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 www.callosum.blogspot.com/2004_09_01_callosum_archive.html. They were originally from www.220.127.116.11/book/ertong/2/miyu/mulu.htm, 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”.