Chinese characters are unique among all the existing languages on the planet. Compared to English, the biggest difference between these two languages is that each Chinese character or word has an individual meaning itself; English, on the other hand, is made up of 26 alphabet letters. Each letter has no meaning of its own; a word is a combination of letters.
It starts with the origin of Chinese characters. In the earliest ancient time, people curved some symbols on the turtle shell or tortoise shells or animal bones by the royal family in the late Shang Dynasty for divination, which is called and known as Oracle Bone Script nowadays. It is the earliest known mature script in China and East Asia.
Basically, these scripts are drawings. Some of them simply mean some specific object, for example, the script of the meaning “sun” is a circle, the shape of the sun, with a dot in the middle. Except in a direct way to describe the meaning of obvious things like “sun”, the ancient people also are so intelligent to be able to draw an abstract meaning, like verbs, etc., into a picture in a smart way. For instance, the character “包”, which means “surround” in English, is a man in a sealed circle in Oracle Bone Script.
These characters that express more complicated meanings usually use the symbol of man (or more than one man) to make the main meaning pop out, examples like “交”, means “cross”, is a man sitting down with crossed legs; “并”, means “together”, is two men standing in the same direction and carrying a stick on their shoulders.
Since Oracle Bone Script, Chinese characters has evolved according to the appearance of oracle bone inscriptions and into the modern square-shaped characters nowadays. That’s why every single Chinese character has its own meaning. Also, you would find that, some characters still obviously look like their “ancients”.
In nowadays, traditional Chinese is actually the characters coming from Oracle Bone Script. Simplified Chinese surely has its advantages, yet, as it named, it does remove a lot of features of traditional characters. It’s difficult to tell or read a simplified Chinese character’s meaning or its history.
In my opinion, the amaze of language learning is that you are able to connect with the past. Time is the dimension that our human beings can never travel through. Yet language is one of the ways to take a peek of the past.