Stroke (CJKV character)

永, a Chinese character with a high variety of strokes.

CJKV strokes are the calligraphic strokes needed to write the Chinese characters in regular script used in East Asia. CJK strokes are the classified set of line patterns that may be arranged and combined to form Chinese characters (also known as Hanzi) in use in China, Japan, Korea, and to a lesser extent in Vietnam (see CJK characters).


The study and classification of CJK strokes aid in:

  1. understanding Chinese character calligraphy - the correct method of writing, shape formation and stroke order;
  2. understanding stroke changes according to the style that is in use;
  3. defining stroke naming and counting conventions;
  4. identifying fundamental components of Han radicals; and
  5. their use in computing.


When writing Han radicals, a single stroke includes all the motions necessary to produce a given part of a character before lifting the writing instrument from the writing surface; thus, a single stroke may have abrupt changes in direction within the line. For example:

(Shù) is classified as a basic stroke because it is a single stroke that forms a line moving in one direction.
(Shù Zhé Zhé) is classified as a compound stroke because it is a single stroke that forms a line that includes one or more abrupt changes in direction. This example is a sequence of three basic strokes written without lifting the writing instrument from the writing surface.


CJK strokes are an attempt to identify and classify all single-stroke components that can be used to write Han radicals. There are some thirty distinct types of strokes recognized in Chinese characters, some of which are compound strokes made from basic strokes. The compound strokes comprise more than one movement of the writing instrument, and many of these have no agreed-upon name.

Basic strokes

A basic stroke is a single calligraphic mark moving in one direction across a writing surface. The following table lists a selection of basic strokes divided into two stroke groups: simple and combining. "Simple strokes" (such as Héng "Horizontal" and Diǎn "Dot") can be written alone. "Combining strokes" (such as Zhé "Break" and Gōu "Hook") never occur alone, but must be paired with at least one other stroke forming a compound stroke. Thus, they are not in themselves individual strokes.

Table of basic strokes
(pinyin, trad./simp.)
CJK stroke Translation
of Chinese name
Simple strokes
Diǎn, 點/点"Dot"Tiny dash, speck
Héng, 横"Horizontal"Rightward stroke
Shù, 豎/竖"Vertical"Downward stroke
, 提"Rise"Flick up and rightwards
, 捺"Press down"Falling rightwards (fattening at the bottom)
Piě, 撇"Throw away"Falling leftwards (with slight curve)
Combining strokes
Zhé, 折 N/A"Break"Indicates change in stroke direction, usually 90° turn, going down or going right only.
Gōu, 鉤/钩"Hook"Appended to other strokes, suddenly going down or going left only.
Wān, 彎/弯"Bend"A tapering thinning curve, usually concave left (convex outward right).
Xié, 斜"Slant"Curved line, usually concave right (convex outward left).

Note, the basic stroke Diǎn "Dot" is rarely a real dot. Instead it usually takes the shape of a very small line pointing in one of several directions, and may be long enough to be confused with other strokes.

Compound strokes

Another classification showing 37 strokes: 8 basic strokes, and 29 complex strokes.[1]

A compound stroke (also called a complex stroke) is produced when two or more basic strokes are combined in a single stroke written without lifting the writing instrument from the writing surface. The character 永 (pinyin: yǒng) "eternity" described in more detail below demonstrates one of these compound strokes. The centre line is a compound stroke that combines three stroke shapes in a single stroke.

Basics for making compound strokes[2]

In most cases, concatenating basic strokes together form a compound stroke. For example, Shù combined with Gōu produce (Shù Gōu). A stroke naming convention sums the names of the basic strokes, in the writing order.

An exception to this applies when a stroke makes a turn of 90° (and only of 90°). Horizontal (Héng) and Vertical (Shù) strokes are identified only once when they appear as the first stroke of a compound; any single stroke with successive 90° turns down or to the right are indicated by a 折 (pinyin: Zhé) "Break". For example, an initial Shù followed by an abrupt turn right produces (Shù Zhé). In the same way, an initial Shù followed by an abrupt turn right followed by a second turn down produces (Shù Zhé Zhé).

