How to Read Chinese Characters – Categories and Breakdown

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About 80% of Chinese characters are pictophonetic, which means they are made up of two components; The “Radical” (meaning) and the “Phonetic” (sound) components.

Example

characters that contains the Radical “手” in it, most of the time means it is related to hand; 

Mō (Touch) = 手 Shǒu (Hand) + 莫 Mò (Do not)


Here is a list of the more common Chinese words, breakdown of the character, how it is formed using the combined meaning or simply the sound of the component characters. Some are pictorial depiction of the object and others are just on its own.

Common/ Simple Characters

Tiān – sky | Le – finish, already | Yǒu – have | Bù – not, no | Yòu – also, again | Dàn – but | Wǒ – I, me | Nǐ – you | 她/ 他/ 它 Tā – she, he, it | Yě – also | Tài – too, extremely | De – of, belongs to, truly | 所以 Suǒyǐ – so | Shì – is | Zi – son, small thing | Xīn – heart, center | Shuǐ – water | Yòng – use | Nà – that | Gè – piece, individual | 想 Xiǎng – want

Numbers

Yī – one | Èr – two | Sān – three | Sì – four | Wǔ – five | Liù – six | Qī – seven | Bā – eight | Jiǔ – nine | Shí – ten | Bǎi – hundred | Qiān – thousand | Wàn – ten thousand | 1 亿 Yì – 100 million

Eg: 539,817 = 五十三 万九千八百十七


The R Files learning how to read Chinese characters


手 Shǒu (Hand) ✋

Here are some characters that contains 手 and are related to “hand”, for instance actions where hands are involved.

Dǎ – beat | 丁 Dīng – fourth
Zhuō – catch | 足 Zú – foot

Zhé – fold, discount | 斤 Jīn – catty (1 catty = 600 g)

Pāo – throw | 九 Jiǔ – nine | 力 Lì – force, strength | hand + strength = throw | 抛弃 Pāoqì – abandon

Diào – drop, fall | 卓 Zhuō – outstanding
Mō – touch | 莫 Mò – Do not

Pāi – clap, racket, beat
拘捕 Jū bǔ – arrest

Ná – take | 合 Hé – combine | putting your hands together = take
Qiǎng – grab, rob | 仓 Cāng – warehouse, store
Zhuā – grab, scratch, arrest | 爪 Zhǎo – claw

口 Kǒu (Mouth) 👄

Chī – eat | 乞 Qǐ – beg
Hē – drink | 曷 Hé – why
Chuī – blow | 欠 Qiàn – owe, lack, yawn
Yǎo – bite, sting | 交 Jiāo – deliver, cross, pay
Wěn – kiss | 勿 Wù – do not
呼吸 Hū xī – breathe

足 Zú (Foot) 👣

Pǎo – run | 包 Bāo – package, bag, pack, include, wrap
Tiào – jump | 兆 Zhào – omen, trillion
Tī – kick | 易 Yì – easy
Lù – road, path | 各 Gè – each

木 Mù (Wood) emoji® – The Official Brand | nature, wood, tree stump, stump - U+1FAB5

桌子 Zhuōzi – table
椅子 Yǐzi – chair | 奇 Qí – strange
橱柜 Chúguì – cupboard | 厨 Chú – kitchen | 柜 – cabinet | 巨 Jù – gigantic
Chuáng – bed | 广 Guǎng – wide | Bed = a piece of wide wood
Shù – tree | 对 Duì – pair | Tree = a pair of wood
森林 Sēnlín – forest | Many woods
植物 Zhíwù – plants |  Zhí – straight
梯子 Tīzi – ladder | 弟 Dì – younger brother
楼梯 Lóutī – stairs | 楼 – floor | 米 Mǐ – meter, rice | 女 Nǚ – female

水 / 氵 Shuǐ (Water) 💦

Some words are formed using the sound and others the combined meaning of the fragmental characters.

Hǎi – sea | 每 Měi – each
Hé – river | 可 Kě – can
洗澡 Xǐzǎo – bathe | 洗 Xǐ – wash
浴缸 Yùgāng – bathtub | 浴 Yù – bath | 谷 Gǔ – valley, grain | 缸 Gāng – basin
清洁 Qīngjié – clean | 清 Qīng – clear | 青 Qīng – grassy | 吉 Jí – lucky | Clean = water + grassy + lucky
Zhī – juice, gravy | 十 Shí – ten
Tāng – soup
Lèi – tears | 目 Mù – eye | Tears = watery eyes
Hàn – sweat | 干 Gàn – dry | Sweat = dry water
Yóu – oil, fat, petrol | 由 Yóu – by

