Advice Needed - Visually Similar Kanji

Room and clubroom got me mixed up a couple times too. The (top to bottom) ground-private-dirt radicals are in both of them. Here’s how I concrptualize it: when I’m in my room, I’m constantly cognizant of the position of the roof (or the ceiling). The flag radical looks like a roof to me. It looks like the way I think of the ceiling when I’m in a room (it includes walls; the flagpole is the wall). And… ugh, the roof radical in 室, well it’s more like the roof/ceiling of a room I’m not in; I only see the top and it doesn’t surround me.

部屋 I think of as my/someone’s unique and personal room, and the 屋 kanji feels more personal to me than 室 which feels more generic. Especially because it’s used as a generic ~room suffix.

There’s always a slight difference in the radicals used, so paying close attention to them is your only option.

Seconded. Write them out when you learn them and when you get them wrong, if not every time you review.

This is really good well-meaning advice but I think my issue is that I’m completely unaware of the difference whatsoever. There’s only one of them on the screen at a time so I have no chance to compare them. I know WK by default has some kind of support for visually similar kanji but it’s kind of a chore to try to go through and find the kanji in their list. I’m looking for a way to have visually similar kanji pop up on my screen so that I can do a comparison. Something like confusion guesser might be good but it seems a little more extensive than what I wanted. I was hoping for something focused on visually similar kanji.

I’m getting a lot of replies saying to write out the kanji. I don’t mean to be dismissive but I feel like that’s more time than I really want to spend on visually similar kanji. Ideally I’d just like some way to quickly compare then for 10 seconds and understand why they are different.


This looks like what I wanted, thank you.

Is there a way to search through available scripts so I don’t have to bug you guys every time?


bro im s t i l l getting destroyed by those




Oh my god all this time I thought it was the kanji on the left that was different! No wonder I couldn’t tell the difference.


Haha funny for the first one I always read it as ぶや so it’s makes me think of Splatoon then I laugh then I write へや… EVERY SINGLE TIME ^^"


I think the only reason I got past this was I managed to burn 部室 by some miracle and so it’s gotta be 部屋 when it comes around. :wink:


Yeah I’ve been relying on knowing which one is currently in apprentice but obviously that’s not the point of WK… since someone posted the comparison screenshot I’ve been doing much better with it. I don’t have any issue with room and shop, it was just that first kanji being the same that threw me off.


True, although I think I managed to burn 部室 by watching anime where they used it a lot so I gave myself a pass on that one. hehe


Roofs, hooves


Uh… I don’t know if this is any use, but it might help to understand the meaning of the individual kanji in each case? I know it’s more of a recognition issue because you see 部 and perhaps can’t remember how the meaning changes with what comes next, but maybe if you can somehow associate the meanings with the shapes?
部屋 is likely ateji (i.e. characters chosen because they sound the same as the Japanese word), but you can still associate meaning with the shapes of the kanji: 尸 looks like a roof (see the covering at the top and the sloping section that lets rain run off?), and so the character means roof/house, and a part-house is just a room.

部室: in ancient writing, the 宀 radical looked more like a bell jar. Some examples:
Seal script
Oracle bone script

甲骨文,象形文字,金文,篆文,汉字的演变 甲骨文,象形文字,金文,篆文,汉字的演变
So you can really think of it as a room inside a building. In this case, 部 on its own means ‘club’, not ‘part’, so it has to be a clubroom. This is a compound word composed of the meanings of the two kanji, whereas 部屋 feels more like a single word.
By the way, I get this sense that 室 on its own already means ‘room’, often ‘room for a specific purpose’, whereas 屋 on its own does not mean ‘room’

I know that you’re aware of which is which (based on this^ post), but I was just hoping I might help make the connections more vivid. All the best with such kanji anyhow!


Oh man, there’s a ton of this.
For 部屋 and 部室 the way I remember is that 部屋 is also used to refer to a sumo stable and the 尸 is the heavy body of the wrestler making the 屋 character top-heavy.

壹vs. 臺 (“1” - “Platform”) was a particular bugbear for a long time. The bottom part of 壹 has 一豆, “one bean”, so it must be counting the number 1. for 臺, the weight of the 吉 “auspiciousness” needs extra support from the bottom half, so it’s a platform or deck.

