100 Most Common Chinese Characters

  • From past to present, there is no accurate counting of Chinese characters. Depending upon how one counts variants, 50,000+ is a good approximation for the current total number.
  • However, it is generally accepted that one needs to know between 2,000 to 3500 characters for basic literacy in Chinese (for example, to read a Chinese newspaper), and a well-educated person will know well in excess of 4,000 to 5,000 characters.
  • There have been several attempt to identify the most frequently used Chinese characters.  In 1988,  the Chinese government has published a list of the 3,500 most frequently used Simplified Chinese characters : 现代汉语常用字表 (“List of Frequently Used Characters in Modern Chinese”).
  • As you may notice, each daily character post found in this website includes the usage of the character. The usage/frequency that I used in this website is based on the statistic found in here :  Frequency Statistics 频率统计
  • To maximize the speed to achieve reading literacy, the student should learn the most commonly used characters first.
  • According to a survey on the current situation of Chinese language, to understand 90% of the content in Chinese publications, students have to learn only about 900 Chinese characters and 11,000 phrases/words
  • Chinese characters should not be confused with Chinese words. Most Chinese words are written with one or more characters; each character representing one syllable. Knowing the meanings of the individual characters of a word will often allow the general meaning of the word to be inferred, but this is not invariably the case.
  • Here are the 100 most frequently used characters that we have learnt, making up around 40% of the usage of Chinese.
Character Usage Pinyin Pronunciation Date/Link
1 95.9 de

