University of Illinois Extension

Examples of Chinese Characters - A Tour of China with Yuefen

For example, let's look at the words "dog" and "cat" in Chinese.


The left side of the two characters tell the meaning and the right sides indicate the sounds of the words.

The left side means "an animal."
The left side means "an animal." The right side indicates the sound of the character. In this case it is "miao" sound. The pronunciation of the character “cat” in Chinese is "mao."

childIf a student doesn’t know the character, then they are not able to pronounce it. They then have to know a pronunciation system called pinyin. This system uses the Roman alphabet.

There are about 40,000 characters in the Chinese written language. But only 5,000-8,000 characters are actually used. Among them, 3,500 are regarded as "frequently used characters." If you have learned 1,000 characters, you are able to do some basic reading and writing.