The Chinese writing system revolves around symbols, also known as Han characters. While an English word is constructed from sounds, a Chinese character represents a concept. This logographic type of writing has been adopted by the Korean Hanja, the Japanese Kanji and the Vietnamese Han tu, according to Kwintessential. More than 47,000 Chinese symbols have been recorded in the Kanxi or Chinese dictionary; however, only 4,000 symbols are used in modern Chinese language. Several online dictionaries and tools are available for users to find Chinese symbols.

Step 1

Visit Chinese-English dictionaries on the Internet. Go to the Chinese Characters Visual Dictionary website. Peruse the Chinese symbols that are lined up on the top panel according to frequency of use. Roll over the character with your mouse. Listen to the pronunciation of the symbol in Chinese. Note the Pinyin spelling and meaning of the symbol in the call-out animation. Use the “Find Character” function to search for symbols if you know the Chinese word in Pinyin.

Step 2

Find symbols in Mandarin Chinese via nciku's online drawing application. Study the strokes of a Chinese symbol in one panel. Follow the animation as a brush tip draws the symbol. Each symbol is paired with an English translation and phonetic spelling. Scroll through nciku’s selection of symbols. Use your mouse to recreate a symbol in the drawing window. Search for your symbol in the menu of symbols that pop up in response to your mouse strokes. Learn the symbols that are used in nciku’s “Chinese Conversation of the Day.”

Step 3

Search for websites that show and translate popular Chinese symbols. Peruse the different categories of symbols on, ranging from the Chinese zodiac to lucky symbols. Explore the different symbols that the Chinese use to celebrate holidays, greet friends and name family members.

Step 4

Translate your English name into Chinese symbols. Search for English-to-Chinese conversion applications on the web. Visit My Chinese Name and enter your name in their search box. View the Chinese symbols and Pinyin pronunciation that correspond to your first name.

Step 5

Study character charts online that order Chinese symbols according to the number of strokes. Note that a character can consist of as little as one stroke to as many as 64 strokes. Study the dozen basic strokes that are used to form a Chinese symbol. Observe the change in the shape and meaning of the symbol by simply adding a stroke.