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.

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.


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.