First set of 8 building blocks
This is a great building block to learn because it’s just so easy to recognise, even when surrounded by other characters. In ancient Chinese writing, this character resembled the profile of a walking person.
This building block looks like a person waving both arms, as if she or he were frantically yelling: “Help, help, I’m on fire!”. Originally, 火 was just a pictogram in the shape of a flame, but I like to think of a person on fire instead!
This common building block character originally represented a tree (obviously!) with both branches and roots. In the modern form of the character that you see here, the roots look just like low-hanging branches, so feel free to remember them this way! As a building block, 木 is featured in a lot of compounds. Typically, if you see 木, you know you’re reading something about nature or wood!
口 is one of the first Chinese characters a student will learn. Not only is it extremely easy to write and remember, it’s a very common building block; learning 口 early is a great investment for any student of Chinese! One thing to remember when using this building block is that there is a nearly identical character that means “surround”. 口 (surround: wei2) is typically larger than 口 (mouth) and can’t be used by itself.
日 The current version of this ancient building block is quite interesting. It looks just like a window, which is quite handy for us learning Chinese, but why doesn’t this character look like a sun? I mean, it’s not especially hard to draw a sun, right? Well, it used to look a lot more like that burning star in the sky, but the Chinese language has been evolving for thousands of years and most characters have changed a lot. It’s just like “old English”, “middle English”, and “modern English”.