This paper describes a pilot study carried out on approximately 250 Chinese university students from eight institutions to determine what parts of a representative sample of Chinese characters were crucial to their correct identification. Around 100 characters of varying structure were presented to participants using a web-based experimental platform (PsyToolkit; Stoet, 2010). The characters were partially obscured using a gaussian blurring technique. The direction of maximum blur could either be from the top to bottom; bottom to top; left to right; or right to left. The task of the participant was to identify the blurred character and type its pinyin form. Each participant saw only one version of the character, and each blur condition was counterbalanced across participants. Overall, participants correctly identified 67% of the characters presented. The blurring technique that impacted most significantly on correct recognition was the top-to-bottom condition (z=-8.5, p < 0.001), which caused the upper part of the character to be obscured. The character types most impacted by this form of blurring were, unsurprisingly, those with a top-to-bottom structure. A possible reason for the importance of the upper part of the character is that it may be the most visible part, since the visibility of the left and right parts of characters in normal Chinese reading may be reduced by lateral masking from adjacent characters. This finding suggests that in teaching learners of Chinese, it may benefit their recognition skills to focus on upper parts of characters.