Learn Chinese Characters With Etymology/Genealogy?

I have been intrigued by the idea of learning Chinese characters by basing them all around simpler characters that build up to them. I don’t really care about the accuracy of the etymology of the characters, but what I really want is a systematic way to remember characters. I have tried “Remembering Traditional Hanzi 1” by  Heisig and Richardson (which I realize is not meant to be etymological, but mnemonic) , but I can’t say I like it too much. I like the philosophy of it, but I see a few major problems with it.

And so, I turned to “Chinese Characters A Genealogy and Dictionary”. The author claims that over 4,000 characters can be made with just 182 pictographs and ideographs, and that with these 182 fundamental characters, one can derive the meaning, or both the meaning and the pronunciation of a character. What I plan to do is just go though the book’s charts and make flashcards out of each of the characters in the charts with their meanings and mnemonics and such (it is available online at I honestly haven’t learned too much form this book so far, as I just got it, but I was wondering, can anyone who has used it, comment on it’s efficiency in using the base 182 pictographs/ideographs as mnemonics to help remember the characters? Also, could someone explain to me how one can infer the pronunciation from the pictographs/ideographs? For example, the character for “government department” (1,10) is pronounced “ya2” but says that it derives it’s phonetic pronunciation form the character “I, we” (1, 5) which is pronounced “wu2” ...I don’t see the connection, accept that they are both the second tone...Also, if you could comment on the accuracy of this book (as I think I have seen several mistakes in pinyin tone markings) that would be great also.

Anyways, then I came across the book “Chinese Etymology” by Tienzen (Jeh-Tween) Gong. The author claims that:

<ol> <li style="list-style-type: decimal; font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; background-color: transparent; font-weight: normal; vertical-align: baseline;">“Chinese written word system is an 100% root word system with only 220 root words, and it could be simpler than the high school geometry.”</li> <li style="list-style-type: decimal; font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; background-color: transparent; font-weight: normal; vertical-align: baseline;">“The original meaning of every Chinese word can be read out loud from its face, and any high school student who did not know a single Chinese character could master the Chinese word system within six months.” (<a href=""></a>)</li> </ol>

He goes on to talk about the system and how someone won a world record with it and such. The problem is that the book is quite (and when I say quite, I mean very, very) expensive - $700. So, I was wondering if anyone has used this book, what they think of it, if it works, if his claims are true, etc. I am willing to buy it if it actually works, but $700 is a lot to spend to find out it doesn’t work.



Feb 25, 2012 1:22 AM
Comments · 1

I wonder how useful this book might be in learning - especially if your interest is in Simplified Chinese.  But the author offers this guarantee:

"Note: Money back warranty: if a reader has truly mastered the material in this book while is unable to read Chinese newspaper, the money will be returned, and the reader can keep the book."

. . . . although he has set up a paradoxial condition for money back return.

I find it also a little bizarre (maybe he is a polymath) he claims to have expertise in physics and absolutism in religion.

February 25, 2012