Chinese picture puzzles in Tibetan book

I recently found a stash of Tibetan books in my local Xinhua. By ‘stash’ I mean four different books: two grammar readers, a children’s puzzle book and a Tibetan/English translation of Buddhist poetry. But beggars cannot be choosers, especially when it comes to Tibetan books outside of Tibet proper.

The puzzle book, published by the Tibetan People’s Publishing House in 1996 for the grand old price of 2.2 RMB is extremely cool; it’s bilingual Tibetan/Chinese, and full of little games no doubt designed to entertain Tibetan kiddies (with the aim of helping improve their Chinese literacy, it would seem).


The Tibetan title རི་མོར་བལྟས་ནས་བསམ་བློ་གཏོང་རྒྱུ། means (very roughly – my Tibetan is not what it once was, and it never was very good)  ‘get an idea from looking at the pictures’ , the Chinese title in the inside cover is 看图猜一猜, ‘guess from the pictures’. The first puzzle is a silhouette picture puzzle; with instructions to combine the silhouettes, which represent radicals, any which way to form ten different Chinese characters.


So we have 日, 鱼, 羊, 牛, 木, 象, 亻, and. Aside from the obvious ones like and , you can get some fairly low frequency ones too – and , for instance. I reckon ten is pretty easy to do. Anyone find any other interesting ones?


Another interesting puzzle later in the book is the ‘sun and moon tower’. The tower is formed from levels of either the Chinese character for sun, 日, or moon, 月.


Here each level of the tower represents a single Chinese character, and the puzzle is working out which character goes with each level. For example, the top level, 1 x 日, is 旦 – composed of 日 and 一 (one).

(Answers: 2x月 = 朋, 3x日 = 晶, 7x日=周, 9x日=旭, 10x日=旬, 12x月=年)

8 responses to “Chinese picture puzzles in Tibetan book”

  1. How do we get the script to render properly?

  2. Julen says:

    How many people are there left in China who are fluent reading/writing Tibetan?

    Last time I was in the Kham region I was asking around and I couldn’t find a single person Tibetan who could read the script, except the monks in the temples (and even those, I suspect they only had a superficial knowledge of Buddhist related phrases).

  3. Duncan says:

    Julen, I really can’t answer that as it’s not something I’ve looked into, and I have no idea what the education system is like in Tibet – ie. whether they teach Tibetan in schools as an integral part of the curriculum.

    They do however publish a Tibetan version of the Tibet Daily (e-version here):

    Bookshops in Tibet, and Tibetan regions all carry Tibetan books.

    I’m guessing that it’ll be a generational thing: some old monks I met in Zhongdian only read Tibetan, and a lot of the younger Tibetan kids I know can no longer read the script, that or they never even learned it. Sorry I can’t be of more help.

  4. Julen says:

    No worries, just curiosity. I should add that the region I traveled was the Sichuanese part of Kham, that is probably the reason why this happened. The people there speak a different brand of Tibetan, and I am not sure they even understand spoken Tibetan from Lhasa.

    A similar problem happens with my own minority language, the provinces with dialects that are far removed from the standardized form tend to lose contact with the culture and eventually lose the language, unless there is some political action to promote it.

  5. C. Callosum says:

    I thought 10x日 would be 早. Oh well!

  6. In the lunar calendar, 1 旬 = 1/3 月 (a third of a month).

    I wrote this on the board in my classroom (elementary school kids), and only a few of the parents knew 旬. All of the kids said 早.

    Other possibilities for 9 日s are: 旮, 旯.

  7. Gus says:

    Anybody know of any other Chinese character puzzles like these? I’ve made a few Chinese-based puzzles myself ( but I’ve love to find more.

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