A whole new universe created with 320 Chinese characters and time to vote!

Written by April Zhang on Sunday, 03 October 2021. Posted in Chinese Writing Contest

A whole new universe created with 320 Chinese characters and time to vote!

This first ever Chinese Writing Contest closed a few days ago, on Sep 30, 2021.

30 qualified submissions are currently published online. Before we move on to the next step of finding out who the winners are, let’s take a moment and appreciate a whole new universe created collectively by these contestants using only 320 Chinese characters.

For a mathematician, the universe is written with math.

For me, a Chinese teacher, the universe is created with Chinese characters. 

Chinese language is extensive and profound. Each character has so many potential meanings. To use the right character in the right place is always something to be seriously pondered. Although this is remarkable, it is not entirely exclusively Chinese. Many other languages demand the same attitude and professionalism of their writers to choose the right word in the right place. 

However, something totally unique about Chinese, which I suspect that we can not find in other languages, is that we can still create beautiful writings, even with a severe limitation on the availability of the characters.

This Chinese Writing Contest has such a severe limitation. Among roughly 3500 Chinese characters in today’s print, only 320 most frequently used Chinese characters are allowed to use, and the rule about the special characters further restricts these characters’ usages. Nevertheless, a new universe is created right in front of our eyes through the medium of stories, essays and poems.

In this universe:

  • So much love is expressed, even though the character “爱” is not included in the 320 characters.
  • Families and passage of time are two clear themes. 
  • Ambitions, desires and dreams are constantly lingering around.
  • Communicating with nature always comforts our souls.
  • Feelings associated with adapting to foreign lands are deep and complex.
  • Magical creature is necessarily part of this universe. 
  • Money and livelihoods are something we can not ignore.
  • Ageing and death are real.
  • There is always hope for the future. 

Let’s appreciate the completeness and comprehensiveness of this universe, and let’s celebrate the dazzling creativities that all contestants have demonstrated.

Thank all contestants for being part of this contest!

This contest closed. But learning does not end. Learning 320 Chinese characters is certainly not the end of the Chinese learning journey. There are thousands of more characters waiting to be learned. An advice for all Chinese learners, only the characters you know how to use are the characters you learned. 

With that being said, let’s get to the next step of this contest, finding out who the winners are.

I invite everyone who read Chinese to vote for the best. 

Please follow these steps: 

Voting ends on Oct 16, 2021.

Stay tuned for the final results.

About the Author

April Zhang

April Zhang

April Zhang is the founder of MSL Master and she enjoys teaching and interacting with students.

She wrote two series of Chinese textbooks, Mandarin Express series and Chinese Reading and Writing series, which are relevant and highly effective for non-Chinese speakers to learn Mandarin Chinese. She also adapted the two series of textbooks into video and audio lessons to enable more students to learn Chinese wherever they are.


April Zhang
Chinese Teacher
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