Approach Chinese Characters
All Chinese characters can be traced back in origin to pictures, symbols, drawings of daily life and therefore can be compared with Egyptian hieroglyphics, the symbol language of the Aztecs, traffic signs, the symbols in stations, the little drawings on a car dashboard, washing instructions on clothing, wanderers language, etc. They are manufactured, built from old and new materials, each one having its own separate and unique history.
The reader who is interested in symbol language would consult, for example, the ‘Symbol Source Book’ written by Henry Dreyfuss which graphically compares and prints the symbols from all scientific areas.
The question of whether the messages on rock walls, bones, wood, etc can be traced back to the sign language of the ape man is, in the scope of this book, less interesting than the fact that many thousands of years before Christ an important part of communication was made via messages in drawings that either did or did not have a concrete or abstract meaning. An important advantage of this illustrative approach above the graphical representation of sounds, as in our western writing, was that tribes with different verbal languages could communicate with each other in writing.
In China much communication is still done in writing because the different groups of the population, even in Parliament, cannot understand one another. A great disadvantage of symbol writing is the staggering amount of characters that have to be learned.