尿 Niào – pee | 尸 Shī – corpse | Pee = corpse water? 🤔

火 / 灬  Huǒ (Fire) 🔥

Chǎo – stir fried | Zhà – deep-fried | Jú – baked | Kǎo – grilled | Shāo – burn | Lú – furnace, oven | Róng – melt | Bāo – pot, boil | Yān – cigarette | Yān – smoke | Miè – extinguish | dēng – lamp | Rè – hot | Zhào – to shine | Zhǔ – Cook

土 Tǔ (Earth) 🌎

De – ground, land | Chǎng – field, place | Bì – wall | Duī – pile | Huài – bad | 垃圾 Lā Jī – rubbish | Ní – mud | Mù – grave | Pō – slope | Tǎ – tower | Táng – hall | Zhuān – brick | Táng – pond | 白 Tǎn bái – frank | Tián – fill in

金 / 钅Jīn (Metal) ⚙️

Yín – silver | Tiě – iron | Tóng – bronze | Jīn – gold | Qián – money | Guō – pot | Pù – store | Zhōng – clock | Zuān – drill | Liàn – chain

言 / 讠Yán (Speech)

讨论 Tǎolùn – discuss | 谁 Shéi – who | 说 Shuō – say, talk | 请 Qǐng – invite | 话 huà – language, speech | 记 Jì – remember, record | 证 Zhèng – prove | 计 Jì – count | 谢 Xiè – thank | 认 Rèn – agree, recognize | 谈 Tán – chat | 语 Yǔ – language | 试 Shì – test | 讲 Jiǎng – say

礻 Shì (Spiritual)

福 fú – good fortune | 祝 zhù – wish | 社 shè – society | 礼 lǐ – gift | 神 Shén – God | 被 Bèi – be, blanket

虫 Chóng (Insect, Worm, Invertebrate) 🦋

🦋 蝴蝶 Húdié – butterfly | 胡 Hú – beard, mustache | 世 Shì – world, era, life
🐝 蜜蜂 Mìfēng – bee | 苾 Bì – fragrant | 夆 Féng – butt
🦟 mosquito Emoji on Samsung Platform 蚊子 Wénzi – mosquito | 文 Wén – text, culture, language
🪰 Fly, Emoji by OpenMoji苍蝇 Cāngyíng – housefly | 苍 – gray, ash | 黾 Miǎn – toad
🦐 蝦 Xiā – shrimp, prawn
🐍 Shé – snake

🦀 Xiè – crab | 角 Jiǎo – angle, corner, horn, role | 刀 Dāo – knife | 牛 Niú – cow, ox

🐜 蚂蚁 Mǎ yǐ – ant

🐸 青蛙 Qīnɡ wā – frog | 青 Qīng – green, grassy | 圭 Guī – jade tablet
🦇 蝙蝠 Biān fú – bat

🥚  Dàn – egg

动物 Dòngwù (Animal) 🐱

🦒 长颈鹿 Cháng jǐng lù – giraffe | 🦓 斑马 bān mǎ – zebra | 🐴 Mǎ – horse | 🐁 老鼠 Lǎo shǔ – rat | 🐇 兔子 tù zi – rabbit | 🐘 大象 Dà xiàng- elephant | 🐕 Gǒu – dog | 🐈 Māo – cat | 🐵 猴子 Hóu zi- monkey | 🦊 狐狸 Hú li – fox | 🐅 老虎 Lǎo hǔ – tiger | 🦁 狮子 Shīzi – lion | 🐦 Niǎo – bird | emoji® – The Official Brand | crow 乌鸦 wū yā – Crow | 🐓 Jī – chicken | 🦆 Yā – duck | 🐖  Zhū – pig | 🐄 Niú – cow | 🐐 Yáng – goat | 🐟  Yú – fish

Fruits

🍎 苹果 píngguǒ – apple | 🍌 香蕉 xiāngjiāo – banana | 🥝 奇异果 Qíyì guǒ – kiwi | 🍈 蜜瓜 Mì guā – honeydew | 蓝莓 lánméi – blueberries | 🥥 椰子 yēzi – coconut | 榴莲 liúlián – durian | 🍇 葡萄 pútáo – grapes | 葡萄柚 pútáo yòu – grapefruit | 番石榴 fān shíliú – guava | 🍋 柠檬 níngméng – lemon | 芒果 mángguǒ – mango | 🍊 橙子 chéngzi – orange | 木瓜 Mùguā – papaya | 🍓 草莓 cǎoméi – strawberry | 🍉 西瓜 xīguā – watermelon

Vegetables

🥦 西兰花 xī lán huā – broccoli | 🥕 萝卜 luóbo – carrot | 菜花 càihuā – cauliflower | 🥒 黄瓜 huángguā – cucumber | 🍆 茄子 qiézi – eggplant |
🌶️ 辣椒 Làjiāo | chilli | 大蒜 dàsuàn – garlic | 洋葱 yángcōng – onion | 姜 Jiāng – ginger | 生菜 shēngcài – lettuce | 菠菜 bōcài – spinach | 豆芽 dòuyá – bean sprouts | 四季豆 sìjì dòu – string beans | 🥔 马铃薯 Mǎlíngshǔ – potato | 🍅 番茄 fānqié – tomato | 包菜 bāo cài – cabbage

