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Why are the stroke orders for 右 and 左 different?

右 starts with the vertical stroke, and 左 starts with the horizontal one.

21

It has to do with the stroke order of the part underneath it. For this example, I'll refer to 左 as ナ and エ, and 右 as ナ and ロ. For 左, since the first stroke of the underneath part (the エ) is horizontal, the ナ is started with the horizontal stroke. For 右, since the first stroke of the ロ is vertical, the ナ is also started vertically.

Similarly for 有 and 布. Since 月 and 巾 both start vertically, the ナ also starts vertically. Can't think of anymore off the top of my head where the ナ starts horizontally. But the rule is to look to the first stroke underneath the ナ.

  • Was YOU wrong, then? – Nate Glenn Jun 1 '11 at 2:43
  • I'm not quite sure I understand his post. I don't think he's wrong, but his doesn't really tell you which is supposed to be a longer stroker or a shorter stroke. Like I said, if you just look at the bottom part, you can figure it out for any arbitrary kanji of that form. – istrasci Jun 1 '11 at 2:50
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    @Garrett - Then you looked way more into the meaning of the word "why" than I did. – istrasci Jun 12 '11 at 0:39
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    It would make more sense if you say that, if the lower part starts with a horizontal stroke as in , then the last stroke of the upper part should be vertical to minimize movement (doing vertical, then horizontal requires less movement than repeating horizontal strokes), which means the first stroke is horizontal. Similarly for the other case. – user458 Jul 7 '11 at 2:20
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    How does this apply to 雄? The stroke order starts with a horizontal stroke, but I would consider the third stroke to be vertical. – Paul May 27 '16 at 14:00
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Left side of those two words are different originally

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There is some meaning that shorter stroke mean 手のひら "Palm", longer one is 腕 "arm".

Normally, shorter stroke which mean "手のひら" write first most of the time, so according to original kanji, 右 "Right" need to write a vertical slant stroke first and 左 "Left" need to write horizonal stroke first.

  • Would you expand on this a little? Like more information on the radicals. – Nate Glenn Jun 1 '11 at 3:10
  • @Nate, sorry I missed your comment. There is various theories/rumors out there, so I can't say mine is the only and definitely correct answer. – YOU Jun 5 '11 at 6:43
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Although the modern characters are very similar, they show a remarkable difference when written in seal script. Since the short stroke representing the hand is drawn first, and the hands are on the corresponding sides of the character, the stroke drawn from the character's meaning to the opposite (e.g. from left to right on 左) is drawn first.

enter image description here

(Yes, I admit it. I lifted this from Tomehane. It's a must read for those interested in calligraphy.)

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