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When we first start handwriting Chinese characters, we’re often unprepared and lack the knowledge to know how to begin. It’s difficult to comprehend if English or other Germanic language is your native tongue, the subtle nuances of strokes in a Chinese character. When we learn to write English, there are only 26 letters to learn, and only several may cause issues based on line and shape. For example, as youngsters we might struggle with the difference between ‘v’ and ‘u’, not only because they have a similar shape, but because they’re next to each other in the alphabet. Furthermore, regardless of whether you handwrite or type a letter in English, it is still the same ‘letter’ and isn’t classed as wrong because you add an extra twiddle to the end of a ‘d’ or write the letter ‘m’ with sharp edges instead of smooth curves.
However, this is not the case with written Chinese. Different font types, especially minimalist styles, often make it difficult for an inexperienced student of Chinese to see slight differences between stroke types and order. Which means that eventually, we are handwriting Chinese characters incorrectly, because it is these nuances that ‘makes’ the character.
A good example is the character 子. The typed version makes the character like very vertical and rigid, and this is how many students would write this character when they first begin. Of course, that’s only natural! How else should we learn but by copying the characters that we see?
However, if we look at the handwritten form, you can see some obvious differences.
We can see that the ‘vertical’ section of the character is not really vertical at all, but more curved. In fact, the whole character is very slightly tilted.
Although writing the character as the typed font shows will not result in accidentally getting mistaken for another character, it lacks the finesse and aesthetics that the handwritten Chinese character should have.
Before you throw in the towel and think that you might as well give up now (Oh no, another hurdle!).
It’s important to remember that many of us are ‘self-taught’, only using apps and books as our teaching aids, and so it’s no surprise that many of us are oblivious to these small ‘ticks’ and ‘sharp points’ that I’m going to discuss below.
My point is, in order to learn how to handwrite Chinese characters correctly, instead of following printed fonts, follow stroke animations such as the ones we have on our online dictionary and app.
‘一’ 横画的写法 (héng huà de xiě fǎ) How to Write the Heng Stroke
The 一 ‘heng’ stroke should be smooth and steady, as it works to balance a character, if 一 is uneven, then the character will be unstable. It is not meant to be written exactly horizontal and should actually be slightly lower on the left side and higher on the right.
Start with the pen heavily on the paper, wield the pen lightly to the right, and end heavily.
There are 2 styles of 一 ‘heng’ stroke:
短横 (duǎn héng) Short ‘Heng’
Example character: 同 (tóng)
The ‘short’ heng stroke is the third stroke found in the internal part of the 同 character.
长横 (cháng héng) Long ‘Heng’
Example character: 十 (shí)
The ‘long’ heng is the first horizontal stroke.
‘丨’ 竖画的写法 (shù huà de xiě fǎ) How to Write the ‘Shu’ Stroke
丨 should be a vertical stroke, as it works to support a character. If 丨 ‘shu’ is not completely vertical, the character will be not straight.
There are 3 styles of 丨 ‘shu’ stroke:
垂露竖 (chuí lù shù) Dew Drop
Start by adding pressure to the pen, move the pen lightly in a vertical motion, and end by adding more pressure.
Example character: 个 (gè)
The Drewdrop stroke is the third, vertical stroke.
悬针竖 (xuán zhēn shù) Suspended Needle
Start heavily, wielding the pen vertically from heavy to light pressure, and end with a sharp point. The speed of writing is from slow to fast.
Example character: 牛 (niú)
The suspended needle is the fourth, downward stroke.
短竖 (duǎn shù) Short ‘Shu’
The method of writing this stroke is similar to that of the ‘Dewdrop’, but finish the stroke with a ‘stubby’ end. There are two styles: one is vertical and the other slants slightly to the bottom right.
Example Character: 走 (zǒu)
The ‘short shu’ is both the second and fourth strokes in the 走 character.
Example Character 只 (zhǐ)
The second type of ‘short shu’ is found in the 只 character as the first stroke.
‘丿’ 撇画的写法 (piě huà de xiě fǎ) How to Write the ‘Pie’ Stroke
丿 can help increase aesthetics and balance of the character.
There are 3 styles of 丿 stroke:
斜撇 (xié piě) Inclined ‘Pie’
Add pressure at first then move the pen lightly down to the left and end with a sharp point. Begin slowly and then increase the pace when ending the stroke.
Example Character: 人 (rén)
The first stroke of the 人 character is an ‘inclined’ pie stroke.
竖撇 (shù piě) Vertical ‘Pie’
Begin the stroke heavily, then wield the pen down with light pressure until ⅔ of the way down the stroke. Turn down to the left, and end with a sharp point.
Example Character: 川 (chuān)
The vertical ‘pie’ is the first stroke of the 川 character.
短撇 (duǎn piě) Short ‘Pie’
The method of writing ‘short pie’ is similar to the ‘inclined’ style, but shorter. It often appears in the top left of a character.
Example Character 年 (nián)
The short ‘pie’ is the first stroke of the 年 character.
平撇 (píng piě) Flat ‘Pie’
The stroke always appears on the top of the character, which is flat.
Example Character 千 (qiān)
The first stroke of the character 千 is a flat ‘pie’ stroke.
‘ 乀’ 捺画的写法 (nà huà de xiě fǎ) How to Write the ‘Na’ Stroke
The 乀 ‘na’ stroke is a little hard to write, as it is not always easy to control the thickness of the stroke.
There are 3 styles of 乀 stroke:
斜捺 (xié nà) Inclined ‘Na’
Start lightly, moving the pen down to the right from light to heavy pressure till the foot of the stroke, turn right, and end lightly with a sharp point.
Example Character 大 (dà)
The Inclined ‘na’ stroke is the third stroke of the 大 character.
平捺 (píng nà) Flat ‘Na’
The method of writing this ‘flat’ stroke is similar to the ‘Inclined’ stroke, but slightly flatter.
Example Character: 这 (zhè)
The flat ‘na’ stroke can be seen in the 这 character as the final stroke.
‘丶’ 点画的写法 (diǎn huà de xiě fǎ) How to Write the ‘Dian’ Stroke
The 丶’dian’ stroke is as essential to a character as ‘eyes are to man’.
There are 4 styles of 丶’dian’ stroke:
右点 (yòu diǎn) ‘Right Dot’
Start lightly and wield the pen down to the right.
Example Character: 为 (wèi)
The right ‘dot’ is the first and final stroke of the 为 character.
竖点的写法 (shù diǎn de xiě fǎ) How to Write the ‘Shu Dian’ Stroke
Begin by exerting pressure then wield the pen down to the right.
Example Character: 家 (jiā)
家 has a ‘shu’ dian stroke in the top radical 宀 . There are several ways to write this stroke. These are shown in the images below:
左点 (zuǒ diǎn) Left ‘Dot’
The method for writing this stroke is similar to the ‘right dian’, but the direction is to left.
Example Character: 心 (xīn)
长点的写法 (cháng diǎn de xiě fǎ) How to Write the ‘Long Dot’ Stroke
This is similar to the ‘right dian’ stroke, but longer.
Example Character: 不 (bù)
‘㇀’ 提画的写法 (tí huà de xiě fǎ) How to Write the ‘Ti’ Stroke
Start writing heavily, then move the pen up to the right from heavy to light, and end with a sharp point. Depending on the character, the angle and length will be different.
Once you’ve perfected these rules, take a look at the second part of our article.