Chinese Character Lookup Methods

Some Traditional Chinese characters, and how to look them up. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.

In the ages before smart phones and tables became common place, Chinese character lookup was a lot more challenging.

Using Pinyin or Zhuyin Indexes for Chinese Character Lookup

If you already knew the pronounciation of a character (and here I’m assuming Mandarin) then you could lookup a character using a pinyin index, assuming your dictionary has one. In Taiwan the “spelling” system for Chinese characters uses Zhuyin or bopomofo.

In this case phonetic symbols are used to represent sounds. Of particular note is that words that begin with C, S and Z and Ch, Sh and Zh each have different phonetic symbols.

If you had a book with chinese characters or symbols, and those symbols had the zhuyin pronunciation beside them, like in a lot of Chinese Children’s books, then Chinese symbols are reasonably easy to lookup assuming your dictionary has a pinyin index. And assuming you know the equivalent pinyin expressions for zhuyin. You simply look for the character phonetically. Then of course you have to be able to recognize the character itself.

Chinese Character Lookup via Radical

Another method of Chinese character lookup is to use a radical index. Radicals are traditionally listed in a particular order, with groups based on stroke count. Because of this ordering each radical has a particular number based on it’s position within the radical hierarchy.

The challenge with looking up characters via their radical is figuring out which radical a character is classified under. When using this lookup method frequently, you’ll eventually run into characters that you have great difficulty figuring out which radical it belongs to.

Chinese Character Lookup via Stroke Count

On the scale of less preferred Chinese character lookup methods, stroke count is the highest ranked. Counting character strokes is painful because you often run into characters classed under stroke counts based on an older variation of the character. And some strokes are just hard to figure out. Is that one stroke or two strokes or…? Generally within a stroke count index, characters are sub sorted by radicals. So again you run into the radical issue and if you don’t already know the radical then again you have to search all the possible indexes.

Painful.

Writing a Character to Look it Up (Track pad or Smart Phone)

With computers, Chinese character lookup is a little bit easier.

One way of looking up a character is to use a track pad or mouse (or smart phone) to draw the character. Here is helps if you are familiar with writing Chinese characters in the first place.

Looking Up Chinese Characters via their Cangjie Input Code

Some dictionaries use a Cangjie Lookup System. The cangjie input method that is based on the shape of a Chinese character. 24 basic character shapes are matched to 24 letters of the alphabet, z isn’t used and x is only used in special cases.The cools thing is that because this input method can be used to input characters alphabetically based on the shape of a character, it can also be used to sort characters based on their shape so that characters are easily to lookup. The challenge with this method is that you need to learn some basic rules for Cangjie decomposition.

Below are Traditional Chinese characters whose cangjie input code begins or ends with the letter a, associated with the shape for sun 日.

<#alt#> Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.

If you know the Cangjie input system, the Chinese character lookup is easy with computers or smart phones. You simply type the character using it's cangjie input code.

The Easy Lookup System for Chinese Character Lookup

Easly Lookup keys for easy lookup of Traditional Chinese characters or symbols. Neil Keleher.

Yet another method is the Easy Lookup System. As the name intimates, this system is designed to make Chinese Character lookup easy.

It uses 12 Easy lookup keys for the initial stage of character lookup. The first five of these keys are related to the box shape. The first is a box shape, the second is a box shape with the bottom removed, the next a box with the top removed. The next is a top left corner and the following a top right corner. These are called respectively: box, cover, bottom, left, right. The next three shapes are line combinations and variations. The first is the horizontal line, the next a cross shape and the final a vertical line. Then the final four shapes are non-linear. The hat shape is based on two horizontally opposed dots. These strokes angle outwards or inwards and may have a line or two between them. Following this is the dot shape, then the hook shape, a bent line, then the slant, which slants down and to the left.

The Easy lookup keys are found at either the top of a Chinese character, the left, the top left, or, as in the case of the box shape, and some of its derivatives, surrounding the character. To clarify, the box shape might surround a character, or it might be found at the top or left side of a character.

This then is the initial stage of character lookup. You just have to figure out which of 12 basic shapes the character you are looking for is grouped under. If using radical lookup you have 214 possible radicals to search. And with cangjie lookup you have 24 possible shapes.

From there lookup is simple. You simply have to find the matching initial part of a character. For each lookup key there are a maximum of 15 derivatives which are easy to scan through to find your character.

