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wix

How many Chinese characters are there?

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wix

I have often asked Chinese people the question "How many characters are there?" or "How many characters you know?" The questions usually draw looks of confusion and rarely get an intelligent response. Although I suppose if I asked an English speaker the same questions about English I would get a similar response.

My edition of the Far East Chinese-English Dictionary has 7,331 (traditional) characters.

This website seems to give some good answers to the question. The Kangxi Zidian published in 1716 has 46964 characters.

Does anybody else have a good answer for this question?

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thepokergod

The Straights Times quoted around 50,000 characters of which only about 8,000 are used in semi-regularly and about 3,000 for everyday use.

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holyman

anywhere between 60 000 to 80 000, depends on whether u count the variants of a same word. some words have more than 2 variants(not talking about traditional and simplified characters).

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kentsuarez

According to http://std.dkuug.dk/i18n/cjk/desc, my Hanyu Da Zidian has 137,000 characters :shock: , but it is a comprehensive listing including vast numbers of obsolete characters. It does not include obsolete characters about which nothing is known, though (e.g., the 走+馬 character on an ancient bronze, and several thousand unidentified personal and place names and other graphs in the oracle bones). So I think 140,000 is a reasonable estimate of the grand total. But if you learn 5,000, you're pretty well set for functional usage. No need to let the staggering numbers make you despondent!

note added later: checking other websites like http://www.chant.org/news/issue1/art4.asp,

I see figures of

說文解字 Shuowen 9,353

康熙字典 Kangxi 47,035

漢語大字典 Hanyu Da Zidian 54,678.

This is in rough agreement with http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~clp/China/quantity.htm,

which cites "over fifty-six thousand characters" for 漢語大字典 Hanyu Da Zidian.

These figures do not include thousands of bronze and oracle bone graphs which do not match modern graphs in structure or which have not yet been identified. Nevertheless, my above estimate of 140,000 appears way off. Probably more like 60,000+.

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sherman

From the practical point of view, we do not need to care how many chinese characters there are. In fact after chinese student graduate from the senior middle school, they seldom check dictionary. As to me, I do not think I had used dictionary more than 10 times after 18 years old.

China ministry of education requires the student in senior middle school can recognized 2900 chinese characters. In taiwan it might be about 3100 and in Hongkong 2600.

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Ian_Lee
China ministry of education requires the student in senior middle school can recognized 2900 chinese characters. In taiwan it might be about 3100 and in Hongkong 2600.

In Japan, the Education Ministry requires High School Graduate to learn 1,945 Chinese characters.

In Korea, 1,800 characters are taught up until high school graduate level (though not compulsory).

I guess the daily usage (i.e. newspaper) in Chinese community should be around 3,000 - 3,500 characters.

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林彪

In "Business Chinese", I read that Coca-Cola searched through 400,000 characters before it chose a suitable Chinese name for itself. But the claim is unsubstantiated.

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sherman
China ministry of education requires the student in senior middle school can recognized 2900 chinese characters. In taiwan it might be about 3100 and in Hongkong 2600.

In Japan, the Education Ministry requires High School Graduate to learn 1,945 Chinese characters.

In Korea, 1,800 characters are taught up until high school graduate level (though not compulsory).

I guess the daily usage (i.e. newspaper) in Chinese community should be around 3,000 - 3,500 characters.

I think characters used in daily living and newspaper is around 2000.

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skylee
China ministry of education requires the student in senior middle school can recognized 2900 chinese characters. In taiwan it might be about 3100 and in Hongkong 2600.

What is the source of the Hongkong figure please? I have been searching but could not find a quantified learning target of Chinese characters as such.

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xxdnbd

A middle school student must know 3000 chinese characters. That's enough. Some chinese characters is not often used so we needn't remember them.

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sherman
China ministry of education requires the student in senior middle school can recognized 2900 chinese characters. In taiwan it might be about 3100 and in Hongkong 2600.

What is the source of the Hongkong figure please? I have been searching but could not find a quantified learning target of Chinese characters as such.

很抱歉,我试着找了找,没有找到出处。这几个数据是前段时间在另一个文章里读到了,是大概的数字,没有精确到十位。

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skylee

Don't worry. I was anxious about the source because the figure implies that HK students learn far less than their counterparts in Mainland and Taiwan. And this is quite hard to accept if not substantiated.

But it is good to know that an average Chinese would know about 3,000 characters. Once I was in the British Museum and the all-knowing guide asked if anyone spoke Chinese and then how many characters I knew. I didn't have a figure so I answered "all". This was of course followed by a session of torturous British teasing. 8)

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Guest nuer

This website has comprehensive figures for this subject although more research has been done for Taiwan's educational system:

http://people.netscape.com/ftang/chineselearning/howmanychinese.html

My Beida friend says that the 老百姓 know about 3000 or so. He is doing his master's degree in international relations at Beida and says he and his classmates know about 7000+ characters.

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Jasper May

Interesting, this.

Btw, I'm new. I'll just skip the semi-obligatory introduction and ask what I was meaning to ask, shall I? I've heard some conflicting stories about how many characters university students are supposed to learn in one year (500-2000), and how much is normal for an autodidact like myself. I've browsed through this forum, and it appears that 30-40 characters per week is quite a lot, but then I hear that some universities expect their students to learn 150-200.

I've just begun studying Chinese (1 month+), though I do have other language-learning experience (Russian e.g.).

Thanks in advance.

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Jasper May

Iz it becoz I iz new? :) Come on, I've seen that this forum can be more lively, and I do have the intention of stopping by some more. Maybe I should start a new thread?

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Nephand

Well, if the average first year Uni student wants to get up to Chinese High School level, they'd need to learn somewhere between 2000-3000 [i believe] characters. So if it was 2500, they'd be studying for around 40 weeks of the year, which calculates out to about 63 hanzi per week.

That's definitely quite a bit of work depending on how well the course is structured. If they're brought in alongside conversation, I'd reckon that would be quite easy.

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Jasper May

Hi Nephand, thanks for the answer, but that was one of the conflicting stories I had already heard. 8) If it's true, cool, because at this rate I'll be finished in half a year. Thanks.

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