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Writing Chinese Characters – An introduction
Chinese characters are all in square block shape like this one: 口 (meaning ‘mouth’). Simple or complicated, they all take the same area on paper. To write Chinese, you should know 3 things to get ready:
A stroke is a single brush of pen on the paper. All Chinese characters are made of one or more strokes such as the character: 一 (meaning ‘one’). There are dozens of simple strokes which will be discussed in detail in Class 6. Please also remember that every stroke should be written in a specific way. For example, the horizontal stroke in character “一” has to been written from left to right.
Radicals are the basic component of Chinese characters. Think of Chinese characters as molecules like water or salt and then the radicals as equivalents to element atoms such as sodium, hydrogen, or oxygen. The analogy can be demonstrated this way:
Chinese characters - > molecules such as water, salt, sugar
Radicals - > atoms such as sodium, hydrogen, or carbon
Stroke - > subatomic particles such as proton, neutron, or electron
Just like Chemical elements, many radicals can make single characters by themselves. The character口(mouth), for example, is frequently used as radicals in characters related to mouth such as 唱, meaning ‘sing’.
Radicals are very important to the meaning and writing of Chinese characters. Here are two examples. First example, 男 means “man”. It is made up of 2 radicals vertically. The upper part is 田, meaning farm land and the lower part is 力, meaning labor or force. Therefore, it is easy to remember the character because the labor at the land is often male people. Another example: the character 林means “forest”. Since 木 means wood, it should seem obvious that doubling wood would make a forest.
There are about 200 radicals in Chinese characters. Learning them all is a natural process that will not take too long.
3. Stroke and Radical orders
There is a certain order to write strokes and radicals in a Chinese character. The general rule is from above to below, from outside to inside, and from left to right.
We will use the next 3 lessons to show you the details of these 3 important aspects of writing Chinese characters so that you will be best prepared to start to write Chinese.