Source: Chineasy


The standard Chinese character for one 一 is a simple line. It is made up of one stroke, known as the ‘heng’ stroke and is fittingly the first character a Chinese student learns to write.

In nearly all forms of proto-writing the numbers were based on the hands and fingers used to show them. It is interesting that in the West the first number is a vertical line 1, but in Asia it is a horizontal one 一 . Both as simple as possible, but different.

There is also an alternative form of the number one 壹, but this character is used in financial context only. You can see that the character 壹 has the building block for one 一 in it, but it also has the additional characters: soil 士, roof 冖 and bean 豆!

You can see the figure for one 一 in our post for sunrise 旦:

一 as a noun: one, single, a
一 as adjective: whole, full, same, unified, concentrated, single-minded, alone, single, pure
一 as adverb: all, very, straight, always, all along, once, in case, one by one, one after another

Pinyin: 一/壹 yi 1
Pronunciation: 一
Stroke Order: 一

Your task is to write down phrases you can think of that contain this keyword.

一旦 once (yi2 dan4)
一月 January (yi2 yue4)
一天 a day or one day (yi4 tian1)

一 is a pretty easy character to remember and it’s the second most common character in Chinese literature.

P.S: If you are not sure why the character, here are the rules that dictate 一’s pronunciation:

一 is pronounced with 1st tone when it’s used as a number or date, like 一月 (yi1 yue4; January).

一 is pronounced with 2nd tone when followed by a 4th tone, like 一旦 (yi2 dan4; once).

一 is pronounced with 4th tone when followed by any other tones, like 一手 (yi4 shou3; skill).

It’s not too difficult to remember, right?


Source: Chineasy


一, 二, 三 one two three. Yes! You just learnt the character for ‘THREE’.
The character continues the simple pattern of 一 (one) and 二 (two) by adding a third line.

There are some well-known Chinese sayings using the character 三. For example,
In traditional: 三人行必有我師。(pinyin: sān rén xíng bì yǒu wǒ shī)
In simplified: 三人行必有我师。
In English: As three men are walking together, one of them is bound to be good enough to act as my teacher/leader. 

In traditional: 三個臭皮匠勝過一個諸葛亮。(pinyin: sān ge chòu pí jiang shèng guò yí ge zhū gě liàng)
In simplified: 三个臭皮匠胜过一个诸葛亮。
In English: A group of ordinary people may outwit a genius.

Source: Chineasy



二手 means ‘second-hand’; it’s super easy to remember that. Follow me!
二手 = 二 (two) + 手 (hand) = [literally] (second-hand); (used)
So, 書/书 (shu1) is ‘book’ and 二手書/二手书 is ‘second-hand book’.
車/车 (che1) is ‘car’ and 二手車/二手车 is ‘second-hand car’.

What’s the most unusual second-hand stuff you’ve ever bought?

Source: Chineasy


The Qixi Festival (七夕節), also known as the Qiqiao Festival (乞巧節), is a Chinese festival that celebrates the annual meeting of the cowherd and weaver girl in Chinese mythology. It falls on the seventh day of the 7th month on the Chinese calendar. It is sometimes called the Double Seventh Festival, the Chinese Valentine’s Day, the Night of Sevens, or the Magpie Festival.

Illustration: Hua Zhong Wen


In the oracle bone, bronze, and seal script, the character for ‘eight’ depicted two people opposing each other. The original idea of the character means ‘to divide’. Isn’t it interesting that the original characters for both seven (originally means ‘to cut’) and eight have to do with dividing?

Actually, some characters included 八 as a component still carry the original idea of 八, such as the characters 分 (to divide) and 扒 (to steal).

The number eight in Chinese culture symbolises good luck and wealth because it sounds like the Chinese words for ‘prosperity’, ‘wealth’ and ‘lucky’. That closely links to money and businesses. So, many Chinese businessmen would choose to open their business on the date ending with 8, i.e. 8th, 18th, 28th; if they run a shop, they also would set their goods’ prices ending with an 8 in order to generate more buying interest.

One more interesting fact – the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing began at 8 p.m. on 8 August 2008. That’s 8 p.m. on 8/8/2008! How lucky!

Source: Chineasy


Number 九 (nine) is lucky in Chinese culture because it is associated with longevity. For example, the Forbidden City (China’s old imperial palace) was said to have 9,999 rooms. There’s also a tradition for lovers to send each other 99 (or 999!) roses to symbolise everlasting love. Which flower represents everlasting love in your culture?

Source: Chineasy


The character for ‘ten’ is is really easy; it looks like the cross!

In the oracle bone and bronze script ‘ten’ was represented by a simple vertical line, or sometimes a vertical line with a dot in the middle, which referenced a very old way to indicate ‘ten’ by making a knot in a rope. Later, in the seal scripts, the dot became the horizontal line we see in the modern character: 十.

Unlike the numbers 1 to 9, there is no strong association with the number ten as a lucky or unlucky number; however, it can be used to express ‘totality’, i.e. 十 is used in a Chinese saying: 十全十美 (shi2 quan2 shi2 mei3) means ‘perfect in every respect’! In the West, the number ten often symbolises rebirth or being born again, and also can be a symbol of universal creation.

Source: Chineasy


The character for ‘hundred’ 百 can be divided into two parts: 一 (one) and 白 (white). There are a couple of the possible origins of the character. One of them is that the character in the oracle bone script depicted an ancient container (looks like the character 白) with a horizontal symbol (一) at its top to indicate the amount of material inside. Later, it has come to mean ‘hundred’ 百.

Since you have learnt the numbers 1 to 9, plus the number ‘hundred’ today, now, we are going to learn to count by 100s to 900.

100: one hundred / one + hundred = 一百 (yi1 bai3/yī bǎi)
200: two hundreds / two + hundred = 二百 (er4 bai3/èr bǎi)
800: eight hundreds / eight + hundred = 八百 (ba1 bai3/bā bǎi)
900: nine hundreds / nine + hundred = 九百 (jiu3 bai3/jiǔ bǎi)

Source: Chineasy


What would you do if you had one thousand (千) dollars?
千 means ‘thousand’. Don’t mix up with 干 (gan1; shield/ to offend/ dry).
See the difference? The character for thousand (千) has the top stroke leaning diagonally. The character for shield (干) has the top stroke lying horizontally, making it parallel with the bottom stroke. Source: Chineasy

Source: Chineasy


Source: Chineasy Workbook