One of my most painful memories about math was learning how to use fractions. I actually learned them well. In fact, a bit too well. Once I was introduced to fractions, I started using them for everything, even for situations where I shouldn’t have. As a result, I ended up with an awful score on my next exam.
Thus, as someone who has not had good experiences with math, I generally avoid anything math-related, unless it truly helps my students learn Chinese Mandarin. Today, we are going to look at Chinese character riddles. Unfortunately, some of these riddles do involve a little math. However, I feel that it is warranted because these riddles will really help you to better understand the mechanics of these characters.
So, our challenge for the day is to imagine a character being broken up into individual strokes and pieces, and placed among other non-relevant components. Your goal will be to piece them together and to create one single character out of all those clues. This can be quite tricky, being that one “wrong step” will derail you from the correct answer. However, I am sure that you can do it. So, are you ready to take on this challenge?
The game that we are going to play is called 猜字谜语 (cāi zì mí yŭ). A riddle is called 字谜 (zì mí) and the answer is called 谜底 (mí dĭ). Our objective is to 猜一个字 (cāi yī gè zì), or to guess one single character. Thus, the answer to the riddles that we are going to look at in this game should only be one character. If you are thinking of more than one character, you are on the wrong track.
|猜字谜语||cāi zì mí yŭ||character riddles|
|字谜||zì mí||character riddle|
|谜底||mí dĭ||the answer to a puzzle/riddle|
|猜一个字||cāi yī gè zì||to guess a character|
One of the most common solutions is to arrange all the given characters in a way that forms a new character. This new character often does not have anything to do with the meaning of the riddle.
In this riddle, we are given the individual parts of the answer, 一 and 人. If we put the character 一 on top of 人, then we have an invalid character. However, if we put 一 somewhere in the middle of 人, then we have created the character 大. For this type of riddle, it is all about positioning the given components. We just have to place the 一 in the correct location on 人 to create the character 大.
|一人||yī rén||one person|
When you see these kind of riddles, you just have to figure out the correct placement of the character components. However, there are times when only some of the riddle characters are used.
For this riddle, we are only going to use three out of the four characters given to form the riddle’s answer. The 一 is used to indicate how many of a particular character there are, such that 一月 means that we only have one 月 character in the riddle answer. As for the other characters, we are going to be using all of them as part of the solution. And just so you know, 七日 does not mean that the answer character will be written with seven 日s!
So, the new character consists of a 月, 七 and 日 component. Putting these components together, we get 脂.
If we look at 一月七日 as a standalone phrase, what date does it represent? If you need a refresher, check out my time article here.
So, here are a few more riddles for you to figure out. The answers will be right below the last question. However, you should try to solve the riddles first before having a look at the answers.
问题一 (wèn tí yī) Question one
问题二 (wèn tí èr) Question two
问题一 (Question one)
This is just good old “what’s one plus one?” but in Chinese! And nope, the answer is not eleven.
For this one, we are going to think of our 加 (jiā) as the plus sign, so it will look like a + (or 十, the Chinese character for the number ten). Therefore, the components of the riddle’s answer are 一, 十, and 一. Rearranging the components, we get 王 by placing one 一 on the top and one 一 on the bottom.
问题二: (Question two)
Let’s look at 一百 first. The 一 indicates how many 百 we have. 一 is not part of the new character. So, we start out with one 百 character, and then we add something to it.
After 百, we have a 减. The 减 is not a component of the riddle’s answer. Instead, it is telling you to subtract something from the character 百. After 减, we have 一. So, we need to remove the character 一 from the character 百. Once we remove that 一 component, we get 白.
加 and 减 are frequently used in math classes. They mean “to add” and “to subtract” respectively. The word order is exactly the same as in English.
Aside from math classes, you can also use these in daily life. We tend to pair them with another character (the meaning remains the same though).
|多加||duō jiā||add more|
|再加||zài jiā||add more|
|减少||jiăn shăo||subtract, cut back|
How did you do with this challenge? Were you able to place the correct components in the correct locations? Or are you itching for more? If you are, then you do not want to miss the next article. The next article brings back our good old friend Chengyu and additional techniques. As TV heroes are often told, “great power comes with great responsibility.” With these additional tools, the difficulty of this challenge increases three-fold! So, stay tuned for the next article if you are looking to challenge yourself even more.