Character Frequency Search Results
|Rank||Character||Frequency (total)||Single-character word %||Multi-character word %|
Frequency (total): the total times the character appears in the corpus. Single-character word %: the percentage the character occurs as a word, e.g. "我". Multi-character word %: the percentage the character occurs within a word, e.g. "天" is in "今天"
Chinese Word Frequency Search Results
|Rank||Character||Frequency||Document Frequency||Total Percentage|
Frequency: the total times the word appears in the corpus. Document Frequency: the number of documents the word appeared in. Total percent: the percentage of times a word appears in the corpus.
What is Chinese frequency and why should I care?
If you counted up all the Chinese words and characters being used in newspaper, in books, and online, you'd end up with a list with the number of times each character and word appeared. The list you'd end up with is called a frequency list.
Using Chinese frequency data can be useful for studying Chinese characters. And it can be used in online Chinese dictionaries to make searching better or enhance character information (like 3000 Hanzi's Chinese Dictionary does).
This page provides links to a useful collection of tools, lists, and articles on common Chinese characters and on using frequency to learn Chinese.
The Most Common Radicals, Characters and Words
While there are lots of resources for the most common Chinese radicals and Chinese characters, most tend to be simple lists of words the author thinks are important. For common Chinese words, the situation is worse: there aren't any great pages about common Chinese words. The closest thing might be the HSK Vocabulary Lists (which is pretty far). So here's a selection of pages for common radicals and common characters.
- Hacking Chinese created a list of the 100 most common radicals a Chinese learner would encounter and created a list and an Anki deck with definitions, pronunciation and examples. [link]
- Yellowbridge has a pretty good page about the most common Chinese characters . It uses data from Jun Da and Shih-Kun Huang to create a list of 1,000 common simplified characters and 1,000 traditional characters. [link]
- Patrick Zein created a page with for the most common 3000 characters based on dictionaries and other frequency lists (like Jun Da's). It currently includes 2,700 characters. [link]
Here are some of the better (and lesser) known frequency lists for Mandarin Chinese on the web.
- Jun Da's Modern Chinese Character Frequency List is certainly the most popular list on the planet. The character frequency list is from a 193 million character corpus created in 2004. It contains frequencies and definitons for 9,993 characters. Bonuses include frequencies for characters in classical Chinese and frequencies for characters in fictional works. [link]
- The University of Leeds Center for Translation Studies has frequency information for the 30-million token Lancaster Corpus of Mandarin Chinese, the Chinese Internet Corpus (a 280 million token corpus), and the Gigaword (v1) Chinese Corpus (240 million tokens). You might also want to check out their corpus query tool and list of large corpora used for Chinese and other languages.
Studying Chinese using frequency lists
These days, it's popular to use frequency lists to study Chinese. Like most study methods, it has advantages and downsides. Studying Chinese from character (or word) frequency lists can be an ok goal to set for oneself, and you'll definitely learn a lot. But slavishly sticking to frequency lists means you'll also be studying words without regard to how and when you should be studying them.
Big long lists of words with no context or usage can't provide much value. If the lists aren't relevant to the goals you're trying to achieve, then it won't be an effective use of your time. I'd recommend studying from a frequency list if you're feeling stuck or want a challenge. But make sure to put limits. There's no need to study 5,000 characters or words from a list. Study a few hundred first and then go re-evaluate the list against your goals. After a month or two of study, you may realize the list you're studying has giving you what you needed.
Contact us if you know about a page or website we should mention here.