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5 Power tips on Mastering Chinese characters (Part 2)

Written by Sweta Tagliabue, Marketing Executive at China unbound

In our last article we looked at how learning the most frequently used characters and recognising the four basic character structures helps you master the writing of Chinese language.

In this article, let’s dig a bit deeper and look at 2 more power tips that will help us break down Chinese characters structures to make it easier to remember them.

Power tip #3: Understand basic stroke orders

Each Chinese character is made up of different strokes. We define “stroke” as one single stroke of the pen. In other words, every time you lift up your pen and start to write again, you are starting a new stroke.

Below is a list of the four basic strokes:

Horizontal stroke

Vertical stroke

Left-falling stroke

Writing from top to bottom, and curving to the left


 Small movement of the pen, from top downwards, towards left or right

So where do we start when we write a Chinese character? Here are the simple principles to follow:

From left to right:

From top to bottom:

From outside to inside


Power tip #4: Left = meaning, right = sound

What makes Chinese characters difficult to memorise and write is the amount of strokes that each character is made of. But if we look closer, we will notice that every character is made of specific components (called ‘radicals’) which have some specific meanings on their own.

As a general rule, the right hand side of the character indicates the sound, whereas the left hand part of the character indicates the meaning by indicating the group of ‘things’ it belongs to.Yes, there are exceptions but this is the best guess you can make if you have to guess the meaning and the pronunciation of a new word you don’t know.

Here comes the last but not least power tip:


Every Chinese character is made of RADICALS, components that indicate a specific area of meaning. A good way to pick up characters really quickly is therefore to learn the most commons radicals. Here’s some example below, divided by area of meaning.


  • •亻means ‘person’. It’s used in 你 (you), 他 (he).
  • 女 means ‘woman’. It originally came from a picture of a woman. It’s used in 她 (she), 妇 (woman), 婚 (marriage).


  • •土 means ‘earth’ and it appears in 地 (earth), 场 (site/court), 城 (city wall), 块 (a piece).
  • 木 is a picture of a tree. Usually this radical comes up in names of anything that could be made of wood, like 机 (machine), 根 (root), 村 (village), 材 (material), 松 (pine tree).

Now, can you see how learning Chinese characters is not as daunting as you thought and can even be enjoyable? The key is to understand the logic behind them. Hope you found this helpful!

If you are interested in learning a full list of common radicals and the related characters, please contact us at

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