2 0 1 2 年 1 0 月 2 2 日

A sample of my Chinese handwriting (October 2012)

After studying Chinese for three years, I still feel like my Chinese handwriting leaves a lot to be desired. I almost never handwrite (in Chinese or in English), only doing so when forced to by my course. The result is that my handwriting is still this spidery, uneven scrawl that’s very obviously written by a non-native speaker.

I’m posting part of a handwritten translation homework I did today. The translation hasn’t been checked, so there are a lot of mistakes in it. You are of course welcome to comment on those, but my focus with this post is the handwriting. Click for a large version of the scan.


Sample of my Chinese handwriting

I’d say the main problems with my Chinese handwriting are:

  • Character spacing. The hanzi are generally too far apart, and the spacing is very uneven.
  • Character dimensions. The hanzi don’t feat neatly into regularly sized boxes like they should do. E.g. 子 is too thin and 有 is too wide. 贮 is outrageously uneven.
  • It doesn’t flow. Ideally one day I’d like to be able to at least write with some consistent movement rather than laboriously separating strokes as in the sample above.

I suppose I’d like my Chinese handwriting to be somewhat equivalent to my English writing. It’s not anything to shout about, but at least it doesn’t look like it was written by a three-year-old (I hope):

If anyone’s got any tips for how to improve my Chinese handwriting (other than handwrite more!), please share them in the comments. 請大家教一下!


If anyone’s interested, he’s a digital copy of the hand-writing sample shown above (corrections in red):






And the original English it was translated from:

Computers and People

In the future, cash will be used less and less. We may one day, live in a cashless society where all financial transactions are processed by computers without the use of cash. Transference of money will be through electronic transfer.

The way we live will also be affected. We shall work shorter hours and have more time for leisure. There will even be no need to go out to work.

Unemployment may also result. Many workers will be replaced by machines. People will need to be computer-literate and re-training is required for the people involved.

There will be more computer crimes like theft of confidential information stored in computers. Large sums of money are involved. The criminals are rarely convicted because it is difficult to catch, let alone charge them.

  • http://www.yemaohao.com Yang Chuanzhang

    Great post! I’m in a very similar situation to you, and I would like to improve my handwriting too.

    Have you tried using a 硬笔 practise book? (The ones that have tracing paper between the pages.)
    Every Chinese friend I’ve asked for help so far told me to use that method (tracing and copying over and over), but I can’t don’t get the feeling of learning anything when doing that.

    I ordered this book after seeing it recommended in a forum: http://book.douban.com/subject/1008242/
    It seems to take a more analytical approach of explaining theoretical principles of Chinese handwriting and at least breaking down the characters into radicals.
    I’ll report back once it arrives and I know if it’s any good.

    By the way, where do you usually order your Chinese books in the UK?


    • http://eastasiastudent.net/about Hugh Grigg

      I’ve never really used a 硬笔 practice book, only briefly. Do you find they help? I tend to agree that it wouldn’t do a great deal for your handwriting off the tracing paper, but you never know.

      I don’t have one particular source for Chinese books. Also, so far through my time studying Chinese I’ve usually had chance to go to China once a year so I can get things then.

  • http://sarajaaksola.com Sara

    I really like your English handwriting! And you Chinese isn’t that bad either, totally readable.

    Like Yang above, I would also suggest you to try those pracise books. I have used them and I think it might help. I’m not sure but it’s worth the try. You can also use paper with boxes to write to help writing more square characters.

    Other than that I don’t really have any advice than just practise more handwriting. I just took a loot at my notebook from 2010 and my handwriting has improved during these two years. I think it’s mostly due to just writing more and more. So I’m sure your hand writing also gets the better the more you write.

    Some characters take more time to learn to write beautifully. For example I find 我 really hard to write well. I also have some favourite characters that seem to look nice every time.

    Just to be fair, you can see my handwriting here: http://postimage.org/image/d6qbf7u6h/ I wrote the beginning of your homework.

    p.s. For some reason I couldn’t comment in Firefox, but it’s working in IE.

    • http://eastasiastudent.net/about Hugh Grigg

      Your handwriting is really nice. I might try some of those handwriting books when I’m back out in China next year.

      Thanks for pointing out the commenting issue. I’m seeing it in Firefox as well, but not in Chrome. I think it’s something to do with the Facebook login system.

  • http://www.yemaohao.com Yang Chuanzhang

    I can’t really recommend 硬笔 practice books, they don’t seem to help me at all.
    Maybe the effect only sets in after you use them for a while, but I don’t get the feeling that I’m learning anything at all when I try using them.

