How Many Unique Characters are in the Chinese Bible?

As I started to consider Chinese characters, one of the questions that I asked is “How many Chinese characters do you need to know?” After doing some research I found a basic consensus at around 3,000 characters and then linked to a page that had its own research on the subject. You can read that post here. At the end of the post I asked another question “how many individual characters are in the Bible?” That questioned was left unanswered…until now!

I finally found a program that was able to give me the unique character count from a Chinese text and could handle the size of the Bible text without crashing. Also, I had to find a copy of the Chinese Bible that I could copy into the program without any marginal notes or topic headings the might not be in the original text. I finally found a copy of the Chinese Union Version that I could download and import into the program. Here are the results:

Total Characters: 929,990

Unique Characters: 3,001

Total Words: 715,662

Unique Words: 8,704

In my ponderings, I asked several Chinese people how many unique characters they thought would be in the Bible. Most of them said they wouldn’t have any idea, but if they had to guess it would be 8, 10, or 20 thousand unique characters. You can tell that I am happy to discover the number of unique characters is only 3,001!

Another interesting find is…there are 176 unique characters, used at least 1,000 times or more, that make up for 617,999 of the total character count. That means if you know these 176 unique characters you can read 66% of the Bible.

Note: When using a program like this, it doesn’t always pair the words together correctly, so there could be some problems with the exact accuracy. These numbers are presented so the student of the Chinese Bible can have a basic understanding of how man unique characters are in the Chinese Bible.

11 thoughts on “How Many Unique Characters are in the Chinese Bible?

  1. j. walz

    Good post. I read somewhere how many characters a person has to know to be considered literate in Chinese. I think 3000 is below that literacy level.

    Reply
  2. Joseph Pitts

    I am so very grateful and humbled that someone took the time to figure all this out, and was able to translate the Bible into Chinese. If it were not for these folks and their obediance to God’s calling then the Gospel would not be able to be effectively Preached to the Chinese.

    Reply
  3. Gwen

    I just used the program to make the lists of unique characters and words – so helpful! I’ve been wanting to have a list like this for so long. Am happy to share but not sure how – I have them in an Excel file.

    Reply
  4. Jonny Gooder

    Mark,
    Hi! Thank you for posting such interesting and needed information! I would absolutely love to see those 176 characters so i can start learning them to be able to tell the Chinese about our and their Lord and Savior, however this file with zip for some reason wont let me download. It says I have to buy a membership to do it. Is there anyway you could copy and past the 176 or all the 3001 into a word document? Hope you are well!
    恩典和儋,
    顾智宁

    Reply
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