For example:西,南,而,憂,覚,蔸,悪,間,見,寓,凳,血,寠,and many others.

Shapewise, they are almost symmetrical but not exactly symmetrical. Why are they not created as symmetrical characters? After all, symmetry is aesthetically pleasing.

  • It will be (much) harder to write.
    – fefe
    Jun 24, 2019 at 4:16
  • 2
    @炸鱼薯条德里克, how did you come to the conclusion that I am so arrogant? Because of my comment that "symmetry is aesthetically pleasing"? There are numerous articles supporting the beauty of symmetry. For example, see science.howstuffworks.com/….
    – Zuriel
    Jun 24, 2019 at 12:59
  • @炸鱼薯条德里克 please refrain from making superfluous or offensive comments.
    – julian
    Jun 25, 2019 at 3:41

2 Answers 2


This basically comes down to the vagaries of most CJK fonts being based on calligraphic scripts.

In Chinese calligraphy, characters are constructed out of individual strokes; these are written with a brush or pen in one continuous motion.


The most common script type, regular script, was designed to be written with a brush. Certain techniques should be used when writing in this style, which gives it its distinctive, slightly-asymmetric look:

…clearly emerging from the womb of early period semi-cursive script. If one were to write the tidily written variety of early period semi-cursive script in a more dignified fashion and were to use consistently the pause technique (dùn 頓, used to reinforce the beginning or ending of a stroke) when ending horizontal strokes, a practice which already appears in early period semi-cursive script, and further were to make use of right-falling strokes with thick feet, the result would be a style of calligraphy like that in the "Xuān shì biǎo".

This script was so influential that virtually all modern scripts and types are based on it. Even if there are types that are designed for computers like East Asian Gothic typeface, some asymmetric properties are preserved, like the "J hook" (钩) feature:

round sans

But if you look at earlier scripts, like seal script, you can find more symmetry, because the pictograms they were based on were based on symmetric things:

seal script

As an example, the character 西 could look like this in the earliest, oracle bone script:

oracle bone

  • Related: If you view a character as a hierarchical collection of basic strokes, then it's important to be able to visually distinguish similar strokes. The slight asymmetry really helps a lot with this. Jun 24, 2019 at 22:23

Chinese aesthetics value balance in asymmetry, i.e. yin and yang - not the same, but equal and complementary. Symmetry can be beautiful in a way but often this sort of balanced inequality is more pleasing and natural, such as the Renaissance-era use of contrapposto. Notice how compared to a stiff symmetrical stance, the S-curve in contrapposto feels relaxed and calm. In general symmetry is a limited tool in art, the vast majority of classically beautiful art is not symmetrical.

The use of lines that are complementary but not symmetrical create harmony and a sense of motion. In Chinese calligraphy even a simple single horizontal stroke should not be a straight, even line (which looks motionless and dead) but rather a strong, dynamic line with a definitive beginning and end.

a horizontal stroke

Modern Chinese typefaces are based on Chinese calligraphy to some degree but they still make allowances to this principle as an aesthetic choice. As another poster noted, seal script has many symmetrical characters, and asymmetrical ones developed after that, so using symmetrical forms has that connotation to it.

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