Chinese Characters 101 (Part 4): The 12 Stroke Order Rules

Check out the other parts of this series here:

Part 1: What are Chinese Characters?

Part 2: Chinese Strokes, Components & Radicals

Part 3: The 6 Types of Chinese Characters

Handwriting characters is essential as a means of developing muscle memory to further enhance your retention of Chinese characters. It’s also very useful to be able to write Chinese by hand in certain situations. Just to be 100% clear, though, we do NOT advocate rote learning! We just recommend writing them out once or twice while learning or reviewing them for the reasons stated above.

In order to write characters in a remotely legible way, you need to follow a clear set of rules. There are 12 rules you need to follow. Here they are one-by-one:

Rule #1: From Top To Bottom

Rule #2: From Left To Right

Rule #3: Horizontal Before Vertical

Rule #4: Diagonals Right-To-Left Before Diagonals Left-To-Right

Rule #5: Outside Before Inside

Rule #6: Inside Before Outside

Rule #7:  Inside Before Bottom Enclosing

Rule #8: Center Verticals Before Outside “Wings”

Rule #9: Cutting Strokes Last

Rule #10: Left Vertical Before Enclosing

Rule #11: Top Or Upper-Left Dots First

Rule #12: Inside Or Upper-Right Dots Last  

Thanks to ArchChinese for this list and thanks to for the images!

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