D is for Doufu


"While this elegantly illustrated volume will hardly launch readers on the road to fluency, it does cogently explain the "construction" of Chinese pictograms and interpret how their component symbols combine to make a word with a meaning larger than the sum of its parts. As Krach explains, the pictogram for en, or grace, is formed as follows: 'A person resting [symbol] upon a square mat [symbol] means to rely upon. It is combined with the heart [symbol] below. Whoever relies on his heart achieves grace.' Not all terms are so ethereal– dou fu (tofu), guo (China), and ma jiang (mahjongg) are among the more worldly entries– and a paragraph or two sets each term into its cultural context. A conluding page offers Mandarin pronunciation keys and a guide to tonal changes."