  • http://www.chinesetolearn.com/ Shu

    Your English writing is beautiful:) As for your Chinese essay, it is very concise and smooth. If you want to better your Chinese handwriting in an elegant way, I suggest you to seriously study and practice Chinese calligraphy:)

    • http://eastasiastudent.net/about Hugh Grigg

      Thanks, everyone seems to like the English sample! 呵呵.

      I did go to Chinese calligraphy classes once, but found them frustrating because the teacher wasn’t very good (one of those people who is good at doing something but not good at teaching other people to do it). He also spent most of the class talking about Tang poetry and very little of it talking about calligraphy.

  • http://www.yemaohao.com Yang Chuanzhang

    Hi, it’s me again.
    Your blogpost motivated us to do an episode on Chinese handwriting over at Yemaohao :D
    If you want to check it out, here is the link: http://www.yemaohao.com/episodes/010-chinese-handwriting

    Sorry if this is against your comment policy, feel free to delete this comment if it is, but if you do listen to the podcast, I’d love to hear your opinion on it.


    • http://eastasiastudent.net/about Hugh Grigg

      Certainly not against my comments policy! I really like your podcast by the way, it’s good that it’s aim is to be natural and real. Most stuff we get for language learning is very artificial. Keep up the good work!

  • Jack

    Funny that your writing is about computer and people – and I just saw this news now : Amazing: Microsoft turns spoken English into spoken Mandarin – in the same voice



    Watch the video – the amazing part starts at 7:30

  • http://eastasiastudent.net/about Hugh Grigg

    Yeah I had seen that actually, very impressive. It’s inevitable, and it seems likely that progress with it will only accelerate now. The current generation of language degree students will not be career translators.

  • http://www.ChineseBookshop.com Chinese Bookshop

    Wow, I really like your English handwriting. Looks almost like a font.

    I like your Chinese writing, it seems like there are the same issues that a lot of us have when writing Chinese namely the size of the characters changing. Ie some of your characters are much bigger than others. It takes a lot of practise to get them uniform. I think also the problem with typing so much is that we often forget how to write all the Chinese characters that we need. I think it was very brave of you to post your Chinese handwriting online! In my Chinese class there were very few students who had a) either amazingly uniform Chinese or b) Very Chinese-looking characters.

    I’m not sure that the 硬笔 books are very useful, we do have a few that we sell but it’s not always something that’s helpful. It’s really important to get the stroke order right (for things like electronic dictionaries) but there are better books to help with that. Ultimately it’s about practise and the fact is that when we’re learning Chinese we often have too little time to practise 8 hours a day just writing Chinese, as we would if we were young students in China.

  • http://www.teachmechinese.wordpress.com Lydia Lin


    With respect to Chinese handwriting, the first two issues that you pointed out (uneven character spacing and irregular character dimensions) play a much lesser role than the third issue (It does not flow.) unless you are striving to have your Chinese text look identical to the printed plain font. Good Chinese handwriting takes into consideration the relationship of the strokes within the same character, the relationship between neighboring characters as well as the inter-relationship among the characters within the paragraph. This is an art, and just like an artist would emulate the style of Rembrandt or Picasso by studying their work, if you truly wish to develop your own presentable handwriting (or calligraphy), you would first emulate the style of recognized calligraphers. As you copy and study samples of their calligraphy, you will discover how they handle the placement of the strokes in certain radicals, how they adjust the angle and length of the strokes to balance the character around its center of gravity, and how they reduce the size of certain character and enlarge others to make them “flow” beautifully in the line. In time, with lots of practice, you will internalize that style and be able to express it as your own style and apply it to all characters that you write. (In fact, just like the English handwriting, the Chinese handwriting can also reveal one’s personality.) By the way, most calligraphy samples have the lines running from top to bottom, and this adds to the difficulty of learning to write nicely in horizontal lines.

  • lucien howard

    还需多加努力! 汉字要写好不容易,你现在这个水平可以达到中国小学生3年级左右吧 ! 再多练练! 加油!

  • Christine Sutjipto

    I’ve been reading a lot of your posts (I study Chinese and Japanese) it’s nice to finally see your handwriting! English comparison is actually cool, too :) kinda has character to it

    With handwriting, I guess it all comes down to practice makes perfect. (don’t worry, my handwriting looks a lot worse than yours, far from perfect) And it would be a good idea to keep practicing with boxed handwriting books/paper to make them even. Since this was a 2012 post..how have you progressed so far?