I apologize if this is a stupid question, I've just begun learning.

I've noticed that in all hiragana except も and in the (very few) kanji I've learned so far, the horizontal strokes are always drawn first. I'm using Heisig's Remembering the Kanji, in which he appoints certain strokes/collections of strokes (which may or may not be kanji in and of themselves) as "primitive elements", forms which combine with each other to form other kanji frequently. If two primitive forms can combine to form a certain shape, then that shape is not a primitive form (since it can be decomposed into primitive forms). (See edit)

He assigns both 十 and 口 as primitive elements, so I initially thought 田 would be the combination of the two, but it was also appointed as a primitive form. I think the reason for this is the stroke order; the vertical stroke in "十" is drawn before the horizontal one when writing "田", unlike the stroke order for the primitive element (and kanji) 十.

My question is, then, why is the vertical stroke in the middle of drawn before the horizontal one, when the opposite is true (in my limited experience) most of the time? Heisig's method of primitive elements means that the kanji are made up of a few basic forms, so why isn't 田 being considered as a combination of the primitive elements 十 and 口, two shapes that appear in a lot of kanji (and hence keep their stroke orders as primitive elements)?

Edit: welp, I feel stupid. Continuing with Heisig's book, I soon found out that he marks 早 a primitive element, even though it is written with both primitive elements 十 and 日 keeping their stroke orders. So I guess what makes a primitive element is just frequent occurence of the form in question specifically in kanji, regardless of whether that form is made of other forms that indepedently occur frequently in other kanji. Sorry for any trouble I might've caused.

  • There are some arbitrariness and inconsistencies in stroke orders of some kanji. In China, for (see animations there), middle horizontal stroke is drawn before middle vertical stroke. Also consider first 2 strokes of [左, 右, 有, 布] (in China, horizontal stroke is first for all them, while in Japan, order is inconsistent), and middle horizontal of [由, 甲, 申] (order is inconsistent).
    – Arfrever
    Commented Apr 2 at 21:29
  • @Arfrever - For 左 and 右, the "hand" is drawn before the "arm" in both. They are consistent at least in that sense.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Apr 3 at 1:16
  • @Arfrever On the inconsistent stroke order for 右 and 左
    – sundowner
    Commented Apr 3 at 4:34

1 Answer 1


There is no reason as to why a character is written with a particular order. As Arfrever has pointed out, the current standard in China for 田 is exactly how you imagined it to be: the horizontal line first.

There is no "correct" order of strokes, it differs by place, and also by time. Take 必 for example, in China, you write the 心 first but without the last dot, then the slash, then the last dot. In Taiwan, you write the whole 心 first, then the slash. In Japan, the order is more complicated, the slash is actually the second stroke, even before the bottom of 心 is written.

Surprisingly, but not surprisingly, all of these three are NOT the stroke order of 必 in ancient times. This character actually consists of 弋 and 八, not 心 and a slash. So in ancient times you write 弋 first then add 八.

You see, stroke order is simply "how a group of people at a certain time collectively decides how to write a character". As location and time changes, the order could also change. There is no absolute "correctness", and there is no point to dig "why is it so and so".

  • I think what you mean is that it's just a convention; however, I agree to the author of this blog entry that argues that following a particular stroke order helps writing more balanced and uniform letters, so I have to disagree with you that "there is no reason as to why japanese scripts have stroke orders". Commented Apr 2 at 23:07
  • 1
    @GuiImamura Right, allow me to reword myself. Generally the stroke order that makes a character easier to write is more accepted, but when multiple orders do not have a real difference, such as for 田, there is no practical reason to prefer one over the other, it's just a convention. E.g. there is no advantage to write the horizontal line first or vice versa, people just decided for themselves what's right and what's wrong. Chinese people decided to write horizontal line first and Japanese people chose vertical first.
    – dvx2718
    Commented Apr 3 at 0:50
  • I've been writing this character 田 in the Chinese way...
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Apr 3 at 2:56
  • And the slash of 必 is the fourth stroke for me...
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Apr 3 at 2:57
  • @aguijonazo So you've been writing both characters the Chinese way 笑
    – dvx2718
    Commented Apr 3 at 3:27

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