The strange abyss of Chinese Characters

Yesterday, a friend of mine contacted me, saying he was doing a project for his Computer Science degree. He was playing around with encryption. He encrypted the sentence, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" and then subsequently decrypted it. He apparently did the coding wrong and the program spit out this message:

"周攠煵楣欠扲潷渠景砠橵灭敤癥爠瑨攠污穹⁤潧"

He contacted me out of interest, asking if I understood what it said. Especially the final character: "潧" which Google translates as "Rss+ Xml". I hovered my pop-up translator over the characters. Only a few was found. The dictionary which Zhongwen uses is the CC-EDICT open Chinese dictionary. It is very up-to-date.

I knew these characters might be old characters that aren't used anymore. Sort of become defunct. Or, the other theory was that these characters are pure character encoding with no relation to meaning: think wingdings or something similar. Just symbols compiled out of Chinese character encoding.

So I started searching:

These characters my pop-up dictionary detected. So I'll leave them out: 周楣欠潷渠景砠灭癥污穹.

Then there are these ones which couldn't be found: 攠煵扲橵敤爠瑨潧.

So this one I got quite quickly with a simple Baidu search. mí is a bit odd: 钟因受撞击而发光的部位. I had trouble translating that. Can anyone help? Google translates it as: Minutes due to the site of impact and light. But I'm not sure what that exactly means? That's a pretty complex definition for one character. Furthermore, mǐ, is easier: the synonym is 消灭 - to annihilate/to destroy.

Again Baidu seems to pick these up better. nǎn: It looks like it is a dialectal form for a cooking method, where you fry things over a small flame.

qián - This one according to Baidu is a bit a strange. It looks it has three meanings: 基业,记 and 把. It also seems to be an old version for "擒", which means to capture. Hmm too odd.

zān - Another specific meaning. It means the cloth under roof tiles. I think it would be insulation? Or something similar. Furthermore an interesting addition in the Baidu entry is 韩国汉字. Does this mean it is used in Korea as old form Chinese writing? Actually I'm a bit clueless on Chinese in Korea. How prevalent is it?

kě - Another with two definitions: 研治 and 击. The first means to study I think. A similar word with same pronunciation is 研制. 击 means to strike.

qú - Yay, finally a simple one! It means 姓 - surname.

jìn - Another easy one and quite interesting one at that too. It means that it resembles Jade. So if something is 瑨 it resembles Jade. When I Googled the character below (潧) I coincidentally found 璁 (cōng), which a stone similar to Jade. Cool!

zhēn - The character that started this blog post. Google Translates it as "Rss+Xml". According to Baidu it is the name of an old river, but the river uses the ancient Chinese varient 溱. However, I was intrigued to find out where the "Rss+Xml" thing comes from, but I couldn't. If anyone has any leads it would be great.

Conclusion

It always fascinates me as to how deep Chinese goes. It never ends, and I doubt very few people find the bottom. However, in many languages this is true, but Chinese just feels so much more expansive, due to its long history. You can keep on learning words in many languages, but ultimately you'll reach a point where obscurity becomes too much. In English however, or in languages where words consist of more syllables, the meaning of obscured words can be contained. For instance, caliginous, which means obscure; dim; misty; dark, the oddness of it becomes its retention. These characters I did research on however, have the same pronunciations as average words or words with higher frequency.

爠 for instance, pronounced qú, shares its meaning with 50 different similar sounding words. The same for 潧 -zhēn - which has 72 similar sounding words. Thus, listening becomes a hard task when has to take into account obscure words. The context I reckon would be very very important. The character itself would be the defining meaning negotiator. The other thing is, if someone uses obscure words, how does one retain the new meaning, if one is not presented with the character? If the frequency is too low, then the word would struggle to be retained in its spoken form. Thus, an interesting distinction is drawn again between Chinese in writing and Chinese in spoken form. There's no way I'd remember 潧, when listening there are words like 真 to listen to, but if the meaning is provided to me, I'd have to associate it with a new "word unit", but the form in terms of the sound is too average for it to be unique. For me, learning Chinese, you absolutely have to learn to read it as well to truly understand the language.

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