Really weird sinographs, part 4

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A video introducing 70 obscure Chinese characters (shēngpì zì 生僻字):

The person singing the song seems to be inordinately proud of these strange, difficult characters.  He says things like "each stroke is a story" and invokes "5,000 years of history", neither of which is accurate.  He exclaims, "let the whole world recognize them" and exalts, "Chinese characters are all over the world, so we yellow-skinned people should raise our heads proudly".  He claims, "[deploying] their level and oblique tones [you can] write them into poems".

At 0:50, he shows a series of eight scary looking characters with the "guǐ 鬼" ("ghost; spirit; apparition; demon") radical.

By far the best part for me, though, is at 2:04 when he annotates the sounds of many of the rarest characters in his collection with Hanyu Pinyin (Romanization) and lets you feast your eyes on that for more than ten seconds, though few will know the meanings of all these uncommon graphs.

The second half of the song basically repeats the first half, but at the end he adds a verse about the beautiful musicality (yōuměi xuánlǜ 优美旋律) of the sounds of the characters.


[h.t. Zeyao Wu]


  1. Alex said,

    December 9, 2018 @ 11:29 pm

    As I am quite illiterate are traditional characters mixed in?

  2. Crystal said,

    December 10, 2018 @ 12:50 am

    From the thumbnail alone, I can see a couple of these are actually quite common as compounds in Japanese, in particular 齟齬 and especially 咄嗟. I don’t know if they’re more obscure in Chinese. I also think 魑魅魍魎 rises slightly above the level of obscurity, but I think that and 齟齬 are probably read-only compounds for most Japanese speakers.

  3. AJJ said,

    December 10, 2018 @ 4:50 pm


    Seems like you're on the spot. I've definitely seen 魑魅魍魎 in more than a few stories.

    It also strikes me as slightly odd/ironic that this song singing praises to hanzi and all these obscure characters are all in simplified characters rather than traditional—which I can understand, assuming the singer is from the mainland. But wasn't the whole point of simplification to make the written language easier?

  4. David Marjanović said,

    December 10, 2018 @ 6:27 pm

    As I am quite illiterate are traditional characters mixed in?

    I'm barely literate myself, so I can't tell, but rare, obscure characters tend not to have a separate simplified version, and they also tend to be the more complex ones to begin with. Quite possibly, then, there are no traditional-only forms in there.

  5. Jonathan Smith said,

    December 10, 2018 @ 11:42 pm

    These are pretty obscure characters but in many cases not at all obscure words… for example jìyú 觊觎 could at a stretch be called an "SAT word" but is not rare in edumacated writing/speech, and yet the characters/morphemes (?) are undeniably statistically "obscure" since they occur nowhere (?) else — #45XX range on character frequency lists. Chinese writing.

    But actually these have also been chosen on the basis of a general visual funkyness — there are lots of characters that meet the statistical criteria above that wouldn't fit in such a collection… e.g. also #45XXish on the list I looked at (one of Jun Da's) was bō 菠 from bōcài 菠菜 :D

  6. Alex said,

    December 11, 2018 @ 7:47 am

    Thanks guys! I took a screenshot and will test on people!

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