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04-Sep-2009
2 94.3

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11-Jul-2009
3 93.0 shì

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28-Jul-2009
4 91.8

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08-May-2009
5 90.7 le

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30-Jun-2009
6 89.7 zài

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16-Sep-2009
7 88.7 rén

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29-Jun-2009
8 87.8 yǒu

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23-Feb-2010
9 86.9

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21-May-2009
10 86.1

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25-May-2009
11 85.3 zhè

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03-Aug-2009
12 84.7

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31-Jul-2009
13 84.1 men

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29-May-2009
14 83.5 zhōng

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02-Nov-2009
15 82.9 lái

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05-Jun-2009
16 82.4 shàng

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12-May-2009
17 81.8

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02-Sep-2009
18 81.3 wèi

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03-Nov-2009
19 80.8

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04-Nov-2009
20 80.3 guó

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09-Nov-2009
21 79.8

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20-Nov-2009
22 79.3 dào

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27-Nov-2009
23 78.8

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09-Dec-2009
24 78.4 shuō

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05-Nov-2009
25 77.9 shí

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10-Nov-2009
26 77.5 yào

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30-Oct-2009
27 77.1 jiù

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18-Dec-2009
28 76.7 chū

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18-Sep-2009
29 76.3 huì

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11-Nov-2009
30 76.0

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12-Nov-2009
31 75.6

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03-Jun-2009
32 75.2

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22-May-2009
33 74.9 duì

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13-Nov-2009
34 74.5 shēng

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30-Jul-2009
35 74.2 néng

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30-Nov-2009
36 73.8 ér

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07-Jan-2010
37 73.5

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24-Feb-2010
38 73.2

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04-Aug-2009
39 72.8

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11-Dec-2009
40 72.5

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08-Feb-2010
41 72.2 zhe

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01-Dec-2009
42 71.9 xià

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13-May-2009
43 71.6

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26-Jan-2010
44 71.2 zhī

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20-Jan-2010
45 70.9 nián

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07-Sep-2009
46 70.6 guò

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19-Nov-2009
47 70.3

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23-Nov-2009
48 70.0 hòu

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19-Jun-2009
49 69.8 zuò

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24-Jun-2009
50 69.5

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09-Feb-2010
51 69.2 yòng

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25-Jan-2010
52 68.9 dào

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18-Feb-2010
53 68.7 xíng

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23-Oct-2009
54 68.4 suǒ

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15-Feb-2010
55 68.1 rán

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05-Feb-2010
56 67.9 jiā

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14-Aug-2009
57 67.6 zhòng

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11-Jan-2010
58 67.3 shì

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01-Feb-2010
59 67.1 chéng

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28-Jan-2010
60 66.8 fāng

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24-Nov-2009
61 66.6 duō

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17-Nov-2009
62 66.3 jīng

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10-Feb-2010
63 66.1 me

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23-Jul-2009
64 65.8

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12-Aug-2009
65 65.5

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10-Dec-2009
66 65.4 xué

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29-Jul-2009
67 65.1

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12-Jan-2010
68 64.9 dōu

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04-Jun-2009
69 64.7 tóng

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16-Nov-2009
70 64.4 xiàn

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04-Jan-2010
71 64.2 dāng

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25-Feb-2010
72 64.0 méi

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22-Feb-2010
73 63.8 dòng

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07-Dec-2009
74 63.6 miàn

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17-Dec-2009
75 63.3

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22-Jan-2010
76 63.1 kàn

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20-Aug-2009
77 62.9 dìng

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05-Jan-2010
78 62.7 tiān

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17-Jun-2009
79 62.5 fēn

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19-Jan-2010
80 62.3 hái

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06-Jan-2010
81 62.0 jìn

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17-Sep-2009
82 61.8 hǎo

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04-May-2009
83 61.6 xiǎo

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03-Sep-2009
84 61.4

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12-Feb-2010
85 61.2

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04-Dec-2009
86 61.0 xiē

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03-Feb-2010
87 60.8 zhǔ

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29-Jan-2010
88 60.6 yàng

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08-Jan-2010
89 60.4

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27-Jan-2010
90 60.2 xīn

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26-Nov-2009
91 60.0

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26-May-2009
92 59.8 běn

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08-Dec-2009
93 59.6 qián

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18-Jun-2009
94 59.4 kāi

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25-Nov-2009
95 59.2 dàn

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02-Dec-2009
96 59.0 yīn

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15-Jan-2010
97 58.8 zhǐ

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03-Dec-2009
98 58.6 cóng

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06-Nov-2009
99 58.4 xiǎng

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18-Aug-2009
100 58.2 shí

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14-Dec-2009


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Comments (61)

rustyApril 28th, 2010 at 5:47 am

wheres the English …makes it useless without that

[Reply]

Min Min Reply:

Hi rusty,
You have to click on the date link to go to the details page for the English meaning of each characters.
I will try to improve this page by adding a short English meaning for each characters.
Thanks for your suggestion. I hope you will enjoy learning Chinese.

[Reply]

Jan Hart Reply:

Min Min, where are you? Where does one start with this language? The sounds to my ear are so difficult to hear, let alone pronounce. May I please hear from you.
Best regards,
J.Hart

[Reply]

Min Min Reply:

Hi J.Hart,
Do you mean the pronunciations are not clear?
Some of the audios are using old version, so they are not really clear.

[Reply]

B Reply:

He means overall he cannot process the language yet. Not that your pronunciations are unclear.

Jan, it takes time to develop your ‘ear’ in a new language. Everything sounds foreign and it is hard to differentiate the sounds even. But! Over time the sounds will become more and more familiar to you and you will be able to hear them better. Start with learning the tones. Practice speaking daily. Go from there. Good luck.

[Reply]

Alfons Reply:

contrariwise rusty, for me it’s no problem without the english. it’s just 100 characters, and if you study chinese for a month or two, you’ll know them all. furthermore, even if there was an english translation, this translation would still be useless to you. you might get a good feeling from it, but you wouldn’t be able to go anywhere with that.

i think min min did a great job with providing the tonemarks (and stealing the audio, but this is chinese style ;-)

[Reply]

Min Min Reply:

Hi Alfons,
The audio before Jan 2010 is has low quality. I will find time to update those low quality audio.
Thanks for visiting my website.

[Reply]

loman michael Reply:

thanks

[Reply]

ömerMay 8th, 2010 at 12:46 am

Nice work, appreciate that.. By the way, we foreigners generally strugle against the words like ” 从” or ” 草 ” . The initial “c” which is followed by “o” “e” “a” is really hard to pronounce.

Could you please give some examples about that. Thanks in advance..

[Reply]

Min Min Reply:

Hi ömer,
Thanks.
I think you are learning Pinyin. Chinese pronunciation is different from English.
I am preparing a Pinyin ebook. I hope that would be useful for you.
Stay tuned and get updated. 谢谢。

[Reply]

Gordon Reply:

“struggle against” …an amusing use of words in the Chinese context. THanks for the site Min Min. It is very useful.

[Reply]

Min Min Reply:

Hi Gordon,
Glad to hear that you find my website is useful.
Thanks.

[Reply]

MaeyMay 18th, 2010 at 10:05 am

Hallo Min Min..
im really2 happy when i found your website. I’ve try to search chinese-learning site for a year…this is great! Keep ur good job. I want to make request, can you please suggest or upload a chinese song video with pinyin and english meaning? Im so happy if u can do that…Thanks a lot.

[Reply]

Min Min Reply:

Hi Maey,
Thanks for visiting my website.
I have created a few Chinese children songs:

http://www.learnchineseeveryday.com/category/weekly-activities/chinese-songs/

All the songs here have Pinyin and English meaning.
I also included youtube videos for some of the songs. I hope this would be useful for you.

Thanks.

