The present study examined the types of orthographic knowledge that are important in learning to read and spell Chinese words in a 2-year longitudinal study following 289 Hong Kong Chinese children from Grade 1 to Grade 2. Multiple regression results showed that radical knowledge significantly predicted children's word reading and spelling performance across the years. Stroke knowledge contributed both concurrently (Grade 1) and longitudinally (Grade 2) to children's spelling performance after controlling for rapid naming, phonological awareness, morphological awareness and radical knowledge. These findings support the significance of radical knowledge in Chinese reading and spelling and the specific role of stroke order knowledge in Chinese spelling. The findings have implications for the design of an effective curriculum for teaching children to spell Chinese characters. Copyright © 2015 UKLA. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.