Mnemonics for 1600 Chinese characters "epub" - Melanie Schmidt - E-Book

Mnemonics for 1600 Chinese characters "epub" E-Book

Melanie Schmidt

16,99 €


This volume offers a collection of over 1600 mnemonics for Chinese simplified characters - ideal for autodidactic learners, high schools, colleges, universities and private language institutes. The way of making Chinese characters easy to memorize is here to divide them into smaller components that have already a meaning of their own. These components are combined into short one-phrase-stories that can be easily remembered and provide a fascinating impression of the pictorial language of Chinese characters. For more interactive exercises of Chinese characters please visit This ebook is available as an English, Spanish, French and German edition.

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STICK - Mnemonics for 1600 Chinese characters (simplified)

Melanie Schmidt Ph.D. (ed.)


Zhu Muyue, Chen Fangyi


Zhu Tao


Melanie Schmidt, Steve Merchant, Rita Lee

Book design by Mandarin Strokes Design

Editorial cooperation with:

Wang Xiaoling (Beijing International Studies University), Liu Xueling (Université de Paris XIII), Zhu Dongjie (Beijing Normal University), Liu Yingying (Zhong Shan University Guangzhou), Camilo Estrada Gonzales (TTT. Meridad)

A cordial Thank You for their committed support to Steve Merchant, Diana M. Tafurth Moreno and Patrick T. Walsh.

About the editor:

Dr. Melanie Schmidt studied Chemistry, Romance Studies and Sinology in the Universities of Siegen, Bonn, Köln, Tours and Paris. She worked as a foreign language researcher, lecturer and teacher in Germany, France, Argentina and the last five years in China. Besides scientific publications, she developed the internet site concentrated on the topic of writing Chinese characters as well as textbooks for profession related Chinese.

© Melanie Schmidt 2010. All rights reserved.

Published by Mandarin Strokes Ltd., 112-114 Des Voeux Road, Central, Hong Kong, 2010

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher.

1st edition

ISBN 978-988-19193-7-3 (ebook version)

ISBN 978-988-19193-3-5 (print version)

More titles on Chinese characters:

M-STROKES - The Stroke Order Dictionary for 3450 Chinese simplified characters,(illustrated print edition, ISBN 978-988-19193-1-1)

M-STROKES - The Exercise Book for 2000 Chinese simplified characters,(print edition, ISBN 978-988-19193-2-8)

Please visit for more mnemonics, interactive exercises and information about Chinese characters:

Table of contents



Character components with multiple meanings



A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   J   K   L   M   N   P   Q   R   S   T   W   X   Y   Z


How can we make remembering Chinese characters easier?

One of the most frequently asked questions among Chinese learners...

This book offers a possible answer with a collection of over 1600 mnemonics for characters used in Chinese everyday life. Our method is to simplify the process of memorizing a character by dividing it into two or more smaller, less complicated components. Each of these components already has a meaning of its own so that you can combine their meanings to create a small story or phrase that is easily remembered. This associative procedure helps you to memorize a character not only for the moment but on a long term basis.

The mnemonics you find here result from an intensive dialogue between Chinese native speakers (students, teachers and lecturers of Chinese) and foreign Chinese learners working and studying in China from Beijing to Shenzhen and document their personal way of recognizing the meaning of a certain character. Consequently, their mnemonics offer a rich pictorial inventory and a fascinating insight into the Chinese language and cultural history. We took all efforts to preserve as much as possible the authenticity of the pictorial correlation between the characters and their inner components by a thorough choice of formulations. As every sinologist knows, it is generally problematic to view any Chinese character as a single entity, as the final meaning of a character can be determined only by its relationship to other characters (or by its "context"). Nonetheless, learning to write Chinese requires learning the form of each character individually. The major concern of this volume is therefore to facilitate this procedure as much as possible by using a visual approach.

This book is conceived as an ‘open book’. If further mnemonics for characters which are not yet part of this book or suggestions on how to improve existing ones come to your mind, please don’t hesitate to share them with more Chinese learners on our internet page:*.

Last formal comments:

- Most Chinese characters consist of a component that determines the character’s meaning and one part that influences its pronunciation but whose meaning isn’t generally taken into account. We have indicated the meaning of the pronunciation particle only when doing so helps with memorizing the corresponding character. Otherwise, such particles are only noted for sound.

- English and Spanish translations can occasionally vary, as translators took all efforts to highlight the pictorial potential of the mnemonics as adequately as possible by using idomatic expressions that vary significantly in each language.

