Chinese Radicals | Unlock Their Potential and Crack The Code (FREE PDF, Poster AND Quiz Included)

Chinese Radicals | An Introduction to Understanding Them (PLUS Free Quiz, Video & PDF)

What are Chinese Radicals and how do we use them?

Chinese Radicals - Free Download
Preview of our FREE Radicals PDF Download

This is your complete guide to understanding how they work.

WANT YOUR FREE CHINESE RADICALS PDF DOWNLOAD – get it here

Chinese is difficult, we all know that much, but….

I sometimes really think the women of Jiangyong country in Hunan province were onto something when they invented the Nüshu script.

I mean, wouldn’t it be much easier to learn 600 or 700 symbols than the approximately 2600 characters you need to know to pass the HSK 6 exam?

So yes, Chinese is difficult.

With the tones, and the characters, and the various dialects (or hua) that practically every place has, many people get the urge to simply give up.

A lot of people also say that there is no logic when learning Chinese. However, in reality, there is!

If your mother tongue is English or German and if you studied, for example, a Romance language, of course Chinese will seem difficult and often incomprehensible.

But you shouldn’t give up…

Instead, you should find different methods to learn the characters faster and better. Learning the Chinese radicals is one of them.

Chinese Radicals || The Full List

Chinese Radicals || What’s the Fuss About?

Chinese Radicals || Where do They Belong?

Chinese Radicals || Have They Changed and What’s Their Meaning?

FREE DOWNLOAD || FREE CHINESE RADICALS PDF

FREE DOWNLOAD || FREE CHINESE RADICALS POSTER

BONUS QUIZ || Radicals Quiz | How Many Do You Know?

Chinese Radicals || FAQ’s

Discover the most common Chinese radicals (including audio)

Want to learn some more basics?

Check out our blog about the most frequently used Chinese measure words!

Chinese Measure Words 🤔 71 Frequently Used (With Free PDF, Video and Quiz) Thumbnail

Chinese Measure Words 🤔 71 Frequently Used (With Free PDF, Video and Quiz)

Chinese measure words can be one of the most intimidating and confusing things about learning Chinese for beginners – but don’t worry, we’ve got it covered.

Chinese Radicals || The Full List

Radical NumberChineseVariantsEnglishPinyinStrokes
1one1
2lineshù*/gǔn1
3dotdiǎn*/zhǔ1
4丿乀,⺄slashpiě1
5乚,乛second1
6hookgōu*/jué1
7twoèr2
8lidtóu2
9personrén2
10legsér2
11enter2
12eight2
13down boxjiǒng2
14cover2
15icebīng2
16tablejī, jǐ2
17open boxqiǎn2
18⺈,刂knifedāo2
19power2
20wrapbāo2
21ladle2
22right open boxfāng/xǐ2
23hiding enclosure2
24tenshí2
25divination2
26sealjié2
27cliffhǎn2
28private2
29againyòu2
30mouthkǒu3
31enclosurewéi3
32earth3
33scholarshì3
34gozhī3
35go slowlysuī3
36night3
37big3
38woman3
39child3
40roofmián3
41inchcùn3
42⺍,⺌smallxiǎo3
43lameyóu3
44corpseshī3
45sproutchè3
46mountainshān3
47riverchuān3
48workgōng3
49oneself3
50toweljīn3
51drygān3
52threadyāo3
53广shelterguǎng3
54strideyǐn3
55hands joinedgǒng3
56shoot with a bow3
57bowgōng3
58snout3
59hairshān3
60stepchì3
61忄,⺗heartxīn4
62spear4
63户,戸door4
64扌,龵handshǒu4
65branchzhī4
66tap4
67scriptwén4
68struggledǒu4
69axejīn4
70squarefāng4
71not4
72sun4
73sayyuē4
74moonyuè4
75tree4
76lackqiàn4
77stopzhǐ4
78deathdǎi4
79weaponshū4
80mother, do notmǔ/wú4
81compare4
82furmáo4
83clanshì4
84steam4
85氵,氺watershuǐ4
86firehuǒ4
87clawzhǎo4
88father4
89lines on a trigramyáo4
90half of a tree trunkqiáng4
91slicepiàn4
92tooth4
93牜,⺧cowniú4
94dogquǎn4
95profoundxuán5
96王,玊jade5
97melonguā5
98tile5
99sweetgān5
100lifeshēng5
101useyòng5
102fieldtián5
103cloth5
104illbìng5
105foot steps5
106whitebái5
107skin5
108dishmǐn5
109eye5
110spearmáo5
111arrowshǐ5
112stoneshí5
113spiritshì5
114trackróu5
115grain5
116cavexuè5
117stand5
118bamboozhú6
119rice6
120糹,纟silk6
121jarfǒu6
122罓,⺳,⺫netwǎng6
123⺶,⺷sheepyáng6
124feather6
125oldlǎo6
126andér6
127plowlěi6
128earěr6
129⺺,⺻brush6
130meatròu6
131ministerchén6
132oneself6
133arrivezhì6
134mortarjiù6
135tongueshé6
136contrarychuǎn6
137boatzhōu6
138mountaingèn6
139color6
140⺿,艹grasscǎo6
141tiger6
142insectchóng6
143bloodxuě6
144walkxíng6
145clothes6
146西,覀westyà/xī6
147seejiàn7
148hornjiǎo7
149speechyán7
150valley7
151beandòu7
152pigshǐ7
153badgerzhì7
154shellbèi7
155redchì7
156walkzǒu7
157foot7
158bodyshēn7
159cartchē7
160bitterxīn7
161morningchén7
162辶,⻍,⻎walkchuò7
163city7
164wineyǒu7
165distinguishbiàn7
166village7
167钅,釒metaljīn8
168镸,长longcháng8
169gatemén8
170mound8
171slave8
172short-tailed birdzhuī8
173rain8
174blueqīng8
175wrongfēi8
176facemiàn9
177leather9
178soft leatherwěi9
179leekjiǔ9
180soundyīn9
181page9
182windfēng9
183flyfēi9
184飠,饣eatshí9
185headshǒu9
186fragrantxiāng9
187horse10
188bone10
189highgāo10
190long hairbiāo10
191fightdòu10
192sacrificial winechàng10
193cauldron10
194ghostguǐ10
195fish11
196birdniǎo11
197salty11
198鹿deer11
199wheatmài11
200hemp11
201yellowhuáng11
202milletshǔ12
203blackhēi12
204embroideryzhǐ12
205frogmǐn12
206tripoddǐng12
207drum13
208ratshǔ13
209nose14
210斉,齐even14
211齿toothchǐ15
212dragonlóng16
213turtleguī16
214fluteyuè17
*name of the character stroke

