Unlike the alphabetical order that English words are organized in English dictionary, Chinese characters are classified according to their radicals . There are totally 214 radicals. They, often sorted by the number of their strokes, are used as an index for searching in Chinese dictionary. For example, 一precedes 二 as it has one stroke only while the other one has two. Some radicals have variants, such as彑, which can also be recognized as 彐. There is one point that everyone should be reminded. The order of the radicals is based on the number of strokes the characters have in the form of Traditional Chinese, but not Simplified Chinese.
How to use a Chinese Dictonary?
To pinpoint a character in a dictionary, first, you have to recognize which radical the character pertains. Most often, the character would contain its radical as its component. For example, it is not difficult to recognize that 駐 belongs to the radical 馬. If it is the case, the first step is done, and you can proceed to the next step. After you have identified its radical and gone to the corresponding section, the rest of the task is to locate the character simply by counting the number of its stroke and then matching it with that in the section accordingly.
Sometimes the radical may not appear in the character obviously or several radicals may appear in one single character at the same time, which is confusing. What you can do is to either use your past experience(or intuition), or resort to another table/index where all the confusing characters are arranged according to the number of strokes only. However, it takes a longer time to locate the character because the table is tedious.
Here is the summary:
1.Identify the radical of the character
2.count the number of strokes of the radical
3.locate the radical in the table where all radicals are arranged by the number of strokes
4.go to the section of that radical
5.count the number of strokes of the character(i.e. the word you want to find)
6.match up the character in the section accordingly
A Complete Collection of Chinese Radicals:
一 (one) (yī) -丨 (line) (gǔn) - 丶 (dot) (zhǔ) - 丿 (slash) (piē) - 乙 (second) (yì) - 乚 - 亅 (hook) (jué)
二 (two) (èr) - 亠 (lid) (tóu) - 人 (human) (rén) - 亻 (standing human) - 儿 (legs) (ér) - 入 (enter) (rù) - 八 (eight) (bā) - 冂 (down box) (jiǒng) - 冖 (cover) (mì) - 冫 (ice) (bīng) - 几 (table) (jī) - 凵 (open box) (qǔ) - 刀 (knife) (dāo) - 刂 (standing knife) - 力 (power) (lì) - 勹 (wrap) (bāo) - 匕 (spoon) (bǐ) - 匚 (right open box) (fāng) - 匸 (hiding enclosure) (xǐ) - 十 (ten) (shí) - 卜 (divination) (bǔ) - 卩 (seal) (jié) - 厂 (cliff) (hàn) -厶 (private) (sī) - 又 (again) (yòu)
口 (mouth) (kǒu) - 囗 (enclosure) (wéi) - 土 (earth) (tǔ) - 士 (scholar) (shì) - 夂 (go) (zhǐ) - 夊 (go slowly) (suī) - 夕 (evening) (xì) - 大 (big) (dà) - 女 (woman) (nǚ) - 子 (child) (zǐ) - 宀 (roof) (mián) - 寸 (inch) (cùn) - 小 (small) (xiǎo) - 尢 (lame) (wāng) - 尸 (corpse) (shī) - 屮 (sprout) (chè) - 山 (mountain) (shān) - 巛川 (river) (chuān) - 工 (work) (gōng) - 己已巳 (oneself) (jǐ) - 巾 (turban) (jīn) - 干 (dry) (gān) - 幺 (tiny) (yāo) - 广 (dotted cliff) (yǎn) - 廴 (long stride) (yǐn) - 廾 (two hands) (gǒng) - 弋 (shoot) (yì) - 弓 (bow) (gōng) - 彐彑 (snout) (jì) - 彡 (bristle) (shān) - 彳 (step) (chì)
