A radical (from Latin radix, meaning "root") is the semantic root (i.e., portion bearing the meaning) of an inflected European word. Early Western sinologists borrowed this term to refer to the semantic component(s) of Chinese character (Hanzi). Later, the term was also borrowed for a second meaning, the 部首 (Pinyin: bùshǒu, Japanese bushu, Korean busu), literally meaning "section header", under which a character is listed in the dictionary.
For example, in the character 媽 or “mother” (pictured right), the left part 女 (pronounced nǚ in Mandarin Chinese) happens to be the semantic component and also the section header under which dictionaries list the graph. However, not all section headers function in a particular character as the semantic component; some are based on phonetics, while others are merely chosen for convenience, and play neither a semantic nor a phonetic role. These two meanings of “radical” are not synonymous, though they may coincide in a particular example, causing a great deal of confusion. (For clarity, both semantic component and section header terms are used here.)

Stroke OrderComputer_Talk.gifActivities

When writing a Chinese character, it is important that you follow the rules. Following the rules will make it easier for you to accurately count the number of strokes in a character. Knowing the exact number of strokes in a character will help you find the character in a radical-based dictionary. Also, your Chinese characters will look better if you write them in the correct stroke order!

The following is a list of rules of stroke orders:
1. From left to right (川、人)
2. From top to bottom (三)
3. Horizontal before vertical (十)
4. From outside to inside (月)
5. Middle before two sides (小)
6. Inside before closing (日、回)

Chinese Calligraphy


  • eStroke :Simply copy/paste or enter the character, and eStroke will animate that character for you.
  • Character Writing Exercise Sheets (Simplified) (from New Practical Chinese Reader )
  • Chinese Character Writing Sheets (Simplified and Traditional) (from Practical Chinese Reader)
  • 40 Common Chinese Radicals: This file contains the 40 common Chinese character radicals for traditional and simplified together on one page. Print them out and hang them up for quick and easy reference!
  • CHNGrids.pdf: This file contains five different grid layouts for you to practice writing your characters on. The first two (pp. 1-2) are mainly for practicing individual characters and vocabulary, the last two (pp. 4-5) are mainly designed for compositions, while the third one (p. 3) can serve either function.