The three most gruesome characters

  1. (hēi; black) - represents a permanent tattoo on the face to mark someone as a criminal

  2. (qǔ; take) - represents a hand grabbing an ear cut off a defeated enemy to use as a battle trophy

  3. (yāng; beg) - represents a man inside a torture device called a cangue (木枷) that prevents him from reaching his mouth with his hand, and thus being compelled to beg others to feed him

Note that nowadays these are completely normal characters used in context in non-gruesome ways, such as:

  • 那只猫是色的。
    That cat is black.

  • 我来我的自行车。
    I’m here to pick up my bike.

  • 你一件事。
    I’d ask a favor of you.

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