I once found a Mandarin Chinese dictionary which for each character listed the ancient, the traditional and the simplified Chinese characters. For each it described its meaning and how it developed into the current form. I cannot find it or anything similar anymore. The most I can find are sites which explain radicals of each character but not actual ancient symbols and variations.

For instance, the word "eye" was shown as a pictogram resembling an eye, then into the traditional and then into 目 explaining "a simplified eye turned 90°".

I know not all characters are made this way but again, maybe it was a dictionary of radicals but it was very good.


4 Answers 4


On http://ctext.org/dictionary.pl?if=en you can see how a character evolved, the simplified and traditional characters. For example for .

Another similar website is http://www.chineseetymology.org/CharacterEtymology.aspx . Their result for .

Zdict is completely in Chinese: http://www.zdic.net/zd/zi/ZdicE7Zdic9BZdicAE.htm

Here is another website in Chinese (that only supports transitional characters): http://alphads10-2.hkbu.edu.hk/~lcprichi/

As Aristide mentioned http://www.yellowbridge.com has similar functionality.

Another one is http://chinese-characters.org/

Although it doesn't show how the characters evolved, I also like http://zhongwen.com

  • +1 for mentioning yellowbridge... I've been using that forever for etymology-related questions.
    – user3871
    Commented Feb 21, 2013 at 18:10
  • alphads10-2.hkbu.edu.hk/~lcprichi looks broken?
    – user11787
    Commented Aug 29, 2020 at 22:34

It may be on yellowbridge.com, where the etymology tab includes notes on character formation.


Chinese text is divided into "象形字" and "象声字", like a shape or a sound

you can see this: http://pipi275.blog.sohu.com/101889641.html


Ehy I found it: http://chinese-characters.org, in my opinion there's no rival so far, if you look at it it has ancient and archaic variations of each symbol...

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