Chinese Radicals || What’s All The Fuss?

What’s so radical about this method?

Chinese-radicals

Take 刀 – the knife/sword radical. By understanding the meaning of this radical we can guess what the character might be related to…!

Studying radicals enables you to do this and it also makes it possible for you to look up a character in the dictionary.

I know, I know, who uses paper dictionaries anymore? Good skill to have though!

Think about it!

Learning Chinese radicals will also allow you to group characters with similar components according to their semantic (meaning) or phonetic (pronunciation) characteristics.

Imagine radicals as building blocks in the larger scheme of the Chinese language.

An example of Nüshu script. The characters mean, well, nüshu.
An example of Nüshu script

They can help you learn characters easier and faster, and, eventually, you will be able to use them to swiftly memorise new words by knowing how different characters are combined.

During the Ming Dynasty, Mei Ying Zuo developed the radical and stroke method which was published in the first Lexicon (zì huì).

What does this mean?

Well, that characters in the dictionary are actually listed by radical and then ordered by the number of strokes.

Stroke order is also very important in Chinese.

Chinese-Stroke-Order

Have you ever noticed that, when you write a character in Pleco, the app sometimes doesn’t recognise it?

This is because your stroke order is wrong! But that’s a different topic.

Similar Chinese Characters 🤷🏽‍♀️ The Ones You Must Know (Plus FREE Quiz) Thumbnail

Similar Chinese Characters 🤷🏽‍♀️ The Ones You Must Know (Plus FREE Quiz)

How many Chinese characters? Too many! In this guide we cover the ones that foreigners often get confused.

Chinese Radicals || Where Do They Belong?

DEFINITION – So, a radical or key (部首, bùshǒu) is a graphic component of a Chinese character.

This means that every character contains a radical. Some radicals can in fact also be characters, like the word for mouth (口, kǒu), and they are used in the formation of other characters.

So, you should rather think of radicals as components of a character.

How many radicals are there in the Chinese language?

There are 214 radicals in the Chinese language and they can appear just about anywhere in a character.

chinese door radical
A Chineasy Flashcard (in Traditional Chinese)

For example, in the character 好, the radical 女 (nǚ, meaning female, woman) is on the left side of the character and in the character 闯 (chuăng; to rush, to break through) the radical 门 (mén, door) is outside.

