Patrick Hassel Zein has a pageful of links on the Chinese language, many of which look useful and/or interesting, but the one I want to highlight here is The most common Chinese characters in order of frequency. Boy, I wish I’d had this available when I was trying to learn Chinese; he explains:
The list was created using statistic list of Chinese characters and a number of thick dictionaries. All characters are presented in falling statistical order. Pronunciations are specified according to Pinyin and for some characters a number of different possible pronunciations are given. Examples of common words are given for most characters, however with no guarantee that all the most common words are listed or that the given examples are particularly common words. Some of the listed pronunciations for some characters are less used than other pronunciations for the same character, and in those cases translations and examples may lack. Some additional comments are given.
The first character is 的, of which he says:
; 我的 wǒde my; 高的 gāode high, tall; 是的 shìde that’s it, that’s right; 是…的 shì…de one who…; 他是说汉语的. Tā shì shuō Hànyǔde. He is one who speaks Chinese.
[dì] 目的 mùdì goal
[dí] true, real; 的确 díquè certainly