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Chinese Measure Words (Part 2): Size & Shape, Wrapped Items

Size & Shape

The measure words in this section offer very visual clues about the objects they precede.

size and shape

handful 一把花 (yī bǎ huā) “a bunch of flowers”

一 把钥匙 (yī bǎ yàoshi) “a bunch/ring of keys”

一把椅子 (yī bǎ yǐzi) “a chair (with a back-rest)”

The left side of the character is the symbol for hand.

zhī long (and straight) 一支笔 (yī zhī bǐ) “a pen”

一支蜡烛 (yī zhī làzhú) “a candle”

枝 means “branch'”.  The character’s left side is the symbol of a tree.


tiáo long (and winding) 一条路 (yī tiáo lù) “a street”

一条河 (yī tiáo hé) “a river”

一条法律 (yī tiáo fǎlǜ) “a law”

一条命 (yī tiáo mìng) “a life”

gēn long (and thin) 一根头发 (yī gēn tóufǎ) “a strand of hair”

一根火柴 (yī gēn huǒchái) “a match”

一根吸管 (yī gēn xīguǎn) “a (drinking) straw”

根 means “root'”.  The character’s left side is the symbol of a tree.


zhāng flat 一张票 (yī zhāng piào) “a ticket”

一张桌子 (yī zhāng zhuōzi) “a table”

二十四张照片 (èrshísì zhāng zhàopiàn) “twenty-four photographs”


tuán pile 一团乱 (yī tuán luàn) “a mess (lit. a pile of junk)”

一团线 (yī tuán xiàn) “a pile of string”

duī big pile 一堆瓦砾 (yī duī wǎlì) “a pile of rubble”


small, compact 一颗珠 (yī kē zhū) “a perl”

一颗黄豆 (yī kē huángdòu) “a soybean”

一颗牙 (yī kē yá) “a tooth”

一颗苹果 (yī kē píngguǒ) “an apple”

一颗苹硬碟 (yī kē píng yìng dié) “a hard disk”

The character’s left side is the symbol for fruit.

tiny 一粒药 (yī lì yào) “a pill”

一粒米 (yī lì mǐ) “a kernel of rice”

The character’s left side is the symbol for rice.

shàn leaf, something that turns on a hinge 一扇门(yī shàn mén) “a door”

一扇窗 (yī shàn chuāng) “a window”

扇 means “fan”.

Wrapped and Bound Items

Wrap your head around this set of beauties. We usually don’t think about all the ways there are to wrap, bind, roll, tuck, stuff and pack things. Fortunately, the Chinese have.

wrapped item

bāo a pack 一包面纸 (yī bāo miàn zhǐ) “a pack of tissues”
juǎn a roll 一卷卫生纸 (yī juǎn wèishēngzhǐ) “a roll of toilet paper”
fēng an envelope 一封信 (yī fēng xìn) “a letter”
tǒng tube, bucket 一桶油漆 (yī tǒng yóuqī) “a bucket of paint”

The character’s top part is the symbol for bamboo.

box 一盒巧克力 (yī hé qiǎokèlì) “a box of chocolates”
shù boquet 一束花 (yī shù huā) “a boquet of flowers”
běn book 一本书 (yī běn shū) “a book”

一本杂志 (yī běn zázhì) “a magazine”

fèn newspaper 一份報紙 (yī fèn bàozhǐ) “a newspaper”

Newspapers cannot be counted using 本, because they are not bound.  份 means simply “portion”.  You’ll see this one again in Foods & Drinks.

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Joe Varadi

Joe Varadi lived and studied in Shanghai and Taiwan, in a simpler time before blogs and smartphones got big. He is the creator of Trasee! for Chinese Trasee, a mobile app for Chinese reading and handwriting that incorporates many of the techniques he developed while learning Mandarin.

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