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Lesson 8:  Writing Chinese Characters - Radicals - Part 1


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Lesson 8 Writing Chinese Characters – Radicals – Part I

Now that you are familiar with strokes, we can go to the atomic level of Chinese characters – radicals.  Almost all Chinese characters are made of one or several radicals.  Radicals not only help you remember the graphic features of a character (making it easier for you to remember how to write it), but also provide you hints on pronunciation and meaning.  Very often, a Chinese character has multiple radicals where one shows pronunciation and the other indicates meanings.

Radicals can take different positions of a character: top-bottom, right-left, inside-out.  We will discuss more about this in the section on the internal layout of square Chinese characters.

There are a lot of radicals so we choose to introduce about 30 most often used radicals at this entry level.  For each radical, please make sure you internalize 3 things: writing, pinyin, and its meaning.

Since some radicals cannot be used as a single character and so are impossible to display properly on the page, we will use a character containing that radical with a note like “the left part of…”


- also a single character

- pinyin: ri4

- meaning: related to sun, bright, warmth, positive etc.

- sample characters:  阳 (sun, ‘Yang’ as in ‘Yinyang’) ,  春 (spring), 晒 (sunbathing)

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- also a single character

- pinyin: yue4

- meaning: related to moon, bright, chill, negative, etc.

- sample characters:  明 (moon, bright)   阴 (negative, cool, ‘Yin’ as in ‘Yinyang’)



- also a single character

- pingyin: he2

- meaing: grain, related to agriculture, farming, crops, etc.

- sample characters: 稻 (rice plant), 穗 (ear, spike)



- not single character, derived from “手(hand)”

- pinyin: shou3

- meaning: hand, related to manual action, operation, etc.

- sample characters: 打 (hit)  提 (carry) 摸 (touch)


5.  left part of  

- not a single character, derived from “足 (foot)”

- pinyin: zu2

- meaning: foot

- sample characters: 跑 (run) 跳 (jump) 跃 (leap) 跟 (follow)



- not a single character, derived from “金 (gold, metal)”, usually at the left side

- pinyin: jin1

- meaning: everything related metal or metal processing

- sample characters: 铁 (iron) 铝 (aluminum) 铜 (copper) 银 (silver) 钢 (steel) 铸 (casting)



- can be a single character

- pinyin: mu4

- meaning: wood, and every thing related to wood, forest

- sample characters: 树 (tree) 森 (forest) 林(forest) 材 (materials)



- can be a single character

- pinyin: shui3

- meaning: water, everything related to water

- sample characters:  冰(ice)  泉 (spring)  尿 (urine, “尸” means body)



- can be a single character

- pinyin: huo3

- meaning: fire everything related to burning, fire, flame

- sample characters: 烧(burn) 炒(stir fry) 爆 (explode) 炸 (bomb) 焚 (fir, burn)



- can be a single character

- pinyin: tu3

- meaning: earth, mud, clay, everything related to land, ground

- sample characters: 地(land) 堤 (levee), 场 (venue, ground), 庄 (rural village)



- can be a single character

- pinyin: zhou1

- meaning: boat, ship, everything related to shipping

- sample characters:船 (ship) 舱 (chamber) 盘 (plate)



- can be a single character

- pinyin: you2

- meaning: wine, everything related to alcohols, fermentation, ceremony, festivity, etc.

- sample characters: 酒 (alcohols) 醉 (drunk) 醒 (wake up) 尊 (chief, leader get to hold the wine in ancient ceremony)



- can be a single character

- pinyin: shi2

- meaning: stone, everything related to stone, brick, hard, etc.

- sample characters: 砖 (brick) 矿 (landmine) 泵(pump) 岩 (rock)



- can be a single character, or “亻” as the left part of many characters

- pinyin: ren2

- meaning: human, everything related to people, human being, body

- sample characters: 众(crowd) 囚 (prisoner) 体 (body) 健 (health)


- can be a single character

- pinyin: shan1

- meaning: hill, mountain, everything related to mountain, hill,

- sample characters: 岭 (mountain range) 仙 (celestial beings, “who live up in mountains ) 



The other 15 common radicals will be introduced in the Part II.