Nearly all complex strokes can be named using this simple scheme.


Organization systems used to describe and differentiate strokes may include the use of roman letters, Chinese characters, numbers, or a combination of these devices. Two methods of organizing CJK strokes are by:

  1. Classification schemes that describe strokes by a naming convention or by conformity to a taxonomy; and
  2. Categorization schemes that differentiate strokes by numeric or topical grouping.

In classification schemes, stroke forms are described, assigned a representative character or letterform, and may be arranged in a hierarchy. In categorization schemes, stroke forms are differentiated, sorted and grouped into like categories; categories may be topical, or assigned by a numeric or alpha-numeric nominal number according to a designed numbering scheme.


Organizing strokes into a hierarchy aids a user's understanding by bringing order to an obtuse system of writing that has organically evolved over the period of centuries. In addition, the process of recognizing and describing stroke patterns promotes consistency of stroke formation and usage. When organized by naming convention, classification allows a user to find a stroke quickly in a large stroke collection, makes it easier to detect duplication, and conveys meaning when comparing relationships between strokes. When organized by numbering scheme, categorization aids a user in understanding stroke differences, and makes it easier to make predictions, inferences and decisions about a stroke.


Strokes are described and differentiated using the criteria of visual qualities of a stroke. Because this can require subjective interpretation, CJK strokes cannot be placed into a single definitive classification scheme because stroke types lack a universal consensus on the description and number of basic and compound forms. CJK strokes cannot be placed into a single definitive categorization scheme due to visual ambiguity between strokes, and therefore cannot be segregated into mutually-exclusive groups. Other factors inhibiting organization based on visual criteria is the variation of writing styles, and the changes of appearance that a stroke undergoes within various characters.

Roman letter naming convention

A naming convention is a classification scheme where a controlled vocabulary is used systematically to describe the characteristics of an item. The naming convention for a CJK stroke is derived from the path mark left by the writing instrument. In this instance roman letters are concatenated to form a stroke name is a sequence of one or more roman letters indicating the component strokes used to create the CJK stroke. The first letter of the Han radical’s pinyin pronunciation represents each basic stroke. In a basic stroke example, H represents the stroke named 横 (pinyin: Héng); in a compound example, HZT represents 横折提 (pinyin: Héng Zhé Tí).

While no consensus exists, there are up to 12 distinct basic strokes that are identified by a unique Han radical.

Letters commonly used in CJK stroke naming conventions[3]
Letter B D G H N P Q S T W X Z
Stroke direction 90° turn right or down
Trad./simp. / / / / /
Pinyin Biǎn Diǎn Gōu Héng Piě Quān Shù Wān Xié Zhé
Meaning "Flat" "Dot" "Hook" "Horizontal" "Press down" "Throw away" "Circle" "Vertical" "Rise" "Bend" "Slant" "Break"

There are a many CJK compound strokes, however there is no consensus for sequence letter naming of compound strokes using the basic strokes. The following table demonstrates the CJK stroke naming convention:

