Basic Rules for Writing Chinese Characters

In the mobile era, people are now busy with typing instead of hand writing. It might be a good news for Mandarin-Chinese learners.


It means you needn’t spend a lot of time on practicing handwriting thousands of Chinese characters, which is a reason that why learning Mandarin-Chinese becomes much easier.

However, we have to admit, handwriting is fun. Don’t forget, handwriting is also a kind of art, especially when it comes to write Chinese characters. Each Chinese character tells its own story.

If you wish to know how to write Chinese characters, in this post, I will share some basic rules with you.

The good news is, once you know these basic rules, even you don’t recognize the character, but you can still write it anyway.

Are you ready? Grab your pen and keep reading.

As we know, a Chinese character is more like a picture. Like the picture, a Chinese character is composed of basic lines that we called: stroke.

Below picture from wikibooks shows the basic strokes.

Chinese strokes.gif

However, there are six very basic strokes: dot (点) ( diǎn), horizontal (横) ( héng), vertical (竖) ( s), upward or rise (提) (tí ), down stroke to the right or press down (捺 ) (nà), down stroke to the left or throw away (撇) (p).

Other strokes are kinds of variety of these 6 basic ones.

When you write these strokes, usually you have to follow basic rules like: writing top first, then bottom or writing left first then right.

Now you know the basic strokes of Chinese characters, you also have to know there are two basic forms of the character.

1, sole character.

It means this character stands alone as a character. For example, 马(ma3)(horse), 人(ren2)(person);

2, compounded character.

There are two ways of compounded characters.

One is, the character is combined with two or three or more characters to make up a new character.

For example, 妈 is composed with character女(nv3)(woman)and马(ma3)(horse).

Another way is, the character is combined with the character and stroke or radical.

For example, 旧 (jiu4) (old), 过 (guo4) (pass).

Now you are armed with knowledge of strokes and character forms, then how to write a character?


Basically, for most characters, especially compounded ones, if you follow a writing order roughly like a diagonal line while you write a character, you are on the right path.

What does it mean?

It means, if you always start writing a character roughly with the left top corner and end roughly with right bottom, you could write any Chinese characters in no time.

For example, when you write the character 马,observe which part is roughly on the left top corner, then start from there.

When you end the writing, you should be expected to end roughly at the right bottom area.

However, there are still some more basic rules to follow though.

Take a look at below rules.

1, Start with left part and end with right part.

For example, 一(yi1)(one), you should write this character starting from left and end on right.

2, Top stroke comes before bottom one.

For example, when you write 二 (er2) (two), you are expected to write top line first, then bottom line.

For example, character 三 (san1 )(three), finish top line from left to right, then start to write middle line from left to right, then start to write bottom line starting from left to right.

3, When it comes to some special characters with an outside enclosing part, for example, 国 (guo2) (country), 回 (hui2)(go back), start with outside enclosing part first to start on the left top part.

While you finish most of outside part to leave the bottom line unwritten, then start to write and finish inside part, and later finish the bottom line of the outside part lastly.

4, When it comes to some special characters with enclosures like: 过(guo4)(pass), 底(di3)(under), usually start with top part first,then bottom part.

Now let  me give you one more example. How to write character “程”?

You have to finish left component part first, then work with right component.

It means, you have to finish writing “禾”, then go to work on writing the right part, finish “口” first, then “王”.

However, this post just gives you a very basic simple idea about character writing.

If you wish to write each character correctly, I suggest you to follow the right stroke order for each character.

For more information, take a look at wiki stroke order.

If you are curious about how to write each character exactly, here is a good resource: animated Chinese characters.

Type one Chinese character to see how to write it in the right order. It will help you a lot if you wonder how to write a specific character.

Now you know how to write any Chinese character roughly with better idea.

Do you know how to read a Chinese character roughly even you just meet the character for the first time in your whole life?

I will tell you the basic rules for reading Chinese characters in my next post.

If you know better of Chinese, you will find more charm of this language.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *