If for some strange reason you've looked on my User Info page, you might've noticed that I'm studying (Mandarin) Chinese. I started taking classes at Ecole-club Migros last August, so I've been at it for about a year. I'm still nowhere near being able to speak Chinese yet, but it's going pretty well I think.
So my point in bringing this up is.. a long shot. I'm hoping that someone familiar with Chinese characters will have some information.
As I've been studying writing the characters, I've of course noticed there are a lot of patterns. Each character is basically composed of one or more "components". For example, if you look at 能 neng, which means "to be able to" or "can", it's made of four parts. The top-left looks like the bottom part of 云, "cloud". The bottom-left, 月, means "moon" or "month". Both top and bottom of the right side are the same; I'm not sure, but it might be 七, which means "seven".
When you look up Chinese characters in a dictionary, you look them up by "radical", which is the main "component" of the character. I don't think there's a steadfast rule for determining the radical of any given character; I don't even know which component of 能 above is the radical. Beginner dictionaries try to make it easier by locating a character under several of its components, not just the radical.
In addition to a relatively limited number of components (a few hundred total, I think) being shared between all the characters (a few tens of thousands), the strokes of each character are written in a specific order (top to bottom, left to right, several other rules).
Here, finally, is my problem. I can't find a database with the stroke-order or component data. I found data on ChineseEnglish definitions, on the radicals of the characters (this is used in Hanzi Master), the characters' stroke count, etc. I'd really like to find a database with the stroke order. I want to program a little flashcard application that teaches you how to write the characters. I want to find data on the character componenents more out of curiosity, though I could also use that in a flashcard kind of app.
I know this kind of data must exist because I've
seen applications that show how to write characters.
But I don't know if the data is publicly useable.
If anyone has any information, I'd appreciate it.
(I just wonder if it's findable - if you
know Chinese and know where to look for it.
 c.f. French, where I could get by after one year of classes (and I guess watching the news, reading papers, and hanging out on #perlfr help a lot...)
 It also appears on the right side of 北 bei, which you're familiar with from the name 北京 Beijing, which literally means "north capital". Looking at the "jing" character, the top is a lid, the middle box means "mouth", and the bottom (小 xiao) means "small". So you can see how these components are put together to form characters.
 "hanzi", 汉字, means "Chinese character(s)"