Chinese character (or Chinese Symbol) Character maps aim to solve two main problems with learning Chinese characters.
- The first is making Chinese characters easier to lookup with minimal "pre-knowledge".
- The second is making Chinese characters easier to input, even when you don't know their pronunciation.
Character maps are A0 "poster" sized pdf files. These files can be printed (for personal use) on a0 or a1 sized paper or viewed relatively easily on screens as small as 13 inches. The S1 series focuses on simplified Chinese characters and includes 6912 Simplified Chinese characters shape sorted into 12 shape-based groups.
A key differentiator is that these groups are all based on the characters initial element. That can be the characters left-most, top-most or outer-most element.
Each group is further divided into a maximum of 16 sub-groups. For sub-groups that are particularly large, say for characters that begin with a 口, 艹,氵, 木,扌 etc. these characters are further subdivided based on their second element, using the same 12 shapes.
The S1 series divides its 6912 characters across 6 pages.
Now just making characters easy to look-up is one thing. There are currently three types of character maps.
- The first type includes the cangjie input code.
- The second includes the mandarin pronunciation using pinyin.
- The third type includes a single English definition.
The first type is perhaps the most important type if you want to learn how to input Simplified Chinese characters using a shape based input system. This system, the "cangjie input system" is included for free Mac operating systems and can also be used with Windows.
The cangjie input system basically maps 24 basic shapes to 24 letters of the alphabet (z isn't used and x is used for special cases.) These mappings and simple tips for remembering them are included on the cover page of all character map pdf files. But as a quick preview:
- The letter C maps to the character 金 which means metal or gold. I like to remember that Gold (and other metals) tend to be Cold.
- The letter D maps to the character 木 which means tree or wood. I remember it as Dead wood.
- Then there's E which maps to 水 which is water. A similiar character is 永 which is Eternal.
You can download a preview of all three types of Character map here (all in one file):
character map sample file
Each type of map is sold individually so that you can pick the one that you want to use.