Have you ever wondered what the most common Chinese characters are? In a language of approximately 50,000 individual characters, mastering the most commonly used Chinese characters—and knowing their order of frequency—will benefit you along your path to language greatness.

Whether you’re a new learner ready to begin reading and writing Chinese or a seasoned student brushing up on the basics, learners of all levels benefit from reviewing the most essential Chinese characters. The following list of 100 most common Chinese characters is based on data from classical and modern Chinese writings collected by linguist Jun Da.

The 100 Most Common Chinese characters:

1de(possessive particle), of / really and truly / aim, clear
2yī / yì /yíone / single / a(n)
3shìis, are, am, yes to be
4(negative prefix) no, not
5le/liǎo(modal particle intensifying preceding clause), (past tense marker) / to know, to understand, to know
6rénman, person, people
7I, me, myself
8zài(located) at, in, exist
9yǒuto have, there is, there are, to exist, to be
10he, him
11zhèthis/ these
12wéi / wèiact as, take…to be, to be, to do, to serve as, to become / because of, for, to
13zhīhim, her, it
14big, huge, large, major, great, wide, deep, oldest, eldest / doctor
15láito come
16to use, take, according to, because of, in order to
17(a measure word), individual
18zhōngwithin, among, in, middle, center, while (doing something), during
19shàngabove, on, over, top, (go) up, last, previous
20men(plural marker for pronouns and a few animate nouns)
21dàoto (a place), until (a time), up to, to go, to arrive
22shuōto speak, to say
23guócountry, state, nation
24hé / huòand, together, with, peace / harmony
25de / dì-ly / earth, ground, field, place, land
26too, also, as well
27child, son
28shítime, when, hour, period, season
29dàodirection, way, method, road, path, principle, truth, reason, skill, method, Tao (of Taoism), a measure word, to say, to speak, to talk
30chūto go out, to come out, to occur, to produce, to go beyond, to rise, to put forth, to occur, to happen
31érand, as well as, but (not), yet (not), (shows causal relation), (shows change of state), (shows contrast)
32yào / yāovital, to want, to be going to, must / demand, ask, request
33at, in, in regard to
34jiùat once, then, right away, only, just
35xiàbelow, under, (go) down, next (as opposed to previous/last)
36dé / de / děiobtain, get, gain, to have to, must, ought to, to need to
37can, may, able to, certain(ly), (particle used for emphasis)
40shēngto be born, to give birth, life, to grow
41from, self, oneself, since
42huìcan, able, meet, meeting, society, union, party
43that, those
44hòuback, behind, rear, afterwards, after, later
45néngcan, may, capable, energy, able
46duìcouple, pair, to be opposite, to oppose, to face, for, to, correct (answer), to answer, to reply, to direct (towards something), right
47zhe/zhuó/zhāo/zháoverb particle marking a continuing progress/state
48shìmatter, thing, item, work, affair
49his, her, its, theirs, that, such, it (refers to something preceding it)
50within, inside
52to go, to leave, to depart
53háng / xínga row, profession, professional / all right, capable, competent, okay, to go, to do, to travel, temporary, to walk, to go, will do / behavior, conduct
54guò(past tense marker), to cross, to go over, to pass (time), to live, to get along, (surname)
55jiāhome, family, a person engaged in a certain art or profession
57yòngto use
58fā/fàto send out, to show (one‘s feeling), to issue, to develop / hair
59tiānday, sky, heaven
60as (if), such as
61ráncorrect, right, so, thus, like this, -ly
62zuòto regard as, to take (somebody) for, to do, to make
63fāngsquare, quadrilateral, direction, just
64chéngfinish, complete, accomplish, become, turn into, win, succeed
65zhě-ist, -er (person), person (who does something)
66duōmany, much, a lot of, numerous, multi-
67day, sun, date, day of the month
68dōuall, both (if two things are involved), entirely (due to)each, even, already
70xiǎosmall, tiny, few, young
71jūnarmy, military, arms
73-less, not to have, no, none, not, to lack, un-
74tónglike, same, similar, together, alike, with
75me(interrog. suff.)
76jīngclassics, sacred book, pass through, to undergo, scripture
77law, method, way, Buddhist teaching
78dāng / dàngto be, to act as, manage, withstand, when, during, ought, should, match equally, equal, same, obstruct, just at (a time or place), on the spot, right, just at / at or in the very same…, to pawn, suitable, adequate, fitting, proper, replace, represent
79qǐ:to rise, to raise, to get up
80yú / yǔ / yù(interrog. part.) / and, to give, together with / take part in
81hǎo / hàogood, well / be fond of
82kān / kànto look after, to take care of, to watch, to guard / it depends, think, to see, to look at
83xuélearn, study, science, -ology
84jìnadvance, enter, to come in
85zhǒng / zhòngkind, type, race (of people), seed, type / to grow, to plant
86jiāng / jiàng(will, shall, future tense), ready, prepared, to get, to use / a general
87hái / huánalso, in addition, more, still, else, still, yet, (not) yet / (surname), pay back, return
88fēn / fènto divide, minute, (a measure word), (a unit of length = 0.33centimeter) / part
89this, these
90xīnheart, mind
91qiánbefore, in front, ago, former, previous, earlier, front
92miànface, side, surface, aspect, top, face, flour, noodles
93yòu(once) again, also, both… and…, again
94dìngto set, to fix, to determine, to decide, to order
95jiàn / xiànto see, to meet, to appear (to be something), to interview / appear
96zhī/zhǐonly, just, but, measure word for one of a pair
97zhǔto own, to host, master, lord, primary
98méi/mò(negative prefix for verbs), have not, not / sink, disappear
99gōngjust, honorable (designation), public, common
100cóngfrom, since, obey, observe, follow

How well do you know Chinese characters? Review the 40 most common Chinese radicals and the anatomy of Hànzì 汉字. Learn more.