Learn Basic Chinese Radicals
Posted by Mollan Mo on 2016-06-15 12:13:48 4067

Except for the photographic characters that originated from carved symbols, other characters have a radical or are themselves radicals. In the most widely accepted table of radicals, there are 214. A radical is used in front of another character to tell something about the meaning of the word symbolized by the particular character, such as whether it is made of metal, is tall, etc. For example, 女 is the character for woman. It is also the radical for many female things: 姐姐 for elder sister, 妈妈 for mom, etc.

Western culture talks about four elements (earth, air, fire, and water). The Chinese named five elements: metal, wood, water, fire, and earth. Symbolized by characters, each can serve as an independent radical with at least one form. Today, we are going to see these and their variations.

According to the Chinese traditional medicine and philosophy, the five elements are the fundamental components of the universe.

1. 金 jīn “gold”

The character above is the radical for gold and also can be considered to carry the meaning of metal. So when you see a word that has this radical, you’ll know it has something to do with metal. Individually, the character for gold is written like this: 金. When it becomes radical, it will be on the left of the radical, written like this: 钅.

Chinese radical

 

The most common character you see and use every day that carries this radical is 银行 yín hang, “bank.”

2. 木 mù, “wood”

This is the radical for wood. When you see a character with this radical, you’ll know it has something to do with wood. Be careful, however, with the written forms of the character of wood and the radical. The radical is smaller, thinner and always on the left of the other character, or smaller underneath the other character.

Chinese radical Mu

Interestingly, if you put two “木” together, it becomes “林” lín, meaning forest. And three “木” means a large forest, written as “森”, sēn.

3. 水 shuǐ 氵/冫/灬

The individual character for water has three variations when it is used as a radical, which are three drops of water. It is 氵with two drops of water (shown below on the left) 冫with one drop of water (shown in the middle), and four drops of water 灬 (shown on the right; this form is always used at at the bottom of the second character).

Chinese radical shui

Radicals of water are commonly used since the element of water also exists in various forms.

4. 火 huǒ fire

This radical carries the meaning of fire, and in modern life, you’ll see it with the characters meaning light and cooking methods since ancient people used fire for lighting and to cook. Remember the radical of fire is always written on the left with a smaller form.

Chinese radical huo

5. 土 tǔ earth

The radical for earth has two forms. The first one is smaller, and its second horizontal stroke turns into a right-rising stroke and is always placed on the left; and the second form is a wider one placed at the bottom of a character.

Chinese radical tu

Still tired of learning Chinese characters all by yourself? Why not choose our Chinese character courses and let our teachers help you. Register and book a free trial class right now!

