An Introduction to the Radicals in Chinese Characters
Once you’ve got a general idea of the Basic Strokes and their Order, you can easily begin to expand your knowledge of the final level of structure within each Chinese Character: Radicals. A Radical is somewhat similar in function to a Western letter. One of the primary differences is that whereas Western words are written horizontally and may be of very different lengths, all Chinese characters are meant to be of a standard size, no matter how many ‘letters’ they contain. Secondly, Radicals may relate either to the sound of a character or to its meaning. Each Character represents a single syllable. In fact, Chinese has so few available syllables that representing meaning in other ways than simple consonants and vowels is necessary to differentiate essentially identical spoken words. In speech, this differentiation is achieved by tone. In writing, differentiation is achieved using Radicals.
It is very easy for the novice Calligrapher, especially if they are unfamiliar with Chinese Characters, to be daunted by the complexity of Characters. It is heartening to learn, however, that Chinese Characters all rely on a very limited set of strokes, or brush movements. In fact, there are only eight basic strokes from which the astounding variety of Characters is made up. Focusing on these strokes will give the beginner a good basic understanding of the building blocks of all characters. Once you are familiar with them, and with Stroke Order, you should be able to figure out how to correctly and beautifully write just about any character you can find.