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It is pretty much as the question said. I am pretty much aware of the facts that radicals are just dictionary headers so that the characters under the headers can not really have the exact forms as the headers represent and components can not really constitute any whatsoever functions to the present used characters because of the undergone evolution (including applied policies governed by areas using the characters) of glyph forms, meanings and sounds, except for guiding learners to make them easy to describe the characters in mind by associating those information of the components to the characters.

With all said above, is there any list of components that are reused multiple times in some characters that can at least, shed some commonality in its functions like readings (phonetics) or meanings (semantics)?

Either simplified or traditional form is fine to me.

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  • please note these lists will overlap, what is semantic in one character may be phonetic in another and vise versa.
    – zagrycha
    Feb 17 at 2:05
  • The concept of the phonetic component means the rime only, not the whole syllable. It does not always have the same onset (consonant + glide) .
    – PdotWang
    Feb 19 at 14:19
  • Most of the semantic components are listed in the Chinese dictionaries.
    – PdotWang
    Feb 19 at 15:47

5 Answers 5

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for oracle bone script:

漢語多功能字庫 甲骨部件表

for bronze script:

漢語多功能字庫 金文部件表

for regular script (楷書) in traditional chinese, the ministry of digital affairs of taiwan 🇹🇼, maintains the website 「CNS11643中文標準交換碼全字庫」(aka 全字庫), that, has this page, in the scrollable area:

全字庫 部件查詢

somehow, if you tolerate simplified chinese approach:

http://xh.5156edu.com/page/z9686m3559j18640.html

or, the right “division” of this page:

https://www.guoxuedashi.net/zidian/bujian/

have fun :)

1
  • Pretty useful for me to look up any character that I'm looking for that uses a specific semantic and phonetic component. Thanks for the sources!!
    – prismcool
    Feb 3 at 16:55
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characters sharing the same Old Chinese phonetic element AI, AN ... BA, page 1 of 95

{List of Chinese characters in Pinyin sequence sharing the same phonetic element AI, AN ... BA, page 1 of 95}

The 韻典網 Yùndiǎnwǎng / Yunndeanwoang website has a multi-page list of phonetics 聲符表 shēngfú biǎo / shengfwu beau, a digitized version of 上古音系Shànggǔ Yīnxì / Shanqguu Inshih “Old Chinese Phonology”, by 鄭張尚芳Zhèngzhāng Shàngfāng / Jenqjang Shanqfang [BTW, my name is on p. 583].

https://ytenx.org/dciangx/cjeng/

If you have advanced Chinese skills, you might find it useful. Printed version should still be available.

Evolution of 巴, which started out as a picture of a giant snake

The modern shapes of 巴 and 色 are misleading. 巴 was originally a pictogram of a giant snake: 巴蛇吞象,三歲而出其骨 "The BA snake swallowed an elephant and spit out the bones three years later" (some versions say 食 "eat" instead of 吞 "swallow).

evolution of the character 色 seh "appearance"

色 originally represented person #1 standing above person #2, who is kneeling while receiving a reprimand. 色 meant "angry appearance". After Clerical script was introduced, the lower portion of 色 became 巴, this leading to the mistaken idea that these two are somehow related.

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  • 2
    Just some corrections: 巴 is actually a depiction of a person kneeling with their hands emphasized grabbing something, in which case is the original form of 把; You almost got the depiction and original meaning of 色, but actually 色 comes from upside down 印, which depicts a hand (the two strokes above is the hand, originally 爪) pressing down on a person (originally 卩, now written 巴) to indicate the original meaning "facial expression (on a person)".
    – prismcool
    Feb 19 at 9:13
  • 1
    隸變 made the bottom of 色 resemble 巴, but they are not related. Otherwise, why does 説文 say 巴蟲也。或曰食象蛇。象形。凡巴之屬皆从巴。The 山海經 says sth similar. dict.variants.moe.edu.tw/variants/rbt/… Feb 19 at 13:58
  • 1
    I guess it's because it's what Xu Shen thought 巴 depicted at the time based on the seal script before the discovery of oracle bone at the time. Just a reminder, when Xu Shen was writing the Shuowen Jiezi, this was at a time where the discovery of oracle bone and bronze glyphs were not discovered so the only ancient forms Xu Shen had access to analyze was the seal script characters.
    – prismcool
    Feb 19 at 17:36
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The Make me a Hanzi database file dictionary.txt contains character decomposition data. For examples, it has lines like

{"character":"汽","definition":"gasoline; steam, vapor","pinyin":["qì"],"decomposition":"⿰氵气","etymology":{"type":"ideographic","hint":"Liquid 氵 gas 气; 气 also provides the pronunciation"},"radical":"氵","matches":[[0],[0],[0],[1],[1],[1],[1]]}

So 汽 decomposes into ⿰氵气.

