Sunday, January 30, 2005

More on Lantern Riddles - Word Riddles

Lantern riddles can be any of a number of different kinds of riddles. I have found it difficult to find riddles that can be translated into English and still makes sense, as many of them are based on how the word is written, or how written words relate to each other. There are many riddles I have not listed here and can not use when I visit (English medium) schools to talk about Lantern Festival. For example, I remember one that relied on the reader knowing that snail 蜗牛[蝸牛] wōniú contains niú, the character for cow.

Here are some examples of 字谜 (zi4 mi2) word riddles, where the answer is one single Chinese character and you must know how to write to figure them out. I saw these first at They were originally from www., translated (and explained). I am going to try some of these with my elementary Mandarin students – but I don’t see using these in my daughter’s regular classroom when I go in to explain Lantern festival!

  • (1) 九点 jiu3 dian3 lit. “nine dot”, or “nine o'clock”
    This riddle gives you directions for how to write a character. You need to know that dian3, 点, can mean hour or “dot” a type of stroke. To find the answer write the character for nine, 九, and then a dot, or 丸.

  • (2) 十二点 shi2 er4 dian3 lit. “ten two dot”, or “twelve o'clock”
    This riddle, also tells you what strokes to write – you need to think ten and two dots rather than reading it as twelve and dian. Ten is shi2 十, adding two “dots”, gives you the answer: 斗dou4 “fight”.

  • (3) 田中 tian2 zhong1 lit. “(in) the middle (中) of a field (田)”
    The riddle asks what is in the middle of the character 田. The answer, is the horizontal and vertical stroke which make up the number 十 shi2 “ten”.


C. Callosum said...

Hi Robin, glad to know that the riddles + explanation came in handy. I hope your students enjoy it!

Robin said...

The answer to riddle means anything like a small ball; pellet. 丸 is pronounced wán in Mandarin.