Learn the building blocks of Chinese characters
What are Chinese radicals?

Chinese characters contain 'building blocks' called Radicals
They often help us to understand the meaning or pronunciation of a character

The Chinese radical for ice

This is the Chinese radical for "ice". It's one of the simplest radicals consisting of only two strokes, but using it can add important meaning to a character. Below are some examples of characters that use this radical, each of which adopt the meaning of 'cold'.

Chinese character for cold


Chinese character for freeze


Chinese character for winter


A radical doesn't always allude to the meaning of the character - Sometimes it just hints at the pronunciation, and other times its usage is not immediately clear. In any case, learning radicals will help you understand how characters are built up from smaller parts and are not the scary, complicated structures, you once thought.

Anatomy of a Radical

Here's the info we show for each of the 214 Chinese Radicals featured on the poster

Image showing the elements of a Chines radical included on the poster such as pronunciation, examples, and variations
  • 1, Radical number The official Kangxi radical number from 1 to 214
  • 2, RadicalThe primary for of the radical
  • 3, ZhuyinPronunciatin using Zhuyin (BoPoMoFo) - The phonetic system used in Taiwan
  • 4, VariationsDifferent ways that this radical can be written when included within a character
  • 5, PinyinPronunciation using Hanyu Pinyin - The official romanization system for Chinese in China and much of the world
  • 6, KeywordAn English keyword that describes the meaning of this radical
  • 7, ExamplesExamples of this radical in use

Also, if a radical was simplified then we show both original radical form and the Simplified versions! You can focus on what's important to you, or widen your knowledge of Chinese characters even further.

If you're not sure what this means right now, don't worry. As your Chinese improves and you understand more about the differences between Simplified and Traditional Chinese - we've got you covered.

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