Chinese for Beginners:

Chinese Character Writing & Pronunciation

Chinese Characters are the foundation in Chinese language. If you totally have no idea of Chinese language or Chinese symbols, we recommend that you read the Chinese Character Overview first.

How to Write Chinese Characters

Stroke Order of Chinese Character

Chinese characters consist of strokes as their fundamental elements, the same way as English words consisting of letters. The stroke order refers to the way in which Chinese characters are written. The stroke order of a character gives the order and direction in which the strokes are written.

Here is an example how the character is written stroke by stroke. The number of strokes is five. The number of strokes of Chinese characters varies from one to thirty.

» Tip

The number of strokes used to make each character is used as index when you come to look them up in a dictionary.

How to Pronounce Chinese Characters

There is a large and very diverse group of Chinese dialects spoken across northern and southwestern China. Standard mandarin is the official spoke language in Mainland China and Taiwan. In English, phonetic alphabet symbol provides the way how to spell the words. In Chinese, pinyin, a system of Roman alphabet, is used to express the sounds of characters.

For example, the character 车 means vehicle. Chē is pinyin for the character 车, while [`vi:ikl] is phonetic alphabet symbol for vehicle.

  Chinese English
Pronunciation chē or che1 [`vi:ikl]
Writing vehicle
Pinyin Tone Chart

Pinying Tone Chart

There are four tones represented in pinyin by marks above the words. The tone of a Chinese symbol indictaes how the pitch of the speaker's voice changes as the character is said.

The diagram to the right shows the pitch changes of the four tones on a five-bar scale going from lowest (1), to highest (5), while the four tone marks are:

First tone ˉ high level
Second tone ˊ middle rising
Third tone ˇ low dipping
Fourth tone ˋ high fallin

There is also a neutral tone which is unstressed and usually goes unmarked.

Pinyin with tone Simplified Chinese Character English meaning Name of tone
Mother 1st tone
To bother 2nd tone
Horse 3rd tone
To blame 4th tone
ma Grammatical marker used in a question. Neutral


» Tip

As it is hard to type mark above pinyin in computer, 1, 2, 3, 4 is commonly used to represent 1st tone, 2nd tone, 3rd tone and 4th tone separately. For example, mā is written as ma1