I have just started learning kanji using this site and I have already recognized my first word out side the lessons, "hey, that's five!"
Here's my question. I notice that the examples on the "flash cards" have triangle shaped bumps on the ends of some of the strokes, how important is it to get these right when writing the characters?
pay no attention to the triangle shaped bumps. i think maybe they are there to sort of simulate the ends of strokes when written with a caligraphy brush. for example, if you wrote the number 3 with a brush, it would have little bumps at the end of each line.
however, beyond the numbers 1, 2, and 3, the Mincho computer font totally gets all the bumps wrong and will totally lead you astray in examining strokes. they can lead to utter confusion as to how to write a given kanji, so just totally ignore them.
Thanks for the advice!
You supposedly practice with pen and paper, so how can you possibly 'get triangles right'? Anyway, default font (minchō style) is shaped by block printing technology, which has nothing to do with handwriting. You'll also notice that some minchō kanji seem to have more strokes than canonically should be present.
Ummm... so, Dec/Robo...are there any examples that you can point out where the Mincho font has more strokes than necessary? Or where the "triangles" are incorrect? The "triangles" are actually somewhat of a carry-over from calligraphy, in that it tells the writer where to make a full stop with the brush.
I frequently use fonts that retain calligraphic stylings to check my handwritten kanji's correctness. Once you know the look of the 3 different strokes - haneru, tomeru, harau - you can fairly quickly tell where you need to be making what sort of a movement with your pencil. Not all strokes are drawn with a full stop, which is an easy trap to fall into when you first start writing - well, that or not caring if you're messily drawing lines out when they should be stopped, or stopping lines when they should be drawn out, or whatever.
From what I've seen, all Japanese font styles - Mincho, Gothic, etc - have correct stroke order and end-of-stroke markings. Can you please show me some examples of where there are mistakes?
I dunno about mistakes, but anything with "cornucopia" on the left 収 does not reflect the correct strokes in the pen/pencil style. A normal handwritten 令 doesn't look like the Mincho style either. These are only two examples but there are many other ways that fonts can be deceptive about how handwritten kanji are supposed to look.
The right side of shark used to confuse me coz of what looks like an extra flick within mingle.
Ummm... so, Dec/Robo...are there any examples that you can point out where the Mincho font has more strokes than necessary?
Yes, they are all over the place.
The "triangles" are actually somewhat of a carry-over from calligraphy, in that it tells the writer where to make a full stop with the brush.
No, they are artifacts of block printing technology (as is different writing in some cases). Follow the link to wikipedia in my previous message.
well, to be honest, i forget which mincho kanji have triangles in the wrong place, because i just don't pay attention to them anymore, and i'm afraid i don't have the time to go hunting them down. if i find one i will post it.
however, its not just the triangles. mincho frequently makes a complete hash out of correct kanji strokes. two good examples are "thread" which looks like it has 8 strokes instead of 6. and any kanji that has two "spoons" ("north," "compare") has strokes in the wrong place. if you look at the mincho font only, you will never figure out how to correctly write that character.
I'm not sure it's exactly correct to call the font "wrong," but it will definitely lead you astray if you are trying to learn pencil or pen writing from it.
No, they are artifacts of block printing technology (as is different writing in some cases). Follow the link to wikipedia in my previous message.
I've read the wikipedia article about Japanese woodblocks, which says, "Often, within a certain genre, such as the jōruri theatre scripts, a particular style of writing would come to be the standard for that genre; in other words, one person's personal calligraphic style was adopted as the standard style for printing plays."
But, even that still refers to someone's personal *handwritten* calligraphic style being transferred to wood, and calligraphy is a *taught* art, meaning that people wouldn't likely get very famous if they were adding extra strokes here and there, rather they'd be known as a calligrapher who couldn't write properly.
If there's some specific quote in the article that convinces you that calligraphic stylings that have been translated to fonts are somehow actually something done badly with woodblocks, I'd be interested to see it. I'm still not convinced that the Mincho font is incorrectly rendering any kanji characters or their strokes.
Alternate characters vs. incorrect characters
A normal handwritten 令 doesn't look like the Mincho style either.
I actually asked my school's Japanese (国語) teacher about something similar to that a while ago - the kanji for 「冷たい」.
I was reading something and the furigana read it as つめたい but the kanji didn't look like I thought it usually did. I checked my dictionary, and I couldn't find any alternate kanji listed for the word, so I figured it must have been some sort of kanji typo. I happened to mention it to the Japanese teacher, and she said that the alternate way of writing it was actually an old kanji that has fallen out of use, and that had mostly the same meaning as the kanji that is used commonly today.
