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When someone has grasped the basic concepts of writing Chinese there comes a point where handwriting starts to look plain or mechanical. From what I have seen the lines look very straight and like someone who has just copied directly from a book.

I know with my own journey I had gradually been given pointers to improve my writing which were simple, but changed my writing significantly to make it look much more elegant.

The two that come to mind immediately were to ensure that radicals were written smaller than the rest of the character and to have horizontal lines slightly angled upward.

What pointers can you give to someone who has a basic grasp of writing so that they can make their writing appear more professional / more beautiful?

This may not be something that everyone does, but could assist someone with developing their own style as not all techniques work for everyone.

NOTE: Please provide concrete, useable answers, not just find some books and copy. I am looking for techniques that are practical and useable.

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Even native speakers want to know the answer to this question. Maybe I can summarize some "concrete and easy" tricks for how to write well ... but I'm sure serious calligrapher would be very angry for my wrong answer 误人子弟 XD So a safe answer would be telling you first practice strokes and second structures of characters and finally practice and practice following some copybooks ... – Stan Aug 22 '13 at 6:48
In my personal experience, writing Chinese, or Chinese calligraphy, is one of the few skills that's completely based on practice and has few to none moments you feel suddenly enlightened and your writing skill improves automatically. Even the top calligraphers need to prepare and keep practicing each character one by one. – NS.X. Aug 22 '13 at 8:30
+1 for nice question. I've been wondering this myself for years! The answer below is great... pictures really help – Growler Aug 22 '13 at 16:04
up vote 16 down vote accepted

1) Ensure correct proportions between all parts. Don't scrunch in. Don't squeeze down. Don't squeeze together.

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2) Radicals should be smaller on top and thinner on sides. Don't make radicals the same size as the rest of the character.

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3) Horizontal strokes appear much nicer if they go up at a slight angle.

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4) Ensure vertical strokes don't go off at a weird angle and if there are multiple horizontal strokes make sure they are in harmony.

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5) Top to bottom = thin to fat

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6) Ensure left hand side radical height is similar in height to rest of the character (this has some exceptions).

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7) Make sure second tier horizontal lines are long enough and longer than first tier horizontal lines.

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Very interesting +1. Here's my suggestions: 1) Better to use a pen to practice. If you only have gel pens, better to choose a think one (>0.5mm). Then you can write strokes in several weights. 2) In fact though 楷书 is the basis, personally I think it's the most difficult style to write well. If you want to write Chinese for practical use, please consider 行书. 3) Practicing following this order would be more efficient: strokes, radicals and then complete characters. When you write radicals beautiful, you're not far away from writing a complete character beautiful. – Stan Aug 22 '13 at 12:45
Interesting! From a foreign view, I could see, many years ago, how I explored these rules. – congliu Aug 22 '13 at 15:39

Practice writing characters, over and over again:

enter image description here

The idea is to train your muscle memory to be able to write strokes in the right way - angles, shape, sizes. I don't think there is a silver bullet here; it's just practice, practice, practice.

When I was young I did this using tracing paper over a template. Nowadays you can probably find apps for it.

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Or create your own - just use a light gray font and print away. – Steve Aug 22 '13 at 17:02
You can create your own free character practice sheets here: They are great! – stuckintheshuck Aug 23 '13 at 16:25
I practice with in my iPhone/iPad. – stuckintheshuck Aug 23 '13 at 16:26
I use Word Tracer - Learn Chinese on iPad. It works very well for me. – Boon Jun 2 '14 at 2:42

If you're serious learner, or educated Chinese speaker, try learn brush writing.

This video shows how it is possible to write it that beautiful.

永字八法 Eight Principles of 永

There're eight basic strokes to practice on:

In Chinese: eight principles of yong

In English: english eight principles of yong

In Japanese: japanese eight principles of yong

How to grab the brush

There're two major ways of holding the brush pen: 單鉤法 and 雙鉤法: Two ways

文房四寶 Paraphernalia

文房四寶者 筆 墨 硯 紙也 (The four friends of the study, namely, brush, ink, inkstone, and paper)


  1. 筆 brush

  2. 筆置 brush holder

  3. 墨汁 ink (liquid)

  4. 墨 ink (solid)

  5. 硯 inkstone

  6. 下敷 paper holder

  7. 半紙 paper

  8. 文鎮 paper fix

Update - Dictionary

Now you know all you need is practice, so a collection of writing styles from renowned writer can help us learn it nice and well, for example, 新書道字典, a publication in Japan, where brush writing prevails in all time. In these kind of dictionary, many famous renderings are group together for each and every character: preview

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Practicing with a brush does help improve the quality of writing with a pencil. A handy way of practicing is using reusable paper: You can also buy this on – stuckintheshuck Aug 23 '13 at 16:21
Good for you, @stuckintheshuck, I raked it in some 15 years, it's juuust awesome ^0^ – congliu Aug 23 '13 at 16:24
Dear downvoter, would you please provide your opinion so that we can get hopefully improved service or it can be misleading. – congliu Sep 8 '13 at 13:23

Just keep practising... Writing the same character again and again for 50 times or now? You'd be glad to know that's exactly what the education in primary school is like in China...

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I would just keep practicing. You should also have confidence in yourself and write characters over and over again. Its all about 练习!(practice)

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