500 Most Common Chinese Character Components (Traditional Chinese Version)

If you’re wondering why I haven’t updated in months… this is why. This is the biggest project I have ever completed for this blog.

I’ve long neglected my Chinese writing skills, in particular character recall, or lack thereof (aka 提筆忘字). I created this resource for myself – as a way to practise writing all the common characters used in Traditional Chinese in a systematic way.

There is nothing like this at all out there at the moment. It is a completely new approach.

I used Wenlin (文林) to find all the components and related characters, and asked my Chinese friends to record the 20 mp3s for the dictation exercises. I know it will be overwhelming for beginners and some intermediate learners. If you are a more advanced learner and want to work on your writing, you will find this incredibly useful. If not, it’s still worth taking a look. And yes, even if you are learning Simplified.

Why did I create this? Because I’ve never been happy with the haphazard way writing is practised by Chinese learners. Most people just pick a bunch of random characters and practise writing each one over and over. But very little emphasis is put on character components, including 部首 and 偏旁. The very few who do look at these merely consult a few basic radical lists from dictionaries – but these only skim the surface. A huge proportion of the total number of common characters are made up by components not in these radical lists. So memorising a radical list only gives you half the picture.

It’s always been very obvious to me that associative learning – for example, learning new things by connecting them with things you already know – is one of the most effective approaches to learning a language, or anything else. Yet the connections between characters are often very vague. This resource hopes to make those connections clearer by allowing the learner to practise writing similar-looking characters together.

My plan? To practise writing every day using this method. I hope after a year or so I’ll be able to have much better recall of characters. I cannot bear any longer to be fluent in Chinese and be able to type essays, online messages, etc. and yet unable to write simple words like ‘sneeze’. It’s getting beyond ridiculous. I’m going to practise a little bit each day and see how I go.

Anyway, enjoy! And have a try yourself…

Download: 500 Most Common Chinese Character Components (Traditional Chinese Version) – PDF, includes all the 500 most common Chinese character components in Traditional Chinese, plus their stroke counts, radical, pinyin, instructions for dictation and common characters formed by the components. I have only included words that are commonly used in modern Chinese.

Download: 500 Most Common Chinese Character Components (Traditional Chinese Version) – Dictation Exercises – ZIP file, 317MB, includes 20 mp3 recordings of all the words from the list. After reading parts of the PDF, you can practise writing the characters by listening to these dictation exercises. This is a huge resource, and will take you about six months to go through all the exercises thoroughly.

10 Comments to "500 Most Common Chinese Character Components (Traditional Chinese Version)"

  1. 17/09/2015 - 1:56 pm | Permalink

    I really love the way you learn things. To be honest, some of the points in the notes are beyond the knowledge of a common Chinese native speaker, like me. Actually in the IT field, I am doing the same thing. Except the project in work, I always have a project of my own on progress. I’ll keep track of the updates on your blog.

  2. David Stone's Gravatar David Stone
    26/09/2015 - 3:22 am | Permalink

    This is an awesome resource Carl. I think it’s fair to say that the field of teaching Chinese as a second language is not really addressing the needs of advanced learners, and it’s great that you are creating your own resources and sharing them with everyone.

    I think that educators have largely failed to realize that the techniques used to teach writing to Chinese grade school kids cannot work for adult learners of Chinese as a second language. They simply learn through a combination of brute force and cultural osmosis, but we on the other hand simply do not have many hours per day to sit at a desk and write characters over and over again, and also we are learning how to speak at and read at the same time. Chinese teachers either have unrealistic expectations for mastering of writing Chinese by hand, or they just assume that foreign learners do not need to do it/ cannot really learn it well. I hope that language educators can take a more proactive approach to figuring out what works best for students by asking them for input instead of just dinging test and homework sheets/shaming people when their writing skills fall behind other language skills.

    (BTW I hope a simplified version is forthcoming too!)

  3. Richard Carpenter's Gravatar Richard Carpenter
    12/11/2015 - 12:24 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if you know how many other components there are that are used in Chinese characters besides these 500? I doubt there are that many others. I went through the list yesterday, and I did not see any that were completely new to me. I have only learned about 2000 characters so far. The old Matthews dictionary has 7773 characters in it.

  4. Dawid Kujawiak's Gravatar Dawid Kujawiak
    07/01/2016 - 5:11 pm | Permalink

    This list is phenomenal! Have you ever considered releasing one in Simplified Chinese?

  5. David Lloyd-Jones's Gravatar David Lloyd-Jones
    09/12/2016 - 12:14 am | Permalink

    As always, thanks Carl!


  6. Terry L's Gravatar Terry L
    14/06/2017 - 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Carl..Great resources for a new learner like me. Es

  7. John O.'s Gravatar John O.
    06/10/2019 - 6:45 pm | Permalink

    This is a fantastic resource! Thankyou so much for making it! I had started attempting something similar, and then came across yours! Your way of doing things is excellent. I’d just like to mention, your dictations are gone sadly :(.

    I would be fascinated to see what this printed resource could become like if it were made an open resource.

    Keep it up!

  8. 06/02/2021 - 8:05 pm | Permalink

    Hey…wonderfully explained! To be honest, some of the points in the blog are beyond the expectation. I was eagerly searching Chinese translator blogs to improve my knowledge .thanks for sharing.

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