Chinese Handwriting

Traditional Characters Handwriting

Like most of you, when I first began learning Chinese, I was very fascinated with the thousands of Chinese characters out there and the methods that people used to learn them. As I began to learn them myself, I began to wonder how people were able to write so fast if there were characters that required so many strokes. Surely if there was a contest between someone writing a paragraph in English and someone writing the equivalent paragraph in Chinese, the former would easily win! However, upon closer examination, two things became evident. Firstly, the equivalent Chinese paragraph would be shorter (in terms of characters required) than its English counterpart. As well, just like in English, Chinese writers use their own form of short hand to greatly speed up their writing.

As you will see in the following examples, when handwriting in Chinese, strokes tend to be slurred. While to the untrained eye the end result for some characters may not look like the characters they are supposed to represent, native speakers can easily make them out. Compare the following with their typed equivalents.

Traditional Characters Handwriting


Traditional Characters Handwriting


Traditional Characters Handwriting


Traditional Characters Handwriting


No Responses to “Chinese Handwriting”

  1. Interesting that nobody has commented on this one yet. Is handwriting not popular among students?

    So how do you get from laboriously copying printed words stroke by stroke, to something that’s really handwriting? I don’t think you can, unless you have frequent encounters with other people’s handwriting, to gradually absorb the kinds of modifications that are acceptable without changing the character. Or is it something that is taught to kids in school, like how we learned printing first and then cursive writing?

  2. I think it is just that handwriting is far down the list of priorities, I rate reading far higher, it seems that once you can read a bunch of characters confidently, then learning to write them kindergarden style is realtivly easy. I am happy to save cursive until I have mastered the language.

    As for the conciseness of the written language, in a way Chinese is a mind-hack. For example the popular microblogging site twitter allows 140 characters per post. You can write a lot more in Chinese in 140 characters than English. Ok techies may point out that for Chinese on a computer you need 16bits per character rather than 8bits for western text, but most web apps play nicely via unicode or UTF8 so that is irrelevant, you can still say more for less.
    I have just decided to use Twitter as an extra learing aid. I can try little snippets of written Chinese on a regular basis and can review what I have written at any time.

  3. I am absolutely perplexed by Chinese handwriting. As a relative beginner (finishing up 1 year of Mandarin study), I feel very confident reading the 200 or 300 characters I know provided they’re in the exact font my textbook uses. Minor deviations in printing style trip me up, to say nothing of attempting to decrypt a Chinese person’s handwriting. They might as well be two entirely different sets of characters.

    I agree with Chris that handwriting recognition is something worth putting off until I’ve mastered the language. As I start to see how radicals work together to create meaning, and become more familiar with the ones used in common characters, I’m sure I’ll start to pick up the shorthand by knowing how the radicals are abbreviated. In the mean time, I’m sticking to print.

  4. I think that learning handwritting is actually one of the more important aspects of remmebering the characters. It cements in your mind how to produce the characters. You are nolonger trying to memorise a complicated shape, you are remembering components and stroke-patterns.
    I found that when I was first exposed to a class room situation that I could not understand the hand writing of anyone at all. Given a few months though and I had see all the short cuts that are used and understood the patterens. Given another few months and I could write hand writing almost like a native (I say almost because I am still slower, but that may be because I have to think about what I want to write before I write it). Learning cursive is not something that you need to study; you just need to be exposed to it and have the time to look at the characters stroke by stroke and perhaps try to reproduce that in your own writing, bit by bit.
    Learning Cursive is not too hard, and it is valuable. Hanzi really come alive when you are able to write them properly. For some reason they stick better.

  5. I don’t think the writing in the photo is hand writing. I think it’s just a font that happens to look like hand writing. In fact it doesn’t look that different from the “standard” characters.
    If you can write in the correct order, you gradually develop your own style and you know how to properly write cursive. You just need to write really quick.

  6. Dan Foster

    I agree, it appears to be a font (two of the lines contain the character 的, and they are absolutely identical in all ways, more so than would ever happen if they were written separately). It is clearly based on somebody’s actual handwriting, and in my opinion is very beautiful, a rather angular writing style that doesn’t deviate too much from standard kaishu. If anybody has a clue how to obtain this font, let me know–would love to have it to study and admire!

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