Posts Tagged ‘Chinese characters’

Learning to Write Chinese Characters Learn the most common Chinese Radicals first

July 18, 2014

Learning to write Chinese is the most difficult part of learning Chinese. To speed up learning to write Chinese definitely it will help if you know the 100 most common Chinese radicals which make up many of the most used Chinese Characters.
Olle Ling provided a very useful list of the most common 100 Chinese radicals here:

You could take the list and learn the characters from top which is the most used to the bottom which is the least used.

I have tried to come up with the fastest way to learn the 100 common Chinese primitives or radicals.
Either I use stories or I use categories to structure the list and then use mnemonics. I have written a how to do guide on remembering the 100 most frequently used characters.

Story 1: The icy house on the cliff leads to sickness
广 guǎng house on cliff
冫bīng ice
疒 nì sickness
厂 chǎng cliff
There was a cliff 厂 chǎng. A house was build on it 广 guǎng. One day everything was covered with ice 冫bīng. Sicknes 疒 nì broke out in the house on the cliff.

Story 2: The good earth leads to the first village

土 tǔ earth
田 tián field
里 lǐ village
People found very good earth 土 tǔ for farming and decided to grow crops. The field 田 tián nourished many people and they build a village 里 lǐ  next to it.

Related to human
人 or 亻rén human
女 nǚ woman
子 zǐ child
口 kǒu mouth
心 xīn heart
手 shǒu hand
又 yòu right hand
目mù eye
足 zú foot
尸 shī corpse
寸 cùn thumb or inch
儿 ér human legs
舌 shé tongue
皮 pí skin
耳 ěr ear

Related to human activity:
讠yán speech
辶 chuò walk
攵 pū knock
彳chì small steps
工 gōng work
饣shí eat
欠 qiàn yawn
立 lì stand
艮 gěn stopping
止 zhǐ stop
走 zǒu run
辛 xīn bitter
夂 zhī go
见 jiàn see
勹 bāo embrace

Related to appearance:
力 lì power
大 dà big
衤yī clothes
巾 jīn turban
士 shì scholar
小 xiǎo small

Related to house or household
纟sī silk
钅jīn gold
刂 dāo knife
宀 gài roof
厶 sī private
阝 yì mound
车 chē cart
门 mén gate
斤 jīn axe
亠 tóu lid
王 wáng jewel
冖 mì cover
皿 mǐn dish
礻shì sign
戈 gē spear
几 jǐ table
殳  shū weapon
酉 yǒu wine
弓 gōng bow
户 hù  door
舟 zhōu boat
匕 bǐ spoon
卩 jié seal
罒 wǎng net

Related to space/area/nature etc:
日 rì sun
月 yuè moon
氵shuǐ water
火 huǒ fire
石 shí stone
山 shān mountain
方 fāng square
穴 xué cave
雨 yǔ rain
干 gān dry
夕 xī evening
阝yì city
囗 wéi enclosure

木 mù tree
艹 cǎo grass
禾 hé grain
⺮ zhú bamboo
页yè leaf
米 mǐ rice

Related to animals
贝bèi shell
犭quǎn dog
虫 chóng insect
马 mǎ horse
隹 zhuī bird
羊 yáng sheep
牜niú cow
鸟 niǎo bird
羽 yǔ feather

一 yī one
八 bā eight
十 shí ten

白 bái white
青 qīng green or blue

Further Reading:
The Fastest and Easiest Way to Learn Chinese Characters – How to Really Use Mnemonics For Learning Chinese


Magic – Learning to Write Chinese Can Be Much Faster Than Learning English

June 11, 2013

A very short example for beginners. In less than 5 minutes of your time you  read and write around 3% of all Chinese characters used in any text.

Chinese Learning Five Elements

Chinese Learning Five Elements

The easiest character in Chinese is the character for Number one.
一 (one stroke) .
Number two in Chinese writing  will be  二 (two strokes).
And how would you write the Number 3 in Chinese ?
三 (three strokes).

Summary: To learn to write the first three numbers it is only required to learn one stroke. If you write the numbers in English with letters you will need to learn the words: one, two, three.

