The number of Chinese characters

Number of characters Dictionary Period Date
3,300 Cangjiepian, Yuanlipian, Boxuepian Qin 221-206 BC
9,535 Shuowen jiezi Eastern Han 100 AD
16,917 Yupian Liang 543
26,149 Guangyun Northern Song 1011
32,200 Hongwu zhengyun Ming 1375
47,043 Kangxi zidian Qing 1716
48,000 Zhonghua da cidian ROC 1916
56,000 Xiandai Hanyu da zidian PRC 1986-90

Although around 56,000 characters have been accumulated in Chinese, only a few thousand are needed to write Modern Chinese. A large part of the 56,000 characters (40 percent) are variants of a same character (yiti).

Number of characters Coverage rate (per cent)
500 80
1,000 91
2,400 99
3,800 99.9
5,200 99.99
6,600 99.999

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