Chinese characters, in general, are composed of a dozen basic strokes, which have similar functions to the letters of the Western languages. But they do not combine sounds into syllables. There are eight basic strokes: dot, horizontal stroke, turning stroke, vertical stroke, hook stroke, rightupward stroke, left-downward stroke and rightdownward stroke.
Formal script, or regular style.
With a history of more than 1,000 years, formal script is a fundamental writing style and usually appears in printed matter and on computer screens, featuring standard strokes, rigorous rules and a slow speed of writing. The Chinese characters in this style are easy to recognize. This style is commonly used in shop signs, horizontal or vertical signboards on buildings, Spring Festival couplets, tablets in front of tombs, monuments, nameplates of newspapers and official documents and correspondence.
This script has been developed from the quick-writing formal script, and is a style halfway between formal script and cursive script. Such a style is looser than the formal script, and has more links between strokes. Most characters in this style have slanting shapes. Moving of the strokes is simple, smooth and light, and characters are easily recognizable. This writing style appears usually in letters and daily life writing.
Written at the quickest speed, the characters in this style are further away from the formal script than the running script in form. With irregular forms, some strokes join together, or parts of strokes or some whole strokes are omitted. So the characters in this style are difficult to write and recognize.
The most ancient calligraphic style, the seal script is no longer used except for special effects. The ancient seal-script characters were discovered in inscriptions carved on oracle bones, which were animal bones and tortoise shells used for divination, and on ancient bronze objects as well as in lesser-seal-style inscriptions. It contains few strokes and no dots, hooks or turning strokes, and seeks a unanimous thickness of lines, symmetry and balanced distribution of strokes. Although people nowadays find them very difficult to recognize, they are full of mystery and charm. A piece of seal-script calligraphic work makes the people understand the simple and honest hearts of their earliest artists and inspires high praise for China’s ancient culture.
This basic form appeared after the seal script, and was mainly used during the Han Dynasty. It changed the rule of unanimous thickness of strokes in the seal script and abolished the pictographic features of the seal script. The characters of this script are squat-shaped, contrasted with the high shapes of the other five scripts. The official-script characters are antique, but easy to recognize.