Some other examples of compound pictograms include:
投 to throw
意 idea, opinion
心 heart (the sound of ones heart/soul - idea)
入 to enter
冂 enclosed space
林 forest, grove
木 tree doubled
木 tree tripled
Some compound pictograms are simple and easy to understand as the examples above, some are a bit more difficult. This can be due to a number of reasons, the main two being that elements in these compound pictograms are clearly separated (are not fused or distorted) and the original and modern meanings of these characters are the same.
The original meaning of a given character is however often different from the modern one and since character elements point to its original meaning, the compound character makes no sense. In order to understand it, you need to go one step back and look at what the character used to mean when it was created:
Original meaning: 'to be fond of', later extended to the modern meaning 'good'.
女 woman and 子 son
Original meaning: 'an ancient evening divination/fortune telling ritual performed outside', later extended to the modern meaning 'outside'.
卜 to perform a divination ritual
Original meaning: 'to increase the intensity of one's voice' extended to the modern meaning 'to increase' in general.
力 force, strength
Original meaning: 'plow, hoe', later extended to the modern meaning 'man, male (the one working with the plow)'.
力 force (here in it's original meaning 'plow')
Original meaning: 'pig shed', later extended to habitations and houses in general and finally to the modern meaning 'house, family'.
宀 roof (symbol for buildings in general)
The second problem which makes some compound pictograms difficult to understand is that what once used to be two separate elements in a given character have now fused into one element or are too distorted and not recognizable. Some compound pictograms have visually changed so much since they were created, that it is impossible to tell what they mean or what they are made of just by looking at them. You therefore again need to go back a few steps and look at earlier versions of the same character to understand the modern one.
There are relatively few compound pictograms left. They make up only about 10% of the 1000 most frequent characters. They are however very frequently used and can be seen often. It sometimes takes a little bit more time to understand what they are made of, but knowing this information will make it much easier for you to remember them in the long run.
This series of articles will be an end result of a project which I have been working on for over three and a half years. I will be publishing a book on Chinese characters and wanted to give you a glimpse of what will be inside as well ask you for any comments or suggestions you might have to make the book as enjoyable and useful as possible.
In line with my philosophy of minimalism and effectivisim, the book will be very clean and easy to use, combining the absolutely best modern Chinese character research with the best learner experience.
A lot of time and effort has been put into transforming the complicated research data into easy to understand 'look once, understand immediately' chunks. No clutter, or lumping of information onto the reader. Just an enjoyable learning experience.
For more information and regular updates about this and my other projects feel free to subscribe to my mailing list.