Chinese Characters

Chinese has a beautiful written language. One of the great advantages of the system is that people who speak different dialects understand each others' writing. While Cantonese and other dialects have developed their own "local" characters for informal communication and pop-literature, traditional Chinese remains the mainstay and the primary means of business correspondence.

Ideographs and Phonics

First of all, Chinese does not have an alphabet.  Alphabets describe how to say a word.  Written Chinese is mainly composed of ideographs.  They express a meaning.  In turn these symbols are given a pronunciation, but the pronunciation varies from dialect to dialect while the meaning is constant.

Originally, many Chinese characters were standardized drawings of ideas.   Over time, the drawings were simplified until they only vaguely resemble the original drawings.

There are some oral components to Chinese characters.  Sometimes an additional component is added to change the meaning of a character while the base sound is changed little or not at all.




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Chinese Brushstrokes

In Chinese, the order in which a character is written is important.  A character written with an incorrect stroke order is technically wrong, and sometimes becomes another word altogether.  (Although this is not an extremely strict rule and you can generally get away with incorrect characters as long as nobody saw you write it.)  When using a brush rather than an ink-pen or pencil, the distinction in brush-stroke becomes more readily apparent.

While each character should be learned with its individual stroke order, there are some simple rules that can be remembered to make remembering the proper stroke order easier.

Select a rule below to see a graphic representation


Strokes are written top to bottom


Strokes are written left to right


Characters are written top to bottom


Characters are written left to right


Characters are written outside to inside, but closing an outer box last


Complex characters can be broken down into independent parts


A vertical line is drawn after horizontal lines it passes through,
but before a horizontal line on which it terminates.

50/100 Online Flashcards

One Two Three Four Five Six Seven Eight Nine Ten
Hundred Able Big Car Hit Love Not Possessive Road White
Electricity Point "measure" More Correct Expensive Nation Good And Very
Say Like Yellow Family See Space Speech Sister Open Power
Couple Question Buy Sell Cat "question" Beautiful Not Have Plural Door
51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60
61 62 62 64 65 66 67 68 69 70
71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80
81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90
91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100

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