[Reply]

nishiMay 20th, 2010 at 2:32 am

Hello Min Min,
I’m Sri Lankan girl. I have a friend in China. Some times when we talk he doesn’t know the meaning. It’s very difficult to us. So I thought to learn Chinese. Then I found this site. It’s very useful. Thank you very much. This is GREAT.

Most of the times I need simple sentence to talk with others in our daily work. I appreciate if you can arrange some thing helping for this purpose.

[Reply]

Min Min Reply:

Hi nishi,
Thanks. For simple sentences, have a look at the conversation sectioin in this site:

http://www.learnchineseeveryday.com/category/weekly-activities/conversation/

I hope it would be useful to you.

[Reply]

oliviaAugust 19th, 2010 at 1:34 am

Hai Min2..
thankyou for this website,..
It’s very useful for me in learning chinese better..=)

[Reply]

Min Min Reply:

Hi Olivia,
Great to hear that you find my website is useful. Please do come back always to learn Chinese.

[Reply]

dylanJanuary 11th, 2011 at 11:26 am

Wow, this site is amazing. Thank you so much, you’re fantastic.

[Reply]

Min Min Reply:

Hi dylan,
Thanks for visiting my website. Hope you could learn Chinese from my website.

[Reply]

ChrisJanuary 11th, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Do you have the traditional characters of the words? And thanks, really useful website

[Reply]

Min Min Reply:

Hi Chris,
For these 100 most popular characters, I do not include traditional characters and the meaning. I think I will spend some time to update this post to add more info.

Thanks.

[Reply]

[...] I have listed out the first 100 Most Common Chinese Characters here. [...]

AneeiyApril 3rd, 2012 at 2:22 am

I m Aneeiy from Bangladesh. I love Chinese Language. I know some Chinese Phrases. But i don’t know how to write this. Now i want to know, How many Useful Chinese character use in this language. Is it possible to learn for me?

[Reply]

Min Min Reply:

Hi Aneeiy,
From the statistics as mentioned above, in order for you understand basic Chinese language, you have to learn about 900 Chinese characters and 11,000 phrases/words.

I believe if you have the will, you will be able to pick up Chinese very fast. :)
加油!

[Reply]

amyMay 24th, 2012 at 7:36 pm

i could already speck chinese any way dis rel good

[Reply]

Min Min Reply:

Hi Amy,
Great! Hope you like my site. :)

[Reply]

infinityMay 30th, 2012 at 9:40 am

Hi 敏敏,

Its a nice site, but not of much use to me.
I will tell you why
I really like start learning with traditional first. I find them more meaningful and romantic.
I somehow feel uncomfortable with its cripple version. I feel like seeing an animal without its limbs. Sorry to put in that way.
Would it be possible for you to add another column next to the character with a traditional Character, i think that there is a space. Please keep the simplified version it is still useful for some people.

thank you
well here it is in case you will help me with my request
的一是不了在人有我他這個們中來上大為和國地到以說時要就出會可也你對生能而子那得於著下自之年過發後作裡用道行所然家種事成方多經麼去法學如都同現當沒動面起看定天分還進好小部其些主樣理心她本前開但因只從想實

[Reply]

Min Min Reply:

Hi infinity,
Thanks for your suggestion. I will try to update this post once I have time.
谢谢。

[Reply]

JJune 5th, 2012 at 10:34 pm

Hi,

I love this site…it’s really great for learning Chinese and my friend and I are trying to learn a few words every day…is there any way that you can post a link showing all of the words that have been posted over the last few years??

Thanks so much for all of your hard work!!

[Reply]

Min Min Reply:

Hi J,
Thanks for visiting my website.
Yes. You can get all the words here:
http://www.learnchineseeveryday.com/category/daily-word/

[Reply]

HowardJuly 21st, 2012 at 1:48 am

Hi,
I was wondering if these characters were Traditional Chinese or Simplified. Could you please explain me the difference? I have problem distinguishing between them?

[Reply]

Min Min Reply:

Hi Howard,
Traditional Chinese is used in Hong Kong and Taiwan, while Simplified Chinese is used in China and Singapore.
There are some regular rules that apply to Simplified Chinese. I have written a short post here to explain the differences:
http://www.learnchineseeveryday.com/2010/12/11/simplified-chinese-character/

[Reply]

nanaSeptember 27th, 2012 at 2:32 pm

i Love this bt i cant see the characters wat do i do

[Reply]

Min Min Reply:

Hi nana,
May I know what browser you are using?

[Reply]

MariaNovember 25th, 2012 at 8:37 pm

Great job Min Min. Thanks.

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Min Min Reply:

Hi Maria,
谢谢。

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RoryJanuary 6th, 2013 at 6:12 am

Hey Min Min, this really helpful, 非常感谢!
I just have a single question, what exactly does the “usage” column stand for? Thanks again :)

Rory

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Min Min Reply:

Hi Rory,
The “usage” means popularity (or frequency statistics) of the character.

