Components of Characters and formation of words

A.   How many characters are there in Chinese? How many characters do I need to learn to be considered literate?

The precise quantity of Chinese characters is a mystery; numerous, rare variants have accumulated throughout history. There are 47,035 Chinese characters in the Kangxi Dictionary (康熙字典), the standard national dictionary developed during the 18th and 19th centuries. However, studies have shown that 90% of Chinese newspapers and magazines tend to use 3,500 basic characters, and one only needs to know 2,000 – 3,000 characters to be considered literate. One study even shows that if you know the 800-1000 characters you will be able to read Chinese newspaper, as many words either share one characters or are combinations of two or different words.

Examples of words sharing the same character:

Students will learn about 650 characters in CHI 101 and 102.

B.   How many radicals are there in Chinese?  

Traditionally, Chinese characters are grouped according to their shared components known as “radicals(部首, bùshǒu)”. There are about 200 most common shared radicals(部首, bùshǒu)” in most Chinese dictionaries. About 80% of all characters are phono-semantic or picto-phonetic characters with with one component indicating meaning and the other referring to the pronunciation. It is very common for some characters to share either the radicals (usually indicating the meaning of the characters) or phonetic component. Therefore, it would be very helpful if you know well the radicals and other basic components of characters.


Characters sharing the same meaning radical,

Characters sharing the same phonetic components,

C.   How many different strokes are there of Chinese characters?

The following are the 8 basic strokes that most Chinese characters are composed of,