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The stroke order

[ << Basic strokes ] [ Table of contents ] [ The radicals : part 1 >>]

Strokes are combined together according to a few fixed rules (and to several exceptions!). Learn these rules, because they're of great help for memorizing characters. They are also fundamental in case you need to recognize the first stroke of a character, but we'll talk about that again.

1. Strokes at the top before those at the bottom.

The character
san (three)
is written this way:
The character
tian (heaven)
is written this way:

2. Strokes to the left before those to the right.

The character
men (door)
is written this way:
The character
hua (to change)
is written this way:

3. Containing strokes before contained ones.

The character
si (four)
is written this way:The sealing horizontal stroke must be written last ("close the door after you have entered the room")
The character
yue (moon)
is written this way:

But:

  • When there aren't enclosing strokes at the top of the character, enclosed strokes are written first:
    The character
    zhe (this)
    is written this way:

4. Vertical stroke in the middle before those on both sides or at the bottom.

The character
shui (water)
is written this way:
The character
shan (mountain)
is written this way:

But:

  • If it crosses other strokes the vertical stroke in the middle should be written last:
    The character
    zhong (middle)
    is written this way:

The fundamental rules - from top to bottom and from left to right - are easily understandable, since they are used in Western writings, too. The others on the contrary need a few exercise. Be sure to learn from the beginning the correct way each different character should be written; otherwise you may find yourself repeating the same mistakes over and over without realizing it, especially when you'll know hundreds of characters.

[ << Basic strokes ] [ Table of contents ] [ The radicals : part 1 >>]

By Diana Lavarini & Anna Del Franco, 1999.
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