How to use memory palace for Chinese characters

I already speak Chinese and do speak the language everyday, but I would like to learn to read casually(read blogs, articles, etc etc). That means I need about 3000 characters maybe. Is memory palace a good fit, or is there a better method? As you guys know, Chinese characters do not use alphabets so it’s hard to breakdown to create a story. Some characters resemble a drawing of the word, but not all is the case. Also, some words I need to memorize are adjectives and not nouns.

Will simply placing the characters around the palace help with memorization, or is there a better way? I do try to breakdown the word by radicals, but a lot of time, they don’t relate to the word.

Any suggestions would be appreciated

Hi and welcome to the forum! Some years ago I learned about 800 Chinese characters, but that was before I knew anything about the method of loci. I did find that breaking the characters down into parts and identifying the radical was often helpful. As you say, many (a vast majority) of the Chinese characters don’t resemble a picture of the word, but rather are a combination of a radical and a phonetic component, the phonetic part sometimes being difficult to understand how it’s related.

Nevertheless if you can pull out a few identifying features of the character and make a little story about it, even if the story has nothing to do with the etymology of the character itself, it can be helpful to identify that character when you read it. As I learned, reading is far easier than writing the characters, so if you don’t need to learn the writing part that will save a lot of time.

If I was to apply some of the mnemonic techniques I now know I would certainly do something with the tones to remember them better like add a defining characteristic to the character’s corresponding image or group the characters in a memory palace based on similar tones. But if you already speak one of the Chinese dialects you may not need that part.

In my current language study I use a spaced-repetition flash card system (Anki) to review flashcards of vocabulary, and always add a unique image to the flashcard. I have a few flashcards without images and they are definitely harder to remember. Anki’s shared decks page has a deck from the Oxford Picture Dictionary 2nd Ed which has been a great resource for me to add corresponding words in another language (it includes English words and pronunciations). Otherwise use something like Google Image search to add any image to a vocabulary word and it will help immensely to cement that word in your mind. Adding the method of loci component to this whole mix could be beneficial but requires more time as well.

Also YellowBridge’s website and Pleco’s app are great resources for Chinese language learning.

There are some people like Aaron Ralby who are tackling the integration of language and MOL with VR. He doesn’t have anything for Chinese yet and the concept is still in its infancy but I see a lot of potential there.

I gave a long explanation about this sometime ago, but I cannot find it.
I assign a person to various parts of the characters (not necessarily radicals)
For instance:
止 zhi3 [Aragorn]
幸 xing4 [Elrond]
氏shi4 [Ent]
隹 zhui1 [Frodo]
殳 shu1 [Galadriel]
干 gan14 [Gandalf] (幹)
廣 guang3 [Gimli]
肖 xiao4 [Goldberry]
余yu2 [Gollum]
兆 zhao4 [Legolas]
臣chen2 [nazgul]
丂 kao3 [Orc]
欠 qian4 [Sam]
召 [Saruman]
辛 [shelob]
寺si4 [Tom Bombadil]
亶 dan4 [troll]
Then, I create small stories for each character. This has been very useful for me, I don’t know if it works the same for others. I don’t use loci here.
I discovered that 隹 is used a lot, and that I had difficulty remembering the characters that had that part. So I assigned Frodo.
Example of character using this method.

This is Frodo with a pair of binoculars, hidden under a bush (because obviously the dark riders are coming), and he is watching. Frodo 隹 (just because) with a pair of binoculars 吅 (because of the graphical representation) under a bush 艹 ( because of the meaning) watching 見 (because of the meaning)。 Perhaps it seems complex, but it has been useful for me.

Below is my “study” about this character. Sorry for adding a long list, but just to show how useful it has been for me. I use a bit of Spanish here and there too.
I don’t use this system to learn the pronunciation. For that I use something else.

