Most people think learning Chinese is difficult. Every time I’m back in Spain and I tell someone I can speak Chinese, they invariably reply with a: “Wow! Isn’t it super complicated?”. Some (weird) people claim that it is in fact very easy, though normally these people are just trying to sell you their “learn Chinese in 3 months” courses. I agree that the grammar is in general not very difficult, although remembering the correct classifier for each noun can be difficult at times, and I remember I had a very hard time grasping how some verbal constructions work. Some people say they learned to speak fluent Chinese in the street and I’m happy for them but I’m not so language-gifted (6 years in Suzhou and the local dialect still sounds like Japanese to me). There’s one thing I know for sure, though: in my opinion, if you can’t write the characters, you can’t really say you know Chinese.


The title of the most difficult character in simplified Chinese is usually given to biang, a type of noodle dish. Luckily it is not commonly used and the only ones who would have to write it would be the waiters or owners of restaurants serving these noodles. However, it is so complicated that they sometimes write the pinyin instead because, really, why would anyone bother to write this?


This is not a joke, it’s a real character! And the traditional version is even worse…


I prefer simpler characters. My absolute favourite is undoubtedly this one:


Can you guess what it means? It is very easy: skewer! Isn’t it great? You don’t need to know Chinese to understand it because it’s super clear! It is pronounced chuan and if you are in the north of China you will need to add many r behind it to be understood: chuanrrrrrr.


Another character that I like is san:


Do you know what it is? It’s also very obvious: umbrella!


Another one that I like is a combination of two characters:


Mu means tree or wood. It looks a bit like a tree, right? The horizontal line is the ground and the three strokes below are the roots.


Lin is a surname and it also means wood, as it’s two trees.


Senlin… five trees. Well… it’s decidedly a forest!


I wish all the characters were this easy! Then I would never forget how to write them by hand…




And for the second time this month I’m saying that Chinese people are very superstitious. The other day C. came home with a branch of some plant that someone gave him. I had already seen that branch hanging beside the door of several neighbours and it reminded me of when Spanish people hang palm branches from their balconies in Easter. But it seems this branch has a totally different meaning…


I don’t know where this tradition comes from as I don’t remember seeing this branch on previous years, and for sure we never had it before. Maybe it’s some old custom that has been revived? I also have no idea what the plant is…