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Strokes in Chinese language

Regardless of their impressive number and variety, all Chinese characters are composed of less than 30* so-called "strokes". These can be compared to the letters used in English script: They are the smallest components of a word (respectively a character) and cannot be broken up any further.

The following table lists all strokes that occur in Chinese characters.

# Stroke (variants) Name
(in Mandarin Chinese)
Example character
Basic strokes (without changes of direction)
点, diǎn

san1 (Cantonese) / xīn (Mandarin Chinese)
横, héng

baak3 (Cantonese) / băi (Mandarin Chinese)
竖, shù

zung1 (Cantonese) / zhōng (Mandarin Chinese)
撇, piě

deoi3 (Cantonese) / jiā (Mandarin Chinese)
捺, nà

jan4 (Cantonese) / rén (Mandarin Chinese)

gaam2 (Cantonese) / jiăn (Mandarin Chinese)
Complex strokes
钩 gōu

横折钩, héng zhé gōu

also: 横折, héng zhé

maa5 (Cantonese) / (Mandarin Chinese)
横折弯钩, héng zhé wān gōu

gau2 (Cantonese) / jiŭ (Mandarin Chinese)
横钩, héng gōu

hung1 (Cantonese) / kōng (Mandarin Chinese)
竖钩, shù gōu

seoi2 (Cantonese) / shuĭ (Mandarin Chinese)
竖弯钩, shù wān gōu

taai3 (Cantonese) / (Mandarin Chinese)
斜钩, xié gōu

gaam2 (Cantonese) / jiăn (Mandarin Chinese)
平钩, píng gōu

nei5 (Cantonese) / nin (Mandarin Chinese)
竖折折钩, shù zhé zhé gōu

maa5 (Cantonese) / (Mandarin Chinese)
点 diǎn
撇点, piě diǎn

jyu5 (Cantonese) / (Mandarin Chinese)
撇折, piě zhé

kap1 (Cantonese) / gei (Mandarin Chinese)
竖折, shù zhé

seoi3 (Cantonese) / sui (Mandarin Chinese)
横撇, héng piě

zeoi3 (Cantonese) / zui (Mandarin Chinese)
横折折撇, héng zhé zhé piě

gin3 (Cantonese) / jian (Mandarin Chinese)
Missing a stroke? Let us know!

*Some strokes occur in different variants that can also be regarded as separate strokes. This is why there is no official number of strokes.


Frequently asked questions:

Question: "Do traditional Chinese characters contain other strokes than the modern, simplified characters?"

No, both types of characters are using the same strokes from the above table as basic components.


Question: "Which font is used for the Chinese characters in the table above?"

The strokes and characters were created using the KaiTi (楷体) font with a font size of 150pt. This font is based on handwriting: the strength of the stokes and lines varies as if a pincel had been used to write them.


Question: "Which font is used for the Chinese characters in the Han Trainer Online Dictionary?"

If you are using the (normal) Han Trainer Chinese-English dictionary, the characters are displayed in the font "SimSun". This font uses serifs. It has been designed for printing purposes and can be read easily on screens and on paper. It's the most commonly used font for Chinese texts. However, it's not the kind of font you would use if the result should look nice and natural.
All other dictionaries use the font "KaiTi".


Question: "Are you sure about the average of 13 strokes in a Chinese character?"

I know it seems a bit much. And in fact, most simplified characters you'll encounter will have less than 13 strokes.
How does this go together? The answer is frequency-weighted average: It means that the more common characters have a lower number of strokes. According to Chih-Hao Tsai, ...

and so on...


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