人 - people walk with evenly balanced legs
入 - it’s a slide to let you enter


I quite like your way because it’s more coherent: 尸 is technically the body/corpse radical. Apparently though, the source character involved 尸 on top of 厂 (roof/factory radical), so it was someone sitting down. The 厂 has since been removed though. I shan’t go into too much detail coz it’ll become confusing for OP, but apparently both 屋 and 室 originally had something to do with a room for resting. The difference was who was inside. (@mpernst I’m sure you’ll be able to search for the etymology if you want. Some dictionaries quote the explanation from 說文解字, but it should be ok since your Chinese might be better than mine: I’ve only ever tried the HSK 5 even though I started Chinese as a toddler. Hahaha. Your other mnemonics are nice too!)


Thanks everyone! I may not have made it clear in the OP, but the issue is not seeing the differences in similar kanji, rather than not remembering them. I am looking for a way to quickly do a visual comparison. When theMusicalninja posted the comparison screenshot of room and clubroom it cleared up the problem right away. I tried using the similar kanji section on the kanji pages but the two items aren’t side-by-side so there’s a lot of scrolling involved and it’s not very convenient.


Yeah, I think I’ve just gotten used to doing it that way. I used to switch to Jisho during a lesson to do this but it because too much work so I just use the WK list now.

黄 and 横 still trip me up sometimes.

That’s cool about the etymology. I definitely need to spend more time with the background of the language.

I think there’s a big gap between what and how the HSK tests and real knowledge or proficiency. A friend of mine from Europe who has a degree in Chinese literature he did in Chinese in China didn’t pass HSK 5 his first time but has outrageously good Chinese.

Speaking of starting it as a toddler, I always liked studying with heritage speakers the best. They’ve lived the language (even if it’s another dialect), so they get the nuances and level up so quickly it’s easy to get left behind. Other foreign learners are often content to dawdle their way through and native Chinese speakers are way too forgiving and accommodating in speaking with foreigners (as long as you don’t look Chinese… then there’s no sympathy lol).

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I can’t confirm your observers about foreign learners, but it’s true that they generally have the option to give up. I’m ethnically Chinese, so yeah, no sympathy – people from mainland China (IDK about the other Chinese-speaking territories) will judge you severely if you can’t speak Mandarin well. I remember worrying my Mandarin wasn’t good enough when I was headed to China for my first visit, and I ended up having to explain some awkward situation while I was there because my mother wasn’t feeling well and Mandarin isn’t her native dialect, so what she was saying wasn’t making much sense. Luckily that worked out. Truth is though, I’ve never learnt my mother’s dialects (my grandparents are from two different dialect groups). I intend to when I’ve got the time. The reason I’ve never learnt (guess I shouldn’t tiptoe around it)… I’m from Singapore, so the school system imposed Mandarin. I never needed the dialects, visiting my grandparents aside (in which case I roughly understand, but can’t say a word). As you’ve noticed though, most people in Singapore have a tendency to mix other languages into their Mandarin, and English is the main language so Mandarin doesn’t even get used to describe the surroundings. As for specialised vocabulary, the furthest we get without self-study is writing about government policies in essays for our final exams. Otherwise, Mandarin is most useful for… ordering ‘mixed vegetable rice’ (the sort where you ask for a bunch of dishes and everything ends up on one plate with some rice underneath) and watching television (thank goodness there are more shows from Hong Kong and China now – their language use is so much more interesting). I mean, I know I don’t come across many characters I don’t know even in the news (e.g. I translated an article on real estate trends for a friend with some dictionary help for technical terms) and I can probably understand basic chemistry by using a mix of my knowledge of science and what I know about hanzi. I also love period dramas, so I enjoy deciphering Classical Chinese. (Side note: I find that non-Mandarin dialects’ grammar/word usage is closer to Classical Chinese. More single-character expressions.) Otherwise though, I don’t need to use Mandarin for anything demanding, unless I’m asking my former teacher how she’s doing.

EDIT: Just realised this is super-off-topic. :laughing: