# Learning Chinese Character Shapes

This week I introduced the second part of Chinese character structure.  These are two different things but I don’t know how to translate them into English.  The first one was called 漢字基本結構, so more Chinese characters’ basic structure.  It’s really more about how the character components fit each other to form a character.  This second part is 字體結構, and it’s about how to write these character components so that it looks nice.

So this is part 3 of my lesson plan on teaching how to write.  One was stroke name, two was character structure, and three is character shapes.  Two and three are really inter-related.

Background

The easiest way to explain character form is to look at some characters.  For example, 山.  This character is triangular in shape when you write it.  Or, a character like 牙, which is long rectangular shape.  Or, the one character that Thumper tends to write funny, 天.  You can see it’s kind of triangular shape.  But Thumper likes to write it so that the first left-right stroke is as long as the second.  It was because of this that I thought it would be important to talk about character shapes with her.  The 8 shapes for simple characters are:

• triangle  上
• inverted triangle  下
• rhombus  米
• circle  小
• square  凹
• rectangle  牙
• wide rectangle  丑
• trapezoid  工

For characters with character components, you can break down the character shapes even more.  For example, one of a character’s basic structure is left/right, where the character components are left and right of each other, e.g. 朋.  Then you can break this down even more and say some characters have the left side bigger, some the right side bigger, some the left is long rectangle, right short rectangle, etc.  Here are the 6 basic ones for just the left right structure:

• equal 朋
• left wide, right narrow 割
• left narrow, right wide 姐
• left long, right short  私
• left short, right long  喔
• let tall, right low  胡

Crazy right?  I count 27 of these for the different character component, plus the 8 for simple for a total of 35!

How I Presented

As usual, to make sure I don’t spend 5000 days to actually create the material (which I’m doing now, hours and hours of work), I just printed out the relevant pages from the research paper as prep.  This was actually just a 5-10 minute lesson I squeezed in before cooking dinner.   I first showed Thumper the reference material I made for her the other day.

I then talked about how it’s not just these basic structures but the characters themselves have specific shapes.  For example, her 天 she often writes it with two equal lines.  (I know I know, I really should not be pointing out her mistakes.  sigh).  But really 天’s shape is a triangle.  (Here I draw a triangle around the character.  We then just went through and talked about the 8 basic character shapes.  I definitely stressed the long rectangle shape because that is seen the most often.  And then we went through some of the shapes for the left/right components.  By then she was getting tired so I just left it at that.

One technique I’m using from reaching Nurture Shock.  I tend to give many examples of what NOT to do.  Thumper really really found it funny to show me examples of how not to write the characters.  Looking back, I think I should have let her go with it.  But at the time, I stopped her after a few examples.

BUT!  there is an epilogue.  Two days later, we finally talked about how to write Chinese characters, and we started practicing.   Wow, what a difference knowing character structure makes!