Inputting Chinese characters, An input Method based on Character shape

There are several different methods for inputting Chinese characters in a computer system. Most of these are not limited to Mac or Windows type systems.

Phonetic Input For Chinese Characters

One of the most common ways is to input characters based on their sound or pronunciation. You spell out the sound of the character and then select the desired Chinese character from a drop down menu.

You can spell a Chinese characters Mandarin pronunciation using pinyin or zhuyin, which is the "alphabet" that is used in Taiwan.

Use Easy Lookup To Find a Characters Pronounciation

Of course this means that you have to know the pronunciation of the character in question.

One way around that is to lookup the character using an Easy lookup dictionary. You can then find the characters pronunciation and use it to enter the character.

Shape Based Chinese Character Input

Another method for inputting Chinese characters is a shape based input system called the Cangjie Input method. With this method there are 24 basic shape elements, each associated with a letter of the alphabet. There are variations of these shapes but in general they allow you to type a Chinese character using no more than 5 symbols.

The Cangjie Input System Lets You Touch-Type Chinese Characters

There are some characters that use the same input codes and so for these you do have to select from a drop down box, but for the main part, the Cangjie input system allows you to actually touch type Chinese characters.

The trick is learning the method.

Tips for Remembering Some of the 24 Basic Shapes of the Cangjie Input Method

The first step is to learn the 24 basic shapes and their associated letters. This is fairly easy since they were actually designed to be easy to learn (or at least it seems this way.)


The shape that is associated with the letter g is 土 which is the Chinese character for Ground. And so it's pretty easy to remember this (since Ground begins with G).


Likewise the shape associated with the letter F is 火 which is the Chinese symbol for fire.

The Heart is a Pump

A slightly more obscure association is the symbol associated with the letter P. It is actually 心,  the Chinese symbol for heart. But if you remember that the heart is a Pump then the association is obvious.

Jesus Died On a Cross

Another obscure association is the Chinese character associated with the letter J. It is the symbol 十, a cross and actually the symbol for the number 10. Anyway, because it's a cross, one possible association is Jesus.

The Sun and the Moon

Now the very first two letters of the alphabet, A and B are associated with the Chinese Characters for Sun and Moon 日 and 月.

You could think of the sun as the Alpha in alphabet and B as the Beta.

Dead Wood

Oh yes, the character associated with D is the symbol for tree 木 which you could think of as wood, or more memorably, Dead wood. And the symbol associated with C is  金 which is metal or gold. But usually metal is Cold, which rhymes with gold.

Using Cangjie Input Codes to Input Chinese Characters

So how are these codes actually used?

Well a fairly easy example is the Chinese character for Bright 明. It has two parts, easily discernable, a sun on the right and a moon on the left, which as you hopefully remember are A and B respectively. So to input this Chinese character you just type A and B (with cangjie input enabled) and then press enter.

Using the Cangjie Input System on a Mobile Device

Note if you are using a Cangjie input system on your phone or tablet, generally you get a list of candidate characters as you type, so you'll probably see this as you type. You can then pick it if you desire, or type the whole code and then enter.

If you wanted to input the Chinese character for Sun then you just type A and then enter. For the Chinese character for Moon you type B and enter. For the Chinese character for metal or gold you type C and enter (and so on for all the other Chinese characters so far mentioned. y

Inputting the Chinese Characters for "Is"

A common Chinese character is 是 the Chinese character for the verb Is.

This character can be divided into two main parts. The first part is a sun shape and so you type A for it. The second part consists of a horizontal line 一, a vertical line with a dot 卜 and a pair of legs 人.  

These are Chinese characters in their own right and are associated respectively with the letters M, Y and O. The symbol associated with Y looks a little bit like a Y while the symbol associated with O is a man or person. An association for this one is "Oh, look a person"

And so to input the Chinese character for "is" you type a-m-y-o (but without the dashes) and then press enter.

Note that in this case the last part of the character had three elements.

Inputting the Chinese Character for Dragon

The Chinese symbol for dragon is 龍 which can be divided into a left and a right part.

For any first part, the maximum number of elements is two and so we look at the top most and bottom most part of the left side 立 and 月 to come up with its code. A dot with a line beneath it is also associated with the letter Y. You could think of the 亠 as a 卜 turned 90 degrees to the left.

The bottom part, 月 is the same as the Chinese character for moon and so to type the left part we have the partial Cangjie input code y-b.

For the right part the very top part is 卜. The part below it is a 𠃌 like shape which is associated with the letter S. (You could think of it as looking like the bottom half of an S-shape.)

The bottom-most part is similar to the Chinese character 匕 which is represented by the letter P.

Yes, P is associated with the Chinese character for heart 心 but you could think of this as the long bottom most stroke of the heart with two of the dots removed (and the position of the remaining dot "adjusted").

And so the Cangjie input code for the Chinese character for dragon is y-b-y-s-p.