l don’t know about you, friend, but I am all for celebrating as many holidays as possible! Chinese New Year is right around the corner on February 16, which is the beginning of the lunar year. Even if you don’t have a personal connection to China, learning about this holiday is a really fun way to discover more about another culture. Of course, as many of you know, our family traveled to China this past October to adopt “Scout,” so we have an extra special reason to celebrate!
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing several posts about Chinese New Year so you can decorate, eat, and celebrate with your own family. The first thing I want to teach you, though, is a little tiny bit of Mandarin Chinese! You might be familiar with the fact that China has a zodiac system where each year is assigned a particular animal, and everyone born in the year is thought to have certain personality characteristics. 2018 is the year of the dog, so we’re going to learn how to form the character for the word “gŏu”, meaning “dog.”
One way to read and write Chinese is called pinyin, which uses the Roman alphabet to spell out the words for us Westerners so that we can try to sound them out. Four types of accents appear over certain letters to help speakers figure out what tone of voice to use when speaking the word. However, native Chinese speakers are much more likely to use characters instead. One thing I learned pretty quickly from watching Scout write is that there is a particular order in which the strokes are drawn as you create a character. Here is a quick step-by-step look at the correct way to draw this particular character. I recommend using a brush pen if you have one, but if not, any pen or marker will do.
Step 1: Make a short diagonal stroke from top right to bottom left.
Step 2: Form a “t”-like shape by crossing the first line in a downward motion. At the bottom, flick your pen back up slightly.
Step 3: Make a third line. This one should be at the same angle as your first one, beginning at the stem of the “t” shape and extending out slightly farther than the top line.
You’ve now completed the left side of the character. Let’s move to the right side.
Step 4: Form a short line to the right of your existing ones, moving your pen from top to bottom.
Step 5: Beginning in the center of that short line, move your pen to the right, down, then slightly back up. This shape will resemble a “7” with a little tail.
Step 6: Draw a short straight vertical line in between the two halves of the character.
I tend to think of this part like I’ve made a dog house and now I’m going to put the dog inside.
Step 7: Draw another shape similar to a “7” coming off of your first line.
Step 8: Draw a horizontal line to finish the square.
That’s it! You’ve now created the Chinese character for “dog”! You can experiment with different pens and markers, an Apple Pencil, paints, or anything else you like. Later in the week, I’ll be sharing a quick and easy craft we made where we used black paint and a small paintbrush to create this symbol.
Another thing I learned about Chinese characters is that although not all of them are visual representations of their meanings, some of them do suggest their definition by their shape. Just for fun, I thought I’d show you how I see a dog in this character…
Ready for some practice?
Here’s a quick, free practice sheet I created just for you. You can practice this character, along with the one for “Chinese,” and the English words, “new year.” To use it, just download it to your computer or device, then print it out as many times as you like. Or, you can open it in an app like Procreate on your iPad Pro and practice digitally.
Stay tuned for more Chinese New Year fun coming soon!