Hacking Chinese

A better way of learning Mandarin

Kickstart your character learning with the 100 most common radicals

The 100 most common radicals.I’ve taught many introduction courses in Chinese. Each time, I’ve felt the lack of a beginner-friendly radical list. I often tell students that learning character components is essential, that it’s a long-term investment that will pay off several times over the course of their Chinese studies. I then show them some of the most common radicals.

But then what?

Beginners often find it hard to distinguish which components are common and which aren’t. Sure, you can use the “if you see it more than twice, learn it” rule, but I think we can do better!

Filling a gap

Curiously, I have been unable to find a good list of the most common radicals. Before you post a comment telling me that there are many, hear me out. If you don’t want to here me out and just want my list, click here to scroll down.

The most important difference between my list and the others is that all lists sorted by frequency that I have seen (such as the article on the Kangxi radicals on Wikipedia) are based on data from a very large volume of characters. If you base such a list on the 50 000 characters in the Kangxi dictionary, you will end up believing that bird 鸟/鳥 (the first character is simplified Chinese, the second is traditional Chinese; learn more here) is one of the most common radicals.

It’s not!

If you only take the most commonly used 2000 characters into account, 鸟/鳥 only occurs nine times. That means it doesn’t even make the top 100! Thus, most of the 750 occurrences of this character in the Kangxi dictionary are not in characters you need to learn as a beginner.

The most common radicals among the most common characters

The list I have compiled here is based on the frequency of the radicals among the 2000 most commonly used characters. This means that all these radicals are essential. Almost all occur in at least ten characters, most of them in more than that.

This means that as a beginner, you can learn all the radicals on this list without fearing that you’re learning things you don’t actually need. It’s meant to be a solid foundation on which to build.

The list and what it contains

The list I have compiled is presented at the very end of this article (click here to skip to it). However, it’s probably more useful in a downloadable format, so I have also provided the following:

These are the columns used in the list:

  1. Simplified – This shows the simplified version of the radical as it appears in most characters.
  2. Traditional – This shows the traditional character as it appears in most characters.
  3. Variants – This shows other common variants of the same radical or the original character.
  4. Meaning – This is the basic meaning(s) of the radical in English.
  5. Pronunciation – Pinyin. If written in brackets, the character when used on its own is not part of the 2000 most common, which means you don’t need to learn the pronunciation! Even native speakers don’t know some of these pronunciations.
  6. Examples – Five examples chosen from the 2000 most common (simplified) characters to show you the radical in context.
  7. Comment – My notes for the radical with extra clarification and warnings about similar radicals.
  8. Colloquial name – The name Chinese people use to refer to the radical. Beginners can ignore this, but being able to talk about Chinese characters in Chinese can be very helpful!

How to use the list

As a beginner, you can use the list to boost your understanding of Chinese characters. Learning these 100 fairly simple characters will enable you to recognise parts of almost any character you will encounter. Of course, you won’t recognise all parts of every character, but it is a good start!

The most common radicals can be learnt in Skritter.

Learn to write characters online or on your mobile device.

If you want a good tool to learn characters in general, I suggest using Skritter. It’s the only tool that gives you instructive feedback and requires you to write correct characters. It also uses spaced repetition, making learning characters much more efficient. If you want to study this radical list on Skritter, you can find it by clicking here.

As a teacher, you can use this list (or a section of it) to introduce characters and radicals. You can also provide it as extra material for students who want to learn more than what is required by the curriculum. Even if you don’t teach all the radicals yourself, you should at least make it easy for students who wish to do so.

Kickstart your understanding of Chinese characters

Chinese is a wonderful language to learn, partly because it can be hacked so efficiently. Learning Chinese characters by pure rote takes huge amounts of time, but by learning basic components (such as those in this list), you can make learning characters both meaningful and fun. Instead of simply writing a character over and over, take a close look at the parts and find creative ways of linking them together.

I have written more about how to learn Chinese characters:

Future development

This list isn’t perfect. In essence, there are two things I would like to do. First, even though this list is weighted according to character frequency (I only looked at the 2000 most common), it’s not properly done. The best solution would be to look at each character among the 2000 most common and assign each character a frequency. This number would then be taken into consideration when determining how common a radical was. Thus, the 亻 in 他 should give a higher score than the 亻 in 伪 (僞).