Selected named CJK basic and compound strokes
Stroke Name[4] Simple ideogram[5]
zhǐ shì
Section header
Dictionary meaning Example characters
H , "horizon"; simplified form of 弌 , "outstretched finger" Radical 1 一 , "one" , "cardinal number one", "alone"; dash 破折号 pòzhéhào, "Chinese punctuation dash" 二 三 丁 丞 丈 世 不 上 十 卅 七
HG   Variant form of 乙 wān, ya, zhé (折) turning stroke/to break 疋 了 危 予 矛 子 字 令 疏 写 冖
HZ       口 囗 己 田 品 吕 申 甲 圆 巪
HZG   Variant form of 乙   羽 习 包 勻 葡 用 青 甫 勺 月 也 乜
HZT       讠 计 鳩
HZZZG yùn pregnant woman (swollen breasts and stomach); compare   𠄎 nǎi, archaic form of "then", "really, indeed", "namely", "you, your" 乃 孕 仍
HZZP       建 及
HP       又 水 夕 径 炙 双 叒 今
HPW[1]       辶 过 边
HPWG       队 邮
HZW       殳 投 朵
HZWG       飞 风 瘋 九 几 气 虱
suggesting efforts of a sprouting seed; yàn representing a bird's call Radical 5 乙 , "second" yǐ, niè, "the second of the ten heavenly stems", "second"; zhé (折) turning stroke/to break 氹 乞 乤 芸
(HWG,[1] HZWG[3])
  Variant form of 丿 piě , "to move" (archaic) 飞 风 迅 九 几 凬 气 虱
BXG       心 必 沁 惢 蕊
S gěn vertical things Radical 2 丨 gǔn, "vertical stroke" , "vertical line" 丩 中 串 讧 乍 上 五 丑
SG   Radical 6 亅 jué, "hook" jué, "a vertical line with a hook", usually read as 竖勾 shùgōu 爭 事 求 水
ST juē pictograph of a hook     以 比 切 卯 食 良 艮 很 狠 鄉 民
SZ       断 陋 继 山 互 彙 牙 乐 东
SZZ       亞 鼎 卐 吳 专
      亏 强 弓 丏 丐 与 马 鸟 丂 号
      弓 丐
SW       區 亡 妄 四
SW [ héng zuǒ, "horizontal left"][7]       肅 嘯 蕭 簫
SWG   Variant form of 乙 yǐn, "hidden", "mysterious", "small", usually read as / yǐn 乱 己 已 巳
SP       乃 月 用 齊 几 人 班 大
SZP       专 𧦮 𤓷 𤦡
WG       狐 狱 豹 家 啄 嶽 貓 家 逐, 乙
P piě, a falling line suggesting motion; suggestion dragging motion Radical 4 丿 piě, "slash" 丿 piě, "line" 乂 爻 禾 毛 乏 乖 釆 衣 八 行
PZ       弘 玄 公 厶 翁
PD   See also: Radical 47 巛 See also: guì, "river" (archaic) 女 巛 巡 獵 災 甾
PN       是 走 廴
N       大 人 天 入 走 边 廷 尺
XG       戈 弋 戰 我
T     Usually read as 趯 , "jump" 冰 淋 病 孑 治 冶 冽 暴 氾 录 地 虫
TPN       辶 之 辷
TN   Variant form of 丿 piě , "stretch" 尐 之 道 八 入 廻
D zhǔ pictograph of flame (主 = lamp and flame) Radical 3 丶 zhǔ, "dot" zhǔ, "dot", usually read as 點/点 diǎn 丸 叉 义 永 冰 凡 丹 主 求 火 刃
Q     líng, "zero"; full stop (。) 句號/句号 jùhào, "Chinese punctuation full stop (period)"; may be read as quān, "circle"[7] 〇 㔔 㪳 㫈

Numbering scheme

A numbering scheme is a categorization method where like-item strokes are grouped into categories labeled by nominal numbers. Category numbering may be an index of numbers of types, with sub-types indicated by decimal point followed by another number or a letter.[4]

The following table is a common numbering scheme that uses similar names as the roman letter naming convention, but the stroke forms are grouped into major category types (1 to 5), which further break down into 25 sub-types in category 5.

Example of a CJK stroke numbering scheme[8]
No. Stroke Name
(simplified Chinese and pinyin)
Horizontal (一)
1 Héng
Vertical (丨)
2 Shù
竖钩 Shù Gōu
Slash (丿)
3 Piě
撇钩 Piě Gōu
Dot (丶)
4 Diǎn
提捺 Tì Nà
No. Stroke Name
(simplified Chinese and pinyin)
Turning stroke (折 Zhé = right angle turn) or (弯 Wān = curve turn)
5.1 横折 Héng Zhé
5.2 横撇 Héng Piě
5.3 横钩 Héng Gōu
5.4 竖折 Shù Zhé
5.5 竖弯 Shù Wān
5.6 竖提 Shù Tì
5.7 撇横 Piě Zhé
5.8 撇点 Piě Diǎn
5.9 撇钩 Piě Gōu
5.10 弯钩 Wān Gōu
5.11 斜钩 Xié Gōu
5.12 横折折 Héng Zhé Zhé
5.13 横折弯 Héng Zhé Wān
5.14 横折提 Héng Zhé Tì
5.15 横折钩 Héng Zhé Gōu
5.16 横斜钩 Héng Xié Gōu
5.17 竖折折 Shù Zhé Zhé
5.18 竖折撇 Shù Zhé Piě
5.19 竖弯钩 Shù Wān Gōu
5.20 横折折折 Héng Zhé Zhé Zhé
5.21 横折折撇 Héng Zhé Zhé Piě
5.22 横折弯钩 Héng Zhé Wān Gōu
5.23 横撇弯钩 Héng Piě Wān Gōu
5.24 竖折折钩 Shù Zhé Zhé Gōu
5.25 横折折折钩 Héng Zhé Zhé Zhé Gōu

