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I'm trying to find an "official" list of Kangxi radicals that I can rely on and currently, I use two different Chinese apps to look for characters. Today I have realized that the lists for Kangxi radicals are different from each other in these apps, and also they are both different from the list on Wikipedia!

Of course, the lists are mostly identical but there are many differences like:

-The number of one-stroke characters displayed -Whether there are 17-stroke characters or not -For example, one of the lists regard "老" as a radical on its own, and another treats it as a combination of two different radicals...

I'm confused, is there an official list that everyone has agreed on?

Also, I'm sorry if this question is a bit silly, but does the Kanji in Japanese have anything to do with the Kangxi in Chinese?

  • Please clarify what you mean by The number of one-stroke characters displayed being different. How many characters grouped under a Kangxi radical is not relevant to the Kangxi radical itself - that's really a choice by the dictionary to include the number of characters under a radical header. – droooze Apr 26 '18 at 14:31
  • The list should have 214 radicals. Maybe you are getting more because there are variants on some of them. Example: 乚 and 乛 are the same; 刀 and 刂 are the same, etc. But seriously, following the Kangxi radicals is not the best form to understand a character at all. – Enrico Brasil Apr 26 '18 at 14:37
  • @droooze: I meant, some lists have 8 radicals displayed under the number (1) and some have 6, so some dictionaries can decide to list a radical under a different number? – Planckturing Apr 26 '18 at 14:49
  • @EnricoBrasil I see, where can I learn about these different equal variants? What would you recommend as the best way of understanding Chinese characters? I currently focus on the stroke order, but needed some way of connecting the different characters I've been learning to increase their retention in my memory, so I decided to learn a bit about the radicals. – Planckturing Apr 26 '18 at 14:50
  • have a look of the 漢字部首索引 (~radical index of chinese), it should be the standard: humanum.arts.cuhk.edu.hk/Lexis/lexi-mf/radical.php – 水巷孑蠻 Apr 26 '18 at 15:14
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There are exactly (no exceptions) 214 Kangxi radicals:

enter image description here


Any misunderstanding to the number of these probably comes from a confusion to what radicals actually are. Remember that radicals are dictionary headers (部首), used to group characters or words in a dictionary. The Kangxi radicals are similarly used to group entries in the Kangxi dictionary, not any other dictionary (unless the maker of another dictionary consciously chooses to use the exact same radical set as the Kangxi radicals). This means that

  • If a smaller dictionary chooses not to list some of the more obscure characters that are found in larger/more comprehensive dictionaries, then the dictionary may well not have the full set of Kangxi radicals.
  • The Kangxi dictionary is a Traditional Chinese dictionary, and Simplified Chinese dictionaries will not use the same radicals as the Kangxi radicals (although their entries may be based off the Kangxi dictionary).
  • Radicals (Kangxi or not) are completely arbitrary. For many characters, they have very little to do with the meaning or sound of the character. It is completely valid for a new dictionary publisher to make up their own radical system to group characters.

To answer your queries directly:

Whether there are 17-stroke characters or not

There are incredibly obscure characters which exist in larger dictionaries but are not in common use. Smaller dictionaries for common use may not include these entries - but in any case this has nothing to do with the Kangxi radicals.

one of the lists regard "老" as a radical on its own, and another treats it as a combination of two different radicals

Two notes here:

  • Each character has only one radical, just like each English word has only one first letter for which it is grouped under a dictionary

  • If a dictionary lists「老」under another radical other than「老」itself, they are definitely not using the Kangxi radical system. Here's the page from the Kangxi dictionary itself listing「老」:

enter image description here

Also, I'm sorry if this question is a bit silly, but does the Kanji in Japanese have anything to do with the Kangxi in Chinese?

No, it doesn't. Kangxi refers to the Kangxi Emperor, the one who mandated the compilation of the Kangxi dictionary. In Japanese, Kangxi is called kōseki, while kanji is the Japanese name for Hanzi/Chinese characters.

  • 1
    Thanks for this thoroughly researched and well-written answer! One minor clarification: The Kangxi radical system (btw first published a hundred years before Kangxi by Mei Yingzuo) really consists of three parts: 1) the choice of radicals, 2) the assignment of radicals to characters, 3) the arrangement of characters (in the KXD, first by radical, then by additional strokes). You totally can choose to assign other radicals where more convenient (ex. Nelson's Kanji dictionary which uses simple 'mechanical' rules to choose the radical) and still basically use Kangxi's system. – John Frazer Apr 28 '18 at 14:54
  • @JohnFrazer thanks for pointing this out, it seems like I've bought in to folk tales of where the Kangxi dictionary came from. – droooze Apr 28 '18 at 15:16

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