Chinese radicals

Radicals are common components in Chinese characters. Some indicate pronunciation and some suggest meaning. E.g.


Some radicals themselves may be single-component characters, such as 女 and 马.

However, some are not single-component characters, but may be combined with other components to form characters. E.g. 氵(shuǐ – water)- together with 工 (gōng – work) forms 江 (jiāng – river).

In order to understand and write Chinese characters correctly, it is important to make sense of the radicals.



木 (mu4) means tree or wood as a single character. It is a radical too. It can be put left, right, underneath or inside of a character indicating things related to tree or wood.


A person leaning against a tree makes the character for ‘rest’ (休, pinyin: xiū).

Radicals can be placed on the left, right, top, bottom and outside of a Chinese character.

Images courtesy of Chineasy.