- Throughout Chinese language history, the meaning and the shape of character components and radicals have changed. Because of this, we have chosen those meanings which are generally attributed to the current simplified form or commonly known traditional forms. To integrate the meanings from older forms would lead to unnecessary confusion for learners, especially beginners, of modern Chinese.

- In case pictorial components were interpreted in a very individual way, we attached the original signification as a footnote.

- Some character components possess multiple meanings. Please refer to their listing under the legend below.

- Throughout Chinese language history, the meaning and the shape of character components and radicals have changed. Because of this, we have chosen those meanings which are generally attributed to the current simplified form or commonly known traditional forms. To integrate the meanings from older forms would lead to unnecessary confusion for learners, especially beginners, of modern Chinese.

- English and Spanish translations can occasionally vary, as translators took all efforts to highlight the pictorial potential of the mnemonics as adequately as possible by using idiomatic expressions that vary significantly in each language.

Enjoy the pictorial world of Chinese characters!


*Please contact us: - by the contact form on our internet page (please insert as subject ‘mnemonic’) or - by our email-address: [email protected] (subject ‘mnemonic’)

Legend / Components

Characters or character components with multiple meanings - by stroke number


ten - cross


man - small piece - nail


hand - again - well as ...

- hill (particle stands on left side of the character) - city (particle stands on right side of the character) - ear (popular given meaning due to shape)


orig.: to walk - popular meaning of today: two persons

silk - thread, rope


snout (of a pig) - snow - broom


short - inch


to grow (zhăng) - long (cháng)


to divide - to distribute


Yuan (currency) - origin, the first


branch (of a tree or company) - support

sun - day


shell - money

shǎo/ shào

few (shǎo) - young (shào)


package - to surround - steambaked stuffed roll

gěn/ gèn

upright, franc (gěn) - hard, difficult (gèn)


sky - mysterious - black

head - page

to fit, to join, to suit - to gather - to close


spicy - hard, difficult


Old Chin.: amphora - alcohol

just, beginning - young gentleman - garden

younger brother - to show respect to an elder brother


crooked - gentle, soft


consequently, therefore - to change



to stay over night (sù) - classifier for nights (xiǔ)

to open up, to develop


bot. - botanical

coll. - colloquial

fig. - figuratively

finan. - financial/finance

med. – medical/medicine

jur. - juridical

orig. - originally (in the sens of an old Chinese term)

act. - actually (for the actual, nowadays used term)

pron. - pronunciation

pron. of the trad. form - pronunciation of the traditional form

sb - somebody

simpl. - simplified

sth - something

var. - variation

zool. - zoological


A marriage:

a woman brought under a “safe roof”(in a closed sedan chair under a veil)


宀 roof, house + 女 woman:

“It’s safe for a woman to be at home.”

to be safe, safety


革 leather + 安 safe (ān) [pron.]:

“a safe seat on a horse made of leather”

a saddle


安 safe (ān) [pron.] + 木 wood:

“confidential documents usually kept in a safe place like a wooden case”

a record, a juridical case


扌hand + 幼 young, child (yòu) [pron.]:

“a young child’s hands sometimes disobey”

disobedient, also: hard to pronounce (ào), obstinate (niù)


革 leather + 巴 legendary snake that can eat an elephant (bā) [pron.]:

“a leather plate with snakelike concentrical lines on it”

a target


手 hand + 分 to separate + 手 hand:

“to separate using your hands”

to break


ˊ dot (here like a short ray of light) + 日 sun:

“When you look inside the sun, the light looks brilliant white.”



木 tree + 白 white (bái) [pron.]:

“a kind of tree whose stem is painted in white to keep insects away”

a cypress


扌hand + 反 in reverse (fǎn) [pron.]:

“to flip over with one’s hand”

to flip over


分 to distribute, to separate (fēn) [pron.]+ 页 sheet, page:

“to distribute a certificate (a piece of paper)”

to grant an award


力 strength + 2丶dots (here: drops of sweat):

“to use great forces and sweat to carry sth out”

to do sth


亻 people + 半 half (bàn) [pron.]:

“the other half of someone”

partner, companion (of a couple)


扌 hand (to do) + 半 half (or a pictogramm of a whisk) (bàn) [pron.]:

“to mix half a liter of milk and half a kilo of flour”

to stir


虫 insect + 丰 plentiful (fēng) [pron.]:

“an animal with plenty of meat”

a clam (e.g. zool. panopea generosa)

© Mandarin Strokes Editions


亻person + 旁 side (páng) [pron.]:

“a person standing by the side of another”

next to, besides, close


讠word + 旁 side (páng) [pron.]:

