Selecting Rules

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Table of Rules



We have seen that not all the signs-shapes forming a character had to be chosen and inputted to get a character. Only a maximum of FIVE signs are needed to get a character.  Therefore, several (many, most of the time for complex characters) of the signs-shapes forming a character are "SKIPPED", not included in the code. 

I/ Rules of Selection of Signs

The Signs to be chosen for input are determined according to two factors:

A) First criteria: the structure of the character: Cang-Jie has defined three structural types which are defined by the number of intervals they contain.

One Unit


Two units


Three units



One Unit characters do not contain separating intervals. In principle, all Signs composing a One Unit character, join or  cross each other, making one “block”, i.e.: a single Unit.

Two-Unit characters contain one separating interval that divides their Signs into two  “blocks” of signs, i.e.: two units. 

Inside each “block”, Signs are, in principle, linked or connected to each other.

Three-Unit characters contain 2 separating intervals that divide their Signs into three  “blocks” of signs, i.e.: three units.

Inside the first and second Unit (block), Signs are, in principle, linked or connected to each other.  (The Third Unit is composed of any signs left after the second interval).

One unit characters are allocated a maximum of 4 codes.

Two unit characters are allocated a maximum of 5 codes.

Three unit characters are allocated a maximum of 5 codes.


Basic definition of units: From the examples above, it derives that a Unit can be defined so far as: a group of signs linked together by crossing or joining of their shapes, and separated from contiguous unit(s).  by an interval.

In a character, there cannot be less than one unit, and no more than three units. When a character is composed of more than one unit, units are separated by a "separating interval" (red lines shown in the illustrations above). 

-B) Second Criteria: signs position within the pattern of the character:  

Strokes of characters are traced according to a certain sequence: from top to bottom; left to right; outside to inside. So we can speak of a stroke order, and say that each stroke occupies a position in the sequence of all the strokes of a character.

The situation is very similar with the CJ signs: when we look at a character to decompose it into signs, we have to follow the order of its strokes and each sign will occupy a specific position in this sequence.  To determine the position of a sign, we must look  at it in its own unit, and follow the direction: from top to bottom; left to right; outside to inside. The complete explanation and illustration of the sequence of signs is presented on the page: Order of Signs. 

For now, in order to understand the rules of selection of signs, we just need to keep in mind that each sign has a positions inside its unit, and that this position is determined along rules similar to that governing the stroke writing order.

However, before spelling out the rules we must make a preliminary note regarding the position of the units themselves within a character: in multi-unit characters arises the question of the order of the units it contains: which unit is first, second or third? Determining such order is essential for finding the proper code. This will be re-examined later in this page, but for the time being let us state that the order of the units is very much like the order of the signs: the top unit, or the left one is the first unit; then below or on the right are the second and or third units (illustrated later below)

 We can now enunciate the famous 3 rules!

The Rules of sign selection:


Type of character structure


  Number of codes


Position of the signs to select


One-Unit characters è

4 codes maximum è  

 for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd & last sign.

Two-Unit characters è

5 codes maximum è


First unit gets 2 codes: for 1st & last sign; 


Second unit gets 3 codes: for 1st, 2nd & last sign;


Three-Unit characters è  5 codes maximum è

First unit gets 2 codes: for 1st & last sign; 


Second unit gets 2 codes: for 1st & last sign;


Third Unit gets 1 code for the last sign.

But,  if the second unit had only 1 sign, then the third units gets 2 codes for its 1st & last sign. 

IMPORTANT: All signs that are not in the positions named on above table are not included in the code.


Application of above rules::

(Skipped signs are in black: they do not make part of the character's code)


Summary of Step 6: for this step, the rules have already been condensed above, by graphic and tables (for a global table of the rules and graphics together, click HERE).

In the previous steps you learned to how to detect main and secondary signs inside characters in a certain sequence, and this already allowed you to input a great number of characters chosen carefully in the exercises .

Now you just have learned  and determine their position.  In this step 6, you just learned how to recognize the all the 3 basic types of units and how the CJ method allocate codes between them: their number and their position. You have of course, realized that only a few of all the signs shapes fof a character form its code: those in between of pre-defined positions are skipped.

Armed with so much knowledge, you can now sail for the action recommended below.

Action: do the exercise , a zip file containing 3 pdf files, extracted from the CangJie Method book on a) simple single unit characters; b) simple two unit characters; c) simple three unit characters)

The above rules for the selection of signs --number of units, number and position of the signs shapes to choose--apply to all characters (except for the four exceptions that we will review at the last step of this trip).

However, the definition of the units given in the first table here-above saying, I recall, that units are differentiated by intervals between signs or group of signs, is enlarged for more complex characters that comprise too many intervals. In such cases, strokes or blocks of strokes are integrated and deemed to form a "united unit", even if it contains "physical" intervals.

This virtual integration of  sub-part of characters is very useful as it keeps to three the maximum number of units for any character, even very complex with many strokes. We will now study in what type of character pattern this virtual integration occurs.

So we must go through the 7th step to know these rules.

Next: Step 7 more complex characters




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