This study probes into the complexity of three types of change-of-state events from the expansion of resultative compounds in Chinese. Through diachronic analysis of quantitative data, it is found that the continuum ‘durative change of state – punctual change of state – gradient change of state’ features incremental complexity levels, reflected in the expanded use of resultative compounds. Durative change of state is virtually always expressed by individual characters, but the expression of gradient change of state must resort to resultative compounds since Early Mandarin. This complexity continuum is not only reflected in Chinese, but also universally instantiated in other languages. This finding supports the prediction of the principle of iconicity that a larger chunk of information will be given a larger chunk of code.