Increase Chinese Skills by Reading


To increase your Chinese skills can have various kinds of methods. We recommend the book of Hundred Family Surnames 百家姓 [Bai Jia Xing] for you to practice your Chinese. It is a classic Chinese text composed of common Chinese surnames. The book was composed in the early Song dynasty. You can play the video tutorial at below and read after the teacher. The tutorials present both the simplified Chinese and traditional Chinese characters, annotated with Pinyin. It helps Chinese learners to familiarize themselves with the memory of hundred surnames through reading. 二个百家姓视频,正文简繁对照,注有拼音,通过领读帮助汉语学习者熟悉记忆百家姓。可以在下面免费下载文字材料。
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Increase Chinese skills by reading 百家姓

The Chinese Hundred Surnames,百家姓 [Bai Jia Xing], is a document written during in the tenth century. It lists all of the known Chinese surnames in use at the time, which amounted to 438. (The word hundred in the title is used to mean many or all. Thus many old books use the term “hundred surnames” to mean the whole population.) The surnames are given in a prescribed order and arranged in the form of a poem to facilitate memorization by school children. The surnames are in no particular order but there are two exceptions. The surname leading the pack is Zhao, which happens to be the surname of the Song dynasty, the ruling dynasty of the time. The next several surnames also appear to be related to other important personages of the era. The second exception is that all double-character surnames are grouped near the end of the document.

In the one thousand years since the document was produced, there have been many new surnames in use. Recent surveys have identified over ten thousand surnames but the importance of the document has not diminished. Surnames for the Hundred Surnames still account for 90% of all Chinese surnames in use. In fact, the top ten surnames account for 40% of the population.

To increase Chinese skills, the students should memorize Chinese characters as more as possible. Since Chinese did not use an alphabet, your reading aloud after the teacher is an effective, though time-consuming, way of giving a “crash course” in character recognition before going on to understanding texts and writing characters.

Every nation has its own culture of names. The Chinese nation is no exception. The names of the modern Han nationality consist of a surname and a personal name. As early as over 5000 years ago, the Han nationality acquired its surnames, including Jing and Shi. But at the beginning Jing and Shi were different. Xing originated in a matrilineal society. The descendants of the same mother used the same surname. As a result, the earliest surnames of the Han nationality have, in the most part, a lateral radical female, for example, Jiang, Yao, Yang, and so on. She came into being in a patrilineal society. For example, Huangdi, the yellow emperor was addressed as Xuanyuan She, but his surname was Ji; Yandi was called “Lieshan she” with Jiang as his surname.

The Han surnames are divided into two types, single-character surnames and compound surnames, with the former outnumbering the latter. Over a 1000 years ago, a scholar of the Song Dynasty compiled one hundred surnames, a popular rudimentary book in China, in which were listed 444 single-character surnames and 60 compound surnames with 504 surnames in all. However, this data was by no means complete. According to a survey, the surnames used by the Han nationality amount to about 3000 with Li being the most numerous, to be followed by other often-used single-character surnames Wang, Zhang, Liu and Chen. Popular compound surnames are Zhuge, Ouyang, Sima and so on.

In giving a personal name to a child, the Chinese people attach importance to its connotation. For example, the characters fu, gui, Jian, kang mean that the child may grow healthy and happy; Jie, Cai, De, Ren express the hope that the child may grow up to be a capable and virtuous person. Personal names are usually characterized by sex with Hu, Shan, Lei and other character for males and Li, Yang, Feng and so on for females. Many clans or families have kept family trees. The male members of a clan or a family should use the character stipulated in the family tree as a part of his personal name.

In ancient times, people of high position also had a style and an alternative or literary name in addition to his surname and personal name.

Hopefully the above background information is helpful to increase Chinese skills more.


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