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Handwriting: The minimum requirements (blog series)


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Extremely interesting, thanks for posting it all.


You mention pens/brushes: what do you think of things like this: http://www.muji.eu/pages/online.asp?Sec=13&Sub=54&PID=495

Someone bought me one recently, I thought it was lot of fun. But all the 捺s I wrote with it were ugly, couldn't get it to thicken nicely at the end.

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imron is right but i don't know why threads are looked at more than blogs. For me I suppose its because they some how seem private or at least for a select few, don't ask me why, I know they are in the public domain but still it feels like reading someones diary.


Anyway a bit off topic there.


I tried one of those brush pens, I thought it would be great, but it was rubbish.


I have taken to using for practice a Pilot frixion ball pen, not just because it is erasable but it feels nice and it flows well. In fact i have taken to using these in various colours for all my Chinese work. I like different colours so I can highlite and make things clear.


A standard small tip felt pen is also good for me.


Thanks for putting in the effort Hofmann and for bring it to our attention here.

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Shelley, I used this kind of paper, but I didn't like it too much. I guess it was because of water, it feels too liquid compared to real ink. Besides, I think it's good to review what you've written in order to see your mistakes, if your writings vanish, you can't do that. But of course it has its pros too.

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I think these are standards to work towards, but in my experience, I saw very, very few Chinese people writing like this. Most of the time it was illegible scribbles that I couldn't even hazard a guess at because there's a sort of cursive system that a lot of them seem to use.


Still, this is good information and well worth aspiring to, even if in quite a few of the cases cited I doubt the Chinese would have any difficulty recognizing the intended character. The mistakes here were generally closer than what I was seeing from handwriting. And don't get me started on the calligraphy.


BTW, if you know anything about that cursive system that would make for an extremely useful blog series, because, I can't possibly be the only one that literally can't make heads or tails of it most of the time.

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Some of those I can read. Some of those I can't read because I don't know them. But the ones that I'm thinking of there are the ones like the fifth one down in the  fourth column and below, where I can't even identify enough of the radicals to look the word up or even enter it into Pleco.


I think there's clearly a trick to learning to read it, but sort of like cursive in English, it does seem like it's something that needs to be specifically learned to effectively pick up because it isn't random.

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BTW, if you know anything about that cursive system that would make for an extremely useful blog series

If you are just talking about cursive handwriting in common everyday use that may or may not follow the 'correct' way of doing things, you may find the following thread useful.  The beginning of it is a little outdated, but if you read it all, there are recommendations for several books that may be helpful.

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Well that character is 苞. A lot of cursive (行書) reading comes down to knowing how something in regular script can be represented in cursive. Learning to write cursive correctly is the same process as regular script: look at examples, look for the rules, and follow them. Characters are still very modular in cursive so you can learn them in components, unlike supercursive (草書) where many characters have to be learned as a whole.

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@imron, I meant from the left, I've only come across Chinese written top to bottom then right to left once, the vast majority of the text I've come across has been written left to right then top to down. One of the things I admire about Chinese text is that it's so flexible in that regard.


I do see how that was misinterpreted, it does clash with the normal system of referring to columns from the left to the right like you would on a map.


I'll take a look at that thread, I don't care about being able to write cursive, but I'd like to be able to read at least some of it. My preference is to write more the way this blog series is pushing.

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Just finished reading through the blog. Excellent stuff. I like your distinction between trying to get it right and not quite achieving it and just plain wrong.

Using correct stroke order in my opion helps with remembering the character, giving it the right "look"and the correct order usually is the best for ease of writing. In other words the correct order is there for a good reason.

I will have a more thorough look at the blog and maybe leave some comments.

Good stuff.

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  • 2 months later...

I've thought up a few technical exercises that might be useful. First, a stroke distribution exercise, where you try to distribute a number of horizontal or vertical strokes evenly while also centering the whole group, like this:
I would like to note that you should not write many long horizontal strokes, because this is an awkward thing to do for someone used to following the 一字不二捺 rule. I recommend just staying around the middle like I did.
As for the slope of "horizontal" strokes, I find that in the best examples of regular script, the slope is around 9 or 10 degrees. If you use a row of six squares and draw a diagonal across them, the line will be about 9 degrees.
If you draw many of these lightly, they can serve as "horizontal" guides. Of course, in all the best examples, the slope of a horizontal stroke varies with context, but as I said in the blog series, it isn't critical that you do anything in particular with them. It's perfectly legal to keep them all the same slope.
Another thing is that I think the 一字不二捺 rule is the most broken rule of all, and correcting it yields the most improvement in terms of aesthetics (although I still prefer to treat it as a rule and not an aesthetic suggestion). An exercise you can do is something I recently added to Part 3. Go through a list of each character in your vocabulary and think about which stroke or component is extended to the right. If you're not sure, look it up. If you don't think you can do it in your head, write them out and circle the rightmost extender as I did below. In each character there can only be one, and you must be sure which one it is. Also make sure there are no ㇏, ㇂, 乚, or long horizontal strokes that are not circled (except in 心), e.g. look how I wrote 國, 學, 起, 老, 聲.


I have a feeling some people find this rule very esoteric. It isn't really; most people follow it most of the time without really understanding it. It's the whole reason why the fourth stroke of 林 isn't the same as the last stroke. Because they don't fully understand it, they will either mess up sometimes, or be unsure of themselves.

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