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Number Of Characters In Chinese Dictionary In 2024

The Chinese language is considered one of the oldest languages that have roots from the 13th century BCE. This language has gone through different upgrades from time to time that increased the number of characters in Chinese. It makes the learning of this language complicated for everyone. Doesn’t matter whether you are a graduate student or a school-going kid, you will face difficulty while memorizing/learning the Chinese characters. In this blog, we are going to have a quick overview of how many characters the Chinese language has. By reading this, you will learn exceptional information about Chinese characters.

Part 1. What Does Chinese Character Mean?

Unlike the English language, Chinese doesn’t have alphabets but the single term of this language is called a character. You can think of it similarly as you consider/remember the English alphabet. But the main thing to consider is these characters are not limited but there is a long list of characters that can be found in different dictionaries. While you will read about the number of characters in Chinese from the following sections, you will understand how large this language is. Abide by this, be mindful that learning characters doesn’t mean you will know the same number of Chinese words. Multiple characters can be used to generate hundreds of words in the Chinese language if you know the writing style of Chinese.

Part 2. What is the Number of Characters in Chinese?

Let’s read about the number of characters in Chinese to have an idea about the extensiveness of the language. It is right to say that it is almost impossible to count the number of characters in Chinese. But the estimated number of Chinese characters is around 100k which was published in a dictionary in 2004. In most dictionaries, you will see around 20,000 characters only as they are considered enough for everyone regardless of their profession and skills. Such a huge number of characters makes it hard for learners to understand and memorize the language. Most schools include 3000 characters in their syllabus and ask their students to learn them. Every student is expected to have a strong grip on 3000 Chinese characters while the graduate student is expected to have an idea of 5000 to 7000 characters. In short, it isn’t possible to memorize all Chinese characters.

Number of characters in Chinese

List of Chinese common characters

Part 3. Number of Characters in Chinese You Should Know

As mentioned earlier, Chinese schools ask their students to learn 3000 characters only as they are enough for them to understand the language. It is not compulsory to memorize and understand all characters as a huge number of characters in Chinese dictionaries are available. For social use, it is enough to understand 5000 to 8000 characters of this language. By having an idea about these characters, you can read magazines, papers, and many other Chinese written documents. In short, it is not necessary to learn and understand all characters of this language. You can even work seamlessly by learning only specific important Chinese characters that are used widely in everyday life. If you are learning the Chinese language, you should try to understand the common Chinese characters listed in the beginning. It will help you understand the written documents that will open ways to learn this language to an extended level. Simply, you shouldn’t try to become proficient in learning all 20k characters.

Part 4. Types of Chinese Characters

Till now, you must have got an idea of the number of characters in Chinese language. But have you ever wondered how these characters are classified? To simplify such a huge number of Chinese characters, there are 6 types in which every character is placed. From literature, it is claimed that every character belongs to a specific type and has properties of that category. Here we have listed those types with instant and quick brief for understanding.

Number of characters in Chinese

Natural objects in Chinese


It is a specific category in which those Chinese characters are added that are used for representing the pictorial data. Normally, these characters are used to show/pronounce the things in the world that can be seen and imagined. A large number of characters in Chinese are connected with this category because of its widespread use.


These characters are used to represent something symbolically. For example, when you are trying to think of something and indicate about it, you will use Chinese characters from Zhishi.


The characters in this category are not like the above two because these are made by combining similar components. It means that these characters represent something in a collective manner instead of symbolizing them one by one.


These Chinese characters are also made by the combination of formal and representing characters. If you know a prominent number of characters in Chinese, you can easily create a list of Zingsheng characters by combining them.


Normally, these characters are also called transfer characters because they are derived from another character that is already available in the literature. The main purpose of these characters is to simplify the meaning and have multiple alternatives for a single action/activity.


This last category of Chinese characters is called loan characters because these characters are borrowed to show words with the same pronunciation. You can use these characters as alternative characters instead of originals to show the words. But the main property of these characters is that they are pronounced like the original characters.


How Many Chinese Characters Are There In Total?

According to a dictionary published in 2004, the number of characters in Chinese is around 100k. But most dictionaries include only 20,000 characters.

Is 1000 Chinese Characters Enough For Social Use?

No, 1000 characters are neither enough to understand Chinese nor to read a written document. You should learn at least 3000 characters to get started and have basic knowledge of the language.

Is Chinese The Hardest Language To Learn?

The Chinese language is considered the hardest language to learn because of the 100k+ characters in its literature. No doubt, most dictionaries include 20,000 characters but these are still hard to memorize.


By reading the above blog, you must have an idea of the number of characters in Chinese. You may have understood how hard it would be for you to memorize/learn them. But the simplest and most effective approach to becoming a master of the Chinese language is learning from a professional. You can go to an institute or take part in an online course to learn Chinese characters.

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