About The Author

Related Articles

Get a FREE live 1-on-1 lesson
Begin your language journey

  • United States +1
  • United Kingdom +44
  • ‫افغانستان‬‎ +93
  • Shqipëri +355
  • ‫الجزائر‬‎ +213
  • American Samoa +1684
  • Andorra +376
  • Angola +244
  • Anguilla +1264
  • Antigua and Barbuda +1268
  • Argentina +54
  • Հայաստան +374
  • Aruba +297
  • Australia +61
  • Österreich +43
  • Azərbaycan +994
  • Bahamas +1242
  • ‫البحرين‬‎ +973
  • বাংলাদেশ +880
  • Barbados +1246
  • Беларусь +375
  • België +32
  • Belize +501
  • Bénin +229
  • Bermuda +1441
  • འབྲུག +975
  • Bolivia +591
  • Босна и Херцеговина +387
  • Botswana +267
  • Brasil +55
  • British Indian Ocean Territory +246
  • British Virgin Islands +1284
  • Brunei +673
  • България +359
  • Burkina Faso +226
  • Uburundi +257
  • កម្ពុជា +855
  • Cameroun +237
  • Canada +1
  • Kabu Verdi +238
  • Caribbean Netherlands +599
  • Cayman Islands +1345
  • République centrafricaine +236
  • Tchad +235
  • Chile +56
  • 中国 +86
  • Colombia +57
  • ‫جزر القمر‬‎ +269
  • Jamhuri ya Kidemokrasia ya Kongo +243
  • Congo-Brazzaville +242
  • Cook Islands +682
  • Costa Rica +506
  • Côte d’Ivoire +225
  • Hrvatska +385
  • Cuba +53
  • Curaçao +599
  • Κύπρος +357
  • Česká republika +420
  • Danmark +45
  • Djibouti +253
  • Dominica +1767
  • República Dominicana +1
  • Ecuador +593
  • ‫مصر‬‎ +20
  • El Salvador +503
  • Guinea Ecuatorial +240
  • Eritrea +291
  • Eesti +372
  • Ethiopia +251
  • Islas Malvinas +500
  • Føroyar +298
  • Fiji +679
  • Suomi +358
  • France +33
  • Guyane française +594
  • Polynésie française +689
  • Gabon +241
  • Gambia +220
  • საქართველო +995
  • Deutschland +49
  • Gaana +233
  • Gibraltar +350
  • Ελλάδα +30
  • Kalaallit Nunaat +299
  • Grenada +1473
  • Guadeloupe +590
  • Guam +1671
  • Guatemala +502
  • Guinée +224
  • Guiné Bissau +245
  • Guyana +592
  • Haiti +509
  • Honduras +504
  • 香港 +852
  • Magyarország +36
  • Ísland +354
  • भारत +91
  • Indonesia +62
  • ‫ایران‬‎ +98
  • ‫العراق‬‎ +964
  • Ireland +353
  • ‫ישראל‬‎ +972
  • Italia +39
  • Jamaica +1876
  • 日本 +81
  • ‫الأردن‬‎ +962
  • Казахстан +7
  • Kenya +254
  • Kiribati +686
  • ‫الكويت‬‎ +965
  • Кыргызстан +996
  • ລາວ +856
  • Latvija +371
  • ‫لبنان‬‎ +961
  • Lesotho +266
  • Liberia +231
  • ‫ليبيا‬‎ +218
  • Liechtenstein +423
  • Lietuva +370
  • Luxembourg +352
  • 澳門 +853
  • Македонија +389
  • Madagasikara +261
  • Malawi +265
  • Malaysia +60
  • Maldives +960
  • Mali +223
  • Malta +356
  • Marshall Islands +692
  • Martinique +596
  • ‫موريتانيا‬‎ +222
  • Moris +230
  • México +52
  • Micronesia +691
  • Republica Moldova +373
  • Monaco +377
  • Монгол +976
  • Crna Gora +382
  • Montserrat +1664
  • ‫المغرب‬‎ +212
  • Moçambique +258
  • မြန်မာ +95
  • Namibië +264
  • Nauru +674
  • नेपाल +977
  • Nederland +31
  • Nouvelle-Calédonie +687
  • New Zealand +64
  • Nicaragua +505
  • Nijar +227
  • Nigeria +234
  • Niue +683
  • Norfolk Island +672
  • 조선 민주주의 인민 공화국 +850
  • Northern Mariana Islands +1670
  • Norge +47
  • ‫عُمان‬‎ +968
  • ‫پاکستان‬‎ +92
  • Palau +680
  • ‫فلسطين‬‎ +970
  • Panamá +507
  • Papua New Guinea +675
  • Paraguay +595
  • Perú +51
  • Philippines +63
  • Polska +48
  • Portugal +351
  • Puerto Rico +1
  • ‫قطر‬‎ +974
  • La Réunion +262
  • România +40
  • Россия +7
  • Rwanda +250
  • Saint-Barthélemy +590
  • Saint Helena +290
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis +1869
  • Saint Lucia +1758
  • partie française) +590
  • Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon +508
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines +1784
  • Samoa +685
  • San Marino +378
  • São Tomé e Príncipe +239
  • ‫المملكة العربية السعودية‬‎ +966
  • Sénégal +221
  • Србија +381
  • Seychelles +248
  • Sierra Leone +232
  • Singapore +65
  • Sint Maarten +1721
  • Slovensko +421
  • Slovenija +386
  • Solomon Islands +677
  • Soomaaliya +252
  • South Africa +27
  • 대한민국 +82
  • ‫جنوب السودان‬‎ +211
  • España +34
  • ශ්‍රී ලංකාව +94
  • ‫السودان‬‎ +249
  • Suriname +597
  • Swaziland +268
  • Sverige +46
  • Schweiz +41
  • ‫سوريا‬‎ +963
  • 台灣 +886
  • Tajikistan +992
  • Tanzania +255
  • ไทย +66
  • Timor-Leste +670
  • Togo +228
  • Tokelau +690
  • Tonga +676
  • Trinidad and Tobago +1868
  • ‫تونس‬‎ +216
  • Türkiye +90
  • Turkmenistan +993
  • Turks and Caicos Islands +1649
  • Tuvalu +688
  • U.S. Virgin Islands +1340
  • Uganda +256
  • Україна +380
  • ‫الإمارات العربية المتحدة‬‎ +971
  • United Kingdom +44
  • United States +1
  • Uruguay +598
  • Oʻzbekiston +998
  • Vanuatu +678
  • Città del Vaticano +39
  • Venezuela +58
  • Việt Nam +84
  • Wallis and Futuna +681
  • ‫اليمن‬‎ +967
  • Zambia +260
  • Zimbabwe +263
Privacy Policy:We take your privacy seriously.
Your information is secure with us. It will only
be used to free trial lesson coordination.

Want to receive regular Chinese language tips & trivia?