allograph (different shape but same meaning)
connotation as a character part
abbreviated, abbreviation
contracted, contraction
extended meaning
kanji, ideograph, character
literal translation from the Shuowen Jiezi
modified, modification
mijn hanzi, modification
opposite meaning or situation
when used as a character part
explanation according to Richard Sears (
one of the 214 radicals in the traditional character classification system
situation chosen for evoking this meaning
suffix for counting units of objects, etc.
Unclassified by Joseph De Roo.

Remembering Chinese characters, hanzi or kanji

This website is providing kanji/hanzi mnemonics for all characters that are used in Japanese and Chinese. Beginning students of the Chinese or Japanese language often struggle to remember the hundreds and thousands of different characters.

They don't receive much help from their teachers as most people simply have drummed everything in their head. The only thing that is told to the poor student is that most characters are made up of radicals. Having these 214 radicals at hand to remember a character, leaves the student mostly to his own devices when trying to remember the character. This site provides simple interlinked tales with each Chinese character.

An example will make things clearer. The character for horse seems to have nothing to do with a horse. One can look at it in the following ways:

  • it comes from the earlier version
  • animal fast like a bird but without wings , it has four feet and a tail and is fast and raging like fire

Now that we know this character we can easily understand others. Take the character for station : it is a place where horse can rest their feet . is the image of a person setting a foot in front of another. The character for mother is a woman who acts fast like a horse when her child is in danger.

When thinking in this way, characters easily become fixed in memory. One sees (liner or big ship) as a sail that sees white waves.

There is a structure in all of this and the tales will make each character a lively story inter-connected with other characters. It is not supposed to be an aggregation of dreadful strokes.

For now, this site is complete for Japanese Jouyou and JLPT. For Chinese, HSK levels 1, 2 and 3 are complete.

This site is not necessarily following the true etymology of the characters. Sometimes this helps in remembering them, but many characters are a combination of a signific part, which gives meaning, and a phonetic part, which mostly has nothing to do with the meaning of the character. We tried to stick as close as possible to the original meaning of each character. The images we use have been mostly based on the work of Richard Sears in hanzi etymology with kind permission. Without Richard's wonderful work this site would have been a lot harder to make. If you want to know more about the real origin of the characters we also refer to Kanji Networks.


Hovering over the dots in the mnemonics now shows the author of the mnemonic.
Removed references to the Albrecht classification system. You should use the 4 corner code instead.
The Chinese stroke order font now covers up to HSK 4.
I added practice sheets for New Practical Chinese Reader. I removed all but the smallest practice sheets. I guess nobody is using the others.
Added a Jouyou and Kentei words list.
The Chinese Stroke order font now covers HSK 1, 2 and 3
HSK4 is finished.
HSK3 is finished. I've started a hanzi stroke order font. You'll find it's preliminary version in Digitizing.
The snow is slowly covering the landscape on this cold February night. It's Chinese New Year. One year after I've started this project, and many long evenings and sleepless nights further, I've finished mnemonics for all JLPT kanji. While I'm studying the JLPT1 kanji I will continue to update their mnemonics in the coming months. JLPT, Kentei, Jouyou and HSK practice sheets in PDF are now also available in the study section. Let me know if you have particular demands. I guess I won't do the remaining characters in kentei1, kentei1pre and jinmei unless someone really wants that to happen. Maybe later this year I will spend my time on the remaining characters in HSK3-6. Chinese characters are 41% done.
Kentei 2 is done.
Kentei 2pre is done, Jouyou is done, Chinese characters are 38% done.
Kentei level 3 is done, Jouyou is 80% done, Chinese characters 31% done
Kentei level 4 is done, Jouyou is 69% done, Chinese characters 27% done
JLPT2 is done, Jouyou is 60% done, Chinese characters 25% done
Updated the layout. You can now submit your own character stories.
Kentei Level 5 is done, Chinese characters are 22% done
JLPT 3 done and Jouyou list is halfway through
Kentei Level 6 done
Kentei level 7 done
HSK 2 done
Kentei level 8-10, HSK 1, JLPT 4-5 done