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Aside from remembering how to write them, writing ‘beautiful’ characters can be a challenge. Using the adjective ‘beautiful’ might seem strange, but there is a particular finesse that comes with writing Chinese characters that, when written correctly, can be beautiful.
When I first began learning to write Chinese characters (yes, you’ve heard my story a hundred times at least), they were mostly ugly. But when you’ve written a character 40 times or more to help remember it, there’s bound to be one that you can look upon proudly and say ‘that’s a beautiful character’.
Unless you’re using stroke animations to learn how to write, it can often be difficult to know which strokes to use and in which order. We’ve covered both of these areas, in two articles Chinese Character Stroke Rules (And How To Break Them!) and 12 Advanced Chinese Strokes to Help You Write Characters. However, there’s another area that really needs to be looked into, and that’s character balance.
You’ve probably heard me harp on about ‘field’ notebooks and if you’re using our dictionary, you may have noticed that behind the characters, is a faint cross. These lines are basically guidelines, to show you how to keep your characters balanced and therefore beautiful.
Balance is an extremely important part of Chinese philosophy, essential to Traditional Chinese medicine, as well as aesthetically in the written language.
Below are the ‘rules’ you need to follow when writing Chinese to ensure that your characters are balanced.
The characters we’ve included in this post were taken from our Written Chinese Dictionary, as well as a Chinese handwriting app, 云章书法词典.
1. Left – Right
1.1 Left – Right Proportion
Left ⅓ – Right ⅔
This 1-2 ratio is used when the main stroke on the right side is larger than on the left. Some examples are 一 , 丿, 乚 and ㇉.
Left ⅔ – Right ⅓
The 2-1 ratio is used when there is no main stroke on the right side, and there are more strokes on the left side than on the right.
1.2 High – Low change rule
右偏旁上高下低: Right-hand side high top and low bottom
When there is a vertical stroke (丨亅㇂…) in the right-hand side radical, or when the left side is smaller than the right side.
右偏旁上低下高: Right-hand side low top and high bottom
When there is horizontal stroke (一 𠃍…), or when the left side is bigger than the right side
右偏旁上高下高: Right-hand side high top and high bottom
When there is vertical stroke (丨丿…) in the top-right side, and a horizontal stroke (一) in the bottom of the right side.
右偏旁上低下低: Right-hand side low top and low bottom
When there is a horizontal stroke (一 𠃍) in the top-right side, and a vertical stroke (丨亅…) in the bottom right side.
2. Left – Center – Right
2.1 Left – Center – Right Proportion
When there is a main horizontal stroke in the right radical, the proportion is 1:1:2.
When there is a main vertical stroke in the right radical, the proportion is 1:1:1.
2.2 High – Low change rule
1) Low – High – Low
When there is vertical stroke in the center part of the character.
2) High – Low – High
When there is horizontal stroke in the center part.
3) High – High – Low
When there is radical 阝卩 on the right side.
3. Top – Bottom & Top – Middle – Bottom
3.1 Diamond Shape
If there is a horizontal stroke ( 一, 乛, 人) in the middle, the character shape will be a diamond ◇.
3.2 Inverted Trapezoid Shape
If there is a horizontal stroke ( 一, 乛) in the top, and there is no radical with 乀 乚 on the bottom, the character shape will be inverted trapezoid.
3.3 Trapezoid Shape
If there is 乀 乚心 儿 衣 夂 灬 on the bottom, the character shape will be a trapezoid.
If you have comments or questions about character balance, please leave them below!