#9 – Three World-Changing Inventions

Francis Bacon, the English (英 国 yīng gúo) philosopher known as the `Father (父 亲 fù qīng) of the Scientific Revolution’, wrote in 1620 that there were `three (三 sān) world-changing inventions: printing (印 刷 yìn shūa), gun-powder (炸 药 zhà yào) and the compass (指 南 针 zhǐ nάn zhēn).  The first (第 一 dì yī) transformed literature (文 学 wέn xúe), the second (第 二 dì èr) warfare, and the third (第 三 dì sān) navigation. 

He (他 tā) died(死 sǐ)without knowing that all three (三 sān) had come from China (中 国 zhōng gúo).

Presently, one-fifth (五 分 之 一 wǔ fēn zhī yī) of the world’s population (人 口 rέn kǒu) is Chinese (中国zhōng gúo), totaling over 1300 million people (人 rέn).  There are more Chinese (中国人zhōng gúo rέn) learning English (英 文 yīng wέn) than all the native English (英 国 yīng gúo) speakers on earth.  One day (一 日 yī rì) China (中国 zhōng gúo) could become the number one (第一 dì yī) English (英 语 yīng yǔ)-speaking nation (国 家 gúo jīa) as well as the world’s largest manufacturer and consumer.  Perhaps it is time to know something about China (中国 zhōng gúo).


  1. The word English can be translated into Chinese in several ways, depending on what is being translated:

a. England = (英 国 yīng gúo)

 Country of England

b. English man = (英 国 人yīng gúo rέn )

c. English language = (英 国 话 yīng gúo hùa ) 

or (英 语 yīng yǔ )

or (英 文 yīng wέn)

The Chinese word 英 yīng is pronounced in the first tone.  英 means outstanding talent. 英 was chosen as the Chinese character for England because of its pronunciation yīng in the first tone.

英国 means ‘country of England’. 国 gúo is pronounced in the second tone and means country.

英国 人 means `man of England’.  人 means man and is pronounced in the second tone.

英国 话 means ‘speech of England’. 话 hùa is pronounced in the fourth tone and means remark, sentence, language or speech.  

英语 also means English language.  语 yǔ is pronounced in the third tone and means language, tongue, words. 

Note that 话 and 语 have the same radical on their left side.  This radical denotes that the word has something to do with language.

英文 also means English writing or English language.

 2.  Father = (父 亲 fù qīn

or 爸 爸 bà bà)

 父 fù is pronounced in the fourth tone and means father.

 亲 qīn is pronounced in the first tone and means related by blood.

 爸 爸 bà bà is pronounced in the fourth tone and means papa or father.

 3.  Three =(三 sān )

The first three numbers 1,2,and 3 are very easy to write in Chinese.  One or 一 yī has one horizontal line.  Two or 二 èr has two horizontal lines.  And three or 三 sān has three horizontal lines.

 4.  Printing = (印 刷 yìn shūa )

印 yìn means to print, engrave, seal, stamp, chop.  It is pronounced in the fourth tone.

刷 shūa means to brush, clean, daub, paste.  It is pronounced in the first tone. 

 5.  Gun-powder =(炸 药 zhà yào )

炸 zhà means to explode, bomb, blow up or blast.  Zh is pronounced like the letter j and zhà is pronounced jar

in the fourth tone. Note the radical 火 hǔo  

(which means fire) on the left side of 炸, hinting that this word has something to do with flames.

药 yào means chemicals or medicines. In ancient China, many chemicals were used as medicines.  In fact, gun-powder was accidentally discovered during the Tang Dynasty 1200 years ago. Some monks were searching for the elixir of immortality when they discovered that heating a mixture of potassium nitrate, sulphur and honey produced amazing effects.

     Smoke and flames erupted and the whole house burned down.  The monks called the mixture 火 药 hǔo yào  (fire chemical).

Increasing the proportion of potassium nitrate in the mixture made the 火 药 much more explosive and dangerous.  That was how gun-powder or 炸 药 (exploding chemical) was discovered.  

 6.  Compass =(指 南 针 zhǐ nάn zhēn )

指 zhǐ is pronounced jer in the third tone because zh sounds like the letter j.

指 means to point or to direct.

南 nάn means south and is pronounced in the second tone.

针 zhēn  means needle and is pronounced in the first tone.


means south-pointing-needle or compass.  In Chinese maps, South is at the top of the page and North is at the bottom.  The needle points south in Chinese compasses, not north.   

 7.  First  = 第 一 dì yī

Second = 第 二 dì èr

Third  = 第 三 dì sān

Chinese word for number one is   一 yī

Chinese word for number two is   二 èr

Chinese word for number three is 三 sān

When the word 第 dì

is placed before the number 一, the two words 第一 means First.

第 二 means Second.

第 三 means Third.

 8.  He = 他 tā  is pronounced in the first tone.

She = 她 tā  sounds the same as 他. However, she 她 has the radical 女 on its left. 女 means female.

 9.  Died or death = 死 sǐ  pronounced in the third tone.

 10. One-fifth = 五 分 之 一 wǔ fēn zhī yī

     五 = five.  五 is pronounced wǔ  in the third tone.

   分 = part or divide. 分 is pronounced  fēn in the first tone.  

 之  =  zhī   means of and is pronounced in the first tone.

一   =  yī   means  one and is pronounced in the first tone.

The four words 五 分 之 一  means one part out of five or one-fifth.

 12. Population = 人 口 rέn kǒu

人 rέn  means man

口 kǒu  means mouth

 12.  One day = 一 日 yī rì

     一 = one and is pronounced yī  in the first tone.

            日   =  day and is pronounced rì   in the fourth tone.