Chinese. Let’s find out how many Chinese characters do you have to learn to be able to communicate with a native Chinese person and in Chinese naturally. 

Chinese learners’ experiences 

First, let’s take a look at some learners’ experiences

Once an American computer engineer was sent to China as a technical consultant. He was very interested in Chinese on the first day he arrived in China. Although he could not understand a word, he was very eager to learn. In his spare time, he learned it with his friends. Starting from the simplest pronunciation and handwriting. In three months, he studied about 500 Chinese characters, all of which were daily expressions. According to him, it was enough to greet people in Chinese, but if he started to have a small chat, he found out that he would not be able to understand even a joke.

A British girl also shared her experience. She said that Chinese was just too difficult to learn. She really admired the Chinese people who can learn such a complicated language. Someone told her that after learning words, Chinese people also have to learn classical Chinese or 文言文(wényánwén). She experienced so many difficulties in learning Chinese, such as the same characters having different pronunciations; the meanings expressed in different occasions are different. She has lived in China for 3 years and learned about 1,000 Chinese characters. Now she can only have a small chat in Chinese. But she can’t understand Chinese idioms and proverbs at all. So, it is hard to have a meaningful and smooth conversation. It is still difficult for her to pronounce and write Chinese characters. From her experience, it seems difficult to learn Chinese without systematic learning.

Another Korean said that although South Korea and China are neighbors, the cultural gap is quite large. The profoundness of Chinese hanzi characters cannot be learned in a short time. He said that he has lived in China for 20 years and has known more than 5,000 Chinese characters. Now he can communicate with Chinese people normally, as well as making jokes and even quoting famous sayings and so on. He confidently said that even the Chinese can’t tell that he is a Korean, unless he speaks Korean.

The answer seems clear that if you only learn 500 hanzi characters, it is obviously impossible to have a normal conversation in Chinese. Additionally, since the majority of Chinese will have an accent when they speak, it is even harder for you to understand fully. , Chinese primary school students generally need to learn 2000-2500 Chinese characters and adults’ basic vocabulary is about 3000-5000 Chinese characters.

Therefore, 500 Chinese characters that we can learn is considered a small amount. Also, based on the data above, it just seems like a “mission impossible” to learn Chinese since you have to study all of the characters.

However, let’s get real!

Whether you’re studying Chinese by yourself or in a classroom environment, you’re bound to encounter written Chinese as part of your curriculum. “How Many Chinese Characters Do I Need to Know?” is an important question to consider as a smart learner, no matter what your goals are!

So, in this post, you get to know how learning Chinese characters helps improve your language skill as a whole rather than just word recognition. Then, I will show you how many characters (as well as words) you should aim for to achieve basic, proficient, or fluent knowledge of Chinese.

It is important to remember that learning Chinese characters is not just about writing and reading. It can actually help you memorize new words and understand the language as a whole in a more meaningful way. Here are two big reasons why.

Characters help you identify the meanings of words

I discovered that this is especially useful when you’re still sharpening your tone-hearing skills.

I once bought a fridge for my apartment from a local seller. After buying it, the seller insisted (so I thought) that we needed to catch a train to get it to our apartment. As you can imagine, I respectfully disagree.

It turns out she said 货车 (huò chē) meaning flatbed or delivery truck, and not 火车 (huǒ chē) meaning train. The character 货 (huò) refers to deliveries. If I’d known the characters, I’d have had a better chance of distinguishing between those words.

Characters can also help avoid tone errors that often cause confusion and embarrassment

When I bragged about my first visit to Sichuan, the hometown of Panda, I talked about my experience with my friend whose nickname is Panda. I told him that I was so lucky to have the chance to touch the pandas and brush them. However, the whole time  I was saying xiōngmáo (胸毛, “chest hair”) instead of xióngmāo (熊猫, “panda”) which made my friend laughed so hard. Because to her, it seemed like the whole time, I was saying I was so happy with touching the panda’s chest hair and brushing it. I was so embarrassed and wished I knew the characters better so that I would avoid such funny moments.

Characters also help you remember words based on their components

You can make stories or jokes from them to create mnemonic devices.

For example, a classmate of mine once had a discussion about how 家 (jiā), a character meaning “home,” since the character is made up of a pig or 豕 (shǐ) under a roof or 宀 (mián). It shows that in ancient times, productivity was low, people normally raise pigs at home. So, a room with a pig became the symbol of home. That little insight made the word and its characters much more memorable.

Speaking of making them more memorable, calligraphy also happens to be an excellent study method for remembering characters. It’s especially helpful for visual learners and anyone who remembers better by doing.

By learning how to write characters artistically, you’ll gain a better sense of structure and stroke order. Once you get a feel of that flow, writing characters will become second nature to you. You’ll be improving your writing skills and memory retention for characters.