Food

🍞 面包 Miànbāo – bread | 🥪 三明治 Sān míng zhì – sandwich | 🍚 饭 fàn – rice | 🍝 面 Miàn – wheat noodles | 🍣 寿司 Shòusī – sushi | 🥩 牛排 Niúpái – beef steak | 🍦 冰淇淋 Bīngqílín – ice cream | 🍪 饼 Bǐng – cookie, biscuit | 🍰 蛋糕 Dàngāo – cake | 🍬 糖果 Tángguǒ – candy | 🍫 巧克力 Qiǎokèlì – chocolate | 🥟 饺子 Jiǎozi – dumpling | 🍱 便当 Biàndang – bento | 🥗 沙拉 Shālā – salad | 🍔 汉堡包 Hànbǎobāo – burger | 🌭 热狗 Règǒu – hotdog | 🍟 薯条 Shǔ tiáo – french fries

形容词 Xíng róng cí (Adjectives)

Dà – big | Xiǎo – small | Duō – many | Shǎo – less | Zhǎng – long | Duǎn – short | Pàng / Féi – fat | Shòu – thin | gāo – tall | ǎi — short | 聰明 Cōng míng — smart | Bèn — stupid | 勤劳 Qín láo – hard-working | 懒惰 Lǎn duò — lazy | Zhí – straight | 弯曲 Wān qū – crooked | Rè – hot | Lěng – cold | Liáng – cool | Kuài – fast | Màn – slow | 湿 Shī – wet | Gān – dry

颜色 Yán sè (Colors) 🎨

Hóng – red | Lán – blue | Huáng – yellow | 绿 Lǜ / Qīng – green | Zǐ – purple | Bái – white | 粉红 Fěnhóng – pink | Huī – grey | Hēi – black

身体部位 Shēntǐ bùwèi (Body Parts) 🧘

头 Tóu (Head)

头发 Tóufǎ – hair | 👀 眼睛 Yǎnjīng – eye | 👄  Zuǐ – mouth | liǎn – face | 👃 鼻子 bízi – nose | 👂 耳朵 ěrduǒ – ear | 牙齿 yáchǐ – teeth | 👅 shé – tongue | 眉毛 méimáo – eyebrows | 下巴 xiàba – chin

身体 Shēntǐ (Body)

颈/脖子 Jǐng/bózi – Neck
肩膀 jiān bǎnɡ – Shoulder
xiōnɡ – Chest
胃/肚子/腹部 Wèi/ dù zi/ fù bù – Stomach
手臂 shǒu bì – Arm | 手 shóu zhǐ – Finger | 手指甲 shóu zhī jiɑ – Finger nail
jiǎo – Foot | 脚后跟 jiǎo hòu ɡēn – Heel
大腿 dà tuǐ – Thigh  | 小腿 xiǎo tuǐ – Calf 
膝盖 xī ɡài – Knee

方向 Fāng xiàng (Direction) Compass on OpenMoji

Chū – out | Qù – go | Lái – come | Shàng – up | Xià – down | Yòu – right | Zuǒ – left | Zhuǎn – turn | qián – Front | hòu – back | Zài – at | Cóng – from | dào – to | 北  Běi – north | Dōng – east | South –   Nán – south | 西  Xǐ – west | 这里 Zhèlǐ – here | 里面 Lǐ miàn – inside | Jìn – enter, into | Rù – enter | Jīng – through

Covid 😷

新冠肺炎 Xīnguān fèiyán – Covid-19 | 新 Xīn – new | 冠 Guān – crown | 肺炎 fèiyán – pneumonia | 肺 Fèi – lung | 炎 Yán – inflammation 

疫苗 Yìmiáo – vaccine | 医院 Yīyuàn – hospital | 感染 Gǎn rǎn – infection | 抗 Kàng – combat | 病毒 Bìngdú – virus | 药物 Yàowù – drug | 呼吸机 Hūxī jī – ventilator | 隔离 Gélí – quarantine | 疫情 Yìqíng – epidemic | 口罩 Kǒuzhào – face mask

Others 

传媒 Chuán méi – media | 报导 Bàodǎo – report | 怀疑 Huáiyí – doubt | 隐瞒 Yǐnmán – conceal | 调查 Diàochá – investigate | Zuì – sin, crime | 违规 Wéiguī – violation | 违法 Wéifǎ – illegal | 时间 Shí jiān – time | 爱情 Àiqíng – love | 负责 Fù zé – in charge of | 涉嫌 Shè xián – suspected of | 头晕 Tóuyūn – dizzy | 光顾 Guāng gù – patronize | 宣布 Xuānbù – announce | 批准 Pī zhǔn – approve

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