To learn Chinese characters as effectively as possible, it’s important to get the stroke order right. As you get a feel for the correct sequence, it becomes a lot easier to memorise characters. Using the correct stroke order also helps your characters look balanced and elegant.
Here’s a set of stroke order rules to put into practice when learning to write hanzi.
1. Top to bottom
Strokes at the top of the character are written before those lower down.
三 (sān): three
立 (lì): to stand
2. Left to right
Strokes on the left should be written before strokes on the right.
八 (bā): eight
吃 (chī): to eat
3. Horizontal before vertical
Horizontal strokes (一) should be written before vertical strokes (丨).
十 (shí): ten
千 (qiān): thousand
4. Centre first in symmetrical characters
In characters with a fairly symmetrical structure, the central stroke should be written first.
小 (xiǎo): small
水 (shuǐ): water
5. Character spanning strokes last
If there is a stroke that cuts across or spans several other strokes, it should be written last.
王 (wáng): king
申 (shēn): to extend, to explain
6. Close frames last
The contents of an enclosure should be completed first, and the frame closed afterwards.
日 (rì): sun
回 (huí): to return
- Top to bottom
- Left to right
- Horizontal before vertical
- Centre first in symmetrical characters
- Character spanning strokes last
- Close frames last
These rules can be broken for certain characters. As you learn to write characters, these rules will become internalised until they seem totally natural. The exceptions, too, will lodge in your memory so that you won’t need to think about them consciously.
- Learn to Write Chinese Characters (Johan Björkstén) - as well as the basics of Chinese characters, this book also teaches you how to write elegantly and accurately.
- Read and Write Chinese Script (Song Lianyi) - also covers Chinese writing in general