Chinese Notes

Back to collection

Chinese Fonts

汉字的结构 Character Structure

The right balance and stability in characters is very important to their appearance. Different character structures include characters composed of a single radical 独体字, with left and right parts 左右, with top and bottom parts 上下, semi-enclosed 包围, and completely enclosed 包围. Several characters composed of a single radical are shown below.

Shao <a title="shǎo | 1. few, 2. to decrease / to lessen / to lose, 3. slightly / somewhat, 4. to be inadequate / to be insufficient, 5. to be less than, 6. to despise / to scorn / to look down on, 7. short-term, 8. infrequently, 9. slightly / somewhat, 10. young, 11. youth, 12. a youth / a young person, 13. Shao" class="vocabulary" href="/words/1449.html">少</a> Qi <a title="qī | 1. seven, 2. seventh" class="vocabulary" href="/words/307.html">七</a> Yu <a title="yú | 1. in / at / to / from, 2. in / at, 3. than / more than, 4. to go / to, 5. to rely on / to depend on, 6. to reside, 7. to treat generously / to be hospitable, 8. to treat, 9. oppposing, 10. and, 11. compared to, 12. passive construction, 13. and / as well as, 14. an auxilliary or structural particle, 15. interjection" class="vocabulary" href="/words/1710.html">于</a>
Characters composed of a single radical 独体字

In the shao character the two dots are facing each other and inclined so that the whole character is not flat. The qi character is intentionally very compact. In general, more complex characters are drawn large while very simple characters, like this one, are drawn smaller.

Characters composed of a left part and a right part are shown below
Ling showing Left and Right Parts Guo showing Left and Right Parts
Characters composed of a left part and a right part 左右结构.

In the ling character the left part is narrow while the right is wide. The opposite is true of the guo character. The illustrations below show examples of characters that are divided into top and bottom parts.

Quan showing Top and Bottom Structure Sheng showing Top and Bottom Structure
Characters with Top and Bottom Structure 上下结构

Strokes and individual parts of the character are adjusted to have an irregular but pleasing symmetry. Examples of characters with a top-middle-bottom structure are shown below.

Meng Showing Top-Middle-Bottom Structure Hai Showing Top-Middle-Bottom Structure
Characters with Top-Middle-Bottom Structure 结构

Characters showing a top-middle-bottom structure are invariably taller than they are wide. The top, the middle, or the bottom part may be larger in accordance with the complexity of the radical and the requirements of the individual character. The middle part of the character will often be compressed. Examples of two characters with a left-middle-right structure are shown below.

Qing Showing Left-Middle-Right Structure Yi Showing Left-Middle-Right Structure
Characters with Left-Middle-Right Structure 结构

Characters with a left-middle-right structure tend to be wider than tall. The proportion of width allowed for each part depends its the complexity in relation to the other parts. Examples of two characters with a semi-enclosed structure are shown below.

Tong Showing Semi-Enclosed Structure Wen Showing Semi-Enclosed Structure
Characters with a Semi-Enclosed Structure 包围结构

Upper semi-enclosing radicals like 广 the enclosed parts should partially protrude. Otherwise, the enclosed parts will be too cramped. For the enclosing radical the tail should extend past the upper enclosed part. Examples of two characters with a fully enclosed structure are shown below.

Guo Si
Characters with an Enclosed Structure 包围结构

See the book Yan Zhen Qing: Yan Qin Ceremony Inscription [Zhan Weixin 2007] for more details on the character structure

Vocabulary Analysis

See the Help page for more information on the best use of the dictionary or if you have problems. Copyright Fo Guang Shan Nan Tien Institute 佛光山南天大學 2013-2017, This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. See About. Please send comments to

This page was last updated on 2018-01-16.