FUN WAY TO LEARN – So let’s look at the 闯 character more closely: you will see that it shows a horse (马, mă) breaking through the door.

Hence the meaning “to break through”. Makes sense, right?

Let’s see another example. The verb 取 (qǔ, to take) consists of the components for hand 又 and an ear 耳, meaning a hand that is taking an ear.

Ear removal was a common way of counting casualties after a battle, so the character’s meaning makes sense – in a gross kind of way.

It won’t always be possible to apply this method (of making sense of a character) when learning them though.

Why?

Mainly because some of them changed drastically from pictograms, they lost their original meaning or their etymology is connected to something you simply don’t understand.

Maybe the character changed significantly during its simplification. However, this method will definitely help you a lot to make connections between various components and characters.

USEFUL PRODUCT ALERT! You’ll have seen above we used an image from the Chineasy product range. This is a super brand which bases itself on beautiful designs. We believe a deck of Chineasy cards is a great way to learn Radicals.

You can purchase some from Amazon here. We hope it’s useful.

Please note the link above is affiliate link. LTL Mandarin School take a small cut of any sales made, with the rest going to Amazon and the lister of the product.
How to Decode a Chinese Menu Like a Pro 🍜 Chinese Menus Explained + The Complete Cheat Sheet Thumbnail

How to Decode a Chinese Menu Like a Pro 🍜 Chinese Menus Explained + The Complete Cheat Sheet

Chinese Menus. How to read them, how to decode them? Not so easy right? Well with our FREE Chinese Menu cheat sheet and tips, you’ll have no problems!

How have Chinese Radicals changed and what is their meaning?

The radicals are also distorted and changed when they are combined in characters. These are called the variants of the radical.

Similar Chinese Characters
Can you spot the radicals?

So, let’s see what some of the most common Chinese radicals are and how they change:

  1. 人 “man” → 亻 on the left (used in – you and – he)
  2. 心 “heart” (used in the meaning of feeling, mental activities) → 忄on the left (used in – emotion and – busy)
  3. 手 “hand” → 扌on the left (used in – push and – pull)
  4. 水 “water” → 氵 on the left (used in – river and – ocean)
  5. 行 “going” (literally ‘left step’) → stays unchanged on the left (used in – to walk and – towards, bound to)

You can also group Chinese Radicals by their phonetic component or by their meaning – for example, characters can be connected to nature (such as 土, meaning Earth, 日 meaning Sun or月 meaning Moon), people (the previously mentioned 女, 手 or 心 / 忄) or maybe animals (马 meaning horse, 虫 meaning insect or犭meaning animal).

So there you go. I hope we managed to persuade you to have some fun while studying Chinese.

Because that’s what it is all about!

Feeling ready to tackle a quiz on the Chinese Radicals? Check it out below!

Chinese Radicals || FREE PDF

Two amazing downloads for you here!

First we’ve got our beautifully designed Radicals PDF which you can save to your computer and also print out if you wish.

A great way to get familiar with the radicals of Chinese.

If you want to go one step further and get a bigger version for your wall… read on!

Chinese Radicals || FREE POSTER

And now for the amazing Radicals Poster.

You can get this for free if you share on your Facebook page!

Chinese Radicals || FREE Quiz

Want to put your knowledge of Chinese radicals and their variants to the test?

Then have a go at our Free Radical Quiz!!

It’s multiple choice so it’s worth a try even if you’re not sure. You’ll also be able to see which ones you got right and wrong.

Why not let us know your score below?

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So clearly you enjoy learning Chinese but ever been curious about Korean and Japanese as well? If you check these out:

  • Japanese vs Korean vs Mandarin – Find out which is really the hardest and how they relate (if at all). This is a fascinating read.
  • The Korean Alphabet – Unlike Mandarin Korean does have an alphabet and it’s actually really easy to learn. Find out how.

Chinese Radicals || FAQs

What is a Chinese Radical?

DEFINITION – A Chinese radical or key (部首, bùshǒu) is a graphic component of a Chinese character.

Does every single character contain a Chinese Radical?

Yes. Some radicals can in fact also be characters, like the word for mouth (口, kǒu),

How many Chinese Radicals are there in total?

There are 214 radicals in the Chinese language and they can appear just about anywhere in a character.

Where do Radicals normally appear in a character?

Anywhere!

In the character 好, the radical 女 (nǚ, meaning female, woman) is on the left side of the character.

However, in the character 闯 (chuăng; to rush, to break through) the radical 门 (mén, door) is outside.