“to use words to defame the bad side of a person”

to slander


雨 rain + 包 package (bāo) [pron.]:

“rain falling down in small ‘packages’ ”



饣 to eat + 包 steamed bun (bāo) [pron.]:

“Eat some steamed bun and you will be full.”

to be full, satisfied

© Mandarin Strokes Editions


宀 house + 玉 jade:

“a safe place (’a house’) for storing valuables like jade”

a safe, a treasure


亻 person + 呆 naive:

“Someone naive sometimes needs to be protected.”

to protect


保 to protect (bǎo) [pron.] + 土 soil, earth:

“a fortified place surrounded by protective walls made from soil”

a fort


扌 hand + 包 package (bāo) [pron.]:

“to hold a human package in one’s hands”

to hug


火 fire + 暴 violent force:

“a sudden burst of fire or noise”

to explode


非 not (fēi) [pron.] + 心 heart:

“to feel not happy in your heart”

to be sad


A pictogram:

“two legs under a roof”

a shell(fish), in ancient times: shell coin


衤clothes + 皮 skin (pí) [pron.]:

“a cloth on your bed that is covering you like a second skin”

a bed cover, a quilt


备 to prepare (bèi) [pron.] + 心 heart:

“to be tired by too much ‘preparing’ in one’s heart”

to be tired


木 tree + 一 one:

“a product, that you can make just out of one tree”

a book (volume), a notebook


山 mountain + 朋 friend (péng) [pron.]:

“A non-athletic friend might collapse after having climbed a mountain.”

to fall in, to collapse, to die


石 stone + 水 water:

“a tool which can bring water out of a stone well shaft”

a pump


足 foot + 山 mountain + 朋 friend (崩 bēng) [pron.]:

“to jump with a friend with one’s feet from a mountain”

to jump

彳two persons + 皮 skin (pí) [pron.]:

“two men presenting their ‘skin’ to each other”

each other, mutually

竹 bamboo + 毛 hair:

“a writing tool made of bamboo and hair”

(today) a pen

门 door + 才 talent:

“A person with talent too often closes his doors to stay inside.”

to close

氵water + 必 to have to, must (bì) [pron.]:

“To purify alcohol, water must be separated.”

to secrete, to distill (only with pron. “mì”)

王 king + 白 white (bái > bì) [pron.] + 石 stone:

“The king of the stones is not white, but green jade.”

jade, green (color)

辟 to open up (pì) [pron.] (pì) [pron.] + 土 soil:

“a wall made of soil that opens up a way into a house”

a wall, as well: a cliff

辟 to open up (pì) [pron.] + 辶 to walk:

“to look for an open way to walk out to avoid trouble”

to avoid

辟 to open up (pì) [pron.] + 玉 jade:

In ancient times: “a round piece of jade with an opening in the center”

a round plate of jade


虫 insect + 扁 flat (biǎn) [pron.]:

“an animal with a large flat surface”

a bat


革 leather + 便 handy (biàn) [pron.]:

“a handy object with a long string of leather”

a lash, a whip


贝 money/shell coin + 乏 to lack of (fá) [pron.]:

“A lack of money often means to be degraded.”

to degrade


匸 box + 扁 flat (biǎn) [pron.]:

“a flat ‘box’ with an inscription on top”

a wooden tablet with an inscription


辛 difficult, also spicy (biàn) [pron.] + 心 heart + 辛 spicy, difficult:

“To differenciate between good and bad in your heart is sometimes difficult.”

to differentiate, to distinguish


辛 spicy, also difficult (biàn) [pron.] + 讠speak + 辛 spicy, difficult:

“to speak in a hot and spicy manner”

to debate


木 wood + 示 to present, to show:

“You generally present only your best piece of wood as a sample.”

a sample, example


虎 tiger + 彡 hair:

“A hairy man is supposed to be as strong as a tiger.”

to be strong


敝 oneself (bì) [pron.] + 鱼 fish:

“a kind of ‘fish’ disguised under its own shell”

a river turtle


敝 oneself (bì) [pron.] + 心 heart:

“to keep something in one’s heart”

to hold back one´s breath


宀 house + 兵 soldier (bīng) [pron.]:

“A soldier in your house is supposed to be your guest.”

a guest


冫“solid” water (in ancient times) + 水 water:

“solid water”

ice, freezing cold


丘 hill + 八 eight:

“a person who is the guard of eight hills”

a soldier

bǐng/ píng

尸 body (here: the shape of the character looks similar to a screen) + 并 to combine, to annex (bìng) [pron.]:

“a screen annexed to a projector that will show a breathtaking movie”

to hold back your breath (bǐng), a screen (píng)

