What does native Chinese handwriting look like?

This would be a really fun question for me to answer.

Little bit on my background. I’m Singaporean Chinese, L1 is Chinese and L2 is English, but due to my education and work, I’m L2 dominant.

With respect to the topic of Chinese handwriting, I would like to quote a video I watched recently, that a font designer made the point that HanZi (Chinese characters) are “simultaneously tools and toys”.

I can write Chinese functionally (here is a snapshot of my notes taken during a linguistics lecture):

Well, looks really messy, isn’t it?

This is what happens when I have to write Chinese fast, and for my own reading only. this is the “tools” aspect of Chinese Characters, very functional and utilitarian.

Now, onto the “toys” aspect.

I am a pen calligraphy enthusiast, which means, I write calligraphic works using pens (fountain pens and pens meant for daily use, as compared to the more traditional brush calligraphers). If I write Chinese for aesthetic purposes, my handwriting can look like this:

Seal script

Semi cursive

(Formal script, left to right format, poem by the Taiwanese poet, Luo Fu)

(Formal script, top to bottom, right to left format, Prajna Paramita Sutra)

(Slightly cursive script, top to bottom, right to left format, poems by Zhu Shenghao (the guy who first translated most of Shakespeare’s works into Chinese) and his lover, Song Qingru).

(Slightly cursive script, poem by Qin Guan)

(Seal Script, well-wishing couplet)

(Slightly cursive script, poems by Huang Tingjian)

2 pages from the Diamond Vajra Sutra


Who says gel pens aren’t good for writing Chinese? I proudly present, my $1.60 muji gel pen (formal script, top to bottom, right to left)

Ballpoint pens work too, but because of some limitations, I use them less frequently…


800 upvotes! Wow this is unreal…… thanks for all your support and love for my little hobby……

So yeah, Chinese handwriting can vary wildly, even if it’s written by the exact same person….

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