chinese cow radical

The Cow Radical 牛: Overview, Mnemonics, and Vocabulary

Another Monday, another article of the Pandanese radical series is released! Happy Monday to all hardworking Chinese learners out there!

“Monday is for people with a mission.” — Cristina Imre.

Do you see yourself in that statement? High-five if you do! Pandanese is here to fuel your energy for your Chinese learning! 

Today, Pandanese brings to the table the cow radical. You may have encountered this radical several times before, but do you know about the historical transformation of the character, how to use mnemonic devices to memorize it more effectively, or its related vocabulary? Read on to satisfy your cravings! (for beef AND Chinese characters!)

What is the cow radical?

In Chinese, the cow radical is pronounced as “niú” and written as . The other name for this radical is the bull radical. radical is composed of 4 strokes and listed as radical 93 according to the Kangxi radical chart (a system of radicals of Chinese characters). Also, according to the Kangxi Dictionary, 233 characters (out of 49,030) contain this radical, making it one of the most commonly used radicals

niú is written in full form when it’s a standalone character as well as be distorted to fit into a block with other components when forming a new character. In that case, the cow radical will appear on the left side of a Chinese character and transforms into with the last stroke, becoming a rising stroke rather than a horizontal stroke. Here are some examples: fāng (wild cattle), mǔ (male animals), pìn (female animals), etc. 

The cow radical is originally a pictogram. However, over time the shape has been modified to make it easier to write. Let’s have a look at how this radical transformed over time.

Shang(1600 BC – 1046 BC)Western Zhou       (1045 BC – 771 BC)Warring States       (481 BC – 221 BC)Shuowen Jiezi (compiled in Han(202 BC – 220 AD)Liushutong (compiled in Ming)                   (1368  – 1644)
Oracle bone scriptBronze inscriptionsChu slip and silk scriptSmall seal scriptTranscribed ancient scripts
Historical forms of the character

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What is the stroke order of the cow radical?

The cow radical has four strokes, written in the following order:

Source: Visual Mandarin

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How can you memorize the cow radical?

Though the radical niú somewhat reflects the image of a cow (at least we can image the cow’s head with horns), there’s a learning technique that lets learners memorize this word with fun rather than learn it by heart – the mnemonics technique.

At Pandanese, we employ mnemonics flashcards to help Chinese learners like you get the most out of your learning. Your Chinese learning journey couldn’t get any easier! Or could it? Have a look at how mnemonics works in this example:

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Can you create mnemonics for yourself?

When it comes to using mnemonic devices to learn vocabulary, we recognize that a mnemonic may work well for one individual but not for another. In other words, everyone has their own individual logic behind their mnemonics. Let your voice be heard!

Pandanese can see that coming. Therefore, we’ve created the “Synonym Feature” that allows you to make your own mnemonics. It’s often easier to memorize a character or radical by creating your personalized mnemonics.

Check out the GIF below for a visual walkthrough of the Synonym Feature.

Here we have another proposed mnemonic for the cow radical:

There’s a cross and a gun, with the gun going through the cross. You’re shooting a cow for dinner. You bring your cross because you need to bless the cow once you’ve killed it. Poor cow!

A cow radical vocabulary list for you!

Curious about the cow radical and other related terms? Here’s a list of some of the most essential words which contain the cow radical: 

CharacterPinyinEnglish meaning
to herd
móuto try to get, to seek
shēngdomestic animals
牛肉niú ròubeef
牛奶niú nǎicow milk
牛仔niú zǎicowboy
牛群niú qúnherd of cattle
牧場mù chǎngranch
牧草mù cǎopasture
牛气niú qìarrogant, self-important

Could learning Chinese be a breeze? 

Learning Chinese shouldn’t be hard — it should be easy and full of joy! Ditch the textbook and rote learning method and instead try mnemonics; using mnemonics is proven to help learners digest new pieces of information more easily and more efficiently.

Pandanese is a web-based application exclusively designed to help Chinese-language learners memorize Chinese characters easier and more effectively. Pandanese uses scientifically proven memory-aid methods like mnemonics and Spaced Repetition System (SRS) to optimize your learning ability, helping you learn more than 6,000 hanzi and vocabulary within just a year.

If you’re interested in the Chinese language, especially Chinese radicals, we encourage you to check out our Pandanese blog and read as much as you like before starting your learning!

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