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Use App to Tell Radical Parent & Phonetic Part

Quick question: why you are here to read about Radical Parent? (Nothing to do with your radical parents though.)

A. Know how to count strokes in a character,

B. ‘People told me that I can predict the sound or the general category a character refers to by the radical parent parts. But I wondered it is about understanding a radical family tree or something…’

You are in a right place. If you ever used stroke and spatial layout to search a character on Sunrise Method App,  you might have notice there is a simple trick to associate stroke with match stick – laying out a character with match sticks, usually the sticks count for strokes in a character. But you are smart to notice, sometimes a small twist attached to the end of a stroke, or several twists happen in one curvy draw counts for one stroke as one integrated part.

Ok, I know things can no longer hide away from you. We don’t call them match sticks, we call them Radical Parent. Most of the characters consist of radical parent parts, while some simple character is parent itself.  And you can tell which is which with a good use of Sunrise Method. Take ‘苞’ for example, you take 2 step to see its

Step 1. Destruct a character into a corresponding spatial layout. You may learn more about the method here(previous post on spatial layout).

(spatial Top-Bottom, strokes numbered 3 and 艹, strokes numbered 5 and 包,combination on search page)

* 包(breakdown of 5 strokes respectively)

Step 2. Find profile of 苞.


Step 3. Identify the Phonetic Part & Radical Parent

Phonetic part, it usually indicates the similar sound of the character it is embedded in, regardless of the exact tone. Eg. 苞 (consists of 艹 and 包) is pronounced bao1 (‘bao, tone1’) because its phonetic part is 包(‘bao,tone1’). You will find how important to spot the right phonetic part to get the hint of how it sounds, or a similar pronunciation.

Radical parent(部首) – it usually gives hint of category. You shall learn ‘艹’ is typically refers to plants, eg. 草(grass, ‘cao, tone3’), 花(flower, ‘hua, tone1’), 菜(vegetable, ‘cai, tone4’). These are example characters with a radical parent indicates the characters of plants.

Ok, for the radical parent part, if you are not a vegetarian and don’t want to talk about plants any more (How insensitive!), I will show you another example with heart and soul – 忄.

忄mainly indicates emotion. And somehow because of its slimming shape, characters with this radical parent will always appear left-right spatial layout. Eg. 情 (love, affection, ‘qing, tone2’). Now take a good look at it. image it is written on a cake and you should slice it with all parts intact – in order to get the spatial layout. Or if you spot the radical parent is 忄, go ahead put a lens to see it as:

情 =忄+青(qing, tone1)

Always look at the radical parent part for implication of meaning or category, while get the hint of the sound from the phonetic part. Because in this case, 青 means greenery or blue. Affection has nothing to do with blue in Chinese people’s eyes.


If you are not comfortable with telling two parts in a character, you can just count the total strokes in a character then go ahead searching in the app with the ‘Stroke’ searching function. Either way will get you to know a Chinese character.

All roads lead to Rome, but for the long-term merit, we encourage you to expose to as many cases(characters) as you can, because like Rome, an effective learning is not built overnight. Step out, face straight to a character, and better with an app in your hand.

Good luck.


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