There are a few fixed expressions to differentiate between and describe characters, as mentioned in this answer, and these are also used as names for the characters when talking about them:

  • 白勺的 for 的
  • 土也地 for 地
  • 双人得 for 得

There are more of these, but the number is fairly small as only some of the more common characters have such a name (or description). There probably aren't more than a few handful (but correct me if I'm wrong): the ABC dictionary actually only lists the ones already mentioned above.

I'm asking for a comprehensive list of these character descriptions.


I know that StackExchange is not a good place for list questions, as argued here. However, if the list is not open-ended, but has a limited number of entries, then it should be a good fit to the site. This has also been suggested for the German language Stack (in German). The list could be a community wiki answer.

  • As such descriptions are colloquial innovations, I doubt that a comprehensive list exists. – droooze Dec 3 at 9:54
  • Take a look at this list: patents.google.com/patent/CN101017618A/zh it has a few of the "two part" breakdowns, i.e.: 丝工红, 四非罪, 日勿易 - but once you figure out the pattern you can just breakdown characters this way yourself without the need of a reference. – user3306356 Dec 3 at 10:05
  • @drooze Ah I see, I thought there was some sort of convention: if these descriptions were arbitrary, people wouldn't be able to understand them, right? And since the characters have existed for some time (well, at least since the reform), and since no new characters are added, and since people talk about the same characters, they use the same descriptions. Or would anybody refer to 得 as 旦寸得? – Philipp Dec 3 at 10:16
  • 2
    There can't be a universal convention, because (1) character component arrangement isn't restricted to left-right or up-down (how would you describe 鬱?), and (2) characters aren't uniformly standardised across the Chinese-character world. For example, you'd easily end up writing someone's name wrong using this method on, say, 鄭/郑. Personally, I would only use this method if a two-character word or the name of a famous historical person isn't easily found for the character; even a joke comment like 我姓紅,紅綠燈的紅 is more understandable than 絲工紅. – droooze Dec 3 at 10:20
  • Even the question mentioning 雙人得, well, unless the context is clear that you're talking about differentiating between the characters 的, 地, and 得, 雙人"de" might as well refer to 德. – droooze Dec 3 at 10:32

The characters with same or similar pronunciation are usually distinguished by making a word from them, like

我叫柳星雨,雨是下雨的雨,不是宇宙的宇

The only common one I recall is the following where sometimes people are trying to distinguish between two surnames both pronounced as zhang

弓长张 and 立早章

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