Singapore University of Social Sciences

Chinese Etymology (中国文字学)

Chinese Etymology (中国文字学) (CHS352)

Applications Open: To be confirmed

Applications Close: To be confirmed

Next Available Intake: To be confirmed

Course Types: Modular Undergraduate Course

Language: Chinese

Duration: 6 months

Fees: To be confirmed

Area of Interest: Linguistics and Languages

Schemes: Alumni Continuing Education (ACE)

Funding: To be confirmed

School/Department: School of Humanities & Behavioural Sciences


The study of Chinese etymology focuses mostly on tracking the evolution of characters’ meanings and forms over time. In the era of the Eastern Han dynasty (25–220 CE), the renowned Xu Shen penned a masterful etymological treatise called Shuowen Jiezi, containing the definitions for more than 9,000 characters, Xu Shen’s work represents one of the first systematic attempts to examine Chinese characters on an etymological basis, prioritizing their origins and first appearances. Students will explore three basic distinctions of written Chinese in general and Chinese etymology in particular: pictographic characters, phonetic and semantic components, and ideograms. In addition to the historical development of Chinese characters, students will learn the theories needed to analyse the forms of Chinese characters. Singapore’s contribution to the standardisation of Chinese characters will also be introduced.

Level: 3
Credit Units: 5
Presentation Pattern: Every January


  • The nature of Chinese characters
  • The origin of Chinese characters
  • The shape of Chinese characters
  • Developmental history of Chinese characters
  • The configuration of Chinese characters
  • Analysis method of Chinese character configuration
  • The form and meaning of Chinese characters
  • Researching the form and meaning of Chinese Characters
  • The relationship between Chinese characters
  • Standardisation of Chinese characters
  • Singapore’s contribution to the standardization of Chinese characters
  • Conclusion

Learning Outcome

  • Illustrate the nature and origin of Chinese characters
  • Analyze the structure and shape of Chinese characters
  • Examine the theory of Chinese characters
  • Verify the characteristics of Chinese characters in different stages of development
  • Distinguish between standard Chinese characters, popular, traditional and simplified Chinese characters
  • Discuss the Chinese character standardization work in Singapore
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