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  1. Everything You Should Know About Chinese Science Fiction
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    […] we talked about the Chinese language, it’s alphabet and how to use radicals and combining characters when studying this […]

  2. Lubomir
    Reply

    Hi, Matea.
    IMHO, 取 (qǔ, to take) consists of the components for again 又 and an ear 耳, meaning an ear again.
    Sincerely, Lubo

    1. LTL Team HQ
      Reply

      Thanks for your comments Lubomir, interesting angle!

      1. What’s the radical of 娶?

        1. LTL Team HQ
          Reply

          It’s the 女 character CJ.

          This is a really interesting character actually because 娶 means to marry (a woman). The character at the top means to take, the radical underneath means woman.

          Therefore when you break this character down it means “to take a woman” – doesn’t get anymore logical than that!

          Hope this helps.

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  7. Stephanie
    Reply

    Wow this blog was so useful, hopefully it will help me remember characters better now I understand the radicals!

    1. Katie Coy
      Reply

      Thanks Stephanie! Yes, learning all the characters can be so hard, really hope that this helps you on your learning journey.

      LTL

  8. Martin
    Reply

    This is slightly different than other tables

    Wikipedia for example – https://bit.ly/3r244ka

    2 丨 line shù is gǔn in multiple other sources.
    3 丶 dot diǎn is zhǔ in multiple other sources.
    6 亅 hook gōu is jué in multiple other sources.

    Haven’t checked all the other ones but within the first 10 words. I found some differences.

    1. LTL Team HQ
      Reply

      Hi Martin,

      Yes, you are right there is different pinyin for some of the radicals. This is because some are the pinyin for the dictionary radical name and some are the pinyin for what the stroke is called. For example with丨the radical is gǔn and shù is the name of a stroke. Gǔn as a dictionary radical and is a homograph of the character stroke shù, which just means vertical (line). Thank you for pointing this out, to help other learners such as yourself we will update the blog to include both of the pinyin.

      Thanks,

      LTL

  9. Karol T
    Reply

    The articles is very informative. Thanks a lot. I especially love the radicals graphics, so pretty and useful.

    Karol

    1. LTL Team HQ
      Reply

      Hi Karol,

      Thanks, we do try our best to make useful graphics for students to use, really appreciate your feedback.

      The LTL Team

  10. Love this content, thanks LTL

    1. Max Hobbs
      Reply

      Thanks for your kind words Sam!

      1. PASCAL TOULOUSE
        Reply

        In fact there is less than 214 because in PRC some 15 (rare or complicated, or both) have been left over
        Remain “only” 201
        Hei I’m wrong in math
        of those 201 two were not part of the 214 of the Kangxi Zidian: 业 yé and 龺zhuó.
        214 – 15 = 199
        199 + 2 = 201

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  13. Steph
    Reply

    The poster is 💙

    1. Max Hobbs
      Reply

      Thanks Steph, really appreciate it!

  14. Kelly
    Reply

    I used the poster to write the 214 radicals on my study whiteboard about a month ago. I got 24/30 for the quiz, so that’s a good start.

    1. Max Hobbs
      Reply

      That’s an excellent effort Kelly, very well done.

  15. Angel Guangco
    Reply

    Score 28
    Mistakes 2
    Time 2:35
    I will work harderrrrrr. I don’t believe I can’t memorize these freaking radicals. They said it will only take 6000 for foreigners to memorize them to be fluent but thinking about memorizing 2000+ of them makes my head bleed. 😭 I hope it won’t take me forever. I mean the Chinese themselves took them a decade to study and I just started like months ago and I’m still stuck with the radicals 😭😭😭💔

    1. LTL Team HQ
      Reply

      Angel that’s a great score. You will absolutely get there!

      Come and take a couple of Flexi Classes (https://flexiclasses.com/3-free-hours/) and we’ll get you on the road to glory!

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  18. Kashif
    Reply

    28 correct, 2 incorrect. Not bad for a beginner!

    1. Marine Colliot
      Reply

      Well done!!

  19. does it really help to know all the kangxi radical though? I have already memorize them all but I don’t think it help much, maybe only 5% boost to my undersanding of chinese character. like, 不 你 他, where do they belong in the kangxi radical?

  20. Anon
    Reply

    Wow, I never knew there were so many Chinese Radicals! Thank you for creating such a comprehensive resource with video, PDF, and quiz. This will definitely help me improve my Chinese language skills.

    1. Max Hobbs
      Reply

      You’re most welcone 🙂