扌hand + 发 hair (fà) [pron.]:

“to move the hair back with one’s hands”

to move one´s hair back, generally: to move sth slightly

氵water + 皮 skin (pí) [pron.]:

“the moving ‘skin’ of the water”

a wave

艹 grass + 氵water + 皮 peel, skin:

“a fruit with a lot of juice (water) under its peel and some grass on its top”

a pineapple

舟 ship + 白 white (bái) [pron.]:

“a ship, which is usually white”

an ocean liner

十 cross, all directions + 尃 to distribute, to disperse, to apply:

“To distribute your ‘concentrated richness’ in all directions means you have plenty to give.”

plentiful, rich

氵water + 勃 vigorous (bó) [pron.]:

“the vigorous way water moves in the ocean”

Abbr. for ‘Bohai Sea’ (Liaoning province), orig.: surge of water

扌hand + 尃 to distribute, to disperse, to apply:

“to distribute punches among your enemies”

to fight

艹 grass + 溥 extensive, broad (pǔ) [pron.]:

“a broad leaf of grass can still be very thin”

thin, fine

足 foot + 皮 skin:

“When the skin of a foot is injured, you have to hobble like someone who is lame.”

to limp, lame

扌hand + 甫 young man (polite form) (fǔ) [pron.]:

“To catch with your hand a handsome young man is a pleasure.”

to catch

© Mandarin Strokes Editions

口 mouth + 甫 young man (polite form) (fǔ) [pron.]:

“to put sth into a young man’s mouth”

to feed

A pictogram:

“The shortest and longest line in the lower part of the character look like two feet making steps, one in front and one behind.”

a step

忄heart + 布 cloth (bù) [pron.]:

“If you feel scared you have to ‘protect’ your heart under a piece of cloth.”

to be afraid, also: horrible


竹 bamboo + 溥 extensive, broad (pǔ) [pron.]:

“A broad piece of bamboo gives enough space to write on it.”

a notebook (in old times made of bamboo)



木 wood + 才 capacity, talent (cái) [pron.]:

“In ancient times wood was one of the most common materials due to its useful capacities.”

material (in general)


贝 money + 才 capacity, talent (cái) [pron.]:

“With a lot of money and good capacities it is easy to become wealthy.”

fortune, wealth


土 earth, soil + 衣 clothes + 戈 lance:

“to divide fabric with a lance to taylor clothing out of it”

to tailor, to cut


目 eye + 采 to gather (cǎi) [pron.]:

“to ‘gather’ (to focus) both eyes on one object”

to pay attention to sth


足 foot + 采 to gather (cǎi) [pron.]:

“to ‘gather’ your feet to trample on sth”

to step on, to tramble


艹 plant + 采 to gather, to join (cǎi) [pron.]:

“several plants joined”



忄heart + 斩 to chop (zhǎn) [pron.]:

“When you do sth wrong, you feel as if someone chopped your heart.”

to feel ashamed


火 fire + 山 mountain (shān) [pron.]:

“A fire near a mountain makes it look shiny.”



艹 grass + 仓 depot (cāng) [pron.]:

“Depositing a lot of grass together highlights its dark green colour.”

dark green


舟 ship + 仓 depot (cāng) [pron.]:

“a small ‘depot’ on a ship”

a cabin (only for ships)


扌hand + 喿 noise, chirping of birds (3 mouths on a tree) (zào) [pron.]:

“to train to conduct 3 mouths on a tree”

to exercise, to train oneself


艹 grass + 日 sun + 十 cross, all directions (zǎo) [pron. of 早]:

“Grass is a plant that is growing in all directions under the sun.”


氵water + 贝 shell +刂 knife:

“to measure the depth of water to reach a shell, you can use your knife’s length”

to measure, to examine


尸 body + 云 cloud:

“a part of the body of a skyscraper that almost touches the clouds”

a floor


木 tree + 叉 fork (chā) [pron.]:

“stems or fork-like looking branches of a tree”



扌 hand (to do) + 臿 pestle of a mortar (chā) [pron.]:

“You have to put a pestle into a mortar to grind sth.”

to put into, to insert


艹 grass (leaves) + 人 person + 朩 tree:

“If a person takes leaves from a tree and boils them in water, the drink is called ‘tea’.”



