Languages › Mandarin Learning to Write Chinese Characters Share Flipboard Email Print Grant Faint / Getty Images Mandarin Understanding Chinese Characters Mandarin History and Culture Pronunciation Vocabulary By Qiu Gui Su Chinese Language Expert Qiu Gui Su is a native Mandarin speaker who has taught Mandarin Chinese for over 20 years. our editorial process Qiu Gui Su Updated March 19, 2019 Learning to write Chinese characters is one of the most difficult aspects of learning Mandarin Chinese. There are thousands of different characters, and the only way to learn them is by memorization and constant practice. In this digital age, it’s possible to use a computer to write Chinese characters, but learning how to write Chinese characters by hand is the best way to gain a thorough understanding of each character. Computer Input Anyone who knows Pinyin can use a computer to write Chinese characters. The problem with this is that pinyin spellings can represent many different characters. Unless you know exactly which character you need, you will likely make mistakes when using the computer to write Chinese characters. A good knowledge of Chinese characters is the only way to write Chinese correctly, and the best way to gain knowledge of Chinese characters is by learning to write them by hand. Radicals Chinese characters may seem incomprehensible to anyone who doesn’t know the language, but there is a method to constructing them. Each character is based on one of 214 radicals — the basic elements of the Chinese writing system. Radicals form the building blocks of Chinese characters. Some radicals can be used as both building blocks and independent characters, but others are never used independently. Stroke Order All Chinese characters consist of strokes which should be written in a specific order. Learning the stroke order is an important part of learning to write Chinese characters. The number of strokes is used to classify Chinese characters in dictionaries, so an added benefit of learning strokes is being able to use Chinese dictionaries. The basic rules for stroke order are: left to right and top to bottomhorizontal before verticalhorizontal and vertical strokes which pass over other strokesdiagonals (right-to-left and then left-to-right)center verticals and then outside diagonalsoutside strokes before inside stokesleft verticals before enclosing strokesbottom enclosing strokesdots and minor strokes You can see an example of stroke order in the illustration at the top of this page. Learning Aids Workbooks designed for writing practice are widely available in Chinese-speaking countries, and you may be able to find them in cities with a large Chinese community. These workbooks usually illustrate a character with the proper stroke order and provide lined boxes for writing practice. They are intended for school children but are useful for anyone learning to write Chinese characters. If you can’t find a practice book like this, you can download this Microsoft Word file and print it out. Books There a several books about writing Chinese characters. One of the better ones is Keys to Chinese Character Writing (English).