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:

[de] ; 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

(Via No-sword.)


  1. Enormously useful, LH! Such a list is precisely what I have been after, in recent weeks.

  2. bathrobe says

    Actually, the second character he gives is a little misleading: 一(F壹)
    According to the list, “F” marks full (usually traditional) forms. However, the character 壹 is not strictly speaking the ‘full’ form; it is an elaborate form used for writing figures where there is a danger of alteration (e.g., 一 could be changed into 二 with a single stroke), such as filling out withdrawal slips at banks, etc. This is usually called 大写 in Chinese. See Wikipedia

  3. bathrobe says

    Notice also that the Chinese form 壹 is different from that used in Japan, which is 壱.

  4. Wunderbar, LH. Finally, language-learning is coming of age.

  5. Folquerto says

    Thousand thanks, Patrick, be blessed.

  6. I found this site a while ago and it’s very nice. At the time I was studying characters for both Chinese and Japanese and I was also interested in Chinese traditional, Chinese simplified, Japanese kyuujitai, Japanese shinjitai, and Korean hanja.
    What I really wanted to do was build a table of which characters were the most important when taking as many of the orthographies as possible into account.
    I got so far but for best results I needed tables with a frequency for each. Unfortunately, for one or another all I could find was a ranking, which didn’t allow such accurate calculations. I also didn’t know very much about variants at the time.
    Here is my top 20 chars when taking into account just rankings for Chinese simplified, Chinese traditional, and postware Japanese:
    的 一 是 不 了 人 我 在 有 他 这 中 大 来 上 国 个 到 说

  7. 国 makes it seem that you were working mostly with newspaper headlines.

  8. In fact I used other people’s character frequency lists. I don’t have the prerequisites for making my own. I did a lot of Googling to find as many good lists as I could. I tried to find word frequency lists too so that I could do compoun analysis, word breaking – but those were even harder to find.

  9. The others are about what I would expect, but 国 shouldn’t rank that high. Not so sure about 中.

  10. That site is incredible. That guy must be high energy to do all that stuff, and more. Very impressive. Too bad we can’t all meet each other–there’d be some interesting conversations.

  11. Jimmy Ho says

    In the same spirit, you have the SMIC (only the rough table though, in alphabetical order of the pinyin, horizontally from left to right). Those are the 400 characters you have to know thouroughly when you finish French high school with Chinese as an optional (Nb. 2 or 3) foreign language (about two hours a week during three years).

  12. Jimmy Ho says

    (By the way, the name is a funny pun on the name of “minimal wage” in French: Salaire Minimum Interprofessionnel de Croissance.)

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