Second, radicals aren’t necessarily the most important building blocks. A radical is really just the part of a character under which the character is sorted in dictionaries. This means that there are other character parts which are really common, but which aren’t radicals and that even if you learn a radical, it’s not necessarily the radical if it appears in another character. I used radicals for this list because it was easier to do and there is no commonly agreed on way of listing components in general.

There are many other components that normally carry information about how a character is pronounced. I have written about phonetic components already (Phonetic components, part 1: The key to 80% of all Chinese characters), but I haven’t been able to produce a list similar to this one for sound components. The ideal solution would be to have two lists, one for components that carry meaning and one for components that carry sound, but that’s a project still in progress.

I hope you will find this list useful, and that with it, learning Chinese characters will be meaningful and interesting rather than confusing and frustrating

Kickstart your character learning with the 100 most common radicals

Below, I have tried to squeeze the list into the format of this article. It’s not likely to look good on a small screen, so if you’re on your phone, either use one of the files/links provided above or switch to a computer.

Skip to comment section!

S T Variant Meaning Pinyin Examples   Comments Colloquial
person ren2 今仁休位他 Note similarity with 八, which means eight. 单人旁(亻),人字头(人)
mouth, opening kou3 古可名告知 Note similarity with 囗, which always encloses characters, and means enclosure. 口字旁
earth tu3 在地型城地 Note similarity with 士, which has a longer upper stroke and shorter bottom one, and means scholar. 提土旁
woman, female nv3 好妄始姓安 女子旁
忄,⺗ heart xin1 必忙忘性想 竖心旁(忄),心字底(心),竖心底(⺗)
扌,龵 hand shou3 持掌打抱押 提手旁(扌),看字头(龵),手字旁(手)
sun, day ri4 白百明时晩 Note similarity with 曰, which is broader and lower, and means to say. Also note 白 which means white. 日字旁
moon, month yue4 有服青朝明 This radical is actually two: moon 月 and meat 肉, but in modern Chinese, they look the same in most cases。 月字旁
tree mu4 板相根本林 Note similarity with 禾, which means grain. 木字旁
水,氺 water shui3 永泳海洋沙 Note similarity with 冫, which means ice. 水字旁(水),三点水(氵),泰字底水(氺)
fire huo3 灯炎焦然炸 火字旁(火),四点底(灬)
silk (mi4) 纪纸累细绩 绞丝旁(纟),独立绞丝(糸)
grass cao3 花英苦草茶 Note that when the radical is on top, the traditional variant has four strokes. 草字头(艹)
speech yan2 说讲识评试 言字旁(讠)
walk (chuo4) 迎通道这近 走之旁(⻌)
gold, metal jin1 银针钱铁钟 金字旁(钅)
knife, sword dao1 分切初利刻 Note similarity with 力, which means force. 立刀旁(刂),刀字旁(刀)
roof (mian2) 守家室字宅 Note similarity with 冖, which means cover, and with 亠, which means lid. 宝盖头
shell bei4 财贪货贸员 Note similarity with 见, which means to see. 贝字旁
one yi1 三旦正百天
power, force li4 力加助勉男 Note similarity with 刀, which means knife. 力字旁
right hand you4 反取受左友 又字旁
dog (quan3) 犯狂狗献猪 Note similarity with 大, which means big. 反犬旁(犭),犬字旁(犬)
grain (he) 利私季和香 Note similarity with 木, which means tree. 禾木旁
bamboo zhu2 笑第简筷算 竹子头(竹字头)
insect chong2 強独蛇蛋蚊 Even though this radical means insect, it’s used for many organisms which aren’t insects according to our taxonomy. 虫字旁
