Theodore Kushner's Chinese blocks

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From Ivanka Trump's Instagram account:

The best moment of the day!

A post shared by Ivanka Trump (@ivankatrump) on

Zooming in on the blocks…

From Javier C. Hernández, "The ‘Goddess’ Yi Wan Ka: Ivanka Trump Is a Hit in China" (NYT, 4/5/17):

While her father has threatened a trade war with China and criticized China’s efforts to build outposts in the South China Sea, Ms. Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, have embarked on a charm offensive with the country.

It helps that her daughter, Arabella, speaks Chinese, which she began learning from her Chinese nanny. Ms. Trump and Arabella attended a Lunar New Year festival at the Chinese Embassy in Washington in February, an event broadcast on China’s prime-time news.

On Tuesday, two days before her father was to meet Mr. Xi, Ms. Trump posted a photo of her younger son, Theodore, playing with wooden blocks emblazoned with Chinese characters.

As for Theodore's sister, Arabella, learning Chinese, see:

"Trump's granddaughter recites Tang poems" (11/15/16)

What about the blocks that Theodore is playing with? I see that the numbers are accompanied by English translations, there are pictures matching the characters, there are stroke order buildups (e.g., the five strokes of tóu, tou 头 ["head"; noun suffix; measure word]), but I didn't notice any Pinyin.  Chinese children learn how to pronounce the characters via Pinyin, so it would be nice to have that on Theodore's blocks too.

[h.t. Ben Zimmer]


  1. Tony B said,

    April 6, 2017 @ 2:16 pm

    We have the same blocks for our son.

  2. Victor Mair said,

    April 6, 2017 @ 5:05 pm

    @Tony B:

    In the photograph that you made available to us, the yellow blocks — rén 人 ("person") and shuǐ 水 ("water") — have English translations, whereas the red blocks — shān 山 ("mountain") and kǒu 口 ("mouth") — are without English translations. Still no Pinyin in evidence.

    Wait a minute! To the left of "person", I see what looks as though it is the upper part of a monkey, and beneath it half of an "ó" followed by a "u", which together must constitute half of "hóu", the Mandarin pronunciation of 猴 ("monkey"). So it looks as though they have put the Pinyin for each character beneath the pictures of the animals depicted on the blocks.

  3. Tony B said,

    April 6, 2017 @ 5:53 pm

    Yeah, sorry, I should have mentioned that in my comment. One of the sides has the pinyin.

    The six sides to each cube are:
    1. Red character
    2. Yellow character plus English
    3. Number (Chinese character plus English)
    4. Dragon/map illustration
    5. Picture + pinyin
    6. Stroke order

    Pretty cool blocks actually. Can't claim credit for finding them, our son got them as a gift from one of our friends.

  4. Tony B said,

    April 6, 2017 @ 5:56 pm

    If you know what you are looking at you can actually see the picture+pinyin side of two of the blocks in Ivanka's post, that of the stone and snake blocks.

  5. Julia H said,

    April 7, 2017 @ 12:48 pm

    The company makes blocks for lots of other languages.
    We have the German ones for our daughter (who is still too young to get much out of them). They're really pretty. I could even imagine having them in my office as decoration.

  6. Peter T said,

    April 7, 2017 @ 2:26 pm

    What a cute name for daughter (Arabella). Sharing song for her daughter:
    Arabella ~ Arabela

  7. Philip Taylor said,

    April 16, 2017 @ 4:13 am

    Completely OT, but the first thing that struck me in the photograph is that the lady is wearing high-heeled shoes while reclining on a carpet (the inclusion of the handbag is also perhaps significant); I cannot help but feel that the entire thing was posed,

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