Now that you have learned about the basic strokes used when writing Chinese, let's go into a little more detail about how to combine strokes to form Chinese characters. In order to write characters that look correct, you must write each stroke in the correct order and direction. There are a number of principles that can be used as guides to stroke order. Here are seven rules of thumb.
Rule of Thumb #1: Top-to-Bottom
When a Chinese character is “stacked” vertically, like the character 立 lì or “to stand,” the rule is to write from top to bottom.
Rule of Thumb #2: Left-to-Right
When a Chinese character has a radical, the character is written left to right. The same rule applies to characters that are stacked horizontally. Take a look at the 吃 chī example above, which means “to eat.”
Rule of Thumb #3: Symmetry Counts
When you are writing a character that is centered and more or less symmetrical (but not stacked from top to bottom) the general rule is to write the center stroke first. Check out the character 小 xiǎo which means “small.”
Rule of Thumb #4: Horizontal First, Vertical Second
Horizontal strokes are always written before vertical strokes. Check out how to write the character 十 shí or “ten.”
Rule of Thumb #5: Enclosures before Content
You want to create the frame of the character before you fill it in. Check out how to write the character 日 rì or “sun.”
Rule fo Thumb #6: Close Frames Last
Remember this step as, "You want to fill the closet before you close the door.” After you write the middle strokes, close the frame, such as in the character 回 huí or “to return.”
Rule of Thumb #7: Character-spanning Strokes Last
For strokes that cut across many other strokes, they are often written last. For example, the character 半 bàn, which means “half.” The vertical line is written last.
However, there are always exceptions to everything. In order to truly master stroke order, you need to learn each radical and character individually and practice writing them.
Below is a table showing the stroke order for many radicals. Radicals are the building blocks of characters, and we'll discuss them next. Again, don't worry, you need not learn all of these right now! For reference only. You can also click on the image of each radical for a close-up view or on the number next to it for more detailed information.
|2 strokes||7 8 9 25 26 27 28 29|
|3 strokes||30 31 32 33 34 60|
|4 strokes||61 62 63 64 90 91 92 93 94|
|5 strokes||95 96 97 98 99 115 116 117|
|6 strokes||118 119 145 146|
|7 strokes||147 148 149 165 166|
|8 strokes||167 168 169 175|
|9 strokes||176 177 178 179 185 186|