Your Guide to the Chinese Language Through Emoji
by Jason Li, An Xiao Mina, Jennifer 8. Lee
In English, we sometimes replace a word with an emoji. Take this famous Benjamin Franklin quote for instance:
An 🍎 a day keeps the doctor away.
We all understand that 🍎 stands for apple.
Now, let's apply that to the Chinese language. Much like emojis, Chinese doesn't have an alphabet and its characters are derived from pictures of what something looks like. For instance:
This is the character for wood, which comes from a picture of a tree. In Hanmoji, we would write this as
But with Chinese, there's a catch – Chinese chararacters are already made up of re-usable modules (often called radicals). Let's take our
木 🌲 example from before and put two of them side by side:
This is the Chinese character and Hanmoji for forest.
The Texas Library Association put us on the 2023 Texas Topaz Reading List.
Kirkus named our book as one of the Best Middle-Grade Nonfiction of 2022.
The Burnaby Public Library listed us as one of the Best of 2022 for older kids.
We are nominated for the Forest of Reading's 2023 Yellow Cedar Award.
We were a Parnassus Books staff pick for October 2022.
We gave a talk on the future of emoji/hanmoji at ICON 11 on July 2.
We hosted a kids' workshop at Word On The Street Toronto on June 12, 2022.
We were named a FOLD Kids Book-of-the-Month for June!
Our book was awarded a Kirkus Star on April 13, 2022.
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Jason Li is an independent designer, artist and educator. His practice revolves around promulgating bottom-up narratives, exploring networked technology and helping people live safely on the internet. His works have appeared at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Asian Art Museum, and on the BBC. He is an editor at Paradise Systems and a member of Zine Coop. He currently lives in Toronto.
An Xiao Mina is a creative strategist, writer, and artist whose work has been featured in the New York Times, The Economist, The Atlantic, and Fast Company. She's worked at the intersection of technology and culture for over a decade, at places like Meedan, Hyperallergic and Harvard's Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. The author of Memes to Movements, she splits her time between New York and California.
Jennifer 8. Lee is a member the Unicode emoji subcommittee and cofounder of Emojination, a grassroots group that advocates for more inclusive and representative emoji. She is also a former New York Times reporter, author of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, and producer of The Search for General Tso and The Emoji Story documentaries. Lee runs the Plympton literary studio, is from New York City and lives in the cloud.