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Analysis of Chinese Characters (Dover Language Guides) Paperback – Facsimile, 1 Nov 1975

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa119109c) out of 5 stars 11 reviews
68 of 71 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1576cb4) out of 5 stars Interesting reading, poor real-world reference. 7 Mar. 2001
By Dale Dellinger - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is an interesting book about the history of some 1002 characters. Each character is dissected into its radical and phonetic parts with etymology provided for each part and the combined whole. Originally published in 1922 and 1934 in China, so the characters are "traditional" and the phonetic spelling is unfortunately using the outdated Wade-Giles system (Beijing would be spelled "Peiching"). This book is better for browsing than for reference -- I've found it frustrating to try and look up words in it with only the alphabetical (Wade-Giles) and pure stroke order (not grouped by radical) indexes. It is also lacking any sort of English to Chinese index.
A major shortcoming of this book is that it doesn't really tell you how the characters are used. There are no examples and it ignores completely that Chinese characters usually don't stand alone but are used in combinations to form words.
A better all-around book that gives a short summary of the origin of each character plus can really be used for reference (and shows how character are combined to form words) is Rick Harbaugh's "Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary".
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa31190a8) out of 5 stars Spectacular book 27 Dec. 1998
By Moises Romanowsky ( - Published on
Format: Paperback
The book's only flaw is its use of a dated romanization, Wade-Giles, instead of pinyin. Otherwise it is a fascinating study of 1000 Chinese characters. The characters' parts are examined thoroughly and then we are shown how the joined pieces make up both the sound and meaning of the original character. I don't understand how such an interesting part of learning and understanding Chinese has been neglected. If you are learning Chinese, do not covet this book. Buy it! Now!
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa19b1648) out of 5 stars Dated, but very useful 23 Oct. 1998
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
I have the 1974 printing, which is an unabridged reprinting of the 1934 second edition. Since the number of pages is the same as the current edition, I assume there are no changes.
The analysis is of traditional, rather than simplified characters, and the romanization system used is not Pinyin, but the older Wade-Giles. This makes the book of somewhat limited use to those trying to understand Chinese characters as they are written in the PRC, but it is still a very interesting work. It meets a need similar to that of Michael Rowley's Kanji Pict-O-Graphix, but for Chinese, rather than Japanese. (Rowley's book, however, is more accessable.)
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa19b1edc) out of 5 stars Old Book, keep looking for a better one 18 Aug. 2005
By Carolina Hernandez Diaz - Published on
Format: Paperback
First: I don't recommend this book, for several reason:

1.-This book it's not updated since 1974, you can check this because it's horrible printed, and it's hard to identify some chinese characters.(old-yellow paper too)
2.-There are no logical order to look for the chinese symbols, (some of the caracthers can be find by radical, but not all) so you can spend the rest of your life trying to find the word that you need.
3.- This it's not an analysis, it's more a dicctionary (with no order) than an analysis, so if you want to learn how are related the symbols, chinese culture, or at least some history of chinese calligraphy, you are losing your time, you will find just meaning of the symbol.
4.-It doesn't invite you to read it.
5.-Uses the old method to write pinyin, obsolet at this moment (it's not oficial for the chinese government). For new student this book differs to the actual method.
6.-It's for study traditional chinese, it doesn't include the simplified symbol.-
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa19b2438) out of 5 stars Usual Mistakes - Not a True Reference Work 28 Sept. 2006
By Jonathan A. Waller - Published on
Format: Paperback
Unfortunately, this book book appears to make the usual errors and promote the myths of Chinese characters. Excellent (perhaps) if all you are after are memory aids, but dangerous if you are after true etymology. I bought it on recommedatopm for the latter and was sorely disappointed.

Although the second entry (ä wo3 I) does mention that it may be a hand cluthcing a spear, it's first explanation is that of two lances facing each other, which unfortunately is wrong. Not a bad memory aid, but it is not going to help a student who is after true etymology.

The fifth entry (~ì men plural) gives the fanciful idea that the two leaved doors (right side of the character) may denote plurality, as opposed to single swinging door. It totally neglects the fact that this is a phonetic. Interestingly, this book uses the word phonetic, but, from the brief flick through that I did, it never says that the phonetic is there for its sound, but makes up a fanciful story.

Sorry, but I stopped reading at the fifth entry and flicked through a bit. Now it will just take up a bit of space on the book shelf and impress friends who visit and can say, "Wow, you have a lot of books on Chinese characters." If I don't like them I might even lend it to them!

Pros: Printing is much more readible than Wieger's, seems to break down characters into smalller components, good for memory aids (but not the genuine meaning), gives some of the older forms of the characters.

Cons: Not reliable etymology of Chinese characters. Doesn't appear to discuss that phonetics are in fact phonetics. Outdated pinyin system (which can be learned relatively easily and probably necessary if you are going to be diggin around in older reference works)

Anyone who recommends this book for its etymology does not know much in the way of truth about Chinese characters, and may be poisoning your mind!

I would recommend without hesitation McNaughton and Li's "Reading and Writing Chinese: A Comprohensive Guide to the Chinese Writing System". It may not be exactly what your after in the way of etymology, but it is much more reliable, and Harbaugh's "Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary", but I would encourage you to read reviews on this one first.
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