There are many ways of learning Mandarin Chinese writing, and everyone will have their own preferred method. However, but there are a number of fundamental items to learn first before you start; these include
Know the Stroke Types
yongStrokes are traditionally classified into eight basic forms, each appearing in the character “eternally” and listed below according to their contemporary names. This system has remained popular for nearly two millennia:
1. “Dian” – a simple dot
2. “Heng” – horizontal stroke, left to right
3. “Shu” – vertical stroke, top to bottom
4. “Gou” – hook appended to other strokes
5. “Ti” – diagonal stroke, rising from left to right
6. “Pie” – diagonal stroke, falling from right to left
7. “Duan Pie” – short diagonal stroke, falling from right to left
8. “Na” – horizontal stroke, falling from left to right
These basic strokes are sometimes combined without the pen leaving the paper.
Examples of Stroke Use
In addition to knowing the names of the strokes in Mandarin Chinese, it’s necessary to learn how to write them; to recap the following are the first six strokes, the fundamental ones with some examples of their usage:
heng horizontal stroke
(written from left to right) as in the characteryi (one)
Shu vertical stroke
(written from top to bottom) as in the charactershi (ten)
Pie down stroke to the left
(written from top right to bottom left) as in the characterba (eight)
Na down stroke to the right
(written from top left to bottom right) as in the characterru (to enter)
(written from top to bottom right or left) as in the characterliu (six)
Ti upward stroke
(written from bottom left to top right) as in the characterba (to grasp)
Writing characters in the correct order is essential for the character to look correct and two basic rules are followed:
Top before bottom
Left before right
These rules conflict whenever one stroke is to the bottom and left of another, although several additional rules resolve these conflicts.
Left vertical stroke (usually) before top horizontal stroke
Bottom horizontal stroke last
Centre stroke before wings
Horizontal strokes before intersecting vertical strokes
Left-falling strokes before right-falling strokes
Minor strokes (often) last (might appear contradictory)
Most Chinese characters are combinations of simpler, component characters. Usually the two parts are written at top and bottom or left and right so that the main two stroke order rules readily apply although there are exceptions and, occasionally, these rules also conflict with respect to components. When one component is at the bottom-left, and the other at the top-right, the top-right component is sometimes written first.
When there are several components, top components are written first.
These rules usually imply each component is written in its entirety before another component is written but exceptions may arise when one component divides another, encompasses another, or the individual components are no longer discernible in modern writing.
Learning to Write Mandarin Chinese Programmes
Confused? Don’t be! There are numerous learner programmes available on the internet or in “real life” including those learning systems devised by Chinese teachers in the US or UK for Mandarin Chinese language learners at schools and universities. They have been specially designed for English speakers who have no or little knowledge of Mandarin Chinese, and offer a comprehensive set of features with an easy-to-use user interfaces to teach all about strokes, writing methods, examples and tips for easy advancement.
On most of the internet programmes each character is shown in both simplified and traditional form, along with its pronunciation and meaning, plus information is given about the radical (essential for finding it in a Chinese dictionary) and other components.
Learning to write Mandarin Chinese can be great fun, especially once you work out the basic rules and is a sure-fire way to improve your speaking abilities.