How to learn Chinese characters (p-1)

If you are a westerner then learning Chinese characters is going to be hard and require months and years of study. But there are many things you can do to make the task slightly easier. One resource that I have been recently using is a book called “Rembering Simplified Hanzi 1” by Heisig and Richardson.

It is not a cheap book, but the book’s subtitle tells you why it could be invaluable: “How not to forget the meaning and writing of Chinese characters”. You see it can be relatively easy to learn a new character, you look at it, hide it, and then draw it a few times and in theory you have learnt it – but the hard part is remembering that same character later on.

Now Heisig’s approach is slower but more efficient! When learning each character you will spend more time learning it than with the first approach, but you save time in the long run because having learnt it once you don’t forget it, either to read or to write. A remarkable claim!

A further claim of Heisig is that “if you were to study them full time, there is no reason why all 1,500 characters in Book 1 could not be learned successfully in four to five weeks”.

The key to Heisig’s approach is that he gives you stories that stick in your mind that relate the meaning of the character to the component parts. The stories are purposefully vivid and unbelievable, but that makes them very simple to remember, and as long as you remember the crazy story then the character is straightforward to write. Therefore his book systematically teaches characters so that new characters build upon the previously learnt characters.

Below is the link of the book 《Rembering Simplified Hanzi》on Amazon.

Remembering Simplified Hanzi: Book 1, How Not to Forget the Meaning and Writing of Chinese CharactersLearn Chinese Books)



  • Sunrisemethod

    why not use a free app called “sunrise method” on the Apple store.

    It breaks all characters down into it’s components and also shows the relationship to other similar looking characters, organizing the chaos created after learning a few thousand characters.

    It also has simplified/traditional so you can sort out that mess too, and has frequency data so you focus time and energy in the right places.