Edit: This question was based on a misunderstanding: I installed Chinese fonts in Ubuntu, where the default behaviour is to show Japanese characters. (I managed to fix this problem following the instructions here: https://askubuntu.com/q/901486; it was considered a bug.) Not realizing this was a software issue, I believed this problem related to 异体字 (yìtǐzì), or variant Chinese characters.

I've rephrased the question so the question is technically correct, related to the Chinese language, and so that the current answers actually answer the question.

No wonder I struggle to remember how to write (hē; to drink); this is what it looks like on my phone:

喝 written on my phone

And this is what 喝 looks like on my computer:

喝 written on my computer

This is the same character on the same website, but it's written in two different ways. It seems this is a common obstacle for people learning to write Chinese; see: Characters which have several different shapes.

These are variant Chinese characters 异体字 (yìtǐzì). I'm concerned about whether one is preferred over the other for the HSK. This would affect the reading and writing components.

Question: For the HSK, what do I need to know about characters which appear differently?

  • 1
    please read: chinese.stackexchange.com/questions/792/…
    – Huang
    Oct 11, 2017 at 0:26
  • Thanks! I think I'll edit the question now that I'm aware of this.
    – Becky 李蓓
    Oct 11, 2017 at 0:33
  • They are not 异体字, but the Korean standard or Japanese standard of the same character. 雞 and 鷄, 綫 and 線, 爲 and 為, are 异体字.
    – xenophōn
    Oct 11, 2017 at 2:23

3 Answers 3


The Chinese characters are used not only in Chinese but also several other languages (such as Japanese). The written form of the same character may differ in these languages. And on a computer, these differences are usually controlled by fonts (as they use the same code point).

The second form in your original post is a Japanese version of 喝, which will be considered wrong if used in Chinese. You might be using a font designed for Japanese to display the character. Try change to a font that is designed for displaying Chinese (like SimSun), you will get the correct Chinese written form.


You don't have to concern it at all for HSK. In China, only the standard form is used and the variants won't appear in any official exams.

The only case that I can come up with where you may concern it is the display on computers or other electrical devices. Take myself for example, when I first use the software Solidworks, the default font displays Chinese characters in Japanese version, which would be annoying when I print the engineering drawings. However, by using the correct font, everything goes well.


Just treat it as variant like the English / American spelling: colour/color, flavour / flavor, even pronunciation differ slightly, eg. "flour"pronunced as "flower" in USA.

The French in France and in Canada differ too: eg. Number 70 is (60+10), 90 is (4x20+10) in Math-crazy France, the Canadian French say them differently (using Old French equivalent words without the +, x)...

Chinese has been borrowed by Japanese and Korean thousand years ago, while the originator Chinese evolves (simplified over 3000 years, notably after the 1911 Revolution), the borrowers still keep the borrowed form from 6CE Tang dynasty.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.