阝left mound, dam (fu4) 防阻陆院陈 Note that there are two radicals which look like this. On the left, it means mound, dam, and on the right, it means city. 双耳刀(左耳刀)
big, very da4 天尖因奇美 大字旁(头)
广 广 house on cliff guang3 店府度座庭 Note similarity with 厂, which means cliff (i.e. without the house). 广字旁
field tian2 思留略番累 田字旁
eye mu4 眼睛看相省 Note that the horizontal version can also mean net. 目字旁(目),四字头(罒)
stone shi2 砂破碑矿码 石字旁
clothes yi1 初被裁裤袜 Note similarity with 礻, which means sign, show or spirit. 衣字旁(衤)
foot zu2 跑跨跟路距 足字旁
horse ma3 码驾骂驻妈 马字旁
leaf ye4 顺须领预顶 页字旁
turban, scarf (jin1) 市布帝帐帽 巾字旁
rice mi3 类粉迷粗糖 米字旁
cart, vehicle che1 轮软军较输 车字旁
eight ba1 公分趴兵共 Note similarity with 人, which means human, person. 八字旁(头)
corpse shi1 尺局尾居展 Note similarity with 戶, which means door, family. 尸字头
thumb, inch cun4 寺尊对射付 寸字旁
mountain shan1 岩岛岁崗岔 山字旁(头)
knock, tap (pu1) 收改攻做政 Note similarity with 夊, which means to walk (slowly). 反文旁(攵),旧反文旁(攴)
(small) step (chi2) 彼很律微德 Note similarity with 亻, which means human, person. 双人旁
ten shi2 什计古叶早 十字旁(头)
work gong1 左江红巧功 工字旁
square, raft fang1 放旅族仿房 方字旁
gate men2 间闲问闭闻 门字框
eat, food shi2 饭饿饮馆饱 食字旁
lack, yawn qian4 欢欧欲次歌 欠字旁
human, legs er2 元四光兄充 Note similarity with 人, which means human, person, and with 八 which means eight. 儿座底
ice bing1 冬冷冻况净 两点水
child, seed zi3 字学存孩季 子字旁
sickness (ne4) 病痛疗疯痩 病字旁
(short-tailed) bird (zhui1) 雀集难雅谁 隹字旁
axe (jin1) 所新听近析 斤字旁
lid (tou2) 亡交京 Note similarity with 宀, which means roof, and 冖 which means cover. 点横头
jade, king yu4, wang2 主弄皇理现 This radical is 玉, but when in composition, it looks like 王, king, and is probably more easily remembered like that. 王字旁
white bai2 的皆皇怕迫 Note similarity with 日, which means sun. 白字旁
stand, erect li4 音意端亲位 立字旁
⺶,⺷ sheep yang2 着样洋美鲜 羊字旁
stopping (gen4) 很恨恳根眼 艮字旁
cover (mi4) 写军农深荣 秃宝盖
cliff (han4) 厚原厉厅厕 Note similarity with 广, which has ha house on top (the dot). 厂字旁
dish (min3) 盆监盟盛盖 皿字底
sign, spirit, show shi4 社神视祝祥 Note similarity with 衤, which means clothes. 示字旁
cave xue4 空突穷究窗 穴宝盖
run, walk zou3 起超越赶徒 走字旁
rain yu3 雷雪霜需露 雨字头
enclosure (wei2) 回国因图团 Note similarity with 口, which does not enclose other components and means mouth. 国字框
⺌⺍ small xiao3 少肖尚尖尘 小字旁(头)
halberd (ge1) 成式战感我 戈字旁
table ji1 朵机风凡凤 几字旁
tongue she2 乱适话舍活 舌字旁
dry gan1 平刊汗旱赶 干字旁
weapon (shu1) 段没投般设 殳字旁
evening, sunset xi1 外多夜名岁 夕字旁
stop zhi3 正此步歪址 止字旁
牛,⺧ cow niu2 告物解特件 牛字旁(头)
skin pi2 披彼波破疲 皮字旁
ear er3 取闻职聪联 耳字旁
bitter xin1 辜辟辣辨辩 辛字旁
阝right 阝right city (yi4) 那邦部都邮 Note that there are two radicals which look like this. On the left, it means mound, dam, and on the right, it means city. 双耳刀(右耳刀)
wine (you3) 醉酒醒酸尊 酉字旁
green/blue qing1 请清情晴猜 青字旁
bird niao3 鸦鸣鸭岛鸡 鸟字旁
bow gong1 引张弱第强 弓字旁
private si1 公勾去私云 私字旁
door, house hu4 所房炉护启 Note similarity with 尸, which means corpse. 户字旁
feather yu3 习翻翅塌扇 羽字旁
boat chuan2 般船航盘艇 舟字旁
village, mile li3 野重量理埋 里字旁
spoon (bi3) 匙比北呢旨 匕字旁
go (slowly) (sui1) 各條复备夏 Note similarity with 攵, which means to knock, to rap. 折文旁
see jian4 观规视现觉 Note similarity with 贝, which means shell. 见字旁
seal (jie2) 卷印却即危 单耳刀
net wang3 罗罚罢罪罩 Note that the horizontal version can also mean net. 四字头(罒)
scholar shi4 吉壶志声壮 Note similarity with 土, which means earth. 士字旁
embrace, wrap (bao1) 包勿勾勺勻 包字头

