In the CCD, all characters are grouped into series, and each series is headed by an identifier called the series header (or just ‘header’), which is the part that characters of one series have in common. For most characters this header is just what is commonly called the phonetic part of the character, the part that indicates the sound.
For example, take a look at these two series, one is headed by 夗, (yuān), the other by 宛 (wăn).
I always had difficulty distinguishing between characters like 怨, 宛, 碗, 婉, which are all used quite frequently. But with this arrangement I can find them quickly and compare them and refresh my memory. So you’re not studying one character at a time, but several over a space of time. Learning about the meaning of phonetics and radicals can also help.
In all there are about 1800 series, with 1800 headers. These headers are combinations of a total of 393 different components. Series are clustered into 393 character tables (CTs), based on one of the components that headers have in common. The example above was taken from the character table of 夕, and therefore, all other headers in that CT also contain this component, such as 舛, 桀, 粦, 外, 岁, 名, 罗, et cetera. In all there are 19 series headers in this CT, each of which is at the head of one series consisting of a number of characters. If you want to find a character in this CT, then you have to look for the header that forms part of the character you are looking for. At the beginning of each CT is a list with all headers that can be found in that particular CT.
In their turn, character tables are bundled into 17 sections, based on a common feature of the component they have in common. For example, the CT of 夕, can be found in section 2, because that is the section with components that consist of two slanting strokes to the left connected by a horizontal one, such as 勹 , 勿, 芻, 夕, 歹, 夂, 攵, et cetera.
All 393 components that define a character table have been gathered in an ordered list, called the Main Components Table (MCT). This table consists of 17 categories, and each category corresponds with one of the 17 sections with CTs. The MCT defines a certain order among the 393 components, which is important for locating headers and characters. For example, 匐 consists of 勹, 口, and 田 . In which CT should it be located, in that of 勹, 口, or 田? Or in all three? The rule to be used here is simply to take the component that is first in the order established by the MCT, because in that CT header and characters that have 匐 as header can be found.
Background of the MCT for more information about how this list was set up, and more details about its role is for the arrangement of characters in the CCD.
How to use the CCD for information on the role of the MCT for looking up characters and some examples.
Representatives for details about how to know in which category a particular component can be found. Once users are familiar with these they do not longer have to reference the MCT each time, but can go directly to the section containing the character.
Header tables for an example of the tables with header lists that can be found at the beginning of each section. With the help of these tables users can quickly find any character within a particular section.