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Is there any online database or printed reference work where it's possible to look up a character and see it written in many different styles, like different printing fonts, cursives and pictures from classic calligraphy works?

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3 Answers 3

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There are in fact a few websites out there, not to mention hundreds of book titles. You may want to try guoxuedashi.com, which has one overview page for each character (eg http://www.guoxuedashi.com/zidian/672C.html) and many sub-pages, one of them indeed with a nice overview of writing styles with pictures from historical sources, such as http://shufa.guoxuedashi.com/672C/.

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Actually, we don't have so much different kind of handwriting styles in Chinese. Usually there are two types: regular script (楷体) or running script (行体). Regular script is just the standard writing style and the running one is something we write when we write faster.

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Mobile software Pleco has this function, here's a look at the charter 好

enter image description here

So the order is something like:

篆、草、行、楷

Seal, cursive, running and regular scripts.

(They're not all free though)

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