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  1. Joe Lemien says:

    Nice resource.

    Your observation that “Chinese is a wonderful language to learn, partly because it can be hacked very efficiently,” is something that I find more and more true the more time I spend reading about it. I really which I had known all these strategies several years ago before I learned Chinese!

    1. Olle Linge says:

      This is partly why I enjoy writing articles here on Hacking Chinese! I write about things I know now that I wish someone would have told me about years ago. If you have any particular hacks, don’t hesitate to share!

      1. Bob says:

        It’s “I wish someone HAD told me about years ago”, not “would have told me….”

        Example of the correct usage: “If I HAD asked my friend, he WOULD HAVE told me years ago”.

        1. Olle Linge says:

          Even though your version is definitely correct, I think both versions are acceptable. I searched a bit for similar sentences online and it seems like “I wish he would have told me” is acceptable in AmE, but in BrE, “I wish he had told me” is preferred. I’m not a native speaker, but I found several references to native speakers who find that “I wish he would have told me” is grammatical:


          Interesting point, though, I haven’t noticed this before. Since I try to stick to BrE in general, your comment definitely makes sense, thanks!

          1. Bob says:

            Hi Olle,

            Thanks for your reply. I wouldn’t like to presume you weren’t a native speaker, even though your name doesn’t ‘sound’ American/British/Canadian, etc, without having it confirmed by you first. I’d guess that you’re Scandinavian of origin, perhaps Norwegian? Not sure, though.

            I’m an English teacher – and, yes, I am from the U.K. I think that the ‘would have told (or other verb)’ may be deemed ‘acceptable’, as you state – perhaps by North Americans, perhaps by others, too -, but I’m pretty sure that, in a strictly grammatical sense, it is incorrect. The meaning is clear, through context, but it is not correct.

            I’m not sure whether you watch football (‘soccer’ – eeekkk!), but many English footballers will say such things as, “He’s went in on goal” (He approached….), or “We was having a bad run recently” (‘were’), or, from my own region, near Liverpool, “Youse lot are a stronger team….” (‘You are a….’). These are acceptable as dialectal variations, perhaps, but are grammatically incorrect in terms of ‘standard’ English.

            Thanks again, and congratulations on the Web-site. Most informative!

            1. Danny says:

              English is spoken correctly in many different countries. As such there are different dictionaries that apply to the US dialect, British dialect, ect.

              Most languages actually have multiple different dialects and one might say it is a little over-reaching to say that there is only one correct version of a sentence.

              1. Trent says:

                I must agree with Danny. More so, because we’re on a website that’s purpose is to facilitate the teaching of a foreign language. Those studying other languages very often hear the term dialect.

                Dialects may be easy to disregard if you’re just an English teacher, but while learning another language one cannot forget dialects and the fact that even popular mistakes can be given credit if they’re supported by a dialect.

                After all, languages are a living thing, changing constantly and growing with each generation.

                I don’t mean to say that proper English has no place, I just mean to say that both have a place.

            2. Edward says:

              God, what a frightful pedant you are.

              1. English Teacher says:

                Actually, he’s not a real pendant, just someone trying to pass off as intellectual. ”Wish + past perfect” is perfectly acceptable, sure, but ”wish + would + past participle” refers to ‘complaints’ regarding past events.

  2. Thanking for making the effort and and giving this radicals list to us. I think it’s very useful for beginners to learn the radicals, something my first Chinese teacher (in Finland) never made us to do.

    When learning characters, especially in the beginning, I also found MDBG dictionarys Character decomposition tool very helpful. (It’s inside the dictionary and doesn’t include all the characters, but many.)