But, sometimes people still like to use fancy fonts that can display older kanji, and most people know that <thing that looks like X> actually is an alternate way of writing <X>. English is the same, I would wager. Take a look at all the "a" characters in this font. How many people do you know that actually write their "a"s like that? Not very many. In elementary school we are all taught to write our "a"s as "o"s with a line after it, for the most part, and yet we all understand that what we write and what is used in typewritten documents or computer fonts is the same character. The same goes with the more stylized version of the character "g" that is often found in typewritten fonts.
Considering that Japanese has *several* types of calligraphic styles, it makes sense that some of the characters will appear slightly different depending on which style a font is trying to emulate. Plus, if you take calligraphy classes, you will find that what *looks* like two completely different strokes is, actually, one continuous (but tricksy) stroke with the brush. For example, 越 (surpass, #387) looks like it has an extra line that extends upwards at a diagonal on the inner part that represents "parade". But, in reality, you count it as one stroke when you write it with a brush, and it *looks* *exactly* like the the font does - as if there were 13 strokes instead of 12 - if you properly execute the stroke that looks like 2.
What is important to realize is that the typeset characters - in English, Japanese, or other languages - are not always *exactly* the same as the handwritten characters, and rather than blame the fonts for being poor, to understand that it is a nuance of the language and to work with it.
Written Japanese is changing
Another thing that is incredibly important when studying kanji, vocabulary, slang, and whatever is to remember that languages are flexible and fluid and constantly changing. I would even wager to say that few languages have changed as radically in the last 100 years as Japanese has. Katakana loan-words are everywhere, for starters. Also, the Japanese government restricted the number of "general use" kanji to the "Joyo Kanji" set, all of which are included in Heisig. However, there are still quite a few kanji that aren't in the general use set that regularly appear in newspapers and articles because it is still possible to typeset non-Joyo kanji, and especially recently because Japan is going through a sort of kanji renaissance with some people genuinely priding themselves on knowing double or triple the number of general use kanji. From what I've read, and the people that I've talked to, most of the non-Joyo kanji that specialists like to know can be expressed with regular old Joyo kanji - ie the meaning of two old kanji were so similar that the government decided that they were now going to be the same kanji to represent two slightly different concepts. So, if you want to sound knowledgeable and educated, you can use the non-traditional kanji to show a subtle nuance of the thing that you are trying to express. Not everyone understands the subtlety, but those that do appaerntly swear that there are significant differences between kanji that have been amalgamated.
If you want to get a really interesting perspective on how many different opinions about useful vs. non-useful kanji there are, take a look at the various computer encodings for Japanese characters.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_l … _computers
Another touchy topic about fonts is the Han Unification process undertaken by, most notably, the Unicode font set designers.
Another example of how Japanese text is rapidly evolving (meaning that there are multiple ways to correctly write a thing): yokogaki (writing horizontally instead of vertically) was still being done from right-to-left as of the early 20th century. A friend of mine is a tea collector and has a very prized antique tea cannister which is written with the name of the tea company in katakana in the right-to-left style.
"At the very beginning of the change to horizontal alignment in Japan, in the Meiji era, there was a short-lived form called migi yokogaki (右横書き, literally "right yokogaki"), in contrast to hidari yokogaki, (左横書き, literally "left yokogaki"), the current standard. This resembled the right-to-left horizontal writing style of languages such as Arabic with line breaks on the left hand side of the page. It was probably based on the traditional single-column right-to-left writing. This form was never widely used, and has not survived."
Remember, this is *their* language. If they found it completely incomprehensible to read alternate forms of kanji, then they wouldn't use those character sets anymore. If it really were such a huge problem it wouldn't show up in font sets that were designed in Japan. Keep in mind that we're talking about the *fonts* here, not the underlying character set (be it JIS or Unicode or whatever), since the character set only gives an anchor for a font's representation of the character to grab onto.
Fonts can be easily changed, so we can safely assume that commonly used Japanese fonts are in fact correctly representing their characters - regardless of whether that is the way we would write them by hand or not.
Language Learners and the Flexibility of Language
Even in English, specific medical/scientific/computer terminology are often completely bizarre looking to people not familiar with that specific field. Therefore, don't be surprised when kanji don't always look the same, and don't blame fonts or printing companies because they use more stylized kanji than you are used to.
This is just more evidence that learners of the language need to be flexible, to expect that things won't always look exactly the same, and to know that they may need to know more than just the Joyo Kanji for complete dictionary-free literacy. That being said, many of my high school students say they still have trouble reading articles about scientific topics because the kanji are unrecognizable to them. But, they are flexible enough to know how to look up ridiculously uncommon kanji in a kanji dictionary, so they can find out what a complicated word means.
two good examples are "thread" which looks like it has 8 strokes instead of 6. and any kanji that has two "spoons" ("north," "compare") has strokes in the wrong place. if you look at the mincho font only, you will never figure out how to correctly write that character.
