I'm looking for data that would let me estimate how much written language young Chinese at different ages know, in terms of number of characters they can read/write.

Examples of materials that would help answer this question:

  • lists of characters that Chinese pupils learn at different grades at school (ideally official lists, if there are any)
  • statistics of how many new characters they learn at each grade
  • information about how many hours at every grade are dedicated exclusively to learning characters

I'm interested in data from China and from other Chinese-speaking countries.

  • 2
    this question appears to be off topic because it's asking about China's school system and not about the Chinese language
    – 50-3
    Feb 25, 2014 at 22:44
  • 2
    I rewrote the question to emphasise that my focus is the Chinese language (more specifically, the amount of written language known by native Chinese speakers at different ages), not the school system.
    – 米好 '-'
    Feb 25, 2014 at 23:28
  • 1
    Hmm I think you could possibly check out the HSK and do the tests yourself and count the characters in each test. It's fairly easy to find data on which school years correspond to which tests. Though I'm not sure if HSK is mainly used by China or if it's more widespread than that.
    – Ming
    Feb 26, 2014 at 0:24
  • 1
    You may find this question useful, there is a database that contains the HK grade level of characters: chinese.stackexchange.com/questions/5025/… Feb 26, 2014 at 0:39
  • 4
    I don't understand how people can think a question about how children learn the characters in the Chinese language is not a question about the Chinese language. If this question gets closed I urge you to simply ask it again on the linguistics.SE site with the "language acquisition" tag. Over there we do accept that questions about how langauges are learned are questions about languages. Feb 26, 2014 at 10:26

5 Answers 5


Children usually go to grade 1 at the age of 6 or 7 in China.

According to "全日制义务教育语文课程标准", the character number that children should learn is:

Grade 1 to Grade 2: can read 1600 characters, and write 800 characters;

Grade 3 to Grade 4: can read 2500 characters, and write 2000 characters;

Grade 5 to Grade 6: can read 3000 characters, and write 2500 characters;

Grade 7 to Grade 9: can read 3500 characters, and write 3000 characters.

  • Apparently "教学汉字规范手册"(人民出版社,北京1998)contains above mentioned 3500 characters 目录摘要:第二部分。。。 41,2500个常用汉字分析。。。43,1000个次常用汉字分析。。。643,3500字汉语拼音字母顺序表。。。885,编后。。。927
    – user6065
    Feb 12, 2016 at 22:52

Children go to grade 1 at the age of 7 and when they graduated from the primary school (grade 6), they should know at least 2500 characters, and the target made by the China Ministry of Education is as follows:

  1. grade 1~2: learn 1600 characters
  2. grade 3~6: learn 900 characters

about your 3rd question, I think it should be the time for Chinese lessons, there should be at least one Chinese lesson a day, and each lesson takes 40 minutes. you can calculate it.

  • That's useful information! Do you mean that at all grades from 1 to 6, there are approximately 5 lessons of Chinese classes per week? It's still a bit unclear. At which grade the pupils know more or less enough to read, say, an article in a newspaper?
    – 米好 '-'
    Feb 26, 2014 at 9:25
  • 1
    From my education experience, there are approximately 5 lessons per week (at least, some times teachers will add extra lessons for some reasons, for example, holidays are coming, but in general, you can think 5 lessons/week). and the question about which grade the pupils can read newspaper, I think grade 3 may be a proper answer, since I have a nephew who is at grade 3, and he has no problem in reading newspapers, watching TV programs, surfing internet and playing games, children are getting smarter there years, so maybe in the future even younger pupils can read.
    – j5shi
    Feb 28, 2014 at 0:19

電子課本網 seems to provide content of textbooks that are used in schools in Mainland China. In particular, character lists found in 語文電子課本 might be useful in the context of this question.


Malaysia Chinese Essay Test :

primary school , age 7 - 12 = >120 Character; secondary 13 - 15 = >220; secondary 16 - 17 = 400 - 600; high/STPM 18 ~ 20 = >1000.

  • That's the minimum BTW, for a good level essay you have higher limits.
    – user3992
    Feb 27, 2014 at 9:27
  • Are you sure this is correct? The numbers are much lower than in other answers. And it's hard to believe that children in primary school are only required to learn 120 characters, and the minimal requirement after high school is only 1000 characters. Even the minimal literacy threshold for Chinese peasants, which is lower than for people in the cities, is 1500 characters.
    – 米好 '-'
    Feb 27, 2014 at 15:13
  • 2
    I think this answer means the number of characters required in an essay, not the number of characters a person knows. And it's the minimum, typical Secondary 16-17 can write over 2000 + Word essay easily.
    – user3992
    Mar 3, 2014 at 8:44

Chinese is one of the most remarkable pieces of art in language that human kind has ever made. In elementary school, Chinese teachers ask their students to write not only correct but beautifully by printing a picture for each character. Chinese is different from other western languages such as German, French, or English because it has no alphabet. Instead, it contains 50,000 characters. If a person knows 5000 of the most commonly used characters, he or she can read a newspaper. How many characters a person knows indicates how intellectual that person is. Chinese is one of the world’s oldest languages, and its written form, like that of most languages, developed from the pictograph.

  • 3
    I don't think this really contributes an answer to the question. It's just stating general information.
    – spex
    Feb 12, 2016 at 17:45

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