This is the lesson attached to the Chinese learning game Ancient Code. Learn the basic knowledge you need to read and write Chinese with this memory game! Improve your understanding of Chinese character formation by learning the meaning of the most common Chinese radicals. Play the FREE version of the game or join us and get the full version!
For a list of all radicals featured in this game, please see the cheatsheet.
Each Chinese character is a riddle to be cracked open. Riddles are mysterious and do not make much sense without the right combination or the right clues as to where one should look. Radicals are the clues we need in Chinese.
Sometimes called keys, radicals are combinations of strokes that open the door (like keys) to the meaning of the character or to its pronunciation.
Example 1good has 2 radicals: woman and child, which is the foundation of good.
Example 2has the radical which gives a clue as to its pronunciation ( ).
Most radicals come from existing characters.
Example The radicalclaw comes from the character (also claw).
One character can produce many radicals.
Example(pictogram of rising flames) produced 2 radicals: and
is a scaled-down version of that will fit into the proportions of the character containing the radical of Fire.
is a faster form where we can still recognize the four strokes of .
By identifying radicals and their meaning in a character, we can guess the general meaning or pronunciation of an unknown character.
The mental images summoned by the association of radicals can usually help in memorizing the character itself as a whole. That is why radicals are mainly valued as a mnemonic aid.
radical meaning or pronunciation
Exampleto rest has 2 radicals: person and tree. can be memorized easily because we can picture a person leaning against a tree to take a rest.
Radicals and the characters they come from sometimes differ in meaning, which may cause some confusion.
Example The radicaltree actually means wood as a character.
Do not attempt to memorize complex characters before you have memorized the most important radicals.
For a list of the most important radicals, please see the game's cheatsheet, as well as that of the following games in the series.