How many characters are there in the Chinese language?

March 01, 2010 | Posted by Chris

This is never a good question for someone beginning to study Chinese to ask, because the technical answer is unnecessarily daunting. In the authoritative Kangxi Dictionary there are about 47,000 different Chinese characters. However, that number is misleading, because many of those characters are no longer in use, are arcane religious terms, or refer to specific ancient historical figures or events.

The good news is that it only takes a vocabulary of 3,000-4,000 words to achieve fluency in Mandarin.

Maybe you're thinking: only 3,000-4,000 words? But this is completely within reach, because a functioning vocabulary requires far fewer words, and before you know it, fluency isn't far away.

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