Are there any resources / how-to sources about how to write Chinese characters faster than normal while still being readable? It took me forever to take notes while in class.

  • try Google 硬筆字+行書 Commented Apr 15, 2013 at 2:06
  • 3
    @AngelLeliel or instead, they could maybe ask on some kind of question and answer site for experts, language enthusiasts, and people who have an interest in the Chinese language..? :P
    – Cocowalla
    Commented Apr 16, 2013 at 5:15
  • For me personally, I don't take my pen off the paper and continue the strokes as 1 if comfortable. Commented Apr 24, 2016 at 13:40
  • Is it proper to ask non-native speaker to write Chinese in 行书 or 草书 ? I think there is no easy way to write fast. Just practise.
    – catinred
    Commented May 5, 2016 at 2:14

5 Answers 5


In restaurants (茶餐廳) in Hong Kong, the "waiters" also face this problem because writing in a formal and clear way takes too much time. They developed methods so that they can take orders faster:

  • Write words with other words that has the same pronunciation.
    For example, instead of writing the word 「飯」(faan6), they would write 「反」(faan2) because they both have similar pronunciations.

  • Draw symbols instead of words.
    Instead of writing 「叉燒」, writing 「╳燒」takes less time and is still readable.

  • Try to write with less strokes. Instead of writing a stroke by another, try this:
    enter image description here

  • Use a mixture of Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese: (applies to people who are outside of mainland China, mainly for users of Traditional Chinese)
    Eg: 我是一個好生。

  • 1
    Why not just go the whole nine yards and use Simplified all the time? After all, it was designed primarily for ease of writing. Commented Apr 15, 2013 at 0:39
  • Nice answer, you may like to clarify your last point which applies to users of traditional Chinese characters who know a bit of simplified Chinese. @Cong Xu, I doubt traditional Chinese users can make the full conversion to simplified without the help of some tools.
    – 杨以轩
    Commented Apr 15, 2013 at 2:10
  • Great! Thanks for the image - good way to demonstrate. I only write simplified Han zi. I bought some books that provide fast-hand writing han ci to practice/ copy the characters but don't like that person style.
    – Meandering
    Commented Apr 15, 2013 at 2:39
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    @CongXu - Simplified characters often create confusion, for example, can you tell what does means? It also creates misleading characters such as 游戏. means to swim (nothing else), but now it seems like you are playing games while swimming. Commented Apr 15, 2013 at 3:13
  • @Derek I don't find the shorthands and misleading or confusing; I'm sure most people are fine with what means too. Commented Apr 15, 2013 at 4:36

A good way to write faster, apart from to "practice, practice, and practice", is learning the order in which strokes are supposed to be written. This order tipically arises logically from the radicals that are used to build each character, and from the ancient traditional writing, e.g: engraving in wood or stone, and, mainly, using feathers or brushes & ink.

When you write with a feather on thin sheets of rice paper, it is materially very hard to perform some movements without piercing through, such as a full circle, or a right-to-left horizontal line. That is one reason why most ideograms that should be circular in nature, are actually drawn as squares. This is the case, f. i., of the "sun": 日 (rì). In writing so, boxes are drawn using two strokes: the left, top and right sides of the aquare in one single movement, and then closing the box at the bottom from left to right.

There are some other unwritten rules, like writing from left to right, top-down, and adding the dots at the end. But watch out, since these rules do not work 100% of the times. In Chinese calligraphy, the stroke order is very unintuitive, because the lines are usually drawn in the less logical of orders, for reasons that only experienced calligraphers can explain (such as achieving more graceful manners, or avoiding blurring the ink at crossings). It is always a good idea to learn how to draw some complex characters of frequent use, such as 我 (wŏ). After a bit of practice with these, most other will come around quite naturally. This simple practice will greatly increase your handwriting speed. Wo by Arch Chinese

Anyhow, calligraphy by itself is considered a rightful art in mainland China, so it is naturally hard to master. There are many abbreviations for the most common strokes, and also different calligraphies that may be used, outside of the canonical one. Many chinese brand designers seem to think that, the more unreadable the font, the more beautiful it looks when printed. Like it's the case in western calligraphy, usually the most unreadable of all, are the notes taken by professionals, who have to write the same text, over and over again, like medics and chemists. Studying their calligraphy will yield hints on how to optimize your writing speed, once you achieve some average level.

There are a number of websites where beginners can learn the right stroke order, such as ArchChinese.


First, make sure you are writing in the correct stroke sequence.

Then, just try to write faster, and don't care the strokes to be connected. While, try to keep the connecting line as light as possible.

Chinese characters are understandable even if the strokes are connected as long as the stroke sequence is correct. The strokes in many Chinese handwriting computer fonts are connected.

Chinese handwriting in ball pen: Chinese handwriting

Chinese handwriting computer font:

Chinese handwriting font


There are ancient people think exactly like you, so they developed 草書, see wiki.

It's like drawing the shape instead of detail, i.g. stcakexhacnge and stackexchange will looks like identity at first glance. There are no rules but depend on your mind, sometimes it can be master pieces.


Learn the simplified characters. That's what they're there for.

IMHO, they aren't easier to learn. But they ARE easier to write.

  • I would argue whether they are easier to write or not. Simplified characters take less time to write, but I think for non-native speakers the relationship between the radicals and the character helps them to remember the strokes and character better than simplified characters. Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 6:34
  • @MichaelLai: I was talking about the physical "writing." You're referring to "character recognition," which is really more part of "reading."
    – Tom Au
    Commented Jan 14, 2014 at 16:04

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