This is the lesson attached to the Chinese learning game Peace of Mind. Compare and match Chinese characters no matter what style they are written in. Play with 8 different styles including simplified and traditional characters! Play the FREE version of the game or join us and get the full version!

Peace of Mind | Chinese Lesson
The Chinese Writing System

Vocabulary Grammar Keep in Mind


gǒu dog
mèi little sister
māo cat
qiú ball
big brother
wán play
nǎi milk
shuǐ water
chī eat
zhuō table
qún skirt
xié shoe
mào hat

shǒu hand
bāo bag
dāo knife
chǐ ruler
zhī juice
wǎn bowl
bēi cup
qiū Autumn
chūn Spring
xià Summer
dōng Winter
léi thunder
shù tree
cǎo grass
hǎi sea
shā sand
huā flower

huǒ fire
xuě snow
书(書) shū book
纸(紙) zhǐ paper
伞(傘) sǎn umbrella
钟(鐘) zhōng clock
门(門) mén door
笔(筆) pen
叶(葉) leaf
车(車) chē car
裤(褲) pants
袜(襪) sock
电(電) diàn electricity
龙(龍) lóng dragon
风(風) fēng wind
云(雲) yún cloud

The Chinese Writing System

Chinese Character Structure

The Chinese script consists of over 40,000 signs although you need only a few thousand for everyday life.

Those signs are called characters and are either pictograms, ideograms, or signs that indicate sounds. You can also find phono-semantic compounds, which are combinations of pictograms/ideograms with sound indicators, contained in one character.

Contrary to popular belief, pictograms make up only a small portion of Chinese characters. Conversely, ideograms and phono-semantic compounds represent the largest group of characters in Chinese.

Harmony & Balance

Each character is written inside an imaginary square, giving the script a very regular pattern. No extra spacing is required between words or group of words in order to maintain this perfectly regular pattern. Harmony and balance are important concepts in Chinese.


Writing Direction

Sentences are traditionally written in vertical columns starting at the top-right hand corner. This is why you read a Chinese novel from the «last page» and then backwards to the «first page.»

left right


Nowadays, the familiar Western layout of horizontal rows from left to right (and from top to bottom) with indentation for paragraphs has become more popular.

left right


Oracle Bone Style

There are numerous styles in which characters can be written. Like ancient Egyptian which evolved from hieroglyphs to hieratic and then to demotic (faster forms of the script), the Chinese characters evolved from detailed pictograms to abstract forms.

The very first characters were written in what is called the Oracle Bone style, which faithfully depicts the silhouette of objects or animals. The Oracle Bone Script has been so named because writing was mainly used for fortune-telling at first. A heated poker was applied to an animal bone to make it crack and the predictions inferred from the cracks were then carved into the bone.

Chinese writing styles Chinese writing style usage
Click to enlarge

Later Styles

The succeeding styles tend to favor greater abstraction. The Seal script is still in use today but only in the carving of artistic seals, hence the name.

the Semi-cursive Script is used for handwriting. The Regular Script is mostly used for printing purposes, and the Cursive Script or Grass Script is a purely artistic calligraphic style.

The Simplified Script was invented in the mid-1950s and is used only by the inhabitants of Mainland China. The simplification process affects just a handful of characters. It is possible to recognize a simplified character from its traditional form, but the reverse is less likely.

Keep in Mind

Character Shapes & Stroke Order

All Chinese characters are written using a few basic strokes. The strokes in the Chinese writing system have names and are to be written in the correct order.

It is this particular order that determines the shape of the character in cursive and stylistic styles, which is why it is IMPERATIVE that you learn the correct order of the strokes for each character.

Peace of Mind | Chinese Script Styles
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