Chinese Characters 101 (Part 2): Strokes, Components and Radicals

Check out the other parts of this series here:

Part 1: What are Chinese Characters?

Part 3: The 6 Types of Chinese Characters

Part 4: Stroke Order Rules

Chinese Strokes

In total there are 35 different possible Chinese strokes. There are six basic Chinese strokes and 29 compound strokes. Compound Chinese strokes are combinations of basic strokes & combining strokes.

Chinese strokes, Chinese Characters 101 (Part 2): Strokes, Components and Radicals

Don’t worry about practicing these individually. Because we start teaching you from the essential components and gradually build up from there, you should have very few problems writing characters as long as you follow the step-by-step images provided in the description of each “Make a Movie” lesson. 


There are thousands of characters, but not nearly as many components. They can have two functions:

  1. Semantic: Showing meaning
  2. Phonetic: Showing sound
Chinese strokes, Chinese Characters 101 (Part 2): Strokes, Components and Radicals

油 or “Oil” to the left has 氵which shows that this character has something to do with liquid.

油 on the right side is “由” which gives a clue to the pronunciation of “yóu.” The pronunciation is not always the same as the phonetic element within it. Sometimes it is slightly different (e.g., 羊 yáng and 样 yàng), sometimes it is very different (每 měi 海 hǎi), but there is usually some pronunciation connection. We will show this more once we get to the types of Chinese characters. 

Not learning components would be similar to studying mathematical answers without studying the core equations. As a result, when creating The Mandarin Blueprint Method, we based the order sequence for learning 汉字 on the components. 

A Note on “Radicals”

214 exist, many are uncommon. “Radicals” are the representations of paper dictionary categories. If you want to look something up in a paper dictionary, you need some system for finding what you are looking for, and so radicals were invented to help with this. There is only one radical assigned to every 汉字, and they aren’t necessarily semantic components. To a large degree, “radical” assignment is random.

Unless you are planning to use paper dictionaries, we recommend you scrap this word from your vocabulary. Instead, refer to the elements of Chinese characters as “components.”

Character Components
16 October , 2018

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