    Also thank you for adding the colloquial names of the radicals, that’s very helpful for me because I only know a few of the names.

  3. Denise Heikinen says:

    I tried to download both links but I don’t have the program to read the first link and the font in the text link is partly corrupted or somehow partly unreadable: e.g. Âãπ Âãπ embrace, wrap (bao1) ÂåÖÂãøÂãæÂã∫Â㪠ÂåÖÂ≠ó§¥
    Is there another way to download this list? Thanks.

    1. Olle Linge says:

      I have added instructions for how to get the list to display properly. Your browser is probably trying to view this in a character set other than Unicode. If you use IE, right click and change encoding to unicode. In FF, go to view and then character encoding and change to Unicode. Other browsers should work the same way. If this doesn’t help, let me know! It really should work, though (it does for me on other computers).

  4. Denise Heikinen says:

    OK I now have a folder of sever files on my desktop. And I just downloaded Anki. I am trying to figure out the correct file to Anki.

  5. Great informative content as usual. I have some content / tools (e.g. frequency search) that might help you with this lists’s future plans. Send me a note.

  6. gavin says:

    Great website! Super inspiring, I absolutely love it! About the files, the anti file above downloads ok to my Android phone, but it seems to be a text file, not an anki file, and will not open with anki on my phone. Any idea why?

    1. Olle Linge says:

      The easiest thing to do is download the deck from within Anki. It’s called “The 100 most common Chinese radicals”, you should be able to find and download it without problems. Let me know if this works, I just uploaded it.

  7. Ian Sinnott says:

    Well said Olle. My college in the US forced intro level students to learn roughly sixty radicals during the first week. I hated it at the time since I thought they were essentially characters that I would never write, but it has improved my written Chinese immensely since. Unfortunately not all programs are like this, especially here in Taiwan.

  8. Sue says:

    Awesome Ollie! Thanks! I went the Shida route for six months a few years ago and realised there was a huge hole in the way that they taught characters to beginners. Decided recently to begin serious study again. Thought about the way that my kids talk about characters when they’re asking how to write something, and came to the conclusion myself that I need to learn radicals. Also came to realization by myself that all the radical lists I could find were radically flawed in some way or other. Have been learning the 214 from Wiki, but know that many of them are unnecessary to me, and many of the meanings given don’t match modern usage. So good to read this and find your list! THANKS!

  9. John says:

    Thank you very much for making a list of the most common radicals. I have downloaded the Anki format file from the link you provided, but for some reason I can’t see the whole radical. The right part of the radical is being cut off for some reason, so I can only see about 70% of it. Any idea what could be wrong?

    1. Olle Linge says:

      This is almost definitely something wrong with the way Anki is configured rather than the list itself. I suggest you use the help provided here.

      1. Duane says:

        That link didn’t work for me.

        1. Olle Linge says:

          It doesn’t for me either, so I’ve updated so that it now points to the main help site for Anki!

    2. Mark Noble says:

      Here’s how I added Chinese Character support on a Mac:
      Basically these steps: System Preferences, Keyboard, Input Sources, Chinese Simplified, Stroke Simplified (Also check the box that says “Show Input menu in menu bar”

      I hope this helps. Characters would not display when I downloaded my kids’ Chinese homework until I did this.

  10. CJ says:

    Hi Olle, first off thanks you SO much for all the help your site provides!

    I have been going over the 100 most common radicals list you generously provided in Anki, and I have a quick question:

    On some of the radicals, the tone, meaning, or even pronunciation that I have learned is not listed. For example on 厂, my tutor taught me chang3 – factory, but in the 100 most common radicals list it is han4 – cliff. On archchinese there is also no mention of han4, just chang3.

    I was just wondering what the difference is and why you chose han4 (I am a beginner, this is a genuine question, not a “you are wrong” type of statement).

    Thanks again for everything you’re doing for the community!

    1. Olle Linge says:

      This is slightly complicated, but in essence, there are two 厂. One is the original radical, which is indeed pronounced han4, although my guess is that almost no-one uses that reading (that’s why it’s written within brackets). The radical is the original semantic part of the character. Then there is the simplified character 厂 (traditional: 廠), which is a character pronounced chang3 as you suggest. Your teacher taught you the character, not the original radical. They happen to look the same in simplified Chinese. However, you don’t need to know this. You don’t need to learn the pronunciation of any radicals unless they are also common characters, in which case you will encounter them in texts you read or language you hear.