Easy lookup keys for Traditional Chinese character lookup, box. Neil Keleher. Chinese Symbols and Meanings.
Easy lookup keys for Traditional Chinese character lookup, top. Neil Keleher. Chinese Symbols and Meanings.
Easy lookup keys for Traditional Chinese character lookup, bottom. Neil Keleher. Chinese Symbols and Meanings.
Easy lookup keys for Traditional Chinese character lookup, left. Neil Keleher. Chinese Symbols and Meanings.
Easy lookup keys for Traditional Chinese character lookup, right. Neil Keleher. Chinese Symbols and Meanings.
Easy lookup keys for Traditional Chinese character lookup, horizontal. Neil Keleher. Chinese Symbols and Meanings.
Easy lookup keys for Traditional Chinese character lookup, cross. Neil Keleher. Chinese Symbols and Meanings.
Easy lookup keys for Traditional Chinese character lookup, vertical. Neil Keleher. Chinese Symbols and Meanings.
Easy lookup keys for Traditional Chinese character lookup, hat Neil Keleher. Chinese Symbols and Meanings.
Easy lookup keys for Traditional Chinese character lookup, dot. Neil Keleher. Chinese Symbols and Meanings.
Easy lookup keys for Traditional Chinese character lookup, hook Neil Keleher. Chinese Symbols and Meanings.
Easy lookup keys for Traditional Chinese character lookup, slant. Neil Keleher. Chinese Symbols and Meanings.

Your character may be divisible from top to bottom or from left to right. In the case of character groups with a particular variant at the top or left, if those groups are large, then lookup is made easier by further grouping the character using the easy lookup system for the second part of the character also.

An additional benefit of the system is that with easy lookup shapes given distinct names, it’s easy to label parts of characters when fine tuning your search. So for example if 子 forms the right part of a character you could describe it as a right (top right) followed by a cross shape. 豕 could be described as a horizontal with three slants directly below it. While not always useful for describing a character completely, you can use the 12 easy lookup keys to describe parts of a character with enough detail that it is then easier to find the character (and make sure that you have the character that you are looking for.

This is, say, if you aren’t yet familiar with Chinese characters and are just learning to get to grips with them.

The Chinsym Chinese Character Dictionary

Looking for a dictionary with Easy Lookup? The Chinsym Chinese Character dictionary has it. It also has Cangjie indexes as well as Radical and Pinyin Indexes plus and English index. And it's entries include Cangjie input codes (both in symbol and letter form. It's designed to make Looking up Chinese characters easy. And it's also been designed to make learning the Cangjie input system easy also.

Chinsym Chinese Character dictionary for making Traditional Chinese character lookup easy. Chinese symbols and meanings.

The video below takes you through the process of looking up some Traditional Chinese characters using the Easy Lookup system.

Easy Lookup

Cangjie Lookup

  • A
  • B
  • C
  • D
  • E
  • F
  • G
  • H
  • I
  • J
  • K
  • L
  • M
  • N
  • O
  • P
  • Q
  • R
  • S
  • T
  • U
  • V
  • W
  • Y
  • Chinese Symbols and Meanings in the Context
    Movie Plot Outlines

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    Chinese Symbols and How To Find Them

    Meanings and the Chinese Symbols that Mean Them

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    May 15, 2017

    Chinese Character Dictionary Dot 09

    The Online Easy Lookup Chinese character dictionary includes 1600 Chinese symbols and meanings along with pinyin pronounciation, cangjie input code and character combinations (Chinese words). This is section Dot 09.

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    May 15, 2017

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    May 15, 2017

    Chinese Character Dictionary Dot 05

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    Chinese Character Dictionary Cross 08

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    May 15, 2017

    Chinese Character Dictionary Dot 06

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    May 15, 2017

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    May 15, 2017

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    Apr 30, 2017

    Hook 04

    The Hook shape Easy lookup key includes Traditional Chinese Characters or Symbols that start with a hook shape or line that bends to the right.

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    Apr 28, 2017

    Martian 10 Chinese Symbols and Meanings In Context

    The Martian, in context Chinese to English word dictionary with links to online Easy Lookup Chinese Character dictionary which contains 1600 Chinese symbols and meanings.

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    The Martian, in context Chinese to English word dictionary with links to online Easy Lookup Chinese Character dictionary which contains 1600 Chinese symbols and meanings.

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    The Martian, in context Chinese to English word dictionary with links to online Easy Lookup Chinese Character dictionary which contains 1600 Chinese symbols and meanings.

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    Martian 7 Chinese Symbols and Meanings In Context

    The Martian, in context Chinese to English word dictionary with links to online Easy Lookup Chinese Character dictionary which contains 1600 Chinese symbols and meanings.

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    Martian 5 Chinese Symbols and Meanings In Context

    The Martian, in context Chinese to English word dictionary with links to online Easy Lookup Chinese Character dictionary which contains 1600 Chinese symbols and meanings.

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