beautiful chinese words

13 Most Beautiful Chinese Words with Fascinating Hidden Meanings

Do you think the word pulchritudinous is beautiful?

It’s not light and flowy, and it even sounds like it implies something negative. But in fact, it’s a synonym for lovely and gorgeous.

In this case, the meaning makes the word beautiful.

That’s how the most beautiful Chinese words work, too. You can find their beauty in the composition, history, intent and meaning of the characters.

In this post, you’ll learn 13 Chinese words with deep meanings, which can be uncovered by looking closely at their characters.


1. (ài) — to love; affection

In its traditional form, includes the character (xīn), the word for heart. The rest of components represent actions, so all the parts together mean to love with your heart and through your actions.

Although doesn’t appear in the simplified version, does include (yǒu) underneath (mì), which means bringing a friend into one’s house.

In that aspect, the underlying message of affection and bringing a close one to your heart isn’t lost in the simplified character.

2. (chuàn) — to string together

is one of those really interesting characters that’s a true visual interpretation of its definition.

What looks like two boxes connected by one stick, it’s no surprise that translates as “to string together” and used as a classifier for things that are either skewered (like barbecue) or strung together (like words).

3. (cōng) — clever

Intelligence is more than just brains, and this character for “clever” shows just that.

When we take apart, we have (ěr) meaning “ear” and (zǒng) meaning “to collect” or “altogether.”

also appears in 总, so if you think about it, being smart doesn’t just mean thinking with your head. It also means using your ears and heart.

4. (jiā) — home

The word for home or household can be divided into two sections: (mián) which represents a roof and (shǐ) which is the word for “swine.”

It’s weird to think that a pig plays a part somehow in the definition, but in the past, families were considered to be wealthy if they reared pigs.

Chinese culture regards the pig as a symbol of good fortune and prosperity, so may represent the objective to have a well-off household.

5. (míng) — bright; to understand

is made up of the characters (rì) and (yuè), the “sun” and “moon” respectively.

While the moon is only visible when sunlight reflects off of it, the two characters are put together because light can’t exist without darkness.

Using that philosophy, can also be related to enlightenment and clarity, included in terms like 明白 (míng bai) which means “to understand” and 说明 (shuō míng) which is “to explain.”

6. (rěn) — to endure

When we take the components apart, the top portion (rèn) is “blade” while the bottom portion is or “heart.”

Put together, can be perceived as a knife piercing the heart to demonstrate the pain associated when one has to endure or to tolerate.

7. 森林 (sēn lín) — forest

(mù)—”wood”—appears five times in this term. So it’s natural that characters composed of several would mean a forest or wooded area.

The construction of the character is literal and overall very simple, yet there’s such a beauty in this simplicity.

8. (wǔ) — military

can be divided into two parts.

The first part is (yì), which was modeled after an ancient weapon and means “to shoot with a bow” or “to arrest.”

The second part of this character is (zhǐ), which means to “to stop” or “to desist.”

Historically, the Chinese military believed that the true power came from subduing the enemy without the use of weapons, and that weapons were only to be seen as the last resort.

9. (wǔ) — five

To the average person, doesn’t seem like it’s anything special considering it consists of five lines, but there’s more than meets the eye with this character.

The two lines at the top and bottom make (èr) or “two,” although it also represents heaven and earth. What used to be a cross in the middle later turned into a cross with an extra stroke, meant to symbolize the elements.

All in all, the lines stand for the five elements of Wuxing—wood, fire, earth, metal and water.

10. (yǒng) — forever; perpetual

Having the same origins as its homonym (yǒng)—”to swim”—the earliest manifestation of was actually defined as “to swim with the current.”

To give a little background, the character for “water” or (shuǐ) that makes up the bulk of , shares the same pictographic derivative as the word (chuān) or “stream.”

Thus, the modern interpretation of the paints a picture of a stream or river flowing endlessly, a stunning visual for the Chinese word for “forever.”

Semantics aside, the composition itself is also quite elegant, as it consists of the eight basic strokes of the Chinese writing system, balancing out all parts of the character without needing to be symmetrical.

11. (zhòng) — crowd

Without knowing what means or how it’s pronounced, a beginner could figure out the definition just by seeing that it’s made up of three (rén), the character for “person.” Three’s a crowd, after all.

And just like with 森林, the literal nature of the character makes it more visually appealing. Not to mention, easier to remember in the long run!

12. (zhōng) — loyal

The top portion (zhōng) can take on many meanings, but in this case, it’s referring to China, which is 中国 (zhōng guó).

With at the bottom, loyalty and devotion are depicted with the heart and soul being connected to the Middle Kingdom.

13. (zhuī) — to persistently pursue; to woo

When a character uses the radical (chuò), the word most likely has something to do with walking.

Another component of is (yǐ), which is an ancient form of (yǐ) meaning “according to” or “with.”

Putting the pieces together, is almost like walking with a purpose toward a goal, essentially chasing after something with determination.

The act of wooing is already pretty romantic, but seeing how all the parts signify persistence really shows what it takes to be able to pursue someone.

The Building Blocks of Chinese Characters

Hanzi (the Chinese writing system) is often believed to be pictographic, but that isn’t entirely true.

While some characters have evolved from pictures, most are pictophonetic, with parts that indicate meaning and sound.

Let’s briefly run through all the elements of characters.


Chinese characters use a variety of singular and compound strokes (basically a combination of singular strokes drawn in one go). Eight basic strokes follow a certain order for writing.


Though mostly used as the way to look up words in a dictionary, a Chinese radical is the part of a character that may imply it belongs to a broad category.

For instance, (rén) — “person,” is one of the many easy characters that also functions as a radical.

When acts as a radical, it likely pertains to an action or description of a person.

Here are some examples of chaacters with the radical 人:

(zuò) — to sit

(gè) — individual; oneself; general classifier, piece

Phonetic Components

Components have separate functions from radicals. These are parts of characters that offer contextual clues on pronunciation, also known as sound components.

One example would be the character (mǎ), meaning horse.

appears in characters like (ma) and (mā). As you can see, both words are pronounced as ma.

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Semantic Components

These give hints about the meaning of words. A radical can sometimes double as the semantic component of a character, but that’s not always the case.

Just like , another semantic component that also acts as a radical would be (zú) — foot or leg.

Thus, characters including this component would indicate that they’re somehow related to feet, like (tiào), which means to jump.


Which one of these characters was your favorite? Hopefully, this list has given you a new appreciation for reading and writing Chinese!

And One More Thing...

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