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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)
the Hanzi stroke dian
the Hanzi stroke dian (alternative shape)
点, diǎn
the Hanzi stroke dian within a Chinese character
san1 (Cantonese) / xīn (Mandarin Chinese)
the Hanzi stroke heng
横, héng
the Hanzi stroke heng within a Chinese character
baak3 (Cantonese) / băi (Mandarin Chinese)
the Hanzi stroke shu
竖, shù
the Hanzi stroke shu within a Chinese character
zung1 (Cantonese) / zhōng (Mandarin Chinese)
the Hanzi stroke pie
撇, piě
the Hanzi stroke pie within a Chinese character
deoi3 (Cantonese) / jiā (Mandarin Chinese)
the Hanzi stroke na
捺, nà
the Hanzi stroke na within a Chinese character
jan4 (Cantonese) / rén (Mandarin Chinese)
the Hanzi stroke ti
the Hanzi stroke ti (alternative shape)
the Hanzi stroke ti within a Chinese character
gaam2 (Cantonese) / jiăn (Mandarin Chinese)
Complex strokes
钩 gōu
the Hanzi stroke hengzhegou

横折钩, héng zhé gōu

also: 横折, héng zhé

the Hanzi stroke hengzhegou within a Chinese character
maa5 (Cantonese) / (Mandarin Chinese)
the Hanzi stroke hengzhewangou
the Hanzi stroke hengzhewangou (alternative shape)
横折弯钩, héng zhé wān gōu
the Hanzi stroke hengzhewangou within a Chinese character
gau2 (Cantonese) / jiŭ (Mandarin Chinese)
the Hanzi stroke henggou
横钩, héng gōu
the Hanzi stroke henggou within a Chinese character
hung1 (Cantonese) / kōng (Mandarin Chinese)
the Hanzi stroke shugou
竖钩, shù gōu
the Hanzi stroke shugou within a Chinese character
seoi2 (Cantonese) / shuĭ (Mandarin Chinese)
the Hanzi stroke shuwangou
竖弯钩, shù wān gōu
the Hanzi stroke shuwangou within a Chinese character
taai3 (Cantonese) / (Mandarin Chinese)
the Hanzi stroke xiegou
斜钩, xié gōu
the Hanzi stroke xiegou within a Chinese character
gaam2 (Cantonese) / jiăn (Mandarin Chinese)
the Hanzi stroke pinggou
平钩, píng gōu
the Hanzi stroke pinggou within a Chinese character
nei5 (Cantonese) / nin (Mandarin Chinese)
the Hanzi stroke shuzhezhegou
竖折折钩, shù zhé zhé gōu
the Hanzi stroke shuzhezhegou within a Chinese character
maa5 (Cantonese) / (Mandarin Chinese)
点 diǎn
the Hanzi stroke piedian
撇点, piě diǎn
the Hanzi stroke piedian within a Chinese character
jyu5 (Cantonese) / (Mandarin Chinese)
the Hanzi stroke piezhe
撇折, piě zhé
the Hanzi stroke piezhe within a Chinese character
kap1 (Cantonese) / gei (Mandarin Chinese)
the Hanzi stroke shuzhe
竖折, shù zhé
the Hanzi stroke shuzhe within a Chinese character
seoi3 (Cantonese) / sui (Mandarin Chinese)
the Hanzi stroke hengpie
横撇, héng piě
the Hanzi stroke hengpie within a Chinese character
zeoi3 (Cantonese) / zui (Mandarin Chinese)
the Hanzi stroke hengzhezhepie
横折折撇, héng zhé zhé piě
the Hanzi stroke hengzhezhepie within a Chinese character
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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