Chart of Frequency of Kana used in WK Kanji readings

The chinese scholars that created kanji originally created it with built in mnemonics to make it easier for themselves, so just look up characters in and you’ll get all the information you need, specifically the glyph origin section. It shows you the history of the character, and breaks it down to the semantic and phonetic sections and what each of those means!
For instance,the butcher radical actually means city (when it’s on the right side), so characters like 都, 郡, 邸 are more are self-explanatory. The other half of the character is the phonetic side, so 君, and 氐 show you how to pronounce it.

Another example, why does moon mean body part (胸, 脳, 腕, 胃, 腹, 脚 etc)? If you go to Wiktionary you’ll see that it’s actually the character for meat, not moon! It just got mixed up cuz of how similar it looks. But it being meat makes so much sense, that you don’t even need a mnemonic to tell you that it’s a body part anymore. The other half here again is just the phonetic component. So what’s a body part (⺼) that’s pronounced ふく () called? 腹 (stomach)! You just have to know that 复 is fuku, but that’s easy, and you can even do it without realizing it. After your first character that employs it (level 27) you’re set for the rest of your kanji journey (e.g. 服複復馥覆 etc), so you only have to learn it once for it to auto-mnemonic for the rest of time.
There’s a neat script that shows you the phonetic composition just in case you missed it!

Another thing that I only discovered recently that I wish I knew before is: 礻(示) means god/altar which is why 神 is composed of it. But 衤 actually means 衣 (clothes)! Which explains why 複 means clothes. This is why Wiktionary is so essential to actually intuitively understading kanji!

All in all, make wiktionary your friend and you won’t really need mnemonics anymore! (I still use mnemonics tho cuz they are helpful sometimes, but a lot of times it’s much easier and faster to just see the semantic-phonetic composition and be on my way to the next kanji)

EDIT: An easy way to see what a character is composed of without the need to check wiktionary is to add some seal or oracle script fonts to your Jitai. I did it and it is absolutely amazing! (Recommended fonts: A hanko seal script font, A handwritten seal script font, and an oracle bone font.) It WILL be confusing in the beginning, but after a bit you’ll get used to it!

1 Like