The genesis of the Chinese script is lengthy and remote. Very little of its history and origin is known to us as there is a lack of documentary evidence. Of the various legends concerning the creation of the Chinese script, the comparatively acceptable legend says that it was Cang Ji Л if, a minister of the Emperor Huang Di ^ , who first invented the script. It was the outcome of an extraordinary occasion on which Cang Jf observed the footprints of birds and beasts whose lines and shapes were distinct and discernible. Deeply inspired by the sight of this, he then drew the pictures of the objects in accordance with their shapes and forms. These pictures of the primitive age were further reduced to the essentials, conventionalized and in time highly stylized. In other words, they were reduced for the sake of simplicity to a few lines. These picture characters were often, especially in their archaic forms, very expressive and were called xiang xiing , literally
“image shapes” by the Han lexicographer Xu Shen ijt (30AD.-124A.D.); or “pictography” by many a contemporary paleographer. In some cases, however, the so called “picture characters” were distorted beyond recognition. It is understandable that concrete objects such as phenomena of nature, man and his attributes, animals and plants, tools and implements and so forth are easily drawn and admirably adapted to represent language. Here are some examples:
For representation of phenomena of nature, there were such pictographs as ri “sun” o 8 Ц , yue “moon” )) ]i $ , the older the forms of the characters, the closer the resemblance between the characters and the objects. The characters shul “water” ^ Ж (also abbreviated as three drops of water y when it functions as a determinative) and chuan “stream, river” ]j| Я| were drawn as flowing water in a stream or river. The character shan “mountain” ьж* ь&з tb is a clear, faithful picture of a string of hills, and the same may be said of the character yu “rain” ГГП Щ which is expressed by drops of water failing from heaven.
A great number of pictographs relate to man and his attributes. The character ren AM Д A. was represented by a simple linear picture depicting a variety of manners in which a man might appear. For nd “woman” k, 'k and mu “mother” , there were picture
characters depicting the humble, kneeling and gentle manners of the fair sex. The two dots on the body of the latter symbolized the breasts of a mother. There were picture characters which symbolized the eye “mil” @ Я , ear (er) S’ jf , hand (shou) ^ f ^ (also abbreviated as % when functioning as a determinative) and mouth (kou) fcj etc.