Is there any official naming of complex (not the basic ones) Chinese Characters in Mandarin Chinese.

For example, I know that the character 博 is pronounce in Pinyin as:

But If I were to, address (the name of) this particular character, and not intending to address its pronunciation, what name should I use? (example:the letter W is pronounce as "w" as in "ˈwɔːtə(r)" for the word water in the IPA of BrE but the letter itself is named (referred to as) "double u")

Note: Please add the resources link for this. I'm at a level of a beginner so please add some pinyin in your answer so that I can read it.


2 Answers 2


There's no official naming for Chinese characters. But there's several ways we use to tell from characters sharing the same pronunciation.


We use that character with an example.

A: My name is "jia".

B: Which "jia"?

A: The jia in "jia ting"(家庭).


If there's no good example, or sometimes two examples share the same pronunciation, we seperate the character.

A: My last name is "li(李)".

B: Which "li"?

A: Mu(木) Zi(子) Li(李).


We'll also use radicals.

A: My last name is "shi".

B: Which "shi"?

A: The "shi(施)" with "fang(方)".

  • The example in the Mu(木) Zi(子) Li(李) this can also be considered as "Using the Radicals" but not just the radical but using all of its root character to tell the difference? Am I wrong in assuming this? Is Mu(木) the radical in Li(李) or is it Zi(子) the radical? Sorry if this question sounded too basic. I am a newbie afterall.
    – Tomsofty33
    Jul 25, 2018 at 10:54
  • There are only 217 radicals in Chinese. Although 木 and 子 are radicals, the radical of 李 is 木, not 子.
    – NoobTW
    Jul 25, 2018 at 11:04
  • But actually no matter if you say Li with a Zi or Li with a Mu, most people know you're talking about "李".
    – NoobTW
    Jul 25, 2018 at 11:10
  • If the radical of 李 is 木, then what is the terminology for 子in this context? 子 is the "XXXX" of 李. What is "XXXX" named?
    – Tomsofty33
    Jul 25, 2018 at 14:59
  • I think there isn't. To talk about how components are consist of a character, that's another huge topic: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_character_classification
    – NoobTW
    Jul 26, 2018 at 1:23

Generally, there is no name for a single character in Chinese. Or you can say the name is the character itself, but then there are too many duplicates when you only have the reading.

To address a single character, there are often two ways, one is to describe how it is written, one is to put it into a word.

Take "博" as an example. You can say that it is the "bo2" with a "十" on the left, which is describing how the character is written. Or you can say it is the "bo2" in "博士"("博士的博"), which is putting it into a word.

For some characters, there are generally accepted ways to describe them. For example, "李" is often referred to as "木子李", and "张" is often referred to as "弓长张".

  • "but then there are too many duplicates when you only have the reading" I am not quite yet at the level to understand this statement. Can you further explain it? I'm sorry if this sounded too stupid to ask. I really just began to learn chinese.
    – Tomsofty33
    Jul 25, 2018 at 10:52
  • For example, both 猩猩 and 星星 are Xing Xing. But they have different meanings and different characters.
    – NoobTW
    Jul 25, 2018 at 11:07
  • btw what does "generally accepted ways " means? Does it mean they are "generally accepted names" for the character or perhaps even "木子李" is the official name of "李" ? Sorry I'm still pretty dumb about this
    – Tomsofty33
    Jul 26, 2018 at 0:05
  • They are generally accepted names. That means most people will use "木子李" for "李". But it is not "official", because there is no organization or government agency making standards/specifications/lists for such names. @Tomsofty33
    – fefe
    Jul 26, 2018 at 1:22
  • 1
    the case fefe mentioned is similar to a for apple, b for baby , you use a vocabulary to indicate the word/character you want to use. therefore in Chinese, you use "博士的博" to indicate you are saying 博 instead other bó .
    – Ray
    Jul 26, 2018 at 8:57

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