Chinese characters made up with the same components

Strokes, components and radicals of Chinese characters are three different concepts. 

There are about 500 distinct and easily recognisable components. And the majority of Chinese characters are made up of two or more components. 

Our interest here in this article is to take a look at a small number of Chinese characters which use the same component twice, three times, or even four times.

Chinese characters made up with two same components

The following characters all use the same components twice. The difference is the arrangements of these two components. 

(1) One component is on top of the other.

  • (duō, many, numerous) : the component is (xī, evening, dusk)
  • (gē, elder brother) : the component is (kě, may, can)
  • (chū, to go out) : the component is (shān, mountain)
  • (chāng, prosperous, flourishing) : the component is (rì, sun, day) 
  • (yán, flame) : the component is (huǒ, fire, flame)
  • (lǚ, a surname, a musical tone) : the component is (kǒu, mouth)
  • (guī, jade, sundial) : the component is (tǔ, soil, earth)

(2) one component is next to the other.

  • (lín, woods) : the component is (mù, tree, wood)
  • (péng, friend) : the component is (yuè, moon, month)
  • (bǐ, to compare) : the component is (bǐ, knife)
  • (shuāng, two, double) : the component is (yòu, again, in addition)
  • (cóng, from, to follow) : the component is (rén, person)

Sometimes, although it’s still the same component, there is some transformation occurred to one of them. Such as:

  • (běi, north) : the component is (bǐ, knife)

Chinese characters made up with three same components

The following characters all have three identical components. One is on top of the other two.

  • (pǐn, product, disposition) : the component is (kǒu, mouth)
  • (zhòng, crowd) : the component is (rén, person)
  • (ruò, to seem, as if) : the component is (yòu, again, in addition)
  • (yáo, mound) : the component is (tǔ, soil, earth)
  • (sēn, forest) : the component is (mù, tree, wood)
  • (yàn, flame) : the component is (huǒ, fire, flame)
  • (jīng, glittering) : the component is (rì, sun, day)

Chinese characters made up with four same components

The following characters all use the same components four times. They stack up on one another neatly.

  • (zhuó, to connect, to lack): the component is (yòu, again, in addition)
  • (yì, blaze): the component is (huǒ, fire, flame)

Chinese characters analyses

There are a total of 22 Chinese characters presented here to illustrate characters which are made up with the same components.

Because these characters are so unique, they provide good foundations for us to think about some important concepts of Chinese characters. 

The following sections are some analyses of radicals and Chinese characters, components and pronunciations, and pictures and Chinese characters.

Radicals and Chinese characters

Many beginner students get caught up in the idea of learning radicals. They think they have to learn radicals, because they believe that radicals provide a secret path to the meanings of characters, and therefore can speed up their learning.

But that is not true. Radicals do not always give clues to the meanings of Chinese characters. 

In the article, “When radicals do and do not give clues to meanings of Chinese characters”, I give a few examples to show that sometimes radicals have a connection to the meanings of characters, and sometimes they do not.

When looking at the characters made up with the same components, we can examine the connections between radicals and characters in a very thorough manner.

Of the twenty-two characters presented in this article:

(1) Eight characters, that we can connect their meanings with their radicals.

  • (prosperous, flourishing) : the radical is (sun, day) 
  • (woods) : the radical is (tree, wood)
  • (forest) : the radical is (tree, wood)
  • (flame) : the radical is (fire, flame)
  • (flame) : the radical is (fire, flame)
  • (blaze): the radical is (fire, flame)
  • (crowd) : the radical is (person)
  • (mound) : the radical is (soil, earth)

(2) One character, “”, is a radical by itself.

  • (to compare) : the radical is (to compare)

(3) For the remaining thirteen characters, using their radicals to explain the meanings of characters is at the best arbitrary. 

  • (many, numerous) : the radical is (evening, dusk)
  • (elder brother) : the radical is (mouth)
  • (a surname, a musical tone) : the radical is (mouth)
  • (product, disposition) : the radical is (mouth)
  • (to go out) : the radical is ( receptacle)
  • (jade, sundial) : the radical is (soil, earth)
  • (friend) : the radical is (moon, month)
  • (two, double) : the radical is (again, in addition)
  • (to seem, as if) : the radical is (again, in addition)
  • (to connect, to lack): the radical is (again, in addition)
  • (from, to follow) : the radical is (person)
  • (north) : the radical is (knife)
  • (glittering) : the radical is (sun, day)

Components and pronunciations

Many students are convinced that learning components is a shortcut for learning the pronunciations of Chinese characters. The pronunciations of many characters are the same as, or similar to, one of their components, such as, and , and . 

But that is not true for most Chinese characters.

I gave some examples in the article, “The connections between a Chinese character’s components, its pronunciation, and its meanings”, that we do not know for sure how to pronounce a character based on its components.

Let’s take a look at these twenty-two characters presented in this article, and see which characters’ pronunciations can be tied to their components. 

(1) One character shares the same pronunciation with its component.

  • (bǐ) : the component is (bǐ)

(2) If we stretch it a little, two characters sound similar to their component. 

  • (gē) : the component is (kě)
  • (běi) : the component is (bǐ)

(3) All the remaining nineteen characters’ pronunciations do not show any clear connections with the pronunciations of their components.

  • (duō) : the component is (xī)
  • (chū) : the component is (shān)
  • (chāng) : the component is (rì) 
  • (jīng) : the component is (rì)
  • (lǚ) : the component is (kǒu)
  • (pǐn) : the component is (kǒu)
  • (guī) : the component is (tǔ)
  • (yáo) : the component is (tǔ)
  • (lín) : the component is (mù)
  • (sēn) : the component is (mù)
  • (péng) : the component is (yuè)
  • (shuāng) : the component is (yòu)
  • (ruò) : the component is (yòu)
  • (zhuó): the component is (yòu)
  • (zhòng) : the component is (rén)
  • (cóng) : the component is (rén)
  • (yán) : the component is (huǒ)
  • (yàn) : the component is (huǒ)
  • (yì): the component is (huǒ)

Chinese characters and their picture representations

Using pictures to teach Chinese characters is a common practice. This approach is good for a small number of characters. Trying to tie a picture to all characters is not only impossible, but also useless.

In the article, “Pictures and Chinese characters”, I used some examples to explain the connections between characters and their possible related pictures. 

Now we can use characters made up with the same components to examine the connections between pictures and Chinese characters again.  

For “, , , ”, using a picture of fire is really nice to explain these characters. The same principle also goes to “, , ”. 

But for “, , , ”, no pictures can coherently explain all four characters. 

It’s also troublesome for “, , ”. 

For “ and ”, both are made up with the same component “”, what pictures can we use to explain them?

Reflection

Learning Chinese characters is really fun. There are so many different ways to look at them, radicals, strokes, components, or pictures.

However, for beginner students who want to build up their Chinese reading and writing skills swiftly, it is the best for them not to spend too much time on radicals, pictures or components. These are all distractions from the real objective, developing good abilities to read and write Chinese texts.

Therefore, for any beginner students who are interested in learning about components, I hope browsing through this article helps. But don’t spend too much time trying to memorise all the components, stay focused on the exercises provided in the Chinese Reading and Writing series. Focusing on the usages of characters is a much more productive activity!


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