  11. Daniel says:

    Thanks for that nice article! I stumbled upon it by googling for a way to find out, what radicals are used in a piece of vocabulary. I will go and try learning those radicals; my teacher already encouraged me to do that to improve my writing skills but by now I just couldnt overcome my laziness. It is so hard to invest into future learning and not just learn vocabulary right away. But I will definitely try now.

    However I was not successful googling, so here is my question: How can I find out, what radicals are used in a character?

    E.g. 空 has the radicals “mian” and “gong” in it. How can I be sure that the rest of the character is not a radical but just ornament? What I am looking for is a dictionary that shows me not only the translation for a character but also classifiers+radicals. Do you know of such a thing?

    Ofcourse this is no important point – I can go on and learn radicals and after a while will recognize them in characters. That would just be a fun way for me to make things easier…

    1. Olle Linge says:

      I posted a number of useful dictionaries in this article, several of them do what you’re after. I typically use Zhongwen.com (traditional) and Hanzicraft.

      1. Daniel says:

        Wow, what a lightning-fast response! Thanks 😀

  12. Bill says:

    I’ve found something new that tries to order with respect to frequency as components in common characters. I can’t yet comment on how well it does it, but I’m using the ordered characters fruitfully…


    1. That site appears to be offline. Any idea where it went?

      1. Olle Linge says:

        Which site appears to be offline? Everything seems to work! Cool with the Wikipedia links. 🙂

        1. Learnm.org in Bills link above returns a server not found for me.

  13. As part of a new project I’m working on I took this list and put it on a web page here. Each radical links to its Wikipedia page as well.

  14. Andrew says:

    Great article. I can see the importance of learning radicals. Any chance that someone has this in Pleco format?

  15. B says:

    At first – thank You so much for giving me hope for learning chinese characters and actually REMEMBER them.
    I used to wirte every single character like many times until lerning it by heart. I was all happy but then, after writing 50 more characters I realised I already forgot the first one. Then learning it again, then forgot. Vicious cycle.
    I started using mnemonics techniques I found on Your site and it’s like I won the lottery:)
    But for now – as a fresh Sinology student – I have to memorize ALL kangxi radicals(radical, meaning, number and pronunciation) and have no idea how to memorize them! Especially those which are not really useful and it’s hard to make up connotation between the character and it’s number(and pinyin).
    Do You have any ideas?
    And once again – thank You so much!

    1. Olle Linge says:

      When it comes to the very basics, sometimes you just have to spend some time and write the radicals enough to commit them to memory. For instance, you might remember 火 because it actually looks a little bit like a flame, but it’s not a good idea to try to use mnemonics to learn how to write this. I generally don’t use mnemonics for very elementary parts, but use lots of mnemonics for combining these parts.

      1. B says:

        Well, I already know roughly 500 characters( traditional and their simplified version if they have one) so it’s not like 火 is not my close friend;) I was talking about not-so-popular ones like 掛號 for instance. I know the components but not all actual radicals in order… I need to remeber the exact list for my “chinese dictionaries” classes and i wanned advice on that;)

        1. Olle Linge says:

          I think there must be some terminology confusion going on. A single character only ever has one radical and that’s the semantic part that is used to sort the character in dictionaries. It’s usually related to the meaning of the character (rather than the sound). So, if you take a word like 掛號, there are only two radicals and I don’t really understand what you mean by “radicals in order” and “the exact list”?

  16. chiara says:

    HI! the link to nciku doesn’t seem to be working… or is it just my computer?

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Thank for notifying me, they must have changed their article structure or something. This link should work.

  17. Lili says:

    So grateful to have this list for our 101 days challenge! It’s so useful to systematically learn. Thank you!

  18. Gregory says:

    Olle, thank you for sharing this list. It saves me so much time. Two things that can improve this deck even more is to :

    1. Add another field that shares your tips on how to remember or associate that radical with the meaning in English. Many of the radicals look nothing like its meaning. (Hope I’m not asking for too much)

    2. Improve the styling on the card. Espiecialy the font and font size used for the Chinese is not the best. I have attached my own styling that works well form me. It also makes it more customizable. Some users at Anki have complained about the Chinese font size without realizing that they can customize it themselves.

