I’ve been trying to learn Mandarin Chinese for quite a while, following the vocabulary compiled for the HSK (汉语水平考试) tests. As every Chinese learner will surely know, memorising all the characters is a rather daunting task. I often find myself mixing up similarly looking characters (like 牛 and 午 or 手 and 毛).
In order to learn these properly, I need to see them next to eachother, following a more horizontal vocabulary learning strategy nicely described by Hacking Chinese.
To facilitate my learning, I’ve compiled a list of hanzi I wish to study (based on HSK mostly) and ordered them based on similarity, or my own subjective notion of it. Then I wrote a little software tool to generate what I call hanzi grids. A hanzi grid is a study grid or matrix of chinese characters along with (optionally) pinyin and/or words, often coloured according to tone. The tool I wrote enables anyone to generate hanzi grids in all kinds of sizes, also nice for printing on A1/A0 paper and hanging on your wall as a poster and constant study reminder!
The resulting hanzi grid using my confusible ordering looks as shown below. It contains all of HSK 1 to 3 and some characters from higher levels:
The above is a just an example, you’ll want to use the scalable (SVG) version for printing. The character colours corresponds to the tones (red = first, yellow = second/rising, green = third, blue = fourth/falling, black = neutral or ambiguous), the background colours give an indication of the HSK level, so you can skip the higher levels if you’re not up to it yet.
I also made an Interactive clickable variant (desktop version), on mobile devices you will want to try the Mobile clickable variant instead. In these versions you can click characters and get a list of all HSK words that use the character:
If you’re more interested in a conventional ordering by level or pinyin then that’s possible too:
The tool I wrote allows you to include the pinyin in the grid itself, but I deliberately did not make that the default, as the pinyin is something I need to learn. Traditional characters instead of simplified is also possible.
For the software itself (free & open source!), more readily available grids, and a more detailed explanation, see hanzigrid on github.
我希望这个《汉字格》对你有用！ Happy learning! :)