Basic stroke order: rules
When your language is known as an art when written, you know you have high standards every time you write. Writing in Chinese once used to be an exercise of precision and strength since people in the past had to use writing brushes 毛笔 (Máobǐ). To write neatly, they created the stroke order 笔顺 (Bǐshùn). Here are some stroke order rules you should know.
从左到右 (Cóng zuǒ dào yòu)
从左到右 means ‘from the left to the right’. If you write from the left to the right, your right hand would stay away from areas that may not have dried yet so you don’t smudge your beautiful handwriting. Now, if only more people in China were left-handed when this was developed…
Example: 他 (Tā)
从外到内 (Cóng wài dào nèi)
Having a framework allows people to have a clearer idea of what they should do next. 从外到内 (from the outside to the inside) creates a framework first. With the framework in place, it is easier to estimate space for dashes and other squiggles that belong inside.
Example: 月 (Yuè)
从内到外 (Cóng nèi dào wài)
On the other hand, some characters have more complicated interiors. You wouldn’t buy shoes first and then cut your feet down to size to fit the shoes, right? Similarly, 从内到外 or ‘from the inside to the outside’ works to allow the interior to be completed before the outside strokes accommodate the interior. An added benefit is the outside stroke can look like a skilful flourish.
Example: 还 (Hái)
先里头后封口 (Xiān lǐtou hòu fēngkǒu)
Likewise, it only makes sense to ‘close a box once it is filled’. Since the Chinese are realistic folk, they don’t see that as possible in writing either. That is the translation of 先里头后封口: ‘first the contents, then seal it up’. This also gives you ample space to write the interior without fear of hitting the bottom edge of the ‘box’.
Example: 因 (Yīn)
Chinese characters are complex drawings. Their stroke orders are no different. Even though they may make things more difficult, they certainly have both artistic and practical value.