The first stroke, which resembles also a chinese word and character:

Let’s continue.
How to write ten ?  You just need to use a vertical stroke to cross the stroke for number one. So ten looks like this: 十 in Chinese.
The second stroke:

What is the meaning of 十一 ?  It is number elven.
And how would you write 12 ?  十二.
I think by now I do not have to tell you how to write the number 13.

If I put the two  二 before the ten 十 I get twenty 二十. How would you write thirty ?

Can you tell me how to write twenty-one ? Yes, it is written 二十一.
Twenty-two is  二十二 and twenty three ?

How would you write thirty-three ? 三十 三. And now again the challenge for you to write thirty-one and thirty-two in Chinese.
If you cannot figure it out please send me an email.

Summary: With one more stroke that you have learned you can write this amount of English words in Chinese characters: Ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three, thirty, thirty-one, thirty-two and thirty-three.

And not only does every Chinese in China understand you but as well  every person in Japan and even in Korea or Vietnam.

Tell me: how long did it take you to learn these two strokes and to write the numbers in Chinese ?

If you just add the horizontal stroke 一 on top of the character that symbols the number ten 十 you will get the character for the number thousand 千. All what you have to do is add a little angle to the horizontal stroke so that the left part is slightly lower than the right part. If you want to write the number one thousand please write it as 一 千. You can now write as well two thousand and three thousand. But watch out if you want to write 1001 or 1003 or 1023 you will need to learn a new character. The same applies if you want to write 13 000 or 32 000. Please see the converter:
Converter from Numbers into Numbers written in Chinese Characters

Summary: Add one horizontal line with an angle to the character of the number ten 十 and you will get three more words – one thousand, two thousand and three thousand.

We don’t stop here. If you learn just another 4 strokes you will add several words to your newly acquired Chinese reading and writing capabilities.
Think of the half moon HalfMoon . is the Chinese Character for moon. It is also the character for month. One way to remember this character is to think about the number two (2 Strokes 二) and then to add the shape around the number two strokes.

If you want to write January in Chinese, it is 一月. February will be 二月. And what will be the characters for March ?  三月.

You already know how to write ten in Chinese. Therefore also October will be easy for you – it is 十月. And November ? 十一月. Well, December I won’t tell you, I let you guess it….

Summary: With just 4 more strokes you can now write seven more words:  Moon, Month, January, February, March, October, November and December.

Are you still not convinced that Learning Chinese Writing can be much faster than learning English ?

Okay, if you are still in doubt I will add another example. Another 4 more strokes to remember. So far you have learned 6 strokes which make up 6 Chinese characters and which gives you 27 English words.

Think of the sun with one big sun spot in the middle Sun. In Chinese it is written nowadays like this 日. It is the literal meaning for sun, but usually it is used for the word day. You could also remember the character by thinking of the number three 三 to which the vertical stroke from the number ten in Chinese is added to the left and right side.

If you read a Chinese newspaper on the front page you will find the Chinese character for moon/month and the Chinese character for day/sun. Guess what is 三月三日 ? It is March 3. March 2 is 三月二日. And what March 1 ? Clearly February 2 is 二月二日. And November 12 ? 十一月十二日. Okay, I won’t tell you January 1, December 13 or any other dates you now could write in Chinese.

Summary: With four more strokes you can now write: sun, day, January 1,2,3,10,11,12,13,February 1,2,3,10,11,12,13,March 1,2,3,10,11,12,13,October 1,2,3,10,11,12,13,November 1,2,3,10,11,12,13, December 1,2,3,10,11,12,13.

At least when you come across any Chinese newspaper you know what date the article or the newspaper was published.
And without telling you anything, you can probably guess what this means 2013 年 三月三日 ? March 3, 2013. And what is the meaning of the character 年 ? …..

Do you really want to stop here ?  I will give you more convincing examples that Chinese can be so easy and even fun.
Another four strokes: See the 5. See the Number 5. The Chinese Characters looks very similar: 五 for 5. Not much difference really.
Actually all of the strokes you more less have seen before. The stroke for one 一, which is used at the bottom and the top of the character. The half-moon stroke 月 used on the left side of the character  and the right and down stroke used in the middle of characters which is the same used in the sun character 日.

