sci.lang.japan FAQ / 1. Writing / 1.2.

1.2.10. What are kanji radicals?

Examples of kanji radicals:
病 has radical 104, "yamaidare"
漢 has radical 85, "sanzui"
飲 has radical 184, "shokuhen"
路 has radical 157, "ashihen"

The bushu (部首) or "radical" of a kanji is its classification by means of one of 216 component parts of the kanji. This system began with the Kang-xi dictionary (in Japanese kōki jiten (康煕字典)) in China. This method of searching for a kanji is widely used in Japan.

To search for a kanji by radical, one must first be able to identify the radical. It is usually either the left or upper part of the character, or a surrounding part which is wrapped around the character. Kanji dictionaries usually have a list of the radicals on their inside covers, ordered by increasing stroke count, together with the page number of the radical's heading. Under each radical, the kanji are ordered by increasing number of strokes. The usual order of the radicals is shown in 1.2.10.1. What are the names of the radicals? See also 1.2.11. How is a kanji dictionary used?

The sci.lang.japan FAQ also offers a lookup system via radicals.

Part of kanji tests such as the Kanji Kentei (see 10.2. Kanji Kentei) is testing the ability to identify kanji radicals and their names.

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