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Learning to read handwriting


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The two books above are not about learning/studying calligraphy as an art-form, but about Chinese handwriting as it exists today.

From his post above, I don't think hbuchtel is interested so much in pre-Qing calligraphy as he is in hastily scribbled doctor's notes. While such post-republican examples of Chinese handwriting are probably even worse than republican and Qing-era handwriting, he still needs to be able to read them, and the two books above will provide the means to learn to do that. Learning calligraphy is a separate matter altogether.

Like I said, it's an acceptable resource for learning to read cursive. Also, I never said anything about calligraphy or art. When I say you have to learn to spell correctly in English, it's not art I'm talking about.

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  • 1 month later...
I've ordered the 《实用硬笔字60小时训练》and am looking forward to getting started!

This book is fantastic.

It is filled with examples of how standard printed characters look when handwritten in a cursive style. It shows exactly what to do, ie changing the stroke order, simplifying certain elements of the character, etc. It gives examples of common mistakes and has reading and writing exercises for each character. The reading examples are all corny jokes, which was a pleasant surprise.

Honestly I'm not sure I want to imitate all of the recommended changes, as I don't particularly appreciate the aesthetics of the end result. However, as my original goal was to learn how to read others' handwriting, I'm quite content with just getting familiar with the handwritten variations without using all of them myself.

Another aspect of the book that gave me pause is the whole "Are You Hardcore Enough To Use My Method?" thing that the author has got going. The intro is devoted to encouraging readers to stick to the 60 hour program, and it talks about what results good and bad students will get and what kind of personality will be successful etc... an "all or nothing" attitude that reminds me of teaching in the Crazy English camps. Suffice to say I am hardcore enough to pick up and leaf through the book in my free time, a method which is working out pretty well for me.

I think using the book as recommended would be great for making one's handwriting look 'native', and from my own experience I can say that it is also very useful as a reference book for making connections between printed characters and their handwritten variations.

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  • 11 months later...

Chinese Cursive Script. I'm only on chapter 2 so I can't comment too much on it, but thus far I think it's promising.

It's also a hoot to look at. It was published in 1958 (!), so the text is in a horrible fixed-width courier font (as if there is a decent fixed-width courier), and the Chinese characters are handwritten in (!!). And it uses Yale romanization (which I personally abhor). But once you get beyond that, the contents and the presentation look good.

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The book uses real handwriting samples. Not only that but it teaches common abbreviations used in handwriting, which is something you may not pick up just by looking at handwriting. If I remember correctly, the written-in characters jbradfor is talking about are the characters that would normally be typed these days, not the handwriting samples that are studied (though obviously those are handwritten too!).

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Wouldn't it be better to practise reading real handwriting instead of reading a textbook

After a certain point, yes. The problem is getting started. Take a typical non-native speaker of Chinese who has only learned to read printed text, and to that person even a simple hand-written note is unintelligible. What this book provides is a start, teaching one the hand-written form of 300 characters, plus how a bunch of "parts" are transformed from the printed form to the hand-written form.

is it about every day writing or is it specifically for calligraphy?

In spite of the name, the examples look focused more towards everyday writing.

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thanks. Do you know whether Chinese kids learn this cursive at school? Is it formally taught or do the kids just emulate the teachers' habits in the upper classes?

(For some reason I was under the impression that daily handwriting was just forgetting to lift the pen between strokes, keeping the normalised stroke directions. But the example 4 page 6 has a reverse horizontal stroke for 十 on top of a character. When writing fast I would make a loop in the upper right corner, but apparently the Chinese make a loop in the upper left corner. Learning Chinese is an endeavour that keeps expanding the more you keep at it :help )

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I've looked through that book before. I concluded it was right a lot of the time but wrong some of the time. Reversing directions of strokes is wrong almost all the time, or yield a different character. On the upper left corner of page 2 is written 犬.

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I've looked through that book before. I concluded it was right a lot of the time but wrong some of the time. Reversing directions of strokes is wrong almost all the time, or yield a different character.

I don't really see why this is a problem, if breaking these rules is something commonly done. It isn't a book on how to write, it's a book on how to read others' handwriting. If those others commonly write a certain way, I think including it in a book like this is justified, whether it's correct or not. Perhaps a note explaining that it's incorrect would be better, but that can open a whole new can of worms, and I have a feeling that might have been outside the scope of the author's intent with this book.

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