ChatGPT helped me write an awk command which gives me the characters and decompositions for characters containing 气.

grep "气" dictionary.txt | awk -F'"' '{print "Character: " $4, "Decomposition: " $16}'

which outputs:

Character: 忾 Decomposition: ⿰忄气
Character: 气 Decomposition: ⿱亻?
Character: 氕 Decomposition: ⿹气丿
Character: 氖 Decomposition: ⿹气乃
Character: 氘 Decomposition: ⿹气刂
Character: 氙 Decomposition: ⿹气山
Character: 氚 Decomposition: ⿹气川
Character: 氛 Decomposition: ⿹气分
Character: 氜 Decomposition: ⿹气日
Character: 氟 Decomposition: ⿹气弗
Character: 氡 Decomposition: ⿹气冬
Character: 氢 Decomposition: ⿹气⿱又工
Character: 氣 Decomposition: ⿹气米
Character: 氤 Decomposition: ⿹气因
Character: 氦 Decomposition: ⿹气亥
Character: 氧 Decomposition: ⿹气羊
Character: 氨 Decomposition: ⿹气安
Character: 氩 Decomposition: ⿹气亚
Character: 氪 Decomposition: ⿹气克
Character: 氫 Decomposition: ⿹气巠
Character: 氮 Decomposition: ⿹气炎
Character: 氯 Decomposition: ⿹气录
Character: 氰 Decomposition: ⿹气青
Character: 氲 Decomposition: ⿹气昷
Character: 氳 Decomposition: ⿹气⿱囚皿
Character: 汽 Decomposition: ⿰氵气
Character: 饩 Decomposition: ⿰饣气

Dong-Chinese uses this (and other) datasets in its character dictionary. In particular, it lists characters with given semantic and phonetic components:

screenshot of Dong Chinese

I also note that you can find characters containing certain components in Pleco, e.g.:

screenshot of Pleco, listing characters that contain 气

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  • 1
    I wrote a similar answer before, although there I didn't mention how to extract the characters with given components.
    – Becky 李蓓
    Feb 17 at 0:24
  • Oh yeah just to note btw, if you see a long list of characters in red that use the primary sound component as a "meaning component", it just probably means that the automated database from Make Me A Hanzi is being used in the entry and is not verified yet. Just thought I let you know and anyone else who looks up the roles of some components on Dong Chinese :)
    – prismcool
    Feb 17 at 8:05
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referring to the other two answers, somethings that i want to say:

“phonetic components” is **unreliable**, there’re many exceptions

one of the answer shown “巴” ba1 as a phonetic components (聲符), and listed characters with such components

it’s misleading, imo; considering such list missed:

肥 fei4

巵 ji1

色 sik1

edited, one more:

邑 yap1

when both “吧” & “邑” are composed by “口” & “巴”; how to explain “巴” as phonetic component, with different “sound” in this case?

have fun :)

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First of all, please remember, and meanwhile tolerate, that the answers to your question will have exceptions, maybe many exceptions. Therefore, some "rules" may help the students to learn Chinese characters, or adversely MISLEAD them to mistakes.

Your question on the components 偏旁 that constructed the Chinese characters 汉字 can be rooted in 六书 (The six principles of constructing Chinese characters): 象形 (pictograph), 指事 (direct indication), 会意 (compound ideograph), 形声 (phono-semantic compound), 假借 (loan word), and 转注 (derivative cognate).

Most of the characters related to your question would belong to 会意 (compound ideograph) and 形声 (phono-semantic compound).

The so-called component 偏旁 is from the concept that a Chinese character 汉字 can be taken apart into its constituent pieces and each of the pieces is a component 偏旁. You can separate a Chinese character 汉字 into two, three, or even more parts employing left-to-right 左右结构, upper-to-lower 上下结构, or inside-to-outside 内外结构. Please note that each component 偏旁 may be or NOT be another character 汉字, may have or NOT have a meaning of something (neither semantic nor phonetic, 既不表意 也不表声).

People take advantage of the concept of component 偏旁 to assemble a dictionary or various lists in textbooks. Those components 偏旁 used in the dictionaries are called indexing components 部首. Most of the indexing components 部首 are a semantic component.

For the translation to English, I would use the word "component" for "偏旁" and the word "radical" for "部首". A "component" can be any part of a Chinese character. A "radical" is especially an index used in a dictionary to find a Chinese character. Different dictionaries can have different lists of "radicals", depending on the authors of the dictionary.

For example:

草 (cao3) has the semantic component "grass radical" on the top and the phonetic component of "ao" in 早 (zao3).

桃 (tao2) has the semantic component "wood radical" on the left and the phonetic component of "ao" in 兆 (zhao4).

跳 (tiao4) has the semantic component "foot radical" on the left and the phonetic component of "ao" in 兆 (zhao4). (not including the consonant and the glide).

The phonetic component usually includes only the rime part, not the onset part, of the syllable of the root character.

Another case using "radical" is 会意 (compound ideograph). For example:

泪 (lei4) has the semantic component "water radical" on the left and the ideograph component of "eye" 眼睛 (目).

As said before, there are many exceptions.

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