Some of the easiest characters to write are 天， 生， 牛， 千， 末. Totally Chapter 1 material and it gets so much harder from there. When I'm reading, I have no problem distinguishing between these. BUT when I'm writing and have to recall the characters from my memory, I start getting super confused. Today I'm trying to get these right once and for all!
天: tiān (day)
This character is made up of 一 (yī - one) and 大 (dà - big), with one on top of the other.
牛: niǔ (cow)
This is supposed to look like an ox's head. I can never remember if the vertical stroke extends past the first horizontal line. But it does! I suppose the small pie and the tip that extends at the top could be considered the two horns.
生: shēng (life)
生 is 牛 with an extra horizontal line at the bottom. It's like a cow standing on the ground. If a cow is standing on the ground, it's alive! Is this working? We'll see...
千: qiān (thousand)
This character has a pie added to the top of 十 (ten). Which would make sense as a "thousand" is much more added to "ten". This is simpler for me to remember rather than Yellow Bridge's etymology that this is an 一 (yī - one) over a 人 (rén - person).
末: mò (final, last, end)
This is often seen in 週末 (zhōumò - weekend). I always get it mixed up with 天. This character formation is known as an "indicator", where there is an 一 at the top of 木 (mù - wood). The 一 is the indicator mark that points to what is being described. In this case, the 一 is pointing to the END of the 木, since it's at the top. It's important to remember that the indicator mark is a longer horizontal line than the one found in 木.