How to Write the Basic Strokes of Chinese Characters

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Although there are indeed names for all the individual strokes that are used to write Chinese, you can be rest assured that there are only a handful of unique types of strokes. That means that although you need to know about 3000-5000 characters to really read Chinese well, there are only 10 or so different strokes that make up all Chinese characters.

The basic strokes found within Chinese characters are as follow:

点 (diǎn) – Dot  ()

横 (héng) – Horizontal line  ()

竖 (shù) – Vertical downwards line  ()

提 (tí) – Upward rising  ()

捺 (nà) – Rightwards falling  ()

撇 (piě) – Leftwards falling  (丿)

折 (zhé) – 90˚ turn  (see below)

钩 (gōu) – Hook  (see below)

弯 (wān) – Bending  (see below)

(xié) – Slanted  (see below)

 

The character below is 永 (yǒng) and means eternal. It contains most of the strokes used to write Chinese characters, and so is often used for illustrative purposes. Notice the green numbered arrows indicating the proper stoke order and direction for which to move your pen when writing.

 

yongzi
The order and direction of strokes used when writing the Chinese character for “eternal.”

 

You can probably see the relevant strokes here. However, a few may need more explanation.

The “折 (zhé) – 90˚ turn” stroke can be seen as an intermediary step between “横 (héng) – horizontal line” and “竖 (shù) – vertical downwards line.” This is because when writing these strokes, your pen does not come off the page, and therefore, after writing the horizontal stroke, you need to change direction and continue downwards.

Similarly, the “钩 (gōu) – hook” stroke can be seen as a tiny hook at the bottom of the “竖 (shù) – vertical downwards line” stroke, and both are again written without taking your pen off the page.

The “弯 (wān) – bending” stroke is essentially a stroke running downwards left and slightly concave, whereas the “斜 (xié) – slanted” stroke would look like 乁, and would be running downwards right and also slightly concave.

However, to be completely precise, the above example (乁) should more accurately be called “橫斜 (héng xié) – horizontal downwards slanted right” because it incorporates two different (compound) strokes before you can take your pen off the page.

As you might be able to see, this is where stroke order starts to get important when you have multiple strokes to write for a character and need to pay attention to their direction and form. However, this just comes over time with dedicated practice.

For extra points, see if you can identify why the 10 stroke combinations below are given the names to their right.

Don’t worry – these are not some kind of set stroke combinations that you need to memorize, but just simply different types of stroke arrangements that can often be found together.

Look to the three actual Chinese characters at the far right of each example and try to see if you can figure out where the given stroke combination is located.

 

Cjk_hp横撇 héng piě  —  E.g., 今  又  發

Cjk_pz撇折 piě zhé  —  E.g., 公  玄  钩

Cjk_hxg横斜钩 héng xié gōu  —  E.g., 飞  虱  凤

Cjk_xg斜钩 xié gōu  —  E.g., 垡  载  我

Cjk_swg竖弯钩 shù wān gōu  —  E.g., 电  乱  已

Cjk_hzzzg横折折折钩 héng zhé zhé zhé gōu  —  E.g., 乃  奶  氖

Cjk_hpwg横撇弯钩 héng piě wān gōu  —  E.g., 阿  际  阡

Cjk_sg竖钩 shù gōu  —  E.g., 小  恭  于

Cjk_pd撇点 piě diǎn  —  E.g., 巡  災  汝

Cjk_sp竖撇 shù piě  —  E.g., 月  大  人

 

See also:

How to Learn Chinese in 4 Easy Steps

How to Learn and Write in Chinese Characters

8 Reasons Why Chinese Isn’t Hard

 

 

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