教育漢字辞典

Kyouiku Kanji Dictionary

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Radical:
Kanji Readings Meanings Radicals Compounds Pinyin

Looking up Kanji by Radical

Traditionally, character dictionaries list characters based on radical or bushu (部首), since every character has one. In the introduction to this dictionary, it is explained that most Chinese characters are actually more complex combinations of simpler characters. Most radicals are one of these simpler characters. They often change form when part of a more complex character so its important to know the various forms of each radical. Click here for a chart showing the various forms of all the radicals. 

In the past the radical of any given character has been somewhat arbitrary, that is in cases where a kanji was composed of many potential radicals, one simply had to know from past experience which was the radical and thus where to turn to in a character dictionary listed by the traditional radical index to find that character, or else one would hunt the character down by a process of elimination when the true radical was not known. Obviously in cases where an unknown character has many potential radicals the task of finding it using this method can be quite tedious. A popular alternative for listing by radical is the "Radical Priority System," developed by Andrew N. Nelson for use in his Modern Reader's Japanese-English Character Dictionary. Using this system a majority of characters fall under the same radical as with the traditional method. However, the "Radical Priority System" greatly facilitates the lookup of unfamiliar characters by using a more logical system to categorize characters by radical. It follows a twelve step flow chart, the first seven of which determine the radical for around 97 percent of all characters:

  1. All? Is the entire character a radical? (example = 木, radical = 木)
  2. Lone? Does the character include only one radical? (example = 久, radical = 丿)
  3. Enclosure? Does the radical enclose 2 or more sides of the character as a whole. It should not protrude into the character or merely sit to left or right of the character. (example = 句, radical = 勹)
  4. Left? Is there a clearly defined, unobstructed left radical? (example = 眠, radical = 目)
  5. Right? Is there a clearly defined, unobstructed right radical? (example = 顔, radical = 頁)
  6. Top? Is there a clearly defined, unobstructed top radical? (example = 算, radical = 竹)
  7. Bottom? Is there a clearly defined, unobstructed bottom radical? (example = 準, radical = 十)
  8. North-West? Is there a clearly defined, unobstructed radical in the northwest quadrant? (example = 武, radical = 一)
  9. North-East? Is there a clearly defined, unobstructed radical in the northeast quadrant? (example = 求, radical = 丶)
  10. South-East? Is there a clearly defined, unobstructed radical in the southeast quadrant? (example = 友, radical = 又)
  11. South-West? Is there a clearly defined, unobstructed radical in the southwest quadrant? (example = 末, radical = 丿)
  12. High? Any character whose radicals do not fall under any of the above eleven categories fall to this final step in which the top-most or highest protruding radical is taken as the defining radical (example = 事, radical = 亅). Two caveats with this rule are when two radicals are equally high in which case one chooses the simpler of the two (example = 丹, radical = 丿) and when two radicals are equally high and equally simple, in which case one chooses the left-most of the two (example = 井, radical = 丿).


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