February 03, 2018

Understanding Chinese Characters

Learn to recognize 70% of Chinese characters you encounter in a few weeks.

Maybe you want to learn Chinese characters but don’t know where to begin. Or maybe you’ve started studying Chinese characters but found them difficult to remember. Or maybe you would like to have deeper knowledge about Chinese characters that is historically accurate but not overly academic.

Understanding Chinese Characters helps you understand Chinese characters for what they really are, combining the best modern Chinese character academic research with the best learner experience.

This book will give you a firm foundation in how Chinese characters are put together so that you have a deep understanding not only of the characters in the book but also countless other characters that you are likely to come across. You won’t be memorizing endless mnemonics to master each character—you’ll understand how each character sounds and what it means, based on its structure and history.

Books about Chinese characters are either very difficult to read, because they've been written by researchers and are not intended for the everyday learner, or are very reader-friendly and appealing like Chineasy, but are also very imprecise, incomplete, impractical and just frustrating.

Understanding Chinese Characters is easy to read and yet as accurate as the latest academic research allows.

My story learning Chinese characters

When I started learning Mandarin, in a Chinese department, specializing in Chinese character etymology, I was very frustrated because the academic books we were using, while precise, were cluttered with technical data and very difficult to read. Meanwhile, my friends outside of a formal academic program, who were learning Chinese on their own, were learning from books intended for the general reader, which were easier to read but imprecise or downright inaccurate.

After years and years of Chinese character research and after becoming proficient in Mandarin Chinese and Classical Chinese, I was asked by a friend if I could recommend a solid Chinese character book for him, a book that would cover everything a learner would need in a very fast and functional way yet would be precise and even visually appealing. After having read more than 100 books in Mandarin and Classical Chinese, I couldn’t. There was no such book on the market.

I first started building up a list of characters I could recommend to my friend and any beginner learning Chinese characters and started to write the absolute scientific minimum for each character, explaining its structure, pronunciations and meanings which educated native speakers of Mandarin use. This soon turned into a massive project, taking more than 5 years to complete involving a team of more than 20 people, which ended up in the publishing of this book.

Even though we are self-published and had a minimal budget, I'm very proud of our work. I honestly do believe that the result of this effort is the best book about Chinese characters on the market to this date. It is academically precise, reader-friendly and functional. We wrote it with great professionalism and attention to detail with one goal in mind: to let the reader accurately understand and learn Chinese characters as fast as possible in the most pleasurable and functional way.

Understanding Chinese characters is a book that compiles years of Chinese character study in a concise and understandable way for the learner.

Written by Vladimir Skultety, a graduate of Chinese studies specialized in Chinese character etymology and a polyglot speaking 15 languages working as an interpreter of Mandarin Chinese, English and Slovak.

Buy now for € 24.99 (+VAT)

Free Character practice sheets included

Key features

  • suitable for anyone looking to understand and learn Chinese characters quickly and effectively
  • simple enough for beginners, detailed and accurate enough for advanced learners
  • characters in the book cover up to 70% of most modern texts written in Chinese
  • contains both Traditional and Simplified characters with equal emphasis put on both
  • free printable character practice sheets with correct stroke order included
  • based on years of extensive and very detailed academic research, but written in a way which clear, to the point and avoids academic clutter
  • high quality color images
  • custom designed illustrations
  • custom painted Oracle bone characters
  • licensed beautiful Seal Script font
  • 273 pages


"The author clearly put a lot of thought into this book and specifically tailored it to make it easily accessible to the masses of people who are interested in finding out more about the Chinese language and the history of how Chinese characters came about. 

The book is written in a very down-to-earth style and addresses a lot of frequent questions people have as they embark on their long journey of learning Chinese and coming to grips with the seemingly insurmountable writing system."

"This book is a very 'clean' and precise piece of work. It presents the information you need without any waffling. (I find that many other books in the same field resort to complicated back-stories and interpretations of characters that don't necessarily help you to remember them). 

The explanation of how different Chinese characters are constructed is very clear and useful. The focus on only the most essential characters also helps a beginner to not feel overwhelmed. Thanks to the author for this very practical addition to my library!"

"As a native speaker of Mandarin Chinese and a certified medical interpreter, I have to say that this is really an amazing book. It’s a very sophisticated and well-thought-out analogy but explained in an easy-to-understand way. The presentation of the Chinese characters and explanation of the tones are creative, animated, and the color-coding makes it easy to follow the explanations (the lil icons are quite cute too!). The high quality content just further illustrates the author’s knowledge, depth of understanding in the language and how much effort has put into the whole language-learning process. This is not only a great resource for those currently learning Mandarin Chinese, but also a great read and eye-opener for native speakers as you would greatly appreciate the beauty of Chinese characters. Highly recommended."


If you buy the book now, you'll get my beginner's Mandarin Chinese noun list (both simplified and traditional) for free. If you like, read more about the project here.

