Sometimes a character component has one pronunciation as a Kangxi radical, another one as a stroke, and perhaps even more:

  • 一: yī / héng
  • 丨: gǔn / shù
  • 丶: zhǔ / diǎn
  • 亅: jué / shùgōu
  • 乙: yǐ / héngxiéwāngōu / zhé
  • 乚: yǐ / shùwāngōu /
  • 乛: yǐ / hénggōu / zhé

Which names are used in practice and understandable? Should I learn all the variants or only one of them?

  • 3
    there are 26 strokes/笔画,listed on p.3-5 of the standard school manual 教学汉字规范手册 and various websites, all agreeing on their names, which also can be found at this site,the second names in above list of 7 agree with these
    – user6065
    Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 20:07
  • 1
    archinese examples are practical in daily use. Rules of thumb : Keep it simple. Avoid anything there is confusing.
    – mootmoot
    Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 16:02

2 Answers 2


Actually we only use the name ( the second ones in your question) which describes the shape of the radical. It's how teachers call these radicals in classroom. Many radicals, like 丶, are not treated as charterers. Although they may have a pronunciation, most Chinese don't know that. Even for these radicals which happen to be characters, we still incline to use the name referring to the radical, rather than its own pronunciation. It would sound ridiculous when you describe the strokes of a character, say 王 this way: 三个一,一竖. Instead, native speakers would say: 三横一竖.


横 (heng2) is its own character, as is 竖 (shu4). 一 and 丨are never pronounced as heng2 and shu4, but the shapes are referred to in context of discussing calligraphy, stroke order, etc.

Here's an analogy with the letter "o". Is it a circle? Yes. Do we ever read it as "circle"? No. But just like "o" is a circle-shaped letter, 一 is a 横-shaped character.

In terms of which words are used in practice and are understandable, either check out a dictionary or just ask a Chinese speaker how to pronounce the character. The first answer you find is likely to be the most common and useful. The secondary pronunciations, names of strokes/shapes, and even some of the characters themselves are not common in everyday language, and will only pop up in the context of calligraphy, linguistics, historical research, or some areas of law and science.

  • I'm aware of the formal differences between a character and its shape, but some sources (e.g. McNaughton & Li) claim that e.g. the pronunciation gǔn is hardly ever used, and 丨 is always referred to as shù, regardless of the context. So, as for "just ask a Chinese speaker": that's exactly the purpose of my posting here, I am asking Chinese speakers about the names they use and understand.
    – 米好 '-'
    Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 17:15
  • Sorry, I don't know your circumstances. I can see how this might be a little more difficult than I imagined if you are studying completely on your own, and are not in China or don't have any native speakers around you.
    – Elliott B.
    Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 17:20

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