01 Oracle Shell?

01 Oracle Shell?

Can you interpret the Chinese meaning of this Chinese oracle shell from Mother Nature?


I received a photo from Food Stylist Aci asking if the cracks in the shell resemble some Chinese writing. Aci went swimming with her son Noah and he found this shell. They thought it might be a Mother Nature Chinese message. She said, “. . . in the inner cracks the marks seem to be Chinese writing,” and guessed, “Great soldiers?”



I replied,



Hi Aci,


Sorry to disappoint you, but I don’t think the marks resemble anything Chinese.

This reminds me of the oracle bone script (wiki)


Chinese character: 大
Chinese character: 女
Chinese character: 人
If I must hazard a guess, maybe it can be . . .


Big woman or “female chauvinist” (大女人)

Here’s a link to the ancient form of “女” (link)


Big child (first born?) people (doesn’t really make sense together) (大子人) (link)


Big stupid people (大呆人)

The word “stupid” can be used in a playful way or a mean way.


Big important people (大要人)


Big size or big number of people (大号人)


These are all I can think of right now.




To Aci’s credit, I didn’t see “great soldier” until 10 minutes after I hit reply. Then I wrote back,



Chinese character: 大
Chinese character: 兵
Oh, now I see what you mean . . . 大兵. That’s cool too!


大兵 is literally “great, big” and “soldier” but its meaning is just a private or a soldier (either singular or plural). It’s often used to describe American soldiers, 美國大兵 (wiki)





This proves that two heads are better than one!


Do you see what we saw? Or do you see something new? Let me know!


One thing you can try, even if you don’t know any Chinese character, is to use a tool like iPhone’s Chinese handwriting method. All modern smartphones and computers have Chinese hand-writing input methods. I’m giving you an example using the iPhone only because that’s what I use. Android, Windows, and Mac OS should work in a similar way.


To add the Chinese handwriting input method on an iPhone or iPad, first go to Settings, then General, then Keyboard, then Keyboards, then Add New Keyboard. Select either Chinese (Traditional) or Chinese (Simplified), and then Handwriting.



So now you can press and hold the globe icon on your keyboard and select, in this example, 繁體手寫, meaning Chinese (Traditional) Handwriting.



Figure: Select Chinese handwriting input method.










As you copy the cracks with your finger on the screen, you’ll see a list of suggested characters presented horizontally above your handwriting area


Figure: Some suggestions for the first character.


Figure: Some suggestions for the second character.



It’s fun, isn’t it.


Let me know what other creative meanings you can come up with. I’ll post an update on this page!


You can also tweet me @andychuang or with the hashtag #oracleshell.


If you’re a member, I have these assignments for you:


Level 1

Little or no Chinese language proficiency

Look at the animated Chinese characters on this page and copy them on paper or try using a Chinese handwriting input method described to enter on your phone or computer

Level 2

Able to translate from Chinese to English

Find out the name of this American movie: 搶救雷恩大兵 (or in Simplified Chinese: 抢救雷恩大兵).

Level 3

Able to translate from English to Chinese

Write a sentence using one or more of the above Chinese words

Eighteen years of providing meaningful Chinese characters for 3,000+ small businesses in North America and 45 countries worldwide. Created and Crafted in California, U.S.A.

Copyright © 2001-2020 Good Characters, Inc. All rights reserved. Good Characters — That's who we are; that's what we do. Privacy Policy