Far from being complicated drawings, Chinese characters are made out of simple single strokes, all of them variations of only eight basic ones. All strokes have their own name and are written according to a few rules. It’s very important to learn to recognize them, since the number of strokes in a character is often the easiest way to find it in an index… but this will become clear after learning radicals and the use of dictionaries.
1 The following are the first six strokes, the fundamental ones:
2 The last two strokes have several different variations. The first group is composed by five strokes with a hook:
3 And the following by two single strokes with a turn:
4 Combined strokes are made out of basic ones. The following are a few examples:
If a character can be compared to a word in alphabetic languages, then strokes are like letters… learning them is the key to memorize characters. And then, characters don’t only need to be correct, they should also be as beautiful and balanced as possible. It is therefore necessary to copy the single strokes many times (be it with a brush or, much easier, with a pen) to memorize their shape and thickness.
The way strokes are combined into characters involves learning a few rules on stroke order; this will be the goal of our next lesson.