I'm confused about the radicals (and the amount of levels)

Hi there!
I sincerely apologize in advance if this question has already been answered. I just couldn’t find anything related while searching the forum.

Long story short: it’s about the levels. I came here to get more familiar with the radical system, however why do we have 60 levels of Kanji radicals? Aren’t there supposed to be ~214 (± some variations). The first level contains more than 214 Kanji already, how is this even possible? :thinking:

I came from this ToFuGU post and I expected something different to be honest.
I’m a bit confused and try to make sense of all of this right now. Can you help me please? :smile:

Thanks for your help! It’s very much appreciated!

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What WaniKani calls radicals are actually more like mnemonic components - they’re used to describe kanji in as few pieces as possible.

Only some of WaniKani’s radicals are on the 214 radicals list, and I rather suspect that not all of the 214 radicals are represented on WaniKani (though I confess I haven’t counted).

If you’re here purely to study the 214 radicals specifically, this may not be the place for you. However, it does help a fair bit with informal search-by-radicals systems like Jisho has.


What are you looking at to get this impression?


Maybe they were counting the radicals in the Pleasant levels? Those are 227.


I was reading the artical you posted, and it actually explains a lot about why the radicals are not the same as the ~214 radicals you talk about.

I didn’t find the number 214 mentioned in the article so I’ll assume you got that from another source about radicals.

First, you need to learn what a radical is. There’s a chance you’ve heard of radicals before – perhaps in reference to looking up kanji in paper kanji dictionaries – but those aren’t quite the radicals we’re talking about.

In this guide, radicals are patterns and symbols that appear inside each kanji. Each kanji consists of 1–3 (sometimes four) individual radicals. Think of them as “building blocks” for creating kanji.

That says that the radicals are not the same radicals you have encounter other places. Next the author explains why there are more and how you use then as mnemonics.

In the other radicals systems these are only five “radicals”, i.e. 3 different shapes for the same radical man, etc. WaniKani gives each shape of “man” it’s one name to use in unique mnemonics to make everything easier to picture/remember. You can see how these 5 “radicals” become 12 WaniKani “radicals”. WaniKani also adds radicals made up of whole kanjis I think. Either way you can see how 200+ can become 1000+.

I know this isn’t what you were expecting but I hope you stay and give it a try.

I do think that they explain in the article that this is a Kanji learning system and will not teach you the standard dictionary radicals. I honestly recommend you reread the article you link to. Anything we say is just a rewording of that article for the most part…


214 is the number of “official” radicals derived from the Kangxi radicals of Chinese, though even in Japanese, the definition of “radical” is gradually drifting towards the “kanji component” definition favoured by WaniKani.


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