Stroke order

Main article: Stroke order

Stroke order refers to the order in which the strokes of a Chinese character are written. A stroke is a movement of a writing instrument on a writing surface. Because most Chinese characters have many strokes, certain stroke orders guidelines are recommended to ensure speed, accuracy, and legibility in composition. Also, teachers enforce exactly one stroke order for each character, marking every deviation as a mistake, so everyone writes these characters the same way. The stroke order follows a few simple rules, though, which aids in memorizing these. To write CJK characters, one must know how to write CJK strokes, and thus, needs to identify the basic strokes that make up a character.

Eight Principles of Yong

The Eight Principles of Yong explain how to write eight common strokes in regular script which are found all in the one character, (pinyin: yǒng, "forever", "permanence"). It was traditionally believed that the frequent practice of these principles as a beginning calligrapher could ensure beauty in one's writing.

Eight basic strokes[2]
Eight principle strokes extracted from , "eternity" (five basic strokes: D, T, W, P, N and one compound stroke HZG). Enlarge this image to see the red arrows, showing the way of writing of each.
- the Diǎn 點/点, is a dot, filled from the top, to the bottom, traditionally made by "couching" the brush on the page.
- the Héng 横, is horizontal, filled from left to right, the same way the Latin letters A, B,C,D are written.
- the Shù 豎/竖, is vertical-falling. The brush begins by a dot on top, then falls downward.
- the Gōu 鉤/钩, ending another stroke, is a sharp change of direction either down (after a Heng) or left (after a Shù).
- the 提, is a flick up and rightwards
- the Wān 彎/弯, follows a concave path on the left or on the right
- the Piě 撇, is a falling leftwards (with a slight curve)
- the 捺, is falling rightwards (with an emphasis at the end of the stroke)
(+ - the Xié 斜 is sometimes added to the 永's strokes. It's a concave Shù falling right, always ended by a Gōu, visible on this image).

Use in computing

The stroke count method is based on the order of strokes to input characters on Chinese mobile phones.

As part of Chinese character encoding, there have been several proposals to encode the CJK strokes, most of time with a total around 35~40 entries. Most notable is the current Unicode block “CJK Strokes” (U+31C0..U+31EF), with 36 types of strokes:

CJK Strokes[1][2]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
1.^ As of Unicode version 9.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Lopez, Hugo (2007). "CJK 37 Strokes (fr:Traits chinois)".
  2. 1 2 The extended CJK(V) set of strokes has 29 strokes. These most common 29 used strokes can be reduced to combinations of 8 basic strokes, for a total of 37 strokes. The subset of 8 is found in the character "eternity" 永, hence the name of this set. But other sets of CJK(V) strokes can be found.
  3. 1 2 3 "Proposed additions to the CJK Strokes block of the UCS", Ideographic Rapporteur Group, April 3, 2006, p. 10 Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. 1 2 Bishop, Tom; Cook, Richard (May 23, 2004), "Character Description Language (CDL): The Set of Basic CJK Unified Stroke Types", p. 8 Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. Rick Harbaugh,, retrieved February 1, 2011
  6. "Proposed additions to the CJK Strokes block of the UCS", Ideographic Rapporteur Group, April 3, 2006 Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. 1 2 "自由的百科全书" [Stroke] (in Chinese). 笔画. July 27, 2012.
  8. "自由的百科全书" [Stroke] (in Chinese). 笔画. February 9, 2011.

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to CJK strokes.


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