Here are some suggestions for possible uses of the site, and some hints about how to achieve those usages.     

  • How to obtain character and vocabulary lists for the HSK?
  • Where to signup to take the HSK?
  • How to study everything about a particular Chinese character?
  • How to quiz yourself on the meaning and pronounciation of Chinese characters?
  • How to Lookup the meaning and pronounciation of a printed Chinese character?
  • How to obtain a better understanding of the structure of Chinese characters?
  • How to convert between Simplified and Traditional Chinese?
  • How to ask questions or comment about this site?
  • Interested in studying in China?
  • This site contains information on characters that are used in the HSK (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi), a standardized test for students of Chinese as a second language. The characters used in the HSK are a standard for what characters one needs to know to be competant in Chinese. This is not the only possible standard, or even necessarily the best possible standard, but it exists and is well defined. As it happens, the HSK was recently revised. The "new HSK" started to be used in HSK testing centers around the beginning of 2010. If you are planning to take the HSK, the vocabulary list that you want to study is most likely the vocabulary list from one of the 6 levels of the new HSK. These vocabulary lists are published in book form by the sponsoring agency, Hanban, but don't appear to be officially published on-line. Unofficial copies of these vocabulary lists are available on this site.

    This site's landing page, "", contains text that reads "Characters used in the: old HSK, new HSK;". Click on the link labeled "new HSK", and you will be taken to a page containing lists of characters which or sorted by the HSK level that the character first appears in. The heading of each list of characters contains a link labeled, "Vocabulary List" which will take you to the appropriate vocabulary list for that level.

    All text data at this site is encoded using UTF-8. So, the vocabulary lists should be copy-pasta-able into other programs from your browser, or you can study them where they are.

    In the San Francisco area, the HSK is offered at The University of San Francisco (USF). You can use that link to find out more about their program, or through their site find additional links to a possably more convenient testing site, or further information about about the HSK itself.

    The screenshot below labels parts of the landing page that you can interact with. Explanations follow.

    The landing page for this site, "", displays information about a single Chinese character. This information includes, definition, pronounciation, a breakdown of the radicals that compose the character, links to other characters that share a selected radical with the current character, and a list of words that the character appears in. There are also links to external sites that contain additional information about the character. These external links include information on the character's etomology, an illustration of how to draw the character, usage examples, and a search for related Chinesepod lessons.
    1. Click on a radical to get a list of characters that share that radical with the current character. The list of characters with this radical in common is displayed at (4). The currently selected radical is displayed at the top of the page. In some cases, a radical may not be shared with other characters, in which case, the list and next and previous buttons will disappear. Given the way that Chinese characters are constructed, the whole of the current character is also treated as a radical. When you choose it, you will see a list of characters that include the current character, if there are any. In the illustration is a radical that appears within 说 and a few other characters.
    2. Characters that were entered along with the current character will be displayed here. Clicking on one of them will change the current character to the one that was clicked on. These characters will appear when you move the mouse over one of the words in the usage examples, or when you enter a multi-character word in the "Enter Hanzi" field. The latter is sometimes useful to conveniently persuade your input method to produce a character that is only common in context with other characters, such as, 辱 in 侮辱 .
    3. The purpose of this field is to allow you to use your keyboard input method to enter a new current character. Unfortunately, keyboard input methods often interact awkwardly with browsers. You may need to press , or type an extra space in order to notify the browser that you are done entering hanzi (Chinese characters).
    4. Clicking on a character in the list of characters sharing the currently selected radical with the current character, will change the current character to be what was clicked on. The next and previous buttons have a similar effect, changing the current character to the one to the left or right in the list.
    5. Clicking on one of the words in the usage examples will open a new page to an external site that contains a definition of the word that was clicked, and some example sentences that use that word.
    6. Clicking on the Chinesepod icon will open a search page on that searchs for Chinesepod lessons that make use of the word immediately to the left of the icon. Whether, or not, you can access the lessons listed depends on your relationship with Chinesepod.
    7. Clicking on the etomology link will open a new page to a site that contains information on historical forms of the current character.
    8. Clicking on the "How to draw" link will open a new page that contains a flash anomation of the strokes used to draw the current character.
    9. Moving the mouse over the 《繁体字》 button will convert all the characters on the page to Traditional Chinese equivalents. Moving the mouse off of that button will revert the page to Simplified Chinese. The idea is to allow the user to gain an understanding of the relationship between Simplified and Traditional Chinese characters, not to give Traditional Chinese equal treatment. This is not a value judgement on the merits of Traditional Chinese versus Simplified Chinese, it is just a choice to view Chinese from the most recently promulgated standard. A similar Web site could reasonably make a different decision.

