The Chinese Radicals

214 radicals to build most characters

What is Chinese made of?

Chinese is made of words, which are made of characters, themselves made of one or more radicals among 214. See the four examples of radicals below.

radicals.jpg

214 radicals to rule all characters

Knowing 214 radicals will ease your process of learning Chinese. Why? Because when you know the radicals, you can remember more easily how they combine with each other to form more complex characters. Radicals can have one of the following functions, or both:

  • semantic, providing part or whole of the meaning;

  • phonetics, giving the sound to the character, or something very close to it.

The concept of key

Every character has one and only one radical with the function of "key", which allows to find a character into a dictionary. In many cases, the radical on the left or on the top of a character is the key. However, with the increase of the use of digital dictionaries on smartphone, in which you can draw the character, knowing keys become less critical.

Examples

爸 bà, which means dad, is made of 2 radicals:

  • 父 fù (father), is the semantic radical, and also the key

  • 巴 bā (to wish), is the phonetics radical

好 hǎo, which means good, is made of 2 radicals:

  • 女 nǚ (woman), is the semantic radical, and also the key

  • 子 zi (child), is a component with a semantic function (because to express that something is good, we associate a mother and a child), but there is no phonetics function of the radical to help for the pronunciation.

Work your own way to remember each of them

Each of us has his personal idea, history, conviction or preference when it comes to mnemonics to remember things.

For instance, in our previous exemple for 好 hǎo, we could think of it this way:

女 + 子 = 好

woman + child = good, well (好 hǎo)

"When a woman sticks to her child, it is good"

Sometimes, you have ideas, sometimes you do not. HSK Academy supports you and will keep delivering means to remember more easily radicals and characters, just as for the four ones on the top of this article. Stay tuned by following our facebook page.

As soon as you’ll be ready, get your copy of the official HSK lists and start to prepare!

In the meantime, review this list regularly:

The complete list of radicals

Number Key Pinyin English

1

one

2

gǔn

line

3

zhǔ

stroke

4

丿 乀 乁

oblique

5

乙 乚 乛

sickle

6

jué

hook

7

èr

two

8

tóu

shelter, head

9

人 亻

rén

man

10

er

child

11

to enter

12

八 丷

eight, separate

13

jiōng

scope

14

to cover

15

bīng

ice

16

table

17

qiǎn

container

18

刂 刁 刀 ク

dāo

knife

19

force

20

bāo

to wrap

21

spoon, man overthrown

22

fāng

open box

23

to hide

24

shí

ten

25

bo

divination

26

jié

seal

27

chǎng

production facility

28

secret

29

又 ヌ

yòu

still, hand

30

kǒu

mouth

31

wéi

enclosure

32

earth

33

shì

scholar

34

zhǐ

to go

35

suī

go slowly

36

evening

37

big

38

woman

39

zi

child

40

mián

roof

41

cùn

thumb

42

小 ⺌ ⺍

xiǎo

small

43

yóu

weak

44

shī

dead body

45

chè

germ

46

shān

mountain

47

川 巛

chuān

river

48

gōng

work

49

personal

50

jīn

turban

51

gàn

dry

52

yāo

tiny

53

广

guǎng

shelter

54

yǐn

great, stride

55

gǒng

two, hands

56

arrow-grapin

57

gōng

bow

58

彐 彑

snout

59

shān

beard, brush

60

chì

walk around

61

心 忄

xīn

heart

62

halberd

63

戶 户

gate

64

手 扌 才

shǒu

hand

65

zhī

branch

66

攴 攵

to bump, hand

67

wén

writing

68

dòu

measurer

69

jīn

ax, 500 grams

70

fāng

square, direction

71

without

72

sun

73

yuē

to say

74

yuè

moon

75

木 朩

tree

76

qiàn

tired

77

zhǐ

to stop

78

dǎi

death

79

shū

weapon

80

母 毋 毌

mother

81

to confront

82

máo

fur

83

shì

clan

84

air

85

水 氵 氺

shuǐ

water

86

火 灬

huǒ

fire

87

爪 爫

zhǎo

claw

88

father

89

yáo

double

90

pán

splitted, wood

91

piàn

slice

92

tooth, ivory

93

牛 牜 ⺧

niú

beef

94

犬 犭

quǎn

dog

95

xuán

deep

96

王 玉

jade

97

guā

melon

98

tile

99

gān

sweet

100

shēng

be born

101

yòng

to use

102

tián

field

103

疋 ⺪

roll, piece of cloth

104

disease

105

to go up

106

bái

white

107

skin

108

mǐn

container

109

eye

110

máo

spear

111

shǐ

arrow

112

shí

stone

113

示 礻

shì

to venerate, to show

114

róu

get away

115

grain

116

xué

cave, swing door

117

standing up

118

竹 ⺮ ケ

shì

bamboo

119

rice

120

糸 纟

silk

121

fǒu

jar

122

网 罒 罓 罓

wǎng

net

123

羊 ⺶ ⺷

yáng

sheep

124

feather

125

老 耂

lǎo

old

126

ér

and

127

lěi

plow

128

ěr

ear

129

brush

130

肉 月

ròu

meat

131

chén

minister

132

personal

133

zhì

to reach

134

jiù

mortar

135

shé

tongue

136

chuǎn

to oppose

137

zhōu

boat

138

gěn

decided

139

color

140

cao

vegetable

141

tiger

142

chóng

insect

143

xuè

blood

144

xíng

circulate

145

衣 衤

cloth

146

西 覀

xi

lid

147

jiàn

to see

148

jiǎo

horn

149

言 讠

yán

speech (trad)

150

valley

151

dòu

pea

152

chù

pig

153

zhì

feline, cat family

154

bèi

shell, money

155

chì

red

156

zǒu

to walk

157

foot

158

shēn

body

159

chē

car

160

xīn

bitter

161

chén

morning

162

chuò

brisk walking

163

阝 (邑)

city

164

yǒu

alcohol

165

biàn

to distinguish

166

neighborhood

167

金 钅

jīn

gold, metal

168

zhǎng

long

169

mén

gate

170

阝(阜)

mound

171

servant

172

zhuī

short-tailed bird

173

rain

174

qīng

blue/green

175

fēi

false

176

miàn

face

177

leather

178

wéi

tanned leather

179

jiǔ

leek

180

yīn

sound

181

页 頁

head, leaf

182

fēng

wind

183

fēi

to fly

184

食 饣

shí

to eat

185

shǒu

head

186

xiāng

perfume

187

horse

188

bone

189

gāo

high

190

biāo

hair

191

dòu

fight

192

chàng

sacrificial wine

193

cauldron

194

guǐ

ghost

195

fish

196

niǎo

bird

197

salt

198

鹿

deer

199

mài

corn

200

hemp

201

huáng

yellow

202

shǔ

millet

203

hēi

black

204

zhǐ

embroidery

205

miǎn

frog

206

dǐng

tripod

207

drum

208

shǔ

rat

209

nose

210

regular

211

齿

chǐ

tooth, engrenage

212

lóng

dragon

213

guī

tortoise

214

yuè

flute

A good way to remember these radicals is to see what they represent. You can do that with most of them, either by checking the etymology of radicals (from the oracle bones and how they have transformed to their current forms) or by using your own imagination and taking notes of it, which is certainly the most efficient way.

For instance, how to do that for 山 (shān: mountain)?

How to do that for 鱼 (yú: fish)?

How to do that for 囗 (wéi: enclosure)?

Check on the HSK 1 list if you recognize some radicals within characters, or discover more with the principles of the chinese language. You can also come back to our home page.