Writing Chinese seems like a big mystery and something you cannot learn, but that’s not true! Yes, there are plenty of rules when it comes to writing Chinese, the fundamental one being stroke order, but once you understand the why, it becomes much easier 🙂
In Chinese, one or more strokes make up a character, that takes up the space of a square. The core strokes are:
- 点 (diǎn) dot. It is pretty much a dot, or a really short dash, and it can lean to the right or left, though the majority will be to the right (top left to bottom right)
- 横 (hēng) horizontal. It goes from the left to the right
- 竖 (shù) vertical. It goes from the top to the bottom
- 提 (tí) rise. diagonal to top-right
- 捺 (nà) press down. Long diagonal to bottom-right, fattening at the end
- 撇 (piě) throw away. Small diagonal to bottom-left
… while there are strokes that only combine with others:
- 折 (zhé) break. A change in stroke direction, usually 90° turn, going down or right only
- 钩 (gōu) hook. It only comes off another stroke (it’s an add-on stroke,) a little flick suddenly going down or left only
- 弯 (wān) bend. Long diagonal to bottom-left, tapering and thinning at the end
- 斜 (xié) slant. Sort of like the 捺 (nà) in that it’s a curved line, but doesn’t fatten at the end. It doesn’t have to head in the same direction as 捺 (nà) [to bottom-right] but it usually does
That’s it! Every character is made using these. One character that uses a lot of different strokes is the one above, 永 (yǒng) meaning forever, always. There’s a order to which comes first, which can be tricky at first, but once you get the hang of it, you rarely think about it anymore!
There are plenty of rules, like:
- horizontal before vertical (case in point: 十 [shí] 10)
- top to bottom (case in point: 三 [sān] 3)
- left to right (case in point: any complex character like 瓶 [píng] bottle, where the left radical gets written before the right component)
- unless you’re writing an “inside to outside” kind of character (case in point: 小 [xiǎo] small, where you write the middle bit first followed by the left, then right parts)
- unless you’re drawing an “enclosure” type character, where you’d write most of the box, then the insides, then seal up the box (case in point: 国 [guó] country, so the left, top and right sides of the box are written, then the insides, and then seal up the bottom)
… and on and on. There are so many rules, though as a cheat there are apps and websites that can help you get started.
More importantly, what’s the reason for all the rules? The reason that means the most as a writer is this: you can write faster when you follow the rules than when you don’t! It’s not just that you get used to a particular way, it’s that all the rules were designed to have the least back-tracing and the best flow! They also turn out prettier 🙂
If you want to learn more Chinese, online or in Perth, please contact Fundarin Chinese to sign up today!