Many people say that written Chinese is a difficult language to learn because the characters don't have any relation to the sound of the word, like in English and other languages, even Japanese. But I've read so far that Chinese characters are composed out of basic building blocks. This led to the list of Chinese radicals.
In the list there are 214 radicals, with the last one containing 17 strokes. The first few have 1 stroke, then 2, then 3, ... etc..
So you would assume from that that every single Chinese character could be derived from that. Similar to how every English word can be derived from the set of characters in the alphabet.
But right off the bat, I noticed that the 2-stroke characters aren't even derivable from the 1-stroke characters. I would've thought they built on each other. For example, the 2-stroke 人 is supposed to be derived from the 1-stroke 丿. You can see that it is 丿 plus the mirror image. So I guess technically it can be said to be derived from that. But it's not explicit. Then another 2-stroke character is 冂. But this isn't visibly derivable from any of the 1-stroke characters from what I can see: 一, 丨, 丶, 丿, 乙, 亅. Maybe 1, 2, and 5. 丨一亅, but that would be 3.
Another example is from here.
So two concepts combine into a third concept, and the symbols roughly compose into the bigger symbols. But not exactly. The box in the "elder brother" symbol is slightly skewed, seems to use slightly different strokes, the legs are a little more stretched as well, etc. So it's not as if you compose words from letters, and the letters are just shrunken. I'm not very familiar with Chinese, but it seems that the exact position of the strokes is important.
To me this means that there is no exact system for determining the meaning of a character by constructing it out of smaller components. The best you can do is get a "rough idea" of what the symbol might mean from what your guess is at the components.
But I wanted to learn more about this, and confirm/deny that perspective. Wanted to ask if there is in fact a system for learning some basic components in Chinese (basic strokes and shapes), and then combining those into more complex shapes, such that you can easily learn the gist of any new character you encounter. Because from what I've seen, there isn't such a system, and you just need a dictionary to interpret any new symbol you find.