心 (heart) (xīn) - 忄 (standing heart) - 戈 (halberd) (gē) - 戶 (door) (hù) - 手 (hand) (shǒu) - 扌 (standing hand) - 支 (branch) (zhī) - 攴攵 (rap) (pū) - 文 (script) (wén) - 斗 (dipper) (dǒu) - 斤 (axe) (jīn) - 方 (square) (fāng) - 无旡 (not) (wú) - 日 (sun) (rì) - 曰 (say) (yuē) - 月 (moon) (yuè) - 木 (tree) (mù) - 欠 (yawn) (qiàn) - 止 (stop) (zhǐ) - 歹歺 (death) (dǎi) - 殳 (weapon) (shū) - 毋母 (do not) (wú) - 比 (compare) (bǐ) - 毛 (fur) (máo) - 氏 (clan) (shì) - 气 (steam) (qì) - 水 (water) (shuǐ) - 氵 (standing water) - 氺 - 火 (fire) (huǒ) - 灬 - 爪爫 (claw) (zhuǎ) - 父 (father) (fù) - 爻 (double crosses) (yáo) - 爿丬 (bed) (qiáng) - 片 (slice) (piàn) - 牙 (fang) (yá) - 牛 (cow) (niú) - 犬 (dog) (quǎn) - 犭 (standing dog)
玄 (profound) (xuán) - 玉 (jade) (yù) - 王 - 瓜 (melon) (guā) - 瓦 (earthenware) (wǎ) -甘 (sweet) (gān) - 生 (life) (shēng) - 用 (use) (yòng) - 田 (field) (tián) - 疋 (bolt of cloth) (pǐ) - 疒 (sickness) - 癶 (dotted tent) (bō) - 白 (white) (bái) - 皮 (skin) (pí) - 皿 (dish) (mǐn) - 目 (eye) (mù) - 矛 (halberd) (máo) - 矢 (arrow) (shǐ) - 石 (stone) (shí) - 示 (spirit) (shì) - 礻 (standing spirit) - 禸 (track) - 禾 (grain) (hé) - 穴 (cave) (xuè) - 立 (stand) (lì)
竹 (bamboo) (zhú) - 米 (rice) (mǐ) - 糸 (silk) (mì) - 糹/纟 (standing silk) - 缶 (jar) (fǒu) - 网 (net) (wǎng) - 罒 - 羊 (sheep) (yáng) - 羽 (feather) (yǔ) - 老 (old) (lǎo) - 耂 - 而 (and) (ér) - 耒 (plow) (lěi) -耳 (ear) (ěr) - 聿 (brush) (yù) - 肉 (meat) (ròu) - 月 (standing meat) - 臣 (minister) (chén) - 自 (self) (zì) - 至 (arrive) (zhì) - 臼 (mortar) (jiù) - 舌 (tongue) (shé) - 舛 (oppose) (chuǎn) - 舟 (boat) (zhōu) - 艮 (stopping) (gèn) - 色 (color) (sè) - 艸 (grass) (cǎo) - 艹 - 虍 (tiger) (hū) - 虫 (insect) (chóng) - 血 (blood) (xiě) - 行 (walk enclosure) (xíng) - 衣 (clothes) (yī) - 衤 (standing clothes) - 襾覀西 (west) (yà)
見/见 (see) (jiàn) - 角 (horn) (jiǎo) - 言 (speech) (yán) - 訁/讠 (standing speech) - 谷 (valley) (gǔ) - 豆 (bean) (dòu) - 豕 (pig) (shǐ) - 豸 (badger) (zhì) - 貝/贝 (shell) (bèi) - 赤 (red) (chì) - 走 (run) (zǒu) -. 足 (foot) (zú) - 身 (body) (shēn) - 車/车 (car) (chē) - 辛 (bitter) (xīn) - 辰 (morning) (chén) - 辵 (walk) (chuò)- 辶 - 邑 (city) (yì) - 阝 - 酉 (wine) (yǒu) - 釆 (distinguish) (biàn) - 里 (village) (lǐ)
金 (metal) (jīn) - 釒/钅 (standing metal) - 長/长 (long) (cháng) - 镸 (standing long) - 門/门 (gate) (mén) - 阜 (mound) (fù)- 阝 (standing mound) - 隶 (slave) (lì) - 隹 (small bird) (zhuī) - 雨 (rain) (yǔ) - 靑青 (blue) (qīng) - 非 (wrong) (fēi)
面 (face) (miàn) - 革 (leather) (gé) - 韋/韦 (wéi) (tanned leather) - 韭 (leek) (jiǔ) - 音 (sound) (yīn) - 頁/页 (face) (yè) -風/风 (wind) (fēng) - 飛/飞 (fly) (fēi) 食 (eat) (shí) - 飠/饣 (standing eat) - 首 (head) (shǒu) - 香 (fragrant) (xiāng)
馬/马 (horse) (mǎ) - 骨 (bone) (gǔ) - 高 (tall) (gāo) - 髟 (hair) (biāo) - 鬥 (fight) (dòu) - 鬯 (sacrificial wine) (chàng) - 鬲 (cauldron) (lì) - 鬼 (ghost) (guǐ)
魚/鱼 (fish) (yú) - 鳥/鸟 (bird) (niǎo) - 鹵 (alkaline) (lǔ) - 鹿 (deer) (lù) - 麥/麦 (wheat) (mài) - 麻 (hemp) (má)
黃 (yellow) (huáng) - 黍 (millet) (shǔ) - 黑 (black) (hēi) - 黹 (needlework) (zhǐ);
黽/黾 (amphibian) (mǐn) - 鼎 (tripod) (dǐng) -
鼓 (drum) (gǔ) - 鼠 (rat) (shǔ)
鼻 (nose) (bí)- 齊/齐/斉 (uniformly) (qí) (q¨ª)
齒/齿/歯 (tooth) (chǐ)
龍竜/龙 (dragon) (lóng) - 龜/龟/亀 (tortoise) (guī)
龠 (flute) (yuè)