Chinese characters by radical

Chinese characters

Chinese characters


In this section we introduce a few common Chinese characters, explaining their origin. The long history of the written language is described and the way that all the many characters are characterized is set out.

Here we list some commonly used Chinese characters. Most of the entries for these characters give an audio link so you can hear how it should be pronounced (in the Beijing dialect), the entries also list common usage, proverbs and names as well as the constituent parts that make up the character. For some of the ancient ‘pictogram’ characters we describe the likely origin of the character or radical. To help with pronunciation we list common characters with the same tone (homophones) and the ones with different tones.

The traditional way to find the meaning of a character in a Chinese-English dictionary is to look it up by order of pinyin sound - as in our character index. If you only have the written character and do not know how it is pronounced you have to use another method. First you analyze the character and work out its component parts. One of these parts - usually the left part is the radical. You then need to know how many strokes are used to write the radical part. Having looked up the radical in the index by stroke count you look through to find the character. If this does not work it could be that the radical is not to the left but may be at the top or more rarely bottom or right. Another problem may be working out the number of strokes, for example it may come as a surprise that a box is made of three strokes, a newcomer may have suspected four or one but three seems arbitrary until you start studying Chinese calligraphy - then it becomes clear that the strokes are related to ease and structure of writing the character.

Here is a list of common radicals used to index Chinese characters. We have not currently included all 214, only some of the most common ones. A radical is a component part of a character and is usually to the top or left of the 'main' character. The radical can indicate either meaning or pronunciation. Dictionaries use their own scheme for radicals, we are the following the one used in Wiktionary , these include some radicals only used in traditional characters but it is convenient to use an index that covers both simplified and traditional forms. Click on a link for more information about the radical. If you know the radical then common characters that use that radical are listed in the description for the character.

One stroke

1 One; 2 Line; 3 Dot; 4 丿 'slash'; 5 Hidden; 6 'vertical hook';

Two strokes

7 Two; 8 Head; 9 Person; 9 Person (radical); 10 Legs; 11 To enter; 12 Eight; 13 Covering box; 14 Cover; 15 Ice; 16 How many; 17 Open box; 18 Knife (radical); 19 Strength; 20 Wrap; 21 Spoon; 22 Basket; 23 Box; bag; 24 Ten; 25 Divination; 26 Seal (of document); 27 Cliff; 28 Private; 29 Also; 149 Words; 163 Place; 170 'left ear';

Three strokes

30 Mouth; 31 Proud; 32 Earth; 34 Walk slowly; 36 Sunset; 37 Big; 38 Female; 39 Child; 40 Roof; 41 Unit of length; 44 Corpse; 46 Mountain; 47 River; 48 Work; 49 Snake; 50 Scarf; 51 Do; 53 广 Vast; 54 'long stride'; 55 Two hands; 56 Catch; 57 Bow; 58 Snout; 59 Bristle; 60 Step; 61 Heart; 85 Water; 94 Dog; 120 Silk; 140 Grass; 162 Walking; 169 Entrance; 184 Food; 187 Horse;

Four strokes

61 Heart; 62 Spear; 63 Door; 66 Rap; 67 Script; 68 Unit of weight; 69 Axe; 70 Square; 71 Not to have; 72 Sun; 73 To speak; 75 Wood; 76 Yawn; 77 To stop; 78 Bad; 79 Spear; 82 Hair; 83 Clan name; 84 Gas; 85 Water; 86 Fire (as radical); 87 Claw; 88 Father; 91 Thin piece; 93 Ox; 96 Jade; 113 Spirit; 125 Old; 130 Meat; 154 Shell; 159 Vehicle; 168 Long;

Five strokes

98 Tile; 99 Pleasant; 101 To use; 102 Field; 106 Bright; 108 Dish; 109 Eye; 111 Arrow; 112 Rock; 113 To show; 115 Grain; 116 Cave; 117 Stand; 122 Net; 145 Clothes; 167 Metal; 196 Bird;

Six strokes

118 Bamboo; 119 Rice; 123 Sheep; 126 As well as; 128 Ear; 132 From; 133 To arrive; 135 Tongue; 137 Boat; 138 Stubborn; 141 Tiger; 142 Insect; 144 Permitted; 146 西 West; 181 Page;

Seven strokes

150 Valley; 152 Pig; 156 Walk; 157 Foot; 158 Body; 160 Hard; 164 Wine vessel; 166 Inside;

Eight strokes

172 Short-tailed bird; 173 Rain; 174 Green; 175 To not be; 195 Fish;

Nine strokes

138 Eat; 177 Animal hide; 180 Sound; 194 Ghost;

Ten strokes

189 Tall;
Tai Chi - an exercise in healthy self defense

Tai Chi - an exercise in healthy self defense


When people think of China many will picture martial arts as these have been portrayed so widely in films and on TV. The various techniques were developed in the monasteries where active exercise was the perfect balance to long spells of meditation. Many ordinary Chinese practise Taichi each day to maintain health and suppleness.
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