“Based on the evidence, we believe the inventors of ancient Chinese characters knew the God of the Bible,” says the Web site of the World Bible School of Cedar Park, Texas.
The presentation there titled Ancient Chinese characters: coincidence or design? (alternate title: Ancient Chinese: Language of God?”) features many examples of people seeing what they want to see in Chinese characters. The wishful thinking and folk etymologies grow ever more strained in the school’s surprisingly long Flash presentation. (The good stuff doesn’t come until about thirty pages in.)
Typical example: “Why would the creators of the Chinese characters choose 2 words- “West” (which indicates a direction) and “Woman” to mean desire? It makes no sense unless we remember one [一] man [儿], in a garden [囗], in the west [西] was the first to desire a woman [女].” (Click the image at right for a better look.)
In other words, according to this site, the character for “want” (要, yào) is semantically linked with
一 (yī, “one”)
+ 儿 (rén (as a radical), person (as a radical))
+ 囗 (wéi, a non-independent radical for “surround”)
+ 女 (nǚ, woman)
The creators of the site imply that this reveals the hand of God. So it seems a sort of “intelligent design” is trying to graft itself onto Sinology. But the truth is that Chinese characters don’t work the way the creators of this site seem to believe; indeed, Chinese characters have, well, evolved over the millennia.
Let’s look at the character for “want” over the years:
Here’s some information on its history:
Originally meant ‘waist’ (now written 腰 yāo), borrowed for a homophonous word meaning ‘want’. Two hands pointing to a 女 (nǚ) woman’s waist (later they seemed to point to her head). The hands now look similar to 西 xī ‘west’. (source: Wenlin)
The important point here is that character came about through the borrowing of a character for a homophonous word. This is common in the history of Chinese characters. Indeed, phonetic elements, though often obscured by the passage of time and changes in language, are more common than any other.
For information on how Chinese characters really work, as opposed to how some people want to believe they work, see Chinese, a detailed reading available on this site.
Perhaps not surprisingly, none of the fanciful examples in the Flash presentation have any relationship with the real nature of Chinese characters. They’re all the equivalent of the folk etymology of the English word assume: “to assume means ‘to make an ass out of you and me.’”
To close, here’s another example of a real doozy from the bible-school site. Have fun.