    To use this styling at the Deck, click on [Browse], then click on [Cards …]

    Editor’s note: Because of display problems, the code provided here has been moved to a separate text file.

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Hi Gregory,

      I definitely agree that the list could be improved. In fact, I have been thinking about doing something much more in-depth about character components which would actually be more aimed at learning characters rather than just listing the radicals. I don’t use Anki much at the moment and updating lists is a bit of a hassle in Anki (or it was last time I checked anyway), but I will update it next time I check through decks I share. In the meantime, I’ll include your instructions in the article so at least people who don’t know how to achieve that on their own can still get it to work. Thanks!

  19. Hi Olle,

    Just wanted to let you know that I had some fun with perl, awk and LaTeX, and created a nicely typeset PDF from your table of the most common radicals. All radicals and example characters are hyperlinked into http://www.archchinese.com.

    The PDF and everything to recreate it is up on . I wasn’t sure about the license terms for your data. Would you be ok with CC-BY-SA (creative commons-attribution-share alike)?

    1. Shoot, screwed up the markup…

      The final PDF is here.

      1. Lili Woodlight says:

        This is fantastic!

      2. Olle Linge says:

        I have added your PDF to the main article along with another PDF provided by another reader (Peter Lee)!

    2. Olle Linge says:

      That’s great! I don’t know enough about different licences to have an opinion, but as a link back to the original article is included, I’m fine! Thanks for providing this. 🙂

  20. Otakumike says:

    For those who use Skritter, I published these 100 radicals as a new word list:

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Thanks! I had that on my to-do list, but it risked remaining there forever, so I’m really grateful you took the time to convert this to Skritter, I will definitely share!

  21. Andrew says:

    Hey, this looks wonderful. I was wondering if there were anyway to get this as a file which is compatible with Pleco?

  22. Caroline says:


    What a lovely site! Härligt material!

    I wonder as well as Andrew if there is any way to get this converted to Pleco! It would be great to have! I myself am not a wisard of Pleco but I love their flashcard system 🙂

    Med vänlig hälsning,
    Från Finland

  23. Bryan says:

    Very useful tool. One question though: the font on Anki on my computer isn’t the best for reading characters. Anyone know how to change the font on the hanzi to make them easier to pick out component parts?

  24. William says:

    As a native Chinese speaker I have to point out a mistake in the 100-radicals-markus.pdf. It states that 罒 is a variant of 目, which is not true. The 罒 is in fact itself a variant of ancient Chinese character (now also used as the simplified Chinese character) 网, which means “net”. A good example would be the traditional Chinese character 羅, which is etymologically composed of “a net 网 on top, and some silk 糸 aside, to catch bird 隹”. Such usage is still kept in modern Chinese word 羅網(simplified 罗网), as in the idioms 天羅地網 and 自投羅網. Another example is 罩.

    By the way, I have to point out that many native speakers are not able to pronounce many radicals whose pronunciation is given in brackets.

    Hope all these would help you with learning Chinese. 🙂

  25. SouFudao says:

    Last year I studied Chinese and unfortunately, I was a bit lazy when it came to learning the meaning of the different radicals. Now, I really understand the importance of knowing radicals and their meanings. If you take the time to get to know key radicals, it makes the whole process of memorizing characters much much easier. Great Article !

  26. Fatih Caglayan says:

    Dear Olle Linge,

    Thank you very much for your useful information always on this website. As a Japanese learner I am really learning a lot from your page. Especially articles that have to do with Kanji in general or language learning in general are very useful to me.

    I had a question to which I have not been able to find the answer for a quite long time. Do you know any type of linguistics literature in which the ethymology of the Chinese radicals is explained? For example the radical 方 is a quite interesting one, because it can mean square or raft. Maybe it is just me, but to me it seems that square and raft are two COMPLETELY different things. However, from the ethymology I expect them to be quite related.