木 wood + 旦 daybreak:

“At daybreak you have more light to investigate the woods.”

to check, to investigate


石 stone + 查 to examine (chá) [pron.]:

“a piece of a (ancient) broken stone, that you want to examine”

a chipped edge


衤 clothes + 叉 fork (chā) [pron.]:

“It is easier to walk in a narrow dress, if there is a fork-like opening in it.”

a slit (e.g. of a piece of clothing)


分 to divide + 山 mountain:

“a road, that is splitting a mountain”

a bifurcation


扌 hand + 斥 to exclude (chì) [pron.]:

“to exclude sth by hand”

to open/to separate with force, to take apart


此 here/this one (cǐ) [pron.] + 木 tree:

“We can use this tree here for making fire.”



扌hand + 参 to join (cān) [pron.]:

“to rub sth with your hands and to mix it by this way”

to mix


饣food + (免+ 丶丶) cunning (chán) [pron. of trad. form 毚]:

“to be cunning about finding good food”

greedy, gluttonous


纟silk + 厘 deposit (chán) [pron. of the trad. form 廛]:

“Silk stored in a deposit can be used for wrapping.”

to wrap, to wind, to attach


六 six + 厂 factory:

“To make at least 6 products in a factory means ‘to produce’ sth.”

to produce


钅metal + 产 to produce (chǎn) [pron.]:

“a metal object that helps to ‘produce’ a building”

a shovel


门 door + 单 individual, single (dān​) [pron.]:

“to open a ‘door’ individually for a single person”

to explain, to clarify sth to sb


犭 dog + 昌 to flourish, here like a pictogram of ‘two big wild eyes’ (chāng) [pron.]:

“a dog with two big wild eyes”

to be mad, wild


土 earth + right side component of 扬* to expand, sun:

“an expanded area of earth”

a big square, a place to gather



*yáng [pron. of trad. form 昜]

© Mandarin Strokes Editions


尚 fashion (shàng) [pron.] + 巾 scarf:

“When a scarf comes into fashion, it means that it is often and regularly used.”

often, regular, common


亻person + 尝 experience (cháng) [pron.]:

“to give sth (experience, money, etc.) back to someone”

to repay, to recompense


A pictogram:

“a house without inner walls”

a factory


申 to extend + right side component of 扬* sun, to expand:

“to be able to express yourself and to expand like sun rays”

smooth, free (lit.)



*yáng [pron. of trad. form 昜]



亻person + 昌 to flourish (chāng) [pron.]:

“to make a person ‘flourish’ ”

to support, promote


扌hand + 少 little, few, young (shǎo) [pron.]:

“It is tempting for a little student’s hand to copy some homework”

to copy


巛* here: three birds’ beaks + 田 field + 木 tree:

“three birds on a tree in a nest made of straw from a field”

a birds’ nest



*Orig.: radical for ‘river’



口 mouth + 朝 to face (cháo) [pron.]:

“to face your mouth to someone to laugh at him, to tease him”

to laugh at sb, to tease, to mock


氵water + 朝 towards sth (cháo) [pron.]:

“Water is flowing towards the beach and back again.”

the tide (ebb and flow)


火 fire + 少 little, few (shǎo) [pron.]:

“to pan-fry sth on little fire”

to fry


彳 two persons + 切 to cut:

“the way two persons remove sth thoroughly”

complete, thorough


小 small + 土 soil:

“small grains of soil”



氵water + 冗 superfluous, redundant:

“It is a superfluous act that a heavy cow sinks down into deep water.”

heavy, to sink


衤clothes + 寸 very short, inch (cùn) [pron.]:

“short clothes”



禾 crops + 尔 you (polite form) (chēng) [pron. of trad. form 爯 ]:

“If you need some crops to be weighed, call me.”

to call, also: to weigh


扌hand + 掌 palm (zhǎng) [pron.]:

“to use a hand or palm for support”

to support, to prop up (e.g. your chin on your fist)


讠to say + 成 to accomplish (chéng) [pron.]:

“to accomplish a mission in accordance to what was said ”

honest, sincere


土 soil + 成 to accomplish successfully (chéng) [pron.]:

“A town with an earthen city wall is a successfully completed city.”

city, also: city wall


成 to accomplish successfully (chéng) [pron.] + 皿 dish, vessel:

“to accomplish to charge a vessel”

to fill


禾 crops (in general: sth that grows) + 呈 to show (chéng) [pron.]:

“sth that shows the process of growth”

procedure, program, rules


氵water + 登 to climb up (dēng) [pron.]:

“When one climbs up from the depth of a muddy river, the water becomes clear and transparent.”

to clear up, to make transparent


口 mouth + 乞 to beg (qǐ) [pron.]:

“If a mouth begs for food, it wants to eat sth.”

to eat


疒 sickness + 知 to know (zhī) [pron.]: