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A really weird stroke: 豎彎左 (SWZ, vertical turning left)

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While reviewing the character 肃/肅 sù I have found that the way I used to write it was not correct. For starters, I used to write the simplified form ending with 丿丿丶丨 from left to right, and it turns out that the standard order for the last four strokes is 丿丨丿丶 from the outermost strokes to the inner ones. I have also found that this is one of those few traditional characters, like 龜 or 畢, that are written differently in Taiwan and Hong Kong. The standard form in Hong Kong (as shown in this stroke order website or in the Longman 中文高級新辭典 dictionary) has a full 聿 with six strokes whereas the standard form in Taiwan eliminates a horizontal stroke. The Taiwanese form is also the one displayed as the traditional variant in Mainland dictionaries.

So it appears that the 肅 character is really quite interesting for those of us who are passionate about the Chinese script, but what I've found even more startling and the reason for me writing this post is that Taiwanese dictionaries like the 國語辭典 claim that 肅 has 12 strokes, and I was unable to figure out how to write it with fewer than 13 strokes (which is the number of strokes claimed by this other dictionary). When I checked the ROC Ministry of Education stroke order website I was surprised to find that this 肅 character is written with the top right element in the 片 bit as one single stroke that turns left! Now I thought turning left in a horizontal direction was absolutely forbidden by Chinese calligraphy rules, but it turns out that the Taiwan standard accepts this compound stroke, which is called 豎彎左. The stroke is mentioned in some messages in the Unicode.org mailing list and also in the Chinese Wikipedia article on character strokes. The example is always 肅 and the only other case I've found (apart from those derived from 肅 like 繡,鏽, etc) that also uses this stroke is 淵. The description of these characters in the Unihan database also follows the Taiwanese standard since this stroke, abbreviated as SWZ, is recognised as a valid stroke (31D8 in the CJK Strokes reference), and 肅 appears as radical plus 7 strokes in the radical-stroke index. But there is a contradiction because the entry for the 肅 character assigns it a kTotalStrokes value of 13 rather than 12. Surprisingly, the Unihan database only acknowledges the simplified variants 肃 and 粛, but not the Hong Kong variant.

My questions:

1. What is the rationale for this SWZ stroke? I find it a bit strange to accept a stroke that seems to violate the general rules, and then just use it in a handful of cases like 肅 and 淵 (if the brush is allowed to turn left in a horizontal direction why not write 亞 with four strokes then?).

2. Are there more characters that Taiwan-educated people write with this stroke apart from those that use the phonetic components in 肅 and 淵?

3. Do Mainland and Hong Kong/Macao people ever use the SWZ stroke?

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Hehe, it may just be my writing isn't up to snuff, but try the MOE 笔顺练习 for that character...the widget seems to be stuck on the funny stroke, not accepting any way I try to write it. No one told it about the 竖弯左?

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It works for me.

Anyway, it looks like they're trying to regularize that shape, which should be 丿. A shape like 31D8 would be written 丨一. I recommend a normally shaped 丿.

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