Plus, writing and reading this style of Chinese cursive writing will also help you later down the line when you’re trying to decipher any handwritten text.

Let’s not forget that practicing calligraphy is also an opportunity to connect with Chinese culture. Chinese calligraphy is a highly esteemed form of art in China, therefore a great way to show some cultural appreciation.

Chinese characters and Chinese words 

Before asking “How many Chinese characters do I need to know?” You might want to know the answer to “How many Chinese characters are there?”. The honest answer is a lot. There are roughly 50,000 characters in the standard national Chinese dictionary. Plus, new ones are still being created—you may find them online rather than in the dictionary.

Is there a Chinese alphabet?

Now that you know how many characters are out there, you might be wondering if there’s an alphabet system in place, and how many letters there are. The truth is that there is no Chinese alphabet.

There are some who refer to the pinyin system as the Chinese alphabet, but that’s inaccurate. Yes, pinyin uses the Latin alphabet to show how you’d pronounce Chinese characters, but that is the only use of pinyin letters and it cannot be used for creating words. It sounds confusing, just know that unlike the letters of Western alphabets, Chinese languages don’t rely on pinyin letters to formulate characters and words.

Chinese characters vs. Chinese words

To complicate things, Chinese characters can represent standalone words. They can also represent components for creating other words, ideas and concepts. 女() or female and 马() or horse are perfect examples of characters that are standalone words, as well as components for building other characters. When putting them together, they generate a new word mother or 妈()。

That means the combinations of characters like those from all kinds of words, which is great news for Chinese learners. Basically, a handful of Chinese characters can be combined and reorganized to express a wide variety of ideas—you don’t need to learn a new Chinese character for every new object or action that you encounter. Chinese is in a way very similar to English, simply combining verb and noun characters, you will have an action word. If you combine two noun characters, you will make a word.

For example, I list 8 characters that are each equivalent to a single English word:

  • (chī) — eat
  • (shān) — mountain
  • (hǎo) — good, well
  • (huǒ) — fire
  • (shàng) — up, on and good
  • (xià) — down, under and bad
  • (tóu) — head
  • (chē) — car

Now let’s do a quick exercise. By combining these characters, how would you say the following words?

  • Volcano
  • Wildfire
  • Mountain top
  • Go up the mountain
  • On the mountain
  • Come down the mountain
  • Under the mountain
  • Delicious
  • Good appetite
  • Train
  • The front of a car
  • The first car
  • Get on (as in getting on a bus)
  • In the car
  • Get off (as in getting off of a bus)
  • Under a car

Here are the answers:

  • 火山 (huǒ shān) — literally “fire mountain”
  • 山火 (shān huǒ) — literally “mountain fire”
  • 山头 (shān tóu) — literally “mountain head”
  • 上山 (shàng shān) — literally “up mountain”
  • 山上 (shān shàng) — literally “on mountain”
  • 下山 (xià shān) — literally “down mountain”
  • 山下 (shān xià) — literally “under mountain”
  • 好吃 (hǎo chī) — literally “good eat”
  • 吃好 (chī hǎo) — literally “eat well”
  • 火车 (huǒ chē) — literally “fire car,” referring to the wood and carbon fires that would power old-style trains
  • 车头 (chē tóu) — literally “car head”
  • 头车 (tóu chē) — literally “head car”
  • 上车 (shàng chē) — literally “up car,” describing your action getting onto or into a vehicle
  • 车上 (chē shàng) — literally “on car,” describing a position is on or in a vehicle
  • 下车 (xià chē) — literally “down car,” describing your action when getting out of a vehicle
  • 车下 (chē xià) — literally “down car,” describing a position is under a vehicle

Answers to the main questions

You can be fluent in English even if you don’t come close to knowing all of the 171,476 words in the Oxford Dictionary. Chinese isn’t any different in this respect. As you just learned, characters are both standalone words or components of other words and ideas. So, there are actually two questions that need an answer here:

  • How many characters do I need to know to have a fluent conversation?
  • How many words do I need to know to have a natural conversation?

As mentioned at the beginning, the average Chinese person needs to know around 3,000-5000 characters. Those characters represent a basic education level that can help you communicate in day-to-day life.

The word count is where your Chinese fluency goals come into play. Because Chinese fluency is generally measured by character count, it’s assumed that you’d be able to put those characters into words the way we did with the exercise above.

Conclusion

If you really want a character count, shoot for around 2,000 characters.

Base your character studies off of what you actually read, whether online, in a newspaper or whatever other media outside of a textbook is available to you. In other words, make sure you’re learning relevant Chinese characters.

With those 2,000 characters, you should be able to learn around 3,500 to 4,000 words. Just remember that fluently speaking those characters and words doesn’t completely depend on knowing how to read or write them.