隹 zhui1 (short-tailed bird) [Frodo]
隻 zhi1 (class. For birds and some animals, one of a pair) [OK]
雙 shuang1 (two, double, pair) [OK]
售 shou1 (to sell, to make or carry out a plan: 售貨,售票口) []
進 jin4 (to advance, to enter, to admit, into, in) [OK]
集 ji2 (to gather, to collect, class. for episodes: 集團,籌集,合集) [Frodo on a tree collecting berries]
椎 zhui1(spine) 脊椎,椎骨(vertebra, backbone)[Frodo felt from the tree and broke vertebra]無脊椎動物/ chui2 (a hammer) ???
雚guan4 (archaic, stork, heron)… Decir que es, tonto.
(Frodo bajo un arbusto con binoculares)
歡 huan1
觀 guan1 [under a plant (艹), with his binoculars (吅) Frodo (隹) watches (見)] 觀念
灌 guan4 (to irrigate) [frodo irrigating the same bush under which he is watching with the binoculars]
奞 [Frodo con sombrero chino]
奪(夺) duo4 (to seize, to take away forcibly, to strive for) [Frodo with a hat striving to advance an inch in the mountain]
奮(奋) fen4 (exert oneself) [Frodo with hat working in the field of Hobbiton, exerting himself]興奮
淮 huai2 (name of a river) [Frodo junto al río]
準凖 (准) zhun3 (accurate, standard, quasi-) [Frodo measuring the level of the river by introducing a stick in the water]

匯 (汇) hui4 (to remit, to converge (of rivers), to exchange,匯出) [Frodo build a tent besides the river to exchange money]
Principal Frodo 維 No es sub
維 wei2 (to preserve, to maintain, to hold together, abbr for Uighur) [Frodo vestido de seda] guarda la… compostura
維護 思維 維持
Sub 羅<維 4 hobbits vestidos de seda
羅(罗) luo2 (to collect, to gather, to catch) [4 hobbits vestidos de seda… in Rome… tied to the obelisk] {all derivations pronounced luo2}
蘿 luo2 (radish 蘿蔔) [4H eat radish in St. P. S.]
鑼 luo2 (gong一面鑼,鑼聲,敲鑼,鑼鼓) [4H build a giant gong with the gold they found in Rome and hang it in the obelisk at St. P. S.]
邏 (逻) luo2 (logic, patrol: 邏輯,巡邏,模糊邏輯) [4 hobbits vestidos de seda caminando… Estudian lógica???]
玀 luo2 name of a tribe
曪 ?
Sub 崔 Frodo mirando la montaña
崔 cui1 (high mountains) [Well, just Frodo watching THAT high mountain ]
催<崔 cui1 (to urge, to press, to rush sb) [while Frodo is watching the mountain, a person by his side is rushing him to start walking] 催逼,催促,催谷,催淚,催眠術
隼 sun3 (Falcon) esay to mix with 準。[The falcon saved frodo… ???] 鶽?
雇 Frodo dentro de una casa
雇(僱)gu4 (to employ, to hire, to rent) 解雇,雇員,雇主,牢固關係 [A man, Gandalf, arrives to the house of Frodo, to hire him for a trip]
顧gu4 (to look after, to take into consideration) [OK]
雍 Algo descriptivo… Frodo…
雍 (邕) yong1 (harmony, surname Yong,) [Frodo finds harmony under his roof in Hobbiton] No, muy complicado.
擁 (拥) yong1,tw3 (to hold, to embrace) 擁抱,擁有 [Frodo embraces Bilbo at the door of Hobitton]
壅 yong1 (to obstruct, to stop up, to heap soil around the roots of a plant) ??
臃 yong1 (in 臃腫13 obese, of an organization: oversizes or overstaffed) [Frodo became obese living in Hobitton]

甕 (瓮,罋) weng3 (surname, earthen jar, urn) [Frodo keeps his tobacco in earthen 瓦jar]

焦 jiao1 (surname, burnt, worried, anxious) [Frodo is worried because he is getting burnt in the fire of the fire mountain] 焦急,焦爐,焦慮,焦點
礁 jiao1 (reef) [while getting burnt in the fire, Frodo sees a reef under the lava…???] 暗礁,礁島,大堡礁,礁石


翟 di2 (surname, long-tail pheasant) zhai2 (surname Zhai)

Nuevo sub 蒦(<隻)
獲huo3 (to catch, to obtain, to capture)
擭 huo3 (trap)
護 hu2 (to protect)

Please notice that I study primarily traditional characters, and I just add the simplified for reference.

Thank you, Slate. I find those ideas really useful.

Thank you hugely for taking the tine to type all this out, Liam. I am just starting and this appeals hugely. I am also doing French in order to compare the way memory methods would be used for different types of languages.


@Lynne Kelly

I did not have to type for this post the text above. It is just a copy past from one part of my own study notes.

Still massively appreciated, Liam</strong