Kanshudo 'how to' guides

How to use the component builder to look up kanji

  • The component builder is a very fast way to look up kanji. Here we describe how it works, and provide detailed instructions for using it.
  • Use the component builder any time by going to Kanji search, and clicking on the button labeled '部 Components' just left of the search bar.
  • Click here to go directly to the component builder.
  • For a full list of component names, see the component details collection.
Basic instructions
The Kanshudo component builder provides a very fast and easy way to identify kanji you don't know:
  1. Visually identify any components used in the kanji
  2. If you know the English name of any component, start typing it
  3. Alternatively, count the strokes of the component, and find it visually
  4. Select more components as needed
  5. Identify the kanji in the kanji found area and click on it
First we provide an introduction to the interface, and a worked example. Then for those who are interested we provide more detail on the underlying concepts.
The component builder interface
When you first open the component builder, you will see a text area, some buttons, and a list of components.
Using the builder is very simple: click on any component in the list to see how it works. The component you selected is now highlighted in red in the component list, and it is also reproduced just under the buttons at the top. Any kanji that use that component are shown underneath your selected component. Plus, only components that are contained in the kanji that have been found remain clickable - everything else is grayed out. This helps you to quickly narrow down which components to use.
Plus, a really useful feature is that if a component has any variants, when you select that component, the variants are shown up next to the component details, and they are highlighted in the list. If you click on the variant in the bar at the top, the component builder will 'swap' it for the one you originally chose. This makes getting the exact form of a component used in your kanji much easier.
Let's take an example!
Let's say we want to find the kanji 栄 (which happens to mean 'to shine', or 'to be brilliant').
Even if you are just starting out, you'll probably recognize the lower part of the kanji, 木 (tree). If you know that this means tree, just start typing 'tree' into the component builder. You will see the component highlighted, and you can click on it now.
If you don't know 木 means tree, no problem: just count the strokes (there are 4), and then look for it in the section of kanji with four strokes.
When you click on 木, you'll now see two new sections - the details of 木, and below that, a list of all kanji in the Kanshudo system that contain 木 - currently there are 250+. That's a little too many to search through, so let's carry on.
At this point, you could just count the total number of strokes in the kanji (there are 9), and look through the list of kanji found. But, it would be quicker if we could add another component to narrow our search down.
So let's look at that top part of the kanji, 龸. If you've been studying for a while, you might recognize that comes up quite frequently as a component. It's not a standard radical, or a kanji in its own right, but it's a commonly used component, so you can find it in the list in the 5 stroke section. Based on the way it is used, we have given it the name 'classroom'. If you know that, you could type 'classroom'.
However, let's say you don't know that 龸 is a component. If you look closely, you might see that actually it is made of two familiar shapes - on top is a kanji that looks a bit like 小 (small). So let's type out 'small'. Now you'll see that actually several kanji are highlighted - and in fact, one of them looks exactly like the top of our kanji, ⺍. This is a variant of small.
At this point, we have narrowed it down - our kanji is displayed as the only result! We didn't even need to add 冖 (cover).
However, before moving on, let's notice one last thing: in the component details for small, you'll see not only the kanji we actually selected, ⺍, but the other two common variants (小 and ⺌). If you click on either of those, the component builder will 'swap' it for your selected component.
So this is a great shortcut when you can't find the variant you are looking for - just select any variant you can find, and you'll immediately be able to swap for the right one!
To deselect any component, you can click the 'x' to the right of the gray bar showing the component details, or you can click the component itself, either in the gray bar, or in the main component list.
Component lists and the default list
Kanshudo indexes every kanji based on all its components, not just the standard 'radical' designated for a kanji. The idea is that if you can visually identify *any* component in a kanji, you can use it to identify the kanji itself.
So for example, in printed kanji dictionaries, the character 漢 is indexed using the component on the left side, 氵, which is a variant of 水 (water). However, there are well over 200 kanji which use the same radical, so this alone is not enough to narrow things down. But if you notice that the right side is composed of 艹 口 and 夫, you now have three more components. In the component builder, selecting any two of these makes it very easy to find 漢 in the kanji found list.
By default, Kanshudo shows you a list of all components which are used in at least three other Jōyō kanji (the Jōyō kanji is the list of 2136 kanji in 'common use' - for more information see our introduction to the kanji). This list includes many standard radicals, but it excludes radicals which are not at all common (such as 龠, flute, which is neither a Jōyō kanji itself nor used in any other Jōyō kanji!). It also includes many components which are not considered radicals, but which actually occur in many Jōyō kanji, such as 𠃊, or マ, or王. For each component, any variant that meets the same criteria is also included.
You can also select two other component lists, by clicking the Change list button. The second list option is the standard list of radicals (plus variants). The third is a much more extensive list of every single component that appears in any kanji more than once. This includes many kanji you will probably not encounter unless you become a true kanji master, but if you do get to that point, it is very helpful.
Find components using their names
One really useful feature of the component builder is that you can just start typing a component name to find it in the list. For example, if you are looking for 貝 (shellfish), click on the textbox at the top of the component builder, and just start typing ... when you type an 's', many components are highlighted in yellow, but by the time you get to 'shell' only the correct one is left!
It really helps to know the names of the components, especially the most common ones. You will learn them quickly if you follow the Kanshudo system, because they are referenced consistently in every mnemonic. If you want to get a head start, you could begin with our collection, The 50 most common components.
A note on the source of component names
In general Kanshudo uses standardized component names. However, even if a kanji has a consistent meaning, often different sources will use slightly different terms for the component. For this reason, we are considering importing the names of components from other standard reference sources such as Kanji & Kana (Hadamitzky and Spahn).
The Kanshudo philosophy is to base a component name on the actual meaning of the kanji, and if there is none, to use a mnemonic meaning using the components its made up of. What we definitely don't do is to make up a component name based purely on what something might look like, with no reference to the historical meaning. Learning made up names might be a bit quicker in the short term, but we feel that in the long run that will slow you down.
To see a full list of all components in each of the lists used in the component builder, along with their names and explanatory notes, see the component details collection.
Component with name matching text entered
Component that does not appear in any kanji along with selected components
Component that does not appear in any kanji along with selected components
Selected component
Variant of a selected component
Kanji containing selected components
Change component list
By default the component builder shows the most common components (themselves joyo kanji, or used in at least 3 other joyo kanji). Select an alternative set of components below.

Full details of all components and their English names can be found here.
Help with the component builder
For detailed instructions, see the Component builder how to guide.
To find any kanji, first try to identify the components it is made up of.
For any components you recognize, if you know the English meaning or name, start typing it in the text area. Full details of all components and their English names can be found here.
Alternatively, count the strokes of the component, and scan the list to find it visually.
To find the kanji :
  • Notice that it is made of several components: 氵 艹 口 夫.
  • 氵 艹 口 all have three strokes, so you could look in the list in the 3 stroke section. 夫 has four strokes.
  • Alternatively, you could start typing 'water' (氵), 'grass' (艹), 'mouth' (口) or 'husband' (夫) in the search area, and the components will be highlighted in yellow.
  • Keep adding components until you can see your kanji in the list of matches that appears near the top.