    You can see from the functions described above, that this site contains a lot of information about each character, and links to outside sites for additional information. One of the things to be marveled about Chinese is that there can be so much to say about even an single character.

    There are two methods for using this site to achieve flashcard-like functionality. The first is to un-check the "display pronounciation" and "display definition" boxes on the landing page ( The second is to navigate to the list of Characters used in the HSK. You can mentally quiz yourself as to whether, or not, you recognize the characters in a particular list. If you are are unsure your recognize a character, you can move the mouse over it and a definition and pronounciation for that character will pop up. The latter technique may be most appropriate for those who are preparing for the HSK.

    If you are completely without a clue where to begin, you can try using the graphical index. If you spot something that looks like a fragment of the character you are looking for, click on it. If any of the related characters that are displayed look like part of the character you are looking for, click on that. If you keep going, with a little luck, you will find the character you are looking for. If you know some characters and can enter them with an IME, there is another option that may be more efficient. Please, read on.

    The techique described here requires that you already recognize many simple characters, but are still having trouble with less commonly used characters. Frankly, if you have the character in an electronic encoding, such as UTF-8, the easiest way is to look it up using an on-line dictionary, or a local program. However, Chinese characters often appear in printed material, or in pictures, where the electronic encoding is not available, unless you somehow manage to guess how to input that character into your computer. Guessing is not always fruitless, but after the first few trys, it is time to look for a short-cut.

    If you know a character that shares a radical with the one you are searching for, there is a good chance that you can use that knowledge and this Web site to find the character you don't recognize. Once you find it, you will learn its pronounciation in pinyin and can use your favorite on-line dictionary to look it up, or you can explore the newly found character at this site. It is easiest to understand with an example. Suppose, you don't recognize the character 剂 but your recognize that the knife radical,刂, also occurs in 。 You can then enter 到 into the "Enter Hanzi" field. Once the information for 到 appears, you can select the knife radical from the set of components of 到 in the upper left corner of the page. 剂 will appear in the list of characters sharing the knife radical, or you could observe that occurs within 剂 and search in a similar way on that basis.

    The advantage this technique has over traditional dictionaries, is that there isn't a "correct" radical to start your search with, and you don't have to count strokes. The advantage of this technique over electronic, hand-held dictionaries with character recognition, is that you don't need to draw the character using the correct stroke order, nor do you need fast drawing reflexes to avoid having the character recognition software time out before you finish drawing the character. If you don't know anything at all about characters, you are still up a creek without a paddle, but that fact is shared with the other available techniques.

    In the course of putting together this Web site, I developed a strong sense that Chinese characters have mostly been assembled by combining a few simple combinations of strokes and existing characters. Some of these simple stroke patterns and simple characters are classified by traditional dictionaries as "radicals" (部首)and are used to index characters. Learning to recognize traditional radicals is certainly helpful in learning Chinese characters. However, there are more relationships between characters than are highlighted in this way. It seems these additional relationships are also helpful to learning Chinese characters.

    You don't have to take my word for it. You can use this Web site to explore what characters contain other characters, patterns between how radicals are used, etc. I am confident you will learn something in this way.

    A few examples will help to illustrate. is 行 with 圭 stuffed in the middle. 圭 is itself two 土 stacked together. For a longer sequence, you can start with 木, double it up to get 林, put a 广 on top to get 麻, then shove in a 石 to get . You can use the links on this site to look for other "matryoshka" characters. Or, the characters and are all not commonly used as stand-alone characters, but are all quite productive in regard to appearing within several commonly used characters. Look them up on this site to see which famous characters they contribute to.

    This site, itself, focuses entirely on the visual structure of characters. History certainly had an influence on how they developed, but they are what they are now, and there are visual patterns between them. Links on this site may be used to explore how they may have evolved. There are also stories about how various characters came to have their meaning, that can be helpful to learning them. However, I am mostly interested in organizing them visually so that I can memorize them, and this site reflects that bias.

    This page can be used to convert Simplified Chinese to Traditional Chinese, or visa versa. It doesn't attempt to deal with a number of tricky issues, though. The tricky issues include multi-character words that use different characters, but have equivalent meanings, such as, 软件 and 軟體, and Simplified characters that map to different Traditional characters, depending on meaning.

    Last summer I spent four weeks in Beijing as a student of Chinese on weekday mornings and a tourist the rest of the time. When a friend of mine, who lives in Nanjing heard of my experience, she started cooking up schemes to setup a similar program in Nanjing; basically make arrangements with a local university for the teaching part, and be tour guide for the rest. I think it needs around 15 people to make sense. Anyway, if you are interested, send me an email. If I get enough emails on the topic, I will try to make it happen.