Easy Lookup Initial Element for Traditional and Simplified Chinese Characters

The Initials Index of the Easy Lookup Chinese English Dictionary makes Chinese character lookup easier by dividing Chinese characters into 12 categories based on their initial element.

So that using the initials index is easier, it helps to understand what the initial element of various types of Chinese characters is. While obvious in a lot of cases, the frustration comes when dealing with the unexpected or unusual cases.

Generally the initial element of a character is:
the top most part, the left most part, or the surrounding part.

Figuring Out a Chinese Characters Initial Element for Easy Lookup

The characters below all begin with surrounding parts.


The surrounding part is a box shape so they all belong to the Box category.

The characters below also begin with surrounding parts:

凵 凶兇鬯

Their surrounding parts are a Bottom shape, so they belong to the 凵 or bottom Category.

For these characters the first part isn’t the 㐅 shape, but instead the 凵 shape.

For the characters below the initial part is the top part,the 艹 shape which is a group within the Hat 八 category:


For theses characters the initial part is the 土 shape on the left which is a group within the Cross 十 category:


The initial element of these characters is the 木 shape also on the left, also a group within the Cross category:


Differentiating Cross and Vertical Groups

The cross shape and the vertical shape are potentially easy to mix up.

As an example, these characters are all part of 聿 group within the cross category:
聿盡隶肅 書晝畫劃

These characters too are part of the cross category (in the 韋 group):


As are these characters (the 乜 group) :


In all cases either the bottom end of the vertical stroke or the right end of the horizontal stroke has a bend or hook.

These characters are part of the 巾 group of the vertical category:

These characters are part of the 皮 group within the same category:

And these characters are part of the 冘 group, again part of the vertical category:

In all cases the horizontal stroke begins with a corner. It's because of this feature that all of these characters are grouped within the vertical category and not the cross category.

Understanding the Groups of the Hat Category

The Hat category is made up of symmetrical shapes. The first groups in this category have inwards or outward angled dots:
丷 or 八.

The latter groups in this category are made up of squarer, more vertical shapes like:
廾,廿 and 艹.

Now instead of being angled, the dots are more like a pair of vertical lines with a horizontal line passing through them or below them. This is one way to recognize that these latter shapes aren't part of the Cross category. It's because there are two relatively symmetrical vertical lines as opposed to just one.