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Published on 04 April 2021

Why Is Chinese Stroke Order Important?

Learning Chinese stroke order may seem like an unnecessary evil when beginning to learn Chinese. Students may wonder “will anyone actually know if I used the official stroke order? The short answer: usually yes.

There are, however, many other reasons to invest in learning the official stroke order. Here are a few:

1. It helps you write more “standard, balanced” looking characters

Chinese Character writing grid

Try it for yourself! Write the character for “continent” (, zhōu) shown above using the official order shown and then again using any order you want. The characters will likely have a different shape. If you are careful to maintain the shape, it probably took you much longer to write, which leads us to our next point.

2. It will help you write Chinese characters easier and faster

The official stroke order was designed with efficiency in mind. Notice how characters are written from top to bottom, for instance, rather than randomly. Your muscles and brain also remember movements, so constantly writing strokes in the same pattern will allow you to eventually write them much faster.

3. It can help you read Chinese handwriting or “cursive”

Chinese characters can look vastly different when they are hand written. Some strokes are often blended together, so understanding stroke order can help you recognize these combinations.

So, without further adieu, here is a complete list of the rules!

Chinese Stroke Order Fundamental Rules:

Rule #1:  Left to right

Chinese character writing illustration

Rule #2:  Top to bottom  

Chinese character writing illustration

Rule #3:  Horizontal then vertical

Chinese character writing illustration

Rule #4:  丿(piē) then (nà)

Chinese character writing illustration

Rule #5:  Outside then inside

Chinese character writing illustration

Rule #6:  Outside, inside, seal

Chinese character writing illustration

Rule #7:  Middle then sides

Chinese character writing illustration

Rule #8:  (diǎn) is written first if it is on the top or left side

Chinese character writing illustration

Rule #9:   (diǎn) is written last if it is on the right side

Chinese character writing illustration

Rule #10:   (diǎn) is written last if it is on the inside

Chinese character writing illustration

Rule #11:  Multiple (diǎn) are written last, left to write

Chinese character writing illustration

Two-Sided Characters:

Rule #12:  If the two sides are upper and right: outside then inside

Chinese character writing illustration

Rule #13:  If the two sides are upper and left: outside then inside

Chinese character writing illustration

Rule #14:  If the two sides are lower and left: inside then outside

Chinese character writing illustration

Three-Sided Characters:

Rule #15:  If the gap is facing upwards: inside then outside

Chinese character writing illustration

Rule #16:  If the gap is facing downwards: outside then inside

Chinese character writing illustration

Rule #17:  If the gap is facing right: top, inside, left side, bottom

Chinese character writing illustration

Frequently Asked Questions:

How to Chinese count strokes?

In order to count strokes, you first need to learn what the strokes are and how to distinguish them. There are 8 basic strokes. The character for “forever” (, yǒng) illustrates each of these basic strokes. Their Chinese names and pinyin pronunciations are listed next to each one.

Counting Chinese Strokes methodology

Photo credit: thoughtco.com

What is the easiest Chinese character?

The easiest Chinese character to write is the number one (, yī). The next two numbers are fairly simple to learn as well. 2 is (èr) and 3 is (sān).

What is the hardest Chinese character?

There are many complicated characters in Chinese, although they are rarely used. One of the most complicated characters is the traditional version of the   zhé character

Chinese character zhe

This means “verbose” or “scary” which is composed of 64 strokes! Writing that character would be scary for sure.

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