I recently came across an anomaly in Chinese orthography which I can't explain myself. Please take a look at the following picture (screenshot from the Duolingo course on Chinese, I guess in lecture "Hobbies 2" but I am unsure about that)

The orthography of 苹 proposed by Duolingo.

and at the YellowBridge site. What you see is that there is consensus missing in the orthography of 苹 (within Duolingo's writing, the writing of the Windows typesetting system, and the writing YellowBridge proposes as a stroke order diagram). The difference lies in the two diagonal strokes in the middle of the character. Sometimes they are written from top to bottom, sometimes from bottom to top.

At first, I thought these must be two different characters with the same pronunciation "píng". But I found out to the better that they ought to be the same.

If I were to make a question out of this report, I would ask: Why is this? What should I think about this, and how should I write? When you write by hand, what orthography do you usually use? What do other people think about this anomaly? Do they understand both writings? Are they both likely common, and both generally equally understood/accepted?

  • These strokes should never be written from bottom to top, regardless of the variant used. The difference is in the left-right directionality, not the top-bottom directionality. Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 16:18

3 Answers 3


From a Unicode perspective it is the same character. Depending on the font and the environment you are using it may look different. Take for instance a look at the code charts of Unicode 12:

enter image description here

As can be seen above the Chinese and Japanese tend to write the same character slightly differently.

If you check what font and language that is used on Duolingo, you will probably find a Japanese version.

  • You are right, thanks. I see minor differences also for the character 包. They do not involve a different "move", however, which might change the meaning. Commented May 12, 2019 at 13:34
  • Yellowbridge's character preview is in Regular Script and your example is in Ming typeface. You're comparing apples to duckweed here.
    – dROOOze
    Commented May 12, 2019 at 16:39

I'm afraid that the other answer missed the point here - the font that Duolingo displays is a East Asian Gothic typeface, which is a derivative of Ming Typeface. Gothic and Ming are print typefaces, and you don't use them to imitate handwriting (orthography, as specified in the question). Yes, your Duolingo does indeed show a Japanese or Korean printing font, but you don't imitate printing fonts in handwriting regardless (even if they're Chinese printing fonts).

Yellowbridge's font is a Regular Script typeface, which is a proper model for handwriting.

Japanese has a model handwriting font used in schools called textbook font (Kyokashotai, 敎科書體), which you can preview here.

enter image description here

「苹」is not a regulated character in Japanese, so I wouldn't use it as a basis for comparison.

  • Thanks, so if I understand you correctly, you, and Chinese people, would rather write and learn it by hand as it is displayed in 苹 (and maybe even Japenese people would, if they used that character in their language where it seems rare). Further, the right ethymology is also derived from that version (?) - which contains, so to speak, the right "move" for interpretation of its meaning. Commented May 12, 2019 at 18:23
  • 1
    @user66288 (1) would rather write and learn it by hand as it is displayed in 苹 no, the schools teach it that way. The "Chinese people" generally would not have a preference unless they were taught since childhood in a certain way. (2) the right ethymology is also derived from that version absolutely not, handwritten character shapes are often less suitable than print shapes to describe character origins. If you're looking to learn through character origins, I recommend staying far away from Simplified Chinese. Anyway, have a look at questions tagged glyph-origin.
    – dROOOze
    Commented May 13, 2019 at 7:30

苹 is the only right writing in Mandarin.

  • Thank you for your contribution. The downvotes (not from me) probably come because you did not explain or justify your opinion. I understand however that you prefer and use only this writing - which is an interesting information. Commented May 13, 2019 at 15:04
  • I am not the down voter. What people see from your post would be different as different fonts might be used to view the post. People may see a different writing from what you intend to show. A picture should be preferred here.
    – fefe
    Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 8:36

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