Radio targets in org-mode work by recognizing spacing between words. This makes the function redundant in when work wth Chinese and Japanese texts.

I discovered an interesting function in ol.el with a comment that says:

Some languages, e.g., Chinese, do not use spaces to separate words. Also allow to surround radio targets with line-breakable characters.

(defun org-update-radio-target-regexp ()
  "Find all radio targets in this file and update the regular expression.
Also refresh fontification if needed."
  (let ((old-regexp org-target-link-regexp)
    ;; Some languages, e.g., Chinese, do not use spaces to
    ;; separate words.  Also allow to surround radio targets with
    ;; line-breakable characters.
    (before-re "\\(?:^\\|[^[:alnum:]]\\|\\c|\\)\\(")
    (after-re "\\)\\(?:$\\|[^[:alnum:]]\\|\\c|\\)")
      (goto-char (point-min))
      (let (rtn)
        (while (re-search-forward org-radio-target-regexp nil t)
          ;; Make sure point is really within the object.
          (let ((obj (org-element-context)))
        (when (eq (org-element-type obj) 'radio-target)
          (cl-pushnew (org-element-property :value obj) rtn
                  :test #'equal))))
    (setq org-target-link-regexp
      (and targets
           (concat before-re
            (lambda (x)
               " +" "\\s-+" (regexp-quote x) t t))
    (unless (equal old-regexp org-target-link-regexp)
      ;; Clean-up cache.
      (let ((regexp (cond ((not old-regexp) org-target-link-regexp)
              ((not org-target-link-regexp) old-regexp)
               (concat before-re
                    (lambda (re)
                      (substring re (length before-re)
                         (- (length after-re))))
                    (list old-regexp org-target-link-regexp)
    (when (featurep 'org-element)
      (org-with-point-at 1
        (while (re-search-forward regexp nil t)
          (org-element-cache-refresh (match-beginning 1))))))
      ;; Re fontify buffer.
      (when (memq 'radio org-highlight-links)

Running the function on the sample text below shows that only 1 and 2 are linked.


1. 劉邵

2. 其邯鄲淳事在〈王粲傳〉,蘇林事在〈劉邵〉、〈高堂隆傳〉,樂詳事在〈杜畿傳〉。

3. 六月,權令將軍賀齊督糜芳、劉邵等襲蘄春,邵等生虜宗。

How do we make radio targets work without the spacing requirement?

  • Does anyone know how wikipedia tags proper names, especially in languages with no spacing in between words such as Chinese? I am looking for a function very similar to that in org-mode and the radio target is what I've found. Would welcome any suggestions to do otherwise.
    – Sati
    Commented Feb 24, 2020 at 10:58
  • Hidden xml tagging that is indexed, perhaps?
    – Sati
    Commented Feb 24, 2020 at 11:00

1 Answer 1


You could insert the UTF-8 character Zero Width Space to invisible separate your targets from the rest of the text.

You can insert that character by using C-x 8 <ret> zero width space.

This seems the easiest option, but with a tradeof. Because, when introducing a new radio target, you need to do a search-replace operation (to insert those invisible spaces into the text).

  • Interesting idea. But I'd like better to have a radio target function that supports Chinese text search, separate from the original radio target function.
    – Sati
    Commented Feb 24, 2020 at 6:33
  • Is there a mode that can show zero width spaces? whitespace-mode doesn't seem to show it.
    – Sati
    Commented Mar 14, 2020 at 4:39
  • @Sati it is possible with whitespace-mode together with unicode-whitespace. This additional requires ucs-utils and list-utils and some adjustments. But whitespace-mode does not what you expect, read its documentation!
    – jue
    Commented Mar 16, 2020 at 22:49

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