It's been many years since I've done the calligraphy so please forgive my shaky hand. I could not find my old set.  I instead used a childs paint set which works just as well. Calligraphy is an art of it's own. Though I prefer the Wade-Giles transliteration, this is instead explained using Pinyin.

Here is a simple explanation of these often seen marks.

Characters read top to bottom Zhong Guo, and translate to middle kingdom which is of course China.

Zhongis the joining of these two characters

Guo is the joining of both and


First we'll break down Zhong.


Zhong means middle or center. It's made with 4 strokes and is actually the joining of two separate characters.

The first character included in Zhong is Wei , 3 strokes that form a square. The primitive was a circle but has evolved like so many other Chinese characters over the centuries. It depicts an enclosure, a target, a bulls-eye in this case. For students of calligraphy, it's the 31st radical, not to be confused with Guo, the 30th radical, which looks identical yet has a different meaning.

The second character included in Zhong is Gunwhich is one stroke forming a vertical line with the meaning of just that, a line. When used in conjunction with Wei, it represents an arrow fixed to the center of a target. It's the 2nd radical, not to be confused with Jue, the 6th radical which looks similar but has a different meaning..

Put them together and they form the first character Zhong , an arrow fixed to the center of a target, hence the meaning middle or center.


Next we'll break down Guo.


Guo (not to be confused with Kuo) means estate, state, or country, defined and enclosed within a barrier or border, defended and protected by an army with weapons. It's made with eleven strokes. Like Zhong, it's also a combination of the joining of two separate characters.

The first character included within Guo is You which includes the ancient Chinese weapon, the halberd (or Ge). It's a crossbar with the point, blade, handle, and hook. It is the 62nd radical and can mean spear, arms, weapons, army, etc.

Also included in You is the character Wei but now with a line beneath it. We covered Wei (meaning enclosure) previously. But, being underlined, it now represents an enclosure on the land, not just an enclosure. Now it's a residence, a castle, any dwelling with inhabitants on the land.

The second character included within Guo is Wei (again), but now a much larger enclosure . It's now a large boundary or border, enclosing land with dwellings and inhabitants, protected and defended by an army with weapons. It defines a state, kingdom, or country. In this case China.

All together ZhongGuo or simply Middle Kingdom, China.


Note: Sometimes the character is substituted with the character but the meaning is the same. It's actually the enclosure of the character You (white jade), showing three disks of jade strung together. This is a modern character.

When I say "not to be confused with" in calling out a character, I do so because so many characters have the same spelling but different meanings all together. For example, the character Guo which we've covered is also represented by 14 other different characters also called Guo, and Kuo by 9. An extreme would be Ji represented by 103 different characters, and then there is Qi with a mere 69 characters. Chinese calligraphy is indeed a challenge.


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