1) When you write out "thread" correctly with a brush, it will look like it has 8 strokes - but it actually only has 6, and the appearance of other strokes has to do with the way you move the brush. You cannot change the width and breadth of a stroke with a pen or pencil the same way you can with a brush because pens and pencils are decidedly fixed-width writing implements, wherease the beauty of brush work is that the width and breadth of a stroke can be changed as the stroke is executed by simply changing the pressure and direction of pressure that is applied to the brush. This is a difference in the written medium being used, and actually is a deficiency on the part of pens and pencils, not of the font. Long before pens and pencils, brushes were used for written Japanese, and therefore the brush-written style is more (traditionally) correct. Understanding the differences between typewritten and handwritten characters in any language is important.
2) I completely agree with you about looking only at Mincho. If you are *only* looking at the Mincho font, it will be confusing as to how to correctly write the character. Hopefully, by the time that you actually care about having legible and pretty handwriting, you are immersing yourself in a variety of online and offline Japanese resources and are getting exposed to more than just the Mincho font. Until then, it is completely okay to have crap-ass writing. Look at any elementary school student in your country of origin, and a goodly majority will have atrocious handwriting. Over time they develop a good sense of style, but then they have been exposed to years of handwriting (their own and their peers) and a plethora of typewritten styles.
One's handwriting won't be perfect at first. Deal with it slowly, and don't worry so much about writing like a child. The fact that you are writing kanji at all will be impressive enough for most people! *grin*
Or, for those who really are obssessed with having gorgeous writing, take an interest in typography. There are some really interesting aspects that set apart Asian typography from Western typography - more than just the vertical writing and massive character set.
<end of rant/>
1) When you write out "thread" correctly with a brush, it will look like it has 8 strokes - but it actually only has 6, and the appearance of other strokes has to do with the way you move the brush.
There is no way that you can write this:
using 6 strokes with a brush or anything else. And in a correct brush style, the bottom of the second stroke (before the dot) would have a 20-30 degree slope upwards.
The thing that always got me was garment: how the hell do you do the fourth stroke?
using 6 strokes with a brush or anything else. And in a correct brush style, the bottom of the second stroke (before the dot) would have a 20-30 degree slope upwards..
Yup, I agree with you. The font that you are looking at is not exactly a brush-stroke font. The fact that you recognize the angle of the second stroke is too horizontal should be a tip that the font you are using is *based on* but not *identical to* the way you would write it with a brush (in non-fancy-pants script).
That being said, it still looks like 8 strokes when you write it with a brush, properly. It doesn't change the fact that understanding that typewritten and handwritten fonts are different solves a lot of problems when you're trying to take handwriting cues from typewritten characters.
I think that some examples of the variety of completely legitimate Japanese font variations (which have been derived from common written language, but are not identical to the written language) would help to illustrate the slight, but significant differences between fonts. It's like someone telling you that all serif fonts are the same in English. They're not, that's why type foundries can still be producing new font sets (well, that and new font formats, but that's another ball of wax).
Things like line width, stroke angles, serifs, and all the rest can make one font look completely different from another, and both can be completely different than the way it would look if you were writing with a pencil. Accepting that and learning to write handwritten characters properly regardless of what they look like when they are displayed in different fonts is not an easy task, but it is necessary for people that want to have natural looking handwriting.
On the other hand, one could argue that writing is an expression of the self, and that any writing style - so long as it remains mostly intelligible - is okay. If you can communicate your thoughts in good/hideous/interesting/odd handwriting, who cares? The point is that you're communicating, right?
I still maintain that we shouldn't be blaming fonts for being confusing, but should instead take it as a sign that we are still unfamiliar with the Japanese writing system, and endeavour to become *more* familiar with it.
wow, i never realized my response to sharpstick would spark such a debate! i'm not really trying to say the mincho font is "wrong." font styles are font "styles" and different fonts are going to represent the shapes of characters differently depending on the overall effect the designer is going for: woodblock, calligraphic, old-school computer terminal, ultra modern, victorian, whatever...
but i think what sharpstick was trying to ask was something about using the font on this site (mincho) as a model against which to judge correctness of your handwritten kanji. and what i think many people would agree on, is that if you see the mincho font representations as something to emulate exactly, with all the little triangles, and oddly discontinuous strokes, it will drive you freaking crazy. and is unlikely to lead to smooth, well-formed pen or pencil writing.