Now that I have shown you how to write 5 in Chinese – how many more words can you write now ? Plenty, isn’t it. First five, then fifteen 十五, twenty-five 二十五, thirty-five your take, and fifty-one 五十一, fifty-two you do,fifty-three 五十三,fifty-five you know, what about May 五月 and what about May 5 ? ….Guess….Yes….Now….Okay…五月五日. Wow, so many more words with just one more 4 stroke character whereby you have learned all the strokes of the Number 5 before. What means 五 千 ?

Another Summary:
– You have learned 5 types of strokes – see Chinese writing strokes – or Chinese Character Dictionary
1. The stroke heng (horizontal) 一 for the Number 1
2. The stroke shu (vertical) 丨 for the Number 10
3. The 2 strokes tóngzìkuàngr   to write the moon
4. The stroke hengzhe (horizontal stroke with a vertical turn)  for Sun

With these 5 Strokes you now can write 6 Chinese Characters 一 ,  二, 三, 月, 日, 五
which represent 78 English words.

What happens when you bring the sun 日 and the moon together ? You will get the character 明, which means bright. Isn’t it brighter if you see the full moon and the sun during morning hours ?

What happens if you add a dot on top of the sun 白 ? The dot looks like the drop of a paint.  Written like this 白, this characters stands for the color white.

Now what do you get if you use the character for bright 明 together with the character for white 白?  These two characters together 明白 represent the meaning of to understand or to realize.

Summary: Just one more stroke, a little dot on the sun 日 and the combination of characters you already have learned, presented you three new words: bright, white and to understand.

You have come so far now. Did you notice how interconnected the above characters are. Isn’t this magic. Well, if there are still sceptics left….

I add one more . – two strokes.  明白了 means  “I see!”  Your first grammar. The character  is used behind verbs to show that the action has finished, that the action was completed.  So with high probability if you see the character the two Chinese characters before will be a verb.
This character alone will represent 1.1% of all Chinese text.

These type of suffixes as are used in other instances. There is a suffixes to indicate a question or there is one to show the plural form.  They are always used as indicators after the content is given. But do not worry about these
suffixes for now. We come across those as we scale slowly upwards through the the most used characters in Chinese.

By the end of circulating a few times through the five elements of the Chinese Language you will arrive at 25% of all Characters used in Chinese….

Key in the applied method as probably you have realized by now is not to learn all the numbers or all the rules related to the grammar introduced, rather it is to weave an associative map. As you learn and more characters at a certain point you will add to this association base the charactes for the number of four, six, seven, eight, nine and so on when the time is right. It will be an effortless learning journe. Learning will just happen while you enjoy a peaceful mind.

Further Reading:

Fun and Fastest Way For Kids Children to Learn Chinese (Reading, Writing, Speaking) While at the Same Time Improve their IQ and Learning Agility

What are the fastest ways to learn Chinese Characters ?

May 27, 2013

Study in Writing
As long as you do not read or write Chinese, the language itself is fairly easy to learn even for an adult . But to master reading and writing this will usually take even  the majority of children in china at least the first 5 years of schooling taught in the traditional ways.

The only way to to acclerate the process especially as an adult learner is first and foremost to use an association based memory approach to learn and second to focus.

I have created an example here:

Speed Learning Chinese in 5 Minutes – The Fastest Way to Learn 3% of All Chinese Characters in Any Text Used

The above examples starts with the most easiest Characters to learn and uses mnemonics tricks and association to build in a very short time the vocabulary and confidence in the learner. In incremental steps the learner will be lead towards first words and sentences as well as the basic grammar ( work is still in progress).

Chinese Learning Five Elements

Chinese Learning Five Elements

I will be using the five elements approach. 1. 36 strokes that 2. make up 214 radicals 3. which form all the Chinese Characters that 4. bring about all the words and 5. are formed into meaning by grammar. I will use a spiral approach. Learn the key strokes that form the main radicals which are used in the most used Chinese Characters that make up the most frequent words which bring about meaning through the most fundamental grammar. With each loop through the five elements you will come closer and closer to mastery while being fully engaged with the beauty of a purennon-judgemental  mind. Having fun learning without feeling the pain of learning.

I am about to compile all the resources that a learner will need to build in a very short time the foundation of the association based memory approach. With this foundation the learner is capable to easy self-study and guess each new chinese characters he or she will encounter.

