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01 July, 2007:
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Radicals 部首

Radicals, or 部首 (bùshǒu), play an important role in learning Chinese.  Radicals are often the first indicator of a character’s meaning, and form the “base” of the character; on top of this base other parts of the character are added to comprise the complete character itself.

In studying Chinese, I personally often find that it is helpful and interesting to examine a character’s components, and to use them as a mnemonic device to help remember the word’s meaning.  As an added bonus, this sort of analysis also tends to provide some much needed comedic relief in what can be a tedious, dull process of looking up characters in a dictionary.

In the following set of articles I have selected a few 部首 that provide particularly fertile ground for this sort of analysis.  The articles are in no way meant to be academic, nor do they purport to have any claim to authoritative explanations of a character’s etymology.  They are merely a collection of thoughts about Chinese characters that I feel may be of interest or help to anyone studying this beautiful language.

Note: Lost in Simplification

This section of the website will utilize traditional Chinese characters (with the simplified version in parenthesizes next to it) because much of radical analysis makes sense only if we perform it on the traditional character.

For example, one of the characters we will examine is 賢 (贤 xían).  臣(chén) is an important part of the analysis, but in its simplified we notice it is only two vertical strokes, which makes our analysis impossible.

All Radicals

Follow this link to a listing of many Chinese radicals including an analysis of what they mean and what characters they are used in.