Polyphonic characters

重 Chong, zhong

I will start with 重, as it’s very commonly used, and it’s always in the name of my host city of Chongqing重庆.

重 Zhong – Falling tone

The first meaning of this character is ‘heavy,’ ‘weight’ or ’emphasis,’ and you should hopefully see the connection between these.

重 Chong – Rising tone

Chong has the meaning of ‘repeat,’ ‘dual,’ ‘duplicate’ or ‘numerous.’ Notice how these are all connected, but at the same time unrelated to ‘Zhong.’


Here, I will offer five different pairings of characters, and all you need to do is study the meaning, and tell me whether 重 should be pronounced ‘Chong’ or ‘zhong.’

  1. 双重 Shuang _____ ? Dual, multi-purpose
  2. 重复 _____ fu ? Repeat
  3. 沉重 Chen ____ ? Heavy, arduous
  4. 重启 ____ qi ? Restart, turn on again
  5. 重金属 _____ jin shu ? Heavy metals
  6. 重负 _____ fu ? Burden
  7. 重又 _____ you ? Once again
  8. 重塑 _____ su ? Remould
  9. 重中之重 _____ zhong zhi _____ ? The top priority
  10. 心事重重 Xin shi _____ _____ ? A heart full of anxieties

Have you answered them yet? Check your answers below.

  1. Shuang chong
  2. Chong fu
  3. Chen zhong
  4. Chong qi
  5. Zhong jinshu
  6. Zhong fu
  7. Chong you
  8. Chong su
  9. Zhong zhong zhi zhong (First and last characters the same)
  10. Xin shi chong chong (Same two characters again)

How did you do?

Congratulations if you answered them all correctly. You can move onto the next polyphonic character when you’re ready.

Otherwise, no need to worry. Try again, and I promise you will get the hang of it in no time!

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