Let’s start with the lists (work in progess) :

What are the common strokes used (calligraphy) ?
The CJKV System from East Asia (36 Strokes)

What are the most used Chinese Radicals ?
The 214 Radicals with English Translation
A fun way to learn the radicals
Radicals Position in Characters Explained
Kangxi Chinese Radicals System

What are the most used Chinese Characters ?

What are the most used Chinese Words ?
List of the most common used chinese words with stroke order
Core 100 List with sound file for pronounciation and pictures to help memorization.

What are the most used Chinese Sentences ?

Further Reading:
The Fastest and Easiest Way to Learn Chinese Characters – How to Really Use Mnemonics For Learning Chinese

Fun and fastest way for kids children to learn Chinese characters reading and writing while at the same time improve their learning agility and IQ 有趣的和最快的方式为孩子们的孩子学习中文字符写书法,而在同一时间提高学习的灵活性和

October 7, 2012

Gwen Stefani and baby Zuma Picture by Dennis Stefani See Stefani’s Website

As I have kids myself, I have just recently looked for fun, easy and playful methods for my young children to learn a few chinese characters in their past time.

The ambition was not too overload them with more schooling, nor was the objective  to get them to speak chinese up to a certain level in a set time frame.  Clearly my “hidden” goal was to stimulate their learning agility by exiting them about calligraphy, about writing and reading chinese characters for fun.

My own motivation in this area is based on my own experience. When I was studying Chinese at university in my early 20s I noticed an impact on my learning agility in other fields such as a better and faster understanding of other foreign languages and even mathematics. Since then I have followed the academic research in this field to see if my personal observations were valid. Also Chinese reported the same observations when they studied a phonetic language such as Portugese or English. The same effect on the other hand did not occur when I had learned English, French and Russian previously.

I came across three research projects that showed a link between learning chineses characters and an increase in the Intelligence quotient IQ, an improvement of  mathematical skills and a support to children in second grade with reading problems  (see the list of scientific research at the bottom of this blog post ). Yet I have not come across any research that would confirm the personal observations of my chinese friends. The unanswered scientific question remains if the learning agility of a chinese child will increase as well when learning a phonetic language?

The approach I use is based on the following methods:
a) Baker/baker paradox and loci-method Reference:  How to train your mind to remember anything
b) Minimal invasive education approach by Sugata Mitra
c) Swarm creativity and intelligency by Peter Gloor
d) Inner Game coaching by Timothy Gallwey and media education approach by Prof. Dr. Klaus Jantke

For this fun project I use several methods.
One method is based on story telling, This also works very well with pre-school children.  I have written a short story where I introduce related chinese characters which I selected from the most frequently used chinese characters list. Did you know that the same 152 chinese characters can make up to about 50% of any chinese text ?
The example: The Story of the lonesome human being and The story of the sun

Besides having fun it is important for children to build confidence. In the first warm up I show them three characters, that are quite easy to remember.

It is the number 1: 一 yī. Then I ask how would a chinese child write the number 2 and I show it:  二 èr and then I let them guess how to write the number 3: sān. Additionally to help them remember the pronounciation you could tell a very short story.  One day a little girl walked to school and on her way suddely she saw a monster. The little girl shouted “eehh“(yī) and the monster said “errrr” (èr). But when the “sun” (san) came out the monster ran away.

Example: Speed Learning Chinese in 5 Minutes – 3% of all Chinese Characters used in any text – learn 5 Strokes, which make up 6 characters and represent 78 English words. This builds quickly the confidence and shows that it is not so difficult and complex as it people in the West are saying.

Chinese Learning Five Elements

Chinese Learning Five Elements

The story telling element is based on the research findings on the Baker / Baker paradox and builds as well on the technics used by the world memory champions.
In the Baker / Baker paradox research psychologist showed a photograph of a person with the name Baker to the research participants. One group were told the name of the person and the other group instead were informed about that the profession of this person is a baker. A few days later when they showed the photograph of Mr. Baker again to the different members of the groups, the one who were told about the profession were much more likely to remember the name of Mr. Baker.  To quote the world memory champion Joshua Foer: “If you want to make something memorable, you first have to make it meaningful.” Reference. This demonstrates why stories about chinese characters work so well for children.

The second time I will read the story and I will not show the characters again. Instead I will have all the chinese characters of the story shuffeled as cards on the table.
Now I ask the children based on the relevant part in the story to pick the right character. Astoundingly in one event a five year old boy selected all chinese characters in the correct order.

