Anki Alternative for Learning Chinese Characters

HanziHero is a Chinese character learning application that leverages spaced repetition and mnemonics to make learning Chinese characters as easy and efficient as possible.

Anki is a popular free and open-source flashcard program that also uses spaced repetition which is also popular in the Chinese language learning community. Within Anki one can have one or more “decks” of “cards” that are studied on a daily basis.

Let’s go into the similarities and differences between the two approaches and why HanziHero is a great alternative to Anki for those looking to learn Chinese characters.

HanziHero vs Anki: what are the similarities?

At the center of both HanziHero and Anki are flashcard review functionality that is essential for reviewing and remembering Chinese characters. They both have functionality for scheduling reviews in an optimal manner, and have pre-made content that you can use to study Chinese.

Both leverage spaced repetition

When learning Chinese, you will need to spend hundreds or thousands of hours reviewing what you have previously learned to ensure you don’t forget it. One popular way to plan and organize your reviews is to use a technique called spaced repetition.

Spaced repetition is a technique for spacing out reviews according to their difficulty and familiarity. In short, it keeps track on what you get right and wrong to ensure that the items you review more often are the ones you don’t know as well, and that you spend less time reviewing items you already clearly know.

Both Anki and HanziHero have spaced-repetition review built-in. When using either of these apps, you can ensure that everything you learned will get reviewed regularly at an optimal time. This way you will not only ensure you remember what you’ve learned, but can also minimize the amount of time you spend on reviewing!

Both come with pre-made content

One of the great things about Anki is that it has a large community of free shared decks that you can use. You can import decks of cards made by other people and study those instead of making your own, saving you a bunch of time.

HanziHero similarly comes with a custom-built Chinese curriculum out-of-the-box. This way you can spend less time making your own cards or designing your own learning curriculum and more time on actually learning Chinese!

What HanziHero does differently

While both HanziHero and Anki use spaced repetition to help you review that which you learn, there are still a large number of differences between the two for learning Chinese.

Anki is a general flashcard app, while HanziHero is a specialized Chinese character learning application that also has built-in flashcard-like functionality. As such, HanziHero has functionality and content that is tailor-made for learning Chinese that Anki lacks.

First-class content

While Anki has a large number of shared decks that one can use, very few of them are exceptionally high-quality. This is to be expected - after all they are given away for free by a few generous souls who want to share the decks they made for themselves to the world.

However, this means that you must spend a good amount of time sifting through all of them to find the best quality ones. Moreover, if you find any glaring issues with the decks you use, you must usually fix those issues yourselves. This means more time spent on fixing or building your own decks and less time spent studying Chinese.

All of the content in HanziHero is handcrafted by ourselves. We have painstakingly researched and written up notes and lessons for hundreds of character components, thousands of characters, and thousands of words. More than that, we update our curriculum almost daily as we expand and fine tune it. By using HanziHero, you can spend less time fiddling with decks or designing your own curriculum and more time studying Chinese.


At HanziHero, we believe one of the most essential tools for learning Chinese characters is to leverage mnemonics to help remember the pronunciation and meaning of each character.

When we looked through the Anki decks on AnkiWeb, we found that very few come with mnemonics provided. The most popular decks for learning Chinese characters seem to be those for Remembering the Hanzi, a popular book series which comes with its own minimal set of mnemonics. However, similar to the books themselves, the decks have incomplete mnemonics that are not usable out of the box. You must instead fill in the mnemonics yourself for each of the thousands of cards.

HanziHero comes with thousands of hand-crafted mnemonics for every item in our curriculum. Components, sounds, characters, words - you name it - all have a mnemonic story to help you remember each aspect of those items. With our mnemonics, you can supercharge your Chinese character learning by leveraging your brain’s ability to easily remember stories.

Simple to use

Anki is a complex application with a large number of knobs that need to be turned to make it work as expected. Even the process of making a flashcard often involves needing to learn how to code basic HTML and CSS!

Both of the creators of HanziHero are software engineers with years of experience building an working with complex software. However, we both found that setting up and using Anki to be more complex and counter-intuitive than any other software we have used.

In fact, when we first started learning Chinese, we spent most of our time using Anki and trying to tune it for learning Chinese characters in an optimal way. After all, we wanted to learn Chinese - not build an app. However, we got so frustrated with it that we ended up building HanziHero!

We have designed HanziHero from the ground up to be as simple as possible so you can spend less time fiddling with settings and more time on learning Chinese. Once you sign up you can jump right into learning your first pinyin sounds and components. No configuration needed.

Optimal learning order

With thousands of characters in the Chinese language, it can be overwhelming to know exactly where to start. The fact is that Chinese is a difficult language that will take years to learn. Therefore it is important to find the path that is not only the most efficient, but also the most enjoyable.

The many different decks provided on AnkiWeb don’t do much to alleviate this problem. You must sort through all of the decks and determine whether their card ordering is suitable or not. Even if you find a deck that does optimal ordering for characters, it may contain no words or components!

At HanziHero, we have developed our own optimal learning order to solve this issue. In short, we ensure that you learn Chinese characters in order of how essential or common the are. Before you learn each character, you first learn the components and sounds within it. And before you learn a word, you first learn the characters that it is composed of. With our optimal learning order, you will be able to read simple Chinese excerpts within a couple months of learning!

Teaches components and sounds first

Anki has no built-in way to hold off on learning a card until another card is learned. Because of this, there is no easy way to ensure that you learn all components and sounds within a character before the character itself. Moreover, the is no way to ensure that you have learned all characters within a word before the character itself.

HanziHero’s ensures that you only start learning characters after you have learned all components and sounds within the character. Likewise, words are only taught after you know - and review multiple times - the characters within them. This approach ensures a smoother Chinese character learning experience.


HanziHero and Anki are two popular applications that are both used for learning Chinese. They both leverage spaced repetition to make remembering and reviewing Chinese characters and vocabulary as painless as possible.

However, HanziHero is more than a simple flashcard application. It is a handcrafted curriculum that leverages mnemonics to teach thousands of components, characters, and words in an optimal order. We have built HanziHero from the ground up to make learning Chinese characters a truly seamless experience for ourselves and our hundreds of users.

Ready to start learning Chinese characters? Create an account for free and give it a try!