Spring discount

Original price € 34.99 

Full refund

I hope you'll find the book useful and enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it, but if within 30 days after your purchase, for any reason you should think it wasn't what you were looking for, your payment will be fully refunded.


  1. Hi. I found this 春韶鸣喜 written on a cup. It's probably in Classical Chinese. Can you guess what it's supposed to mean?


    1. Hello Pablo,

      I didn't know, so I had to ask my Taiwanese friends. They didn't know either and had to google it.

      It's the name of a painting from the 宋 dynasty. 春韶 means 'beautiful spring'. Literally 春韶鳴喜 means 'chirping birds bringing good news in beautiful spring'.

      Here is the painting:

      Hope it helps,


    2. ¡Muchas gracias!

  2. Cau Vlado!

    V prvom rade Ti chcem zlozit obrovsku poklonu a zopakovat, co si uz istotne cital/pocul mnohokrat, no zasluzis si to - si neskutocne inspirativny clovek a muz a si dokazom toho, coho vsetkeho je ludska bytost schopna ked ma sformulovane motivacie a ide si za svojim cielom.

    Kniha vyzera fakt velmi zaujimavo, urcite si ju kupim. Mandarin chinese som sa zacal ucit uplne nedavno, mozno 3 tyzdne dozadu, no tuzim preniknut do tohto jazyka tak hlboko, ako sa mi podari.

    Mam na Teba par otazok a zaroven pripomienok (viem, ze niektore z tych otazok si uz urcite tu na svojom blogu zodpovedal, ale snad to prezijes :D):

    1) Kedy si sa zacal ucit cinstinu?
    2) Vedel by si pripadne napisat nejaky uplne kratucky prispevok s odporucenim na kanal/videa na YTB, ktore by mohli sluzit ako dobry audio zdroj pre uplnych zaciatocnikov? Mozno aj nieco, co si pocuval Ty.
    3) Tento bod uzko suvisi s bodom 2). Nevies o nejakom video/audio materiali, s ktorym si clovek moze trenovat listening? Kde si moze overit, ci to, co napisal na papier je dobre?Napr. schopnost spravne rozlisovat tony (ná - zobrat a nà - tam.)
    4) Posledna vec - vedel by si zvazit do buducnosti pisat ku kratkym cinskym vetam (napr. idiom z posledneho blogu) ich transkripciu v pin yin? (Myslim normalne europskou abecedou.) Pre uplnych zacistocnikov ktori nepoznaju este ziadne znaky by to mohlo byt prinosom. Samozrejme je to iba navrh.

    Vopred velmi dakujem za ochotu odpovedat a prajem pekny den

    Rafael Jan Sepp

    P.S.: Ospravedlnujem sa za trocha komplikovane formulacie bodov.

    1. Ahoj Rafael,

      dakujem velmi pekne za komentar:)

      K Tvojim otazkam:

      1) Cinsky som sa zacal ucit v r. 2007
      2) Ja som pocuval len audio-lekcie na stranke chinesepod.com. Nic lepsie som vtedy nenasiel a teraz zial nemam prehlad. Momentalne ak nieco pocuvam, tak len cinske spravy.
      3) Neviem, ci celkom chapem otazku. Myslis nejaku stranku, kde povies slovo po cinsky a stranka ti povie, ci si ho vyslovil spravne?
      4) Mozem, preco nie:)

      Vsetko dobre,


    2. Cau Vlado,

      vdaka velmi za odpoved. Ospravedlnujem sa za neskoru reakciu.

      K bodu 3) - myslel som to tak, ze napr. (mozno aj na youtube) najprv hlas vyslovi nejake slovo a nasledne sa zjavi napisane v pin yin. Lebo aspon ja ako uplne basic zaciatocnik mam teraz zo zaciatku najvacsi problem s tym ze neviem, ci som dobre pocul, ci ucitelka povedala 1.ton/2.ton/3.ton/4.ton...

      Pekny den,


    3. Cau Vlado,

      sory, odpisujem/odpovedam po viac ako 2 mesiacoch.

      K bodu 3) No skoro. Myslel som, ze Ti stranka akoby 'predcita' slovo/frazu a nasledne si mozes v pin yin overit, ci si to ''dobre pocul''. Vies, lebo ked clovek este nevie znaky, tak dokaze citat iba pin yin aj s prislusnymi styrmi tonmi. Ale rozumiem, ze v tomto uz asi tiez nemas velmi prehlad, lebo nemas preco, kedze tam zijes a Tvoja uroven je uz znacne za potrebou overovat si, ci pocujes spravne.

      Mimochodom, vsetko najlepsie k meninam! Keep being such an inspiration for others! Névnapi köszöntés kívánok! Happy name-day!

    4. Ahoj Rafael,

      prepac, ze sa tvoj komentar zobrazil na mojom blogu az teraz. Automaticky bol z nejakeho dovodu zaradeny medzi spam a bolo ho treba manualne povolit. Nesledujem spamovy priecinok, lebo google vacsinou spam filtruje dobre, takze som si to nesimol.

      Ako ide cintstina?