here i am not criticizing fabrice's use of mincho on the site, it is important for a website to use fonts that are likely to be already installed on most computers, which limits one primarily to a choice between mincho and gothic. and i do think it is important to train oneself to be able to recognize kanji in their various common forms. but as models for non-calligraphic handwriting, these common computer forms are probably not the most suitable.
honestly, as far as handwriting reviews goes, perhaps the easiest way to go is to emulate the handwritten examples given in heisig's book. he doesn't give one for each character, but he usually shows the handwriting form whenever he introduces something new for the first time. though be advised, there are a few errata, especially in stroke order. you can download a PDF with the errata corrected here:
http://www.nanzan-u.ac.jp/SHUBUNKEN/pub … anji_1.htm
Last edited by decamer0n (2007 June 12, 12:36 am)
honestly, as far as handwriting reviews goes, perhaps the easiest way to go is to emulate the handwritten examples given in heisig's book. he doesn't give one for each character, but he usually shows the handwriting form whenever he introduces something new for the first time.
There's also a complete set of handwritten characters in Index 1 at the back.
I also keep a copy of P. G. O'Neill's Essential Kanji handy as a reference for the handwritten forms. (I got the book for free, though... it wouldn't be worth the full purchase price if that's all you were using it for.)
You could use the Greasemonkey script to change the font to one written with a brush, pen, or pencil and try to emulate that.
Although it would be nice if it were possible to view more than one font at a time so you can compare various styles. E.g.:
More about triangles on stroke ends: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_ch … _typefaces
foobar could you tell me the name of the types for the two rightmost characters? Those look very nice!
but as models for non-calligraphic handwriting, these common computer forms are probably not the most suitable.
I agree, although I find to be almost a non-issue given that you can guess the number of strokes from most characters once you've figured out a few. For example the "hooks" (going down and then up to the right) often appear as two separate strokes in the computer typefaces; although they are written in one swoop.
With that said, is there a "standard" for hand-written kanji anyway? I think most people end up handwriting similarly due to the stroke order flow of the characters, but some people may use their favorite shortcuts. Many people like to write the top of T for a pair of T's as one stroke for example.
amthomas, thank you for taking the time to write out a detailed explanation covering the typography aspects critical to this discussion. I really didn't feel like it myself. (^_^)
faburisu, foobar's example would be an awesome option to be able to toggle. Most people finished with RTK1, like myself, are much more concerned about handwriting now.
but as models for non-calligraphic handwriting, these common computer forms are probably not the most suitable
The characters in the index of RtK1 still look like they were made with a brush, so in my definition of "handwritten" these hardly look like what you would write with a ballpen or pencil. Also I believe they largely correspond with the Mincho font if you can ignore the computer font's artifacts.
The characters in the RtK index do not involve handwriting shortcuts either, and so imho... since you learned the stroke order and stroke count in the book anyway, the occasional differences appearing in the computer font really should be only a minor concern.
to be honest, i'm not that concerned about the problems of the mincho font, so i really don't want to be seen here as carrying the torch for or against any font in particular. as i said before, i have learned how to ignore the quirks of mincho in personally figuring out how to draw characters with a regular pen. and as i said before, using mincho really can't be avoided in a general computing enviroment, so no big deal, we adapt.
but poor sharpstick (the poster of the original question) was seeking advice on whether or not he should draw in those little mincho triangles to get his kanji reviews correct. if he is reviewing with a pen, that would require him to do a lot of extra doodling to get them nice and prominent. and to write the mincho "thread" with a pen would require lifting the pen from the paper, breaking up some of those 6 strokes.
i hope that no one who has been contributing to the various viewpoints would have suggested that someone writing with a pen should go ahead and do their best to make their reviews look EXACTLY like the mincho font?
it may not be perfect, but i do consider the index in heisig's book to be more helpful for modelling for beginners specifically because it doesn't contain those quirky artifacts of prominent triangles and seemingly discontinuous strokes of the mincho font. not that it needs to be on the review cards of this site, but if some beginner asked me what they should generally try to make their penned characters look like, i would point there as a simple, convenient, and workable model.
i feel this topic has been taken over by the experienced folks who have gotten through initial input of all the joyo kanji and want to focus on their handwriting. and that is cool because it generates a lot of useful info and links, etc. but the concerns of people who are just encountering the characters for the first time are going to be a little different. and for them (and me actually) i think it is still quite helpful focusing on a simple model that does not introduce a lot of artifacts confusing to the process of writing characters with a pen.
with that, i will duck out now and let all you calligraphers get on with the debate! i'll come back in a couple of months when i finish rtk1.
Oops, sorry decamerOn I didn't notice I quoted you twice on the same text one day and the next, that's what happens when I try to sneak in some posts while at work