What I also like to do is a short association guessing game. If I show them the chinese character for tree, what would three trees in a chinese character stand for ? Answer should be forest.

What is also working with younger children as well is to  give them the chinese characters in the correct order in the way they were introduced in the story and ask to them to retell the story.

For children who are comfortable in painting I introdue the loci-method (memory palace). I let them draw their favorite house, room with whatever they put inside or related to the story I have just read. In order to memorize the characters I let them place the characters on the picture. This is a fun exercise once they master more than 50 characters.

From time to time I also show them one character and ask them to describe the character and build their own little story to remember the character.

For older kids I have more challenging options. I let them in a group of maximum 5 children come up with their own mind map of the characters in the story or of the 152 character list.  For them to identify characters that are similar is like playing a puzzle.

The other challenge is to ask them to try and form short sentences out of the  chinese characters in the story. They can use google search to validate if this combination exits and use google to translate it.

Further I give them new not known chinese characters which are similar and have them come up with their own chinese characters stories.

After a few session I introduce the Chinese Radicals. I let them first analyse some more complex characters and ask them identify smaller parts that made up the character and also if they have seen this subpart somewhere else used as a character.

When they are more advanced and know the radicals I ask them to construct their own characters out of the radicals. We then look these constructed characters up in the dictionary and see if they exist.

The other question I give the older children is to think about, why chinese characters do not use triangles and circles and what are the basic strokes they can identify and why we use the alphabet instead and who invented the chinese writing. I let them explore with the help of the internet  in groups of maximum 5. This is based on the minimum invasive education approach by Sugata Mitra. See Self Organized Learning System.

Once they know at least 100 characters I let them read chinese children song and textbooks. The characters they do not know they can look up via google and the wiktionary.

The key of the activities is to have fun and never ask them to learn, just to enjoy the activity. This is where Gallwey and the research of Prof. Jantke come into play. Never should there be a goal or objective to how many characters they learn in the period of the activities nor a test how many they learned. This will build gradually their confidence and increase their motivation.

I also would  ask them once they are quite comfortable with Chinese characters to come up with their own little games and what else they could do to have fun. This is then using the so called swarm creativity (Peter Gloor) of the kids in the room for new types of activities.

If you had any other fun activity and method to share in the comment section, this would add to the swarm creativity of how best to learn chinese characters in a fast, fun and easy way. Thank you.

I just found another great example of a fast and easy way to learn Chinese.
“Learning Chinese in 7 Minutes” Ted Talk by ShaoLan. Linkedin Profile:

Example that ShaoLan shared with the audience. Fascinating.
My kids (9 + 5 years)  just learned eight characters in 2 Minutes.
First Row: 1) Fire 2)Tree 3)Sun 4)Moon
Second Row: 5)Human Being 6)Mouth 7)Door 8)Mountain

Ted ShaoLan Chineasy Ted Talk on Youtube:

Ted ShaoLan Ted Talk:  Learn to read Chinese … with ease!

Excellent discussions below the talk on Chinese Characters and how to learn.

And ShaoLan Hsueh has more examples here:

…..more insights and examples to follow soon.  Results of a very interesting project… blog post is in progess…

Telling  a story with Chinese Characters
a) The Story of the lonesome human being

Further stories:
b) The story of the sun
d) The story of the tree
d) The stroy of the heart
e) The story of the roof
f) The story of the mouth

If you have created similar stories would you like to share the link to your story or even guest post. email to: . Thank you.

Example on Youtube:
The Story of Chinese Character : 卜

Scientific Research:

(2014) Ping Li et al. learning Chinese leads to rapid improvement of gray matter density and white matter integrity. Reference

(1975) Alan Watts in Tao, The Watercourse Way, page 11: Rozin, Poritsky and Sotsky University of Pennsylvania showed that school children in the second grade who had reading deficits could learn to read and write simple chinese sentences in just four weeks time. Reference: Rozin, Paul, Susan Poritsky and Raina Sotsky: “American Children with Reading Problems Can Easily Learn to Read English Represented by Chinese Characters”. In: Science, 26. March. 1971.

