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Mandarin, Classical Chinese

The Chinese written language can be dated back to the Shang Dynasty 3,000 years ago and ‘jiāgǔwén (甲骨文)’ carvings on animal bones and tortoise shells.


‘Wényán (文言)’ is classical Chinese and is the only surviving ancient script and has influenced wider East Asia such as Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese.


Vernacular or ‘‘báihuà (白话)’ is spoken Chinese consisting of ‘shēngmǔ (声母)’ (initials), ‘yùnmǔ (韵母)’ (finals), and ‘shēngdiào (声调)’ (tones). 


Each word generally has four different tones each containing a different meaning with a phonetic symbol indicating its pronunciation with one syllable and a single character forming most words e.g. ‘rén (人)’ or people.

Two or more characters can be combined into one single one for further visual representation for example ‘sēnlín (森林)’ or forest.

3,500 characters are deemed to constitute around 99% of social information. 


Almost 200 million people around the world were learning Mandarin by 2019. 

Learn 10,000 words and 1,000 sentences of Mandarin using the Digital Dragon Dictionary and find out more in Dawn of the Digital Dragon Dynasty: Countdown to the Chinese Century and Dawn of the Digital Dragon Dynasty: Chinese Culture e-books in Shop.

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