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I found two public databases that describe the composition of Chinese characters.

1 - CJK Decomposition Data

2 - Chinese Characters Decomposition on Wiki Commons

I can see how the formats they use are different, but I don't think they are incompatible. Are these two data sources related or completely independent? Is it known which one is of higher quality?

The reason I'm asking is because I'm working on a tool that makes it easier to look up characters. It allows you to search by radical anywhere in the character, rather than by just the primary radical used in dictionaries.

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1. They are related, there're some rules for character composition. 2. CJK consists of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. So it would be a larger set. 3. Quality depends on your criteria. Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan have different standards. So, this is really a professional question ... it's difficult. Maybe you can collect data from this site, there're many experts helping refining their sources -- I think it is the best Chinese online dictionary, currently. – Stan Aug 4 '13 at 18:09
Sjors, what are you using the data for? When you don't say explicitly, people on this site tend to assume you are using whatever you ask for to study Chinese, which I doubt is the case here. – Stumpy Joe Pete Aug 8 '13 at 16:41
@StumpyJoePete I updated my question to explain. – Sjors Provoost Aug 10 '13 at 15:29
You should check out this question and its answers. I can't comment on the difference in quality, but there are several sources of such data, and a tool already exists that works like you want. – Stumpy Joe Pete Aug 10 '13 at 21:50
@StumpyJoePete thanks. I assume you're referring to Tatoeba? That is indeed similar to what I'm trying to do and they are using the Wikimedia data. Of course I stubbornly believe I can do even better :-) – Sjors Provoost Aug 11 '13 at 8:26

I'm not an expert in CJK decomposition, but I can share some of my knowledge as a native Chinese.

Both decomposition are purely structural I would say. It is suitable for computer processing (input and recognition). We also use this way to look up a character in dictionary (99% of it actually, there are exceptions).

So in a broad sense they are compatible. But just as different Chinese dictionaries may put the same character under different radicals (部首 bùshǒu), there is no guarantee of consistency and mostly depends on the editor of the classification. Nevertheless these discrepancies should be treated as exceptions rather than norm.

Reference on structural decomposition:

More on CJK characters

Chinese character decomposition as a study is much more than that. None of the above decomposition referred to 六書 liùshū, the six way of Chinese character formation. I highly recommend you look into it if you are interested in Chinese characters.

Japanese has its own fixed set of phonetic characters (仮名 kana) and Chinese characters (漢字 kanji). It uses the rules in 六書 liùshū (mostly 會意 huìyì) to generate many kanji that is only used in Japanese and only have Japanese articulation.

Korean characters (hangul) are actually shapes of consonants and vowels packed in a square so it is also a fixed set of phonetic characters.

p.s. maybe a bit off-topic, sorry :-P

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The "K" in CJK doesn't [only] refer to hangul but [also] to the Korean usage of Chinese characters. – dda Aug 12 '13 at 5:49
I have in front of me the New Practical Chinese Reader (the German translation actually). It list many decomposition and since this is apparently a very well-researched book I wonder what its scholarly reference regarding "C" decompositions may have been. – Drux Oct 11 '13 at 17:41

My vote goes to CJK Decomposition Data (your first link). Some time ago I used the data from Chinese Characters Decomposition on Wiki Commons, and there were quite a few popular characters for which decompositions were missing (I analysed characters from the HSK lists, decompositions were often missing for their traditional counterparts, but also for some of the simplified ones). Now I checked a few of these characters, and all of them had decompositions in CJK Decomposition Data. This database seems more complete.

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