    I had this with another Kanji radical which is 彳. The meaning of this radical is given as to go, (small) step, to stop, to wait. At first I was of course confused about this, just like in the example of square and raft, two completely different things. In here they seem even to be opposite. To stop and to go seem to be quite opposite to each other. I was thinking this until I researched the meaning of one of the other definitions which was to linger. It means to continue to exist. To stay too long at a certain place. So this means that the radical 彳 has the meaning of going or continuing in a certain existing state, which can be said as going on. So this clarified a lot to me, but I am still quite confused about a lot of the earlier radicals.

    If you could help me to find a more extensive list with meanings and explanations of the Chinese radicals then that would really help. I have searched for this very long, but I cannot find it.

  27. Franz says:

    Hey there,

    I wish I could use the 100 radicals on Anki but the link seems to be dead: https://ankiweb.net/shared/info/2438424285

    Can anyone help?


    1. Olle Linge says:


      I have updated the link, enjoy!



  28. Cat says:

    Hi Olle, I created an anki deck of phonetic characters (all the characters in the first table on hanzicraft http://www.hanzicraft.com/lists/phonetic-sets). Even though it doesn’t have audio (it would be amazing if anyone has done a list with audio?!) I thought it might be helpful to other people. See link to downloadable deck below.


  29. Richard says:


    could you also post an XLS (X) file with your radicals list (with separated columns), please?

    Thanks for your wonderful website, I got also your book and after reading your reviews, I also subscribed to Skritter and Chairman Bao, hoping to improve my Chinese reading and writing skills (I live and work in China).

    All best

    1. Olle Linge says:


      There is a text file that you could easily import into any spreadsheet program!



      1. Richard Pohl says:

        Thanks, I was only copying to Excel, which was why it would not separate properly, opening and converting made the job well. Thanks for your excellent job!

  30. Thomas says:

    Thank you Markus!

  31. Lianda says:

    Please note that the 100 radicals list for Skritter is now available here: https://legacy.skritter.com/vocab/list?list=5907881914531840

  32. Lianda says:

    ^Previous link was for the “Legacy” version of skritter. For skritter 2.0, just browse user-made lists or go here: https://skritter.com/vocablists/view/1060463001

    1. Gecko says:

      Thanks! It would be great if Olle could update the link in the text!

  33. Chinese is a wonderful language to learn, partly because it can be hacked very efficiently

  34. Christian says:

    Are these radicals best learned more or less by rote? You seem adamant that people don’t waste their time trying to study by rote characters that they find particularly difficult, but find a mnemonic or find the radicals in said character, etc. Is there a good system for doing this with radicals? Hard to break down the basic pieces.

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Rote is okay in this case, but a better way would be to study their origins. These are mostly semantic components referring to the meaning of the character, and they are also pictographs. You can seldom “see” what they mean, but looking at their development can make it easier to remember them!

  35. Camilo Estrada González 高墨 says:

    You just gave my what I was looking for. Thanks a lot. You genius!!!

  36. Sam Cooper says:

    good article!

  37. Andy Reed says:

    At first – thank You so much for giving me hope for learning chinese characters and actually REMEMBER them.

  38. Fen Ma says:

    What I miss, is whether a radical can be a character of is own, or is only a component and perhaps a shift in meaning from radical to character (like that you mentioned with 厂).

    I miss the rest of the list too. To take your bird example. 鸟 is an important character of his own, but at least when learning 鸡 chicken, one should know the component and if it would be number 120 on the list, the list should reach so far. But perhaps there is a point better to decompose a new character with hanzicraft or characterpop to identify new radicalcomponents, when you reached a certain level and learn the radical at this point.

    What I really miss, something about the components, that are not radicals. E.g. what is the left part of 那? Is it a part of other characters too or only a 那-thing? Which are other important components, perhaps composed of two radicals?

  39. Max Almonte says:

    Hi Olle, I want to thank you for all the work you do to help people around the world to learn Chinese, I just ordered your book and I can’t wait to have it in my hands and start applying the principles written in it.

    I also just started using this list to learn radicals with Anki, I would like to customize and publish a new version of the list with new styles, audio, and tones marked in the pinyin pronunciation, I think I can learn better that way, also I could install the updated list in my phone thanks to the Anki web.

    Is okay with you if I publish a list based on yours? I would recognize you as the original author for sure!

    Once again thanks for the work you do.

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Glad you find my musings helpful! Yes, you’re welcome to create a list, but please link back to this article.

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