Tangut: The Most Inconvenient Writing System?


A thousand years old in East Asia, the greatest power in the region, China, had an overwhelming influence on the surrounding lands and people. They had also been the most powerful and influential since the first cities began appearing in Asia. Another group of people known as the Khitan, nomads originally from Mongolia, were in control of a huge territory in Manchuria (Northeast China). These Khitan spoke a language vastly different from the Chinese languages, but since their neighbors to the south had a system of writing which had been invented thousands of years before and the Chinese were known for the literary culture, the Khitan copied them.

A hundred or so years later in the Western Xia Dynasty, a group of people called the Tanguts, who are of the Tibetan-Burmese ethnicity, heard of the Khitan and there Chinese-influenced way of writing and took to create their own, being influenced by not only Chinese but the artificial Khitan script. And although, this new system looks Chinese, it is only related in that way.


The Tangut script is, according to Gerard Clauson, an Orientalist, “remarkable for being… one of the most inconvenient of all scripts, collection of nearly 5,800 characters of the same kind as Chinese characters but rather more complicated.” All the things that make the Chinese characters intuitive, representation of pictures, ideas, or the use of characters phonetically, are not present in “Tangraphs”. One extra dot or line could change the meaning and reading of the character greatly. Another feature in Chinese that is lacking in Tangut are radicals (small pieces used to building characters). There are parts used in many of the characters but the don’t carry as much information as in Chinese, in other words you can’t guess the meaning of the character as a whole by the radicals. And finally the Tangraphs on average have many more strokes than in the Chinese characters. A block of text in Tangut looks like just that, a block. Very few characters have less than around 8 strokes.

For all the confusing, and irritating features of the Tangut script, I think there’s a beauty in it’s complexity. There is still a lot left that is not translated and if you want to learn more about this Chinese-like writing system check out the Wikipedia, Omniglot (a great website for writing systems and languages), and this article.

Rock U Summer Camp

Last week, I participated in a summer camp with my friends called Rock U. I wasn’t aware of this camp until my friend, Harrison, told me about it and was wondering if I could do the camp with him along with a couple of other friends in our band that we formed earlier this year, the Bandwagon. Rock U Camp which is hosted by Music Matters is a week long camp where you: form a band, choose two songs to learn with your band, practice them with a mentor, and perform the songs at a camp concert. The two songs we chose were Sunday Morning – Maroon 5 and Californication – Red Hot Chili Peppers. You also attend N5img-20150619185116002music classes during the day like blues classes, video/audio production, wardrobe and just general instrument classes where your instructor can help you with better technique.

Our drummer, Lance, could not attend the camp because he was in California, so on our first day we were paired up with a drummer named Taylor. We weren’t so sure about Taylor at first because he is about 2 years younger than all of us, but he was really talented. Apparently, he was a student at Music Matters and learned percussion there. He also went to this camp every year. He turned out to be a really cool guy and he also played very well with us.

I think one of the advantages our band had over the others was that a lot of us have been playing together for awhile, so we were very in sync and could work together easily. Some of the other groups weren’t so lucky and got stuck with people that they couldn’t quite get along with or just couldn’t adjust to their playing style. After we learned the songs and could actually start playing them all the way through, we had so much fun practicing them. IMG_20150619_184350We would actually go over to Harrison’s house after the camp and practice there. On Thursday, the camp instructors actually asked our band to play for the entire camp. I felt so honored because we were the only ones that played, so the instructors must have felt that we were the most prepared.

On Friday, we practiced ALL day long. We didn’t have any classes in the morning, so we could get a head start on our practice. By lunch, I felt that we were as prepared as we could get, and I couldn’t wait to perform that night. For the next hour, we just hung out and jammed on our instruments and then we were called into the main area for dress rehearsals. We went through the whole show twice with lights and sound to make sure everything worked and this got me even more pumped for the real performance. At about 4 pm (the show started at 6 pm), we had pizza and ice cream and then gathered in the back room to await the parents. I was surprised of how many people were there compared to the amount of campers. But when the director of the camp announced our band, I knew we were going to do great. We came to the camp to rock and rock is what we did. I enjoyed this camp so much and I want to come back to it next year.

Here are our performances.