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AppleJanuary 11th, 2013 at 10:49 pm

Hi Min Min!!! This is really nice… I wish that the characters above will have its English meaning written beside it…just like in the 101-200 chinese characters… :) please publish 201-300. I wish to learn up to 500 more. I am diligently returning to your very useful and informative site everyday. Happy New Year!!! ;)

[Reply]

Min Min Reply:

Hi Apple,
Thanks for your suggestion. I will definitely find time to update this old post. :)

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FuJanuary 18th, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Min Min,

This was incredibly helpful for me in how to prioritize what to review / learn in Chinese. Especially the source you based this ranked list on. Major props to you on the entire website, actually.

By background, I grew up in the United States, and my parents taught me Chinese and put my in Chinese school from a young age, but without a regular outlet and way/will to practice, I let it slide a bit. My goal is to (re)learn the top 3,500 characters + those 11,000 phrases/words before I go to live and work in China in the next 3-6 months. (where it’ll hopefully be much easier to pick up slang / colloquialisms).

I had a question – have you come across a resource which groups the most common 3,500 words (or at least the 现代汉语常用字表) use by radical? Or a tool that makes it possible to do so with a character list that you already have? I’m attempting to learn in different ways, and grouping characters differently to see which way it is best to learn by: how frequently used, similar meanings, similar pronunciation, similar radicals.

Thanks!
Fu

[Reply]

Min Min Reply:

Hi Fu,
Here is the complete list of characters sorted by frequency:
http://lingua.mtsu.edu/chinese-computing/statistics/char/list.php?Which=MO

I hope this will be useful to you.

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Fu Reply:

Thanks Min Min.

This was helpful. I’m actually already using that resource, but by relooking at it I realized the way I’m doing it was inefficient and not that useful.

What I’ll be doing is adding an additional column to that data set which includes the radical, so you can also look up / sort characters by radical. I’m utilizing the radical list from 新华字典, since I think that is one of the world’s currently most popular dictionaries (there are 189 radicals).

If you want, I can send you the Excel backup since I think that’d be a really helpful resource.

Cheers.

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patoFebruary 4th, 2013 at 12:13 am

this stuff is realy helpful i passed my test

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Min Min Reply:

Hi pato,
Congrats! Hope you will visit my website always to learn Chinese.

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muhammad sharif Reply:

dear pl help me how could i learn Chinese. because i am totally new to learn Chinese

engrmsharuf@live.com

[Reply]

Min Min Reply:

Hi muhammad sharif,

You can start by learning Chinese pronunciation. I have created a free ebook, you can download it here :
http://www.learnchineseeveryday.com/learn-hanyu-pinyin-in-24-days/

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benFebruary 8th, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Did you mean 1100 words or 11000?

I love your site!!

[Reply]

Min Min Reply:

Hi Ben,
I mean 11000 phrases or words.
Thanks.

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PremnathAugust 18th, 2013 at 7:03 am

Good Morning Min Min.

I want English meaning. Please consider this. Volume is very low

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Min Min Reply:

Hi Premnath,
Thanks for your suggestion. I will update this post when I have time.

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bilalSeptember 4th, 2013 at 5:53 am

ı want to learn chinese but ı do not know how ı begen also my english not good enough help me..

[Reply]

Min Min Reply:

Hi bilal,
You can start by learning Chinese pronunciation. You can download my free Pinyin ebook here:
http://www.learnchineseeveryday.com/learn-hanyu-pinyin-in-24-days/

[Reply]

Mukama ChrisOctober 22nd, 2013 at 2:15 am

Min Min,xiexie!

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Min Min Reply:

Hi Mukama,
Thanks.

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Chengtao HuaDecember 11th, 2013 at 5:44 am

Hi Min Min,

I’m just here to say thank you so much. I’m a part-time Chinese language teacher and this list is very useful for me to determine what to teach. Thank you again.

Chengtao

[Reply]

Min Min Reply:

Hi Chengtao Hua,
Thanks for visiting my website.
I have created a Common Chinese Words app which lists some of the common words based on HSK:
http://www.learnchineseeveryday.com/about-common-chinese-words/

[Reply]

foreign language for kids onlineApril 23rd, 2014 at 7:11 am

[…] 100 Chinese Characters […]

barinderJune 4th, 2014 at 2:04 am

gud work…pls add english meanings also(when time allows you)…as it was suggested earlier by someone else…it will be gr8 then..

[Reply]

Min Min Reply:

Hi Barinder,
Thanks. I think I really need to find time to update this post. :)

[Reply]

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