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必 (bì): what is the etymology, and how do you write it?

Ruben von Zwack

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Ruben von Zwack



As I am reading along the 秘密花园 book, I was looking up the stroke order of 必 and found a few different results. Depending on which I follow, the result will look different in handwriting. So, how is this Character commonly written in Chinese then?


The odd thing is, I was assuming that nciku should use "the" Chinese stroke order. But when I follow the nciku stroke order animation, simply left-to-right in this case, the result won't look like this at all: mi_bi.jpg (source: Hanzigrids) - which I assume must be Chinese standard too.



And do any of you know about this character's etymology?

I have always found it curious. I looked it up on zhongwen.com and chinese-characters.org, but the explanation that it's an 弋 splitting a 八 does not make much sense to me, nor can I make a lot of sense from the older pictographs.


Thank you for your thoughts!

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I know nothing about etymology and the stroke order of simplified characters. I write the word the same way as shown in the webpages below -



The websites are pretty official I think (not saying they are "right" as some might challenge this). And this is the way I write the word all my life. First the heart then the 撇. Is there a reason you don't refer to them, or perhaps you simply don't know about them?

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Ruben von Zwack

Thank you Skylee! I wasn't aware of these pages. This is the fourth different stroke order I see now!  :shock:


I was using nciku a lot, as an online dictionary and as a reference for stroke order. But look what they do: post-51349-0-95982500-1386859126_thumb.jpg (source: nciku) it's just a minor difference, but then, the Japanese one is really different! post-51349-0-94112400-1386859369_thumb.jpg (1/2 of it is still missing)

(source: kakijun.jp)


Why I am wondering is: I had been studying Japanese quite a few years ago. I did not get too far, alas. But lately when I began Chinese, I would check on the stroke order of complicated Hanzi, just to be sure. To my surprise I noticed there were minor things that I had always been writing differently. I assumed I was wrong and forced myself to write "correctly".

Only recently I became aware that there simply are different standards. If I had known that, I would just have stayed with the way I had  used to write. But now, with half a Japanese standard internalised, and a bit of Chinese on top of that, I am slightly confused right now.

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Ruben von Zwack

Thanks for the link to Sinosplice. I'm glad to see it's a common issue!


But the odd thing is: using the "bizarre" (ouch, that is a harsh word! :wink: ) Japanese stroke order is the only way you'd get the cursive Chinese script like on Imron's Hanzigrids. (the thumbnail in my initial post up there)

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For etymology this place is usually OK, but because its information about etymology is from 說文解字, it has errors. I haven't found any easily accessible resources that try to correct 許慎 errors.


About 必, the stroke order you found on Hanzigrids is correct. 必 is listed in my blog post here. The Japanese standard you know is also acceptable, but I prefer the former. See this place for more examples. I also like to show people this example, 4th line, in the "想必及" cluster.


BTW, Sinosplice calls it "bizarre" because they've never seen 必 written in 隸書, and they might think it has something to do with 心.

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About 必, the stroke order you found on Hanzigrids is correct

For the record I just want to note that this has nothing to do with myself :mrgreen:  I license those fonts from Founder Type.  I'm glad to hear they have it correct though :)

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  • 6 months later...

Having stumbled upon this thread (which isn't too old, I hope), may I add my own thanks to Hoffmann for those useful links. I had learnt to write 必 with the ROC stroke order (i.e. 心 followed by 丿), but I was vaguely aware that it had nothing to do with 心 but never really grasped the logic behind it. But considering it as 弋 + 八, 丿㇃top丶left丶right丶now makes perfect sense (albeit that the direction of the first stroke of 弋 seems to be reversed).


Changing the way I write 隹, however, will be more of an effort. I've no doubt that emulating 歐陽詢 is a great thing, but does anyone actually use that order nowadays? Modern calligraphers, even?

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It was actually a friend of mine in Dallas who called my attention to 隹. (I wish he'd write other things correctly though.) Observe this, then this, then this, then this. It is much too obvious for me to be the only one.

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