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Generally, not being able to write Chinese characters does not prevent you from speaking to Chinese people. But if you want to work or live in China for a long time, or if you want to learn more about Chinese culture and language, learning how to write Chinese characters is essential. Many foreign students ask not to learn hanzi when learning Chinese because they think it is quite difficult for them to draw Chinese characters, especially those whose mother tongue belongs to Latin. So we compiled this article to help you solve the problem of Chinese character writing.
Step 1. Learn and Find Out the Basic Strokes of Hanzi
The stroke is called 笔画(bǐ huà) in Chinese writing system. It refers to the dots and lines of various shapes that make up Chinese characters. There are eight kinds of traditional basic strokes of Chinese characters, namely, 横 (héng), 竖(shù), 撇(piě), 捺(nà), 点(diǎn), 提(tí), 折(zhé), 钩(gōu). They are not as complicated as you think. Let’s take a look at these strokes.
横 (héng) is a short line drawn from left to right instead of right to left. Many Chinese characters have the stroke 横(héng), the most classic of which are 一(yī), 二(èr) and 三(sān). You will find that the stroke 横(héng) is used with different lengths when writing these three characters. The one thing you’ve got to remember is that the same stroke can be used multiple times in a character and the size of the same order can be different.
The next stroke is 竖(shù). To write 竖(shù), we need to write from top to bottom but not from bottom to top. Do you know any characters that contain the stroke 竖(shù)? We’ve got three simple Chinese characters for you. They are 十(shí), 土(tǔ) and 工(gōng). You can see that their stroke 竖(shù) is also of different length.
Here we’d like to mention one of the reasons for writing hanzi incorrectly. This might be that you have not learned the relations between strokes. There are three different stroke relations. The first one is separation. Let’s take the two characters we just mentioned 二(èr) and 三(sān) as an example. The relation here between different 横 (héng) is separation. The second one is crossing. For example, the character 十(shí). As for the character 土(tǔ), the relation between the 横 (héng) and the 竖(shù) on top is also crossing. The third relation is connection, where two strokes can connect and touch, but cannot cross. For example, the lower part of 土(tǔ). The Chinese character 工(gōng) also has the relation of connection. After you learn all these relations, you won’t write 土(tǔ) to 工(gōng) or vice versa.
Here is the next stroke 撇(piě). The way to write 撇(piě) is from top right to bottom left. 撇(piě) might look different in different characters, for instance, 儿(ér), 牛(niú) and 人(rén).
After 撇(piě), there comes 捺(nà). 捺(nà) is the opposite of 撇(piě). We write it from top left to lower light. The Chinese characters that have 捺(nà) include 大(dà), 木(mù), 八(bā) and many more. Here is little trick for you. The stroke 捺(nà) usually goes hand in hand with the stroke 撇(piě), that is, if there is a 捺(nà) in a character, there must be a 撇(piě) in this character as well.
Another basic stroke in Chinese writing system is 点(diǎn). Please pay attention to the direction when you write 点(diǎn). It should be from top left to the bottom right. Some Chinese characters that have the stroke order 点(diǎn) are 不(bù), 六(liù), 字(zì), etc. Please note that the lower left part of 六(liù) is not a 点(diǎn), but a 撇(piě). The lower right stroke is a 点(diǎn).
The sixth basic stroke is 提(tí). We need to go from bottom left to top right when writing 提(tí). You can find the stroke 提(tí) in some characters like 打(dǎ), 我(wǒ), 地(dì), etc.
The next basic stroke is 折(zhé). 折(zhé) has many different forms, and here we cite two of them. The first one is 横折(héng zhé). 横折(héng zhé) is contained in some characters like 口(kǒu), 日(rì) and 白(bái). There is also a 竖折(shù zhé). The Chinese characters like 山(shān), 出(chū) and 亡(wáng) have the stroke 竖折(shù zhé).
The last basic stroke is 钩(gōu). 钩(gōu) also comes with various forms. Here we also list two of these forms. The first one is 横钩(héng gōu). You can find it in Chinese characters 皮(pí), 学(xué) or 买(mǎi). The second one is 竖钩(shù gōu). Some characters with 竖钩(shù gōu) are 手(shǒu), 水(shuǐ) and 寸(cùn).
Alright, we’ve learned the first step of basic Chinese character strokes. Now let’s look at the second step, the writing order of Chinese characters,
Step 2. Learn the Stroke Order of Hanzi
Have you ever wondered why your Chinese characters are not always as good as the ones that Chinese people write? Well, first of all, that’s because you are only starting to learn hanzi, while Chinese people have been learning and using Chinese characters since childhood. The second reason might be that you have not learned the order of writing Chinese, i.e. the 笔顺(bǐ shùn) of writing Chinese characters.
To help you better remember the writing order of Chinese characters, we’ve got you a mnemonic chant:
Horizontal before vertical
Left-falling before right-falling
From top to bottom
From left to right.
From outside to inside
Middle goes before two sides.
Of course, there are a lot of complicated Chinese characters. If you are not sure how to write them in correct order, you can use this tool to show the stroke order of any Chinese character and practice online. Just input the Chinese character you want to learn in the search box, and then it will show a static and a gif. writing order for that character. You can also practice writing with your computer mouse there.
These are the two steps to write Chinese characters. It is not that difficult, is it? To write good Chinese characters, it is not enough to learn strokes and stroke order, and more importantly, to persevere. Are you good at writing Chinese characters? It doesn’t matter if you can’t write them well at the moment. As a saying goes, practice makes perfect. Keep on writing, and one day you will be able to write good Chinese characters.