Getting to know some of the more basic Chinese characters can actually have a big impact on your ability to read things in and around the City. Getting to know the characters for Supermarket, Hospital or a Restaurant for example can be invaluable in your early China days.
Let’s get to know some key characters. The great thing is, once you get to know these, they will stick and be with you forever and a day.
中国 Zhōngguó > China
Starting with the most basic. Once you learn this you’ll see it everywhere! Zhōngguó literally translates to Middle Kingdom. You’ll find with characters a lot of them actually make sense even if they appear daunting at first. You can see with Zhōng (中) the symbol is a rectangle which has a line drawn through the middle of it, hence, middle! Makes perfect sense right? You’ll also see guó everywhere (国). This means kingdom and with many countries this symbol is included. Britain, France, America, Germany and many many more include 国 at the end, some actually have some funny literal meanings also!
超市 Chāoshì > Supermarket
It may look a little complicated but you’ll see this all over China no matter where you are and it’s a very useful word to know.
The 2nd symbol (市) literally translates to Market so keep an eye out for this if you are looking at purchasing something.
Whether it be a tiny, small indepedant Supermarket, or a huge global one, this is a very important word to know and it’ll prove very useful if you are walking down the street in the stifling heat and in need of a bottle of water. See the 超市 symbols, and get yourself in there.
酒吧 Jiǔbā > Bar
As often as you see Supermarket, you’ll see 酒吧. The Chinese symbols for bar or pub are a common occurance in China and you are never too far from one. The first symbol is a literal translation of Alcohol (酒). The 2nd symbol is spoken almost the same as the English equivilant making it pretty easy to remember in terms of speaking. As it’s so common to see these symbols it’ll be another one that sticks in the mind.
北, 南, 东, 西 Běi, Nán, Dōng, Xī > North, South, East, West
These four symbols will prove invaluable in the long run and you’ll find at least one of them and most road signs in China. If you are travelling to the Capital City of Beijing, you’ll most likely see 北京 everywhere. Beijing literally translates to North Capital. Even outside of the capital this is a symbol you’ll see a lot but it’s so useful to know.
Likewise, if you travel to Xi’an to discover the Terracotta Warriors or Mount Hua (one of China’s sacred 5 mountains) you’ll see 西 coupled with 安 which together makes the name of the City Xi’an. The four directions will pop up all over the place in China and are really useful to know.
Using the above examples, you will without doubt, see at least one of them in a taxi drive, walking down the street, taking the subway and they tend to stick in the memory once you’ve see them on a daily basis.