I have to put our Guest List into some sane order for the guest registration table. The names in English are no problem... highlight all the cells and hit the "Sort Ascending" button in Excel.
The Chinese ones will have to be done manually in traditional Chinese dictionary order. In a traditional Chinese dictionary, characters are listed by number of strokes under their radical[*]. It's like Elementary School all over again figuring out what the radical is, figuring out where it is in the dictionary, figuring out the stroke count of the harmonic.
I don't like transcribing the Chinese names into English because there are too many romanization systems depending on where people are from and what dialect they speak (Chang, Cheung and Zhang are the same surname). It will take three times as long to look for someone in the list.
[*]No, not as in "chemical species which has one unpaired electron and undergoes rapid reactions".
A radical, defined in Chinese linguistic terms is a character or partial character that contributes to the meaning of the whole character. As opposed to a harmonic which is a character or multiple characters that contribute to the pronunciation.
There are 114 radicals in the Chinese language and they form what you could call an "alphabet". Radicals are sometimes listed in an index table in the front of the dictionary. However, this is a big waste of time - it's like listing the letters of the alphabet as a table of contents at the beginning of an English dictionary. No one would ever look at it and most [reputable] dictionaries omit it.
To use a traditional Chinese dictionary, you need to memorize the order of all 114 radicals. This is actually easier than it sounds. It's only difficult to me because I don't use Chinese much in my life. If you do everything in Chinese, breathed, ate, slept and sneezed in Chinese, this wouldn't be a problem. As well, knowing the most common ones will suffice.
I'd have to figure out all the radicals (which could also be in their variant forms):
- Is this character a radical on its own?
- Is there only one radical?
- Does any radical enclose the character on both sides?
- Choose the left side radical over the right side radical.
- Choose the top radical over the bottom radical.
- Choose the single over the dual or multiple elements.