A lot of traditional approaches to learning Chinese stress strokes and stroke order. We recall when we were first studying Chinese, we spent a lot of time with special character graph paper tracing strokes.
The reason for this is two-fold. First, if you are using an ink brush, stroke order affects the aesthetics of calligraphy and, if drawn out of order, smudging. So, top to bottom, left to right, symmetry, horizontal, vertical and enclosures before content. Second, early versions of digital dictionaries assumed that the primary input method would be drawing and, therefore, recognized characters in part based on stroke order.
But, unless you’re planning to study calligraphy (we do – it’s relaxing!), you don’t need to worry too much about stroke order. Modern dictionaries like Pleco allow you to lookup words using English, pinyin, IME’s and yes, drawing characters on a screen. But because character recognition software is now quite sophisticated, products like Pleco can recognize the character regardless of the stroke order.
Still, strokes are part of the character component recognition that we think is so helpful to learning Chinese. Many characters consist of one ore more components (simpler characters) PLUS strokes. Components can have both phonetic and semantic significance, while simple strokes do not.
So, recognizing strokes is still important!
Unlike radicals and characters, strokes have no phonetic or semantic significance. Therefore, there is no Pinyin or meaning associated with each stroke.
Instead, strokes are named according to the direction in which they are drawn – since strokes can be simple to complex, each direction of the brush has a separate name. For example:
横is a horizontal stroke.
数is a vertical stroke.
撇is a left slanting downward stroke.
For complex strokes, these names are concatenated to show each direction of the brush needed to complete the stroke:
竖钩is a downward stroke with a hooked stroke at the bottom.
撇钩is a left slanting downward stroke with a hooked stroke at the bottom.
It’s all quite logical, but the name for strokes can be longer than the characters that use them!
You’ll notice that the font for strokes in our list isn’t very elegant. Earlier versions of stroke lists simply used images for each stroke. But we’re using the actual Unicode characters for strokes. We need to do this for character decomposition (which includes simpler characters, radicals and strokes). So, all of those need to be in our database as Unicode characters.
Since strokes are rarely rendered as standalone elements, there is only one (very simple) font available. That’s why our list may not look exactly like the fonts you typically see for Chinese characters.
Finally, we have some “holes” in our data – we’re still in the process of reconciling the the Unicode list of strokes, which has several errors and duplicates.
Nevertheless, we think this is the most accurate list of Unicode strokes available!