(2005) “Learning to read 2,500 pictorial symbols, as Chinese students do in grade school, yields a 5-point advantage on IQ tests, compared with the scores of Westerners whose languages are based on alphabets.”
Andreas Demetriou of the University of Cyprus, Nicosia led the greek and chinese reserach team.  Reference
120 greek and 120 chinese children with equal gender distribution and family backgrounds took part in the research. “The two groups showed roughly equal intelligence at eight years old. By twelve years old, however, the Chinese children tested significantly higher for spatial problems.” Reference

(1987) Irene Miura, lead psychologist. Research on mathematical learning agility between US children, chinese children and koren children. Reference.

(2005) Further research shows that the capability to write chinese characters is key in learning to read chinese and is therefore different to learning to read alphabetical languages.
“Here we show that the ability to read Chinese is strongly related to a child’s writing skills and that the relationship between phonological awareness and Chinese reading is much weaker than that in reports regarding alphabetic languages.” Reference

(2013) Dyslexics children: parents report to Shaolan Hsueh how learning chinese characters helped their dyslexics children see facebook “chineasy”

If you aware of any other similar research results or individual observations please share in the comment section of this blog post. Thank you.

Recommended Reading:
The Fastest and Easiest Way to Learn Chinese Characters – How to Really Use Mnemonics For Learning Chinese

Recommended Materials:

James Heisig discovered the fastest way to learn chinese characters – Shaolan Hsueh’s approach is similar.
See: Remembering the Hanzi

A very similar approach as the one of Shaolan Hsueh was develop in 2007 by Jakob Hirzel. See  Lenaia. This sites has over 1200 pictorial mnemonics and also teaches chinese grammar in an engaging way.

Using visual stories (mnemonics) to remember chinese characters –
Turbo Chinese – saurabh sharma: (Example on Youtube)

Tuttle Learning Chinese
Uses stories children can relate to. This book covers the 800 most common Chinese characters that are necessary for the HSK Level A exam.

Chinese for Smart Kids: Chinese for Kids Age 3-8

Stepping Stones at Clavis Sinica

If you want to study the 300 most used commen chinese characters using simple text and poems go to Clavis Sinica:  Stepping Stones

Kaiming Guoyu (开明国语)

This is the best seller in China to teach Chinese Children to read.
More details here


1) Chinese Writing Games
2) Chinese for Kids: Animation of Chinese Characters
3) Chinese for Kids: Online Reading
4) Activity Builder:Practical Chinese Reader Vocabulary
5) Learn to write Chinese characters (stroke order animated)
6) Easy way to learn Chinese with Children Songs
7) Arch Chinese: online Chinese learning system crafted by Chinese teachers in the United States for Mandarin Chinese language learners at K-12 schools and universities
8) Animated intro into Chinese Writing Dikk Kelly
9) Writing Chinese Charakters Stroke Order and pronounciation
10) Basic Eight Strokes
11) Chinese Character Canon – 4 Characters per picture
12) Chinese Characters Mindmap
13) Turbo Chinese
14) Valid Pinyin Initials and Finals Combination Table
15) Learning Chinese in Budapest, Hungary
16) Children Learning Chinese Q&A on Linkedin
17) Traditional Texts for Children and Young Adults 
18) Chinese Children’s Stories: Chinese Reading Practice
19) Learn chinese for kids through a Chinese Song “Mom is the best in the world”
20) Chinese Children’s Songs
21) Chinese English Talking Dictionary
22) Qianzi Wen – a thousand Character Essay
23) Best Chinese Websites
24) Chinese Made Easy For Kids
25) Chinese for Kids Learning Resources List
26) The most common Chinese Characters in order of frequency
27) Learning to See Chinese Characters (Meaning)
28) 152 Most Used Characters
29) Wiktionary
30) Frequency Statistics of Chinese Characters
32) BBC A better way to learn Chinese
33) Network and Meaningful Learning of Chinese Characters
34) Efficient learning strategy of Chinese characters based on network approach
35) The Network of Chinese Characters

Further Reading:

Speed Learning Chinese in 5 Minutes – The Fastest Way to Learn 3% of All Chinese Characters in Any Text Used

The Fastest Ways To Learn Any New Language

Amazing Capabilities of Our Brain to deal with Fuzziness
Chinese Western Management concept – how to brng the two concepts together

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