Character Introduction 2 – How Many Chinese Characters Are There

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How Many Characters Are There? The Basic Chinese Characters and the Most Common Chinese Characters

Should you learn characters? And if yes, how many Chinese characters are there to learn? There are 2400 basic Chinese characters. But for beginners, we can start with the most common Chinese characters - around 500. It doesn't sound too many, right? And if we know these 500 Chinese characters and their meaning, and how they combine to make words, we will have a pretty good vocabulary to start!



  • Chinese characters quantity
  • Basic Chinese characters
  • the most common Chinese characters
  • Chinese characters vs words


  1. How many Chinese characters are there in total?
  2. How many Pinyin syllables are there?
  3. How many basic Chinese characters are there?
  4. How many are the most common Chinese characters?
  5. What is the relationship between Chinese characters and their meaning?
  6. What is the difference between Chinese characters vs words?


Should you learn Chinese characters and why?

If you want to learn Chinese well, you will definitely have to learn Chinese characters. There are only about 400 Chinese phonetic syllables, and these 400 cover thousands of characters. Also, each character has multiple meanings. With Pinyin only providing pronunciations, it cannot carry the same kind of information as characters. For example, the single sylable “qīng” could mean 轻 light, 清 clear, 青 green, 倾 tilted, and 氢 hydrogen.


How Many Chinese Characters Are There In Total?

The Chinese character total number is over 5000, but a lot of Chinese people don’t even know that much. So instead of asking how many Chinese characters are there in total, we might want to ask how many characters should we learn.


Basic Chinese Characters Vs. The Most Common Chinese Characters

常用字(cháng yòng zì) Basic Chinese characters total number is around 2500, and 最常用字(zuì cháng yòng zì) the most common Chinese characters total number is around 500. The chart below shows how much percentage the most common Chinese characters cover all written materials.


The most common 5 Chinese Characters
The most common 17 Chinese Characters
The most common 42 Chinese Characters
The most common 79 Chinese Characters
The most common 380 Chinese Characters
The most common 1000 Chinese Characters
The most common 2400 Chinese Characters

Chinese Characters And Their Meaning

Usually one Chinese character has more than one meanings. For example, 我(wǒ) has 4 meanings; 的(de) has over 5 meanings. And in some rare cases, such as 打(dǎ), it has more than 25 meanings. Luckily these meanings are usually related to each other.


Chinese Characters Vs. Chinese Words

Knowing characters only is not enough, we need words and phrases to communicate. When a character is combined with another character, each giving out one specific meaning, the combination becomes a new “word”. And the meaning of Chinese words is generally easy to remember if you know the meaning of the characters. So the relationships between Chinese characters vs words, is like how English roots, suffixes, and prefixes vs. words.

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Hi Lili sister where can I find Chinese worksheets for practice?

I think the worksheets are in the character lessons.

Where can I get the tracing document?

ChineseFor.UsAcademic Team September 10, 2022 at 5:43 am

The writing sheets are provided in later lessons but not in the Introduction Lessons.

Hi Lili,

Is there a list for the most common 500 characters?

ChineseFor.UsAcademic Team April 2, 2022 at 4:45 am

Currently we haven’t included the list for the most common 500 characters on our site, but we do have the Character Recognition Lists for the newest HSK requirements. Characters required on those lists should be just as common and useful for Chinese students. Please kindly find the lists on our New HSK 2021 Requirements page.

Ryan O'ConnorPremium Student November 28, 2021 at 4:31 am

Hi Lili, do you have that syllable chart available anywhere for download? I would love to use it to practice my pronunciations.

This website is just amazing!

Minyu FangPremium Student July 31, 2019 at 3:32 pm

In the video it says that you guys have made a tracing paper for us to download but where is it at on this website?

Lesson 1 to 12 come with writing sheets but the 4 introduction lessons don’t.

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