Nuffnang Space

Monday, March 7, 2011

Signs of Ancient China...Pictographic Characters

It is rather unusual, but the past seems to be ever so present in Yunnan Province. When we were in Lijiang, we noticed that there were still pictographic characters in use  by the Naxi ethnic minority. These pictorial representations of language had been created a thousand or more years ago. They called it the 'Dongba' script. The creative writing of the Naxi people throughout history had been recorded in the 'Dongba' and the 'Geba' script which was a syllabic writing system. Can you imagine the cave walls covered with poems, legends and myths. Beats having to put up new wall-paper every few years or so!

Although today the Naxi minority people use written and spoken Chinese, I guess it is a matter of pride, and keeping the heritage alive, that 'Dongba' can still be seen such as in the contexts pictured below:

Exhibited - At the entrance to the Lijiang Impressions Show:

I guess the middle character would logically mean fisherman/fishing. He seems to be casting a net.

Messages left for the dieties to read: these messages are written on wishing-windchimes and hung out in the open hoping for the wishes to come true. Somewhat similar to tossing a coin in the fountain.
...some messages were for  good luck and good health for loved ones, some people wished for the gift of a newborn, some were general in nature. This one on the post had been translated into English. It appears to be a sociological sign of the times.
Warning for teenage girls...wash your hair before you go on a date, ( that seems to be the secret for getting pregnant?)

The best I've seen were iconic but a little perplexing. 

Why the scissors? Meat is well-represented. The chicken? Looks like goat, don't you think?
If you want to see more interesting signs, click on Lesley's link below: 


  1. Great signs, the second one is funny!

    Thanks for your visit and for following me; I have returned the favor!

  2. @ Inger-M - Welcome to my new blog; and thanks - you are my VVIP first follower. I'm so glad.

  3. The ancient symbols are interesting and remind me of ones we've seen in the Caribbean and even in the western states. Amzing to me how similar they are from one place to another.

  4. @ Sallie - Hi, happy to see you here again! Yes,I guess all civilizations began with writing in a pictorial manner. Very interesting to try and decipher the meaning.

  5. So I guess pictograms aren't always better than fractured English? But they are certainly more creative, I think!

    Yes, please play along with any kind of sign you find. It is a weekly thing, every Thursday.

  6. @ Lesley - This is a grand idea for a meme. Got lots more ... this time, not pictograms but quite funny too.