Mar 10, 2022

Bushou (部首) – A basic concept of Chinese radicals

Let’s get radical!

🙋 If your goal is to learn to read Chinese characters FAST, then you’ve got to have a basic concept of Chinese radicals, aka bushou (部首).

Most bushou include semantic or even phonetic qualities. So, if you can identify a character’s radical, then you’ll be able to guess the meaning or sound without even knowing the character in the first place.

The very-first bushou you might come across is 人 (rén; person). 🚶 Imagine the same character squashed to the left. 亻is often called “single person radical.” The compound characters contain 亻 likely related to person or express extended meanings. For instance:

休 (xiū)

亻+ 木 (tree/woods) imagine a person leaning against a tree to get some “rest” (休)!

仙 (xiān)

亻+ 山 (mountain) Imagine a person living as long as a mountain will appear immortal to other people. 仙 can also mean “god” or “fairy.”

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The other common radical we’d like to introduce is 水 (shuǐ; water). Its squashed version 氵 is often called “three dots water.” The compound characters contain 氵 likely related to water or express extended meanings.

For example:

沫 (mò; foam)

The water radical is combined with 末 (mò; “final,” “last,” “end”)

淡 (dàn; diluted, plain)

Combining water with two fires, we get 淡, something that’s “diluted,” or “plain” in taste.

What other characters do you know that have the water radical 水 or 氵? What other radicals do you know of?

By Chineasy | A Super Chineasian

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