Because the first stroke order for Chinese characters was codified in Han period, the sequence of strokes was a subject to change during the time. If my memory serves me right, even simplified and traditional characters do have some difference in stroke orders when written in Chinese.

Do all the modern Japanese kanjis have the same stroke order as their Chinese peers, or are there some differences?

If yes, then are these differences regular or separate for each kanji/Chinese character pair? My intuition is that there might be some difference, but I am not sure. Any reference to a resource might be of a great help, sorry.

3 Answers 3


Certainly there are some characters that have different stroke orders. As for traditional Chinese characters, there are a few radicals that you should watch out for:

In Japanese, the last three strokes are written: middle, left, right. In Chinese, it's left, middle, right.

In Japanese, the vertical stroke is written before the last two horizontal strokes. In Chinese, it's written as if the middle part were 土.

The same story as 田.

In Japanese, the horizontal line is written after the two dots. In Chinese, the top dot is written, then the horizontal line, then the lower dot.

In Japanese, the middle vertical stroke is written before all the horizontal strokes (except the top one, of course). In Chinese, the middle two horizontal strokes are written, then the vertical stroke, then the last horizontal stroke with the hook thing.

In Japanese, you write the ノ immediately after the topmost dot (which is written first instead of the leftmost one) of 心, and then finish writing 心. In traditional Chinese, you write 心 first and ノ last (however, I think the Chinese stroke order is highly variant between regions).

In addition, there are other whole characters that have different stroke orders, like 鬱, that are pretty much unpredictable. Unfortunately, I can't give you any resources that highlight these differences (resource questions are off-topic, and I can't find one anyway).

There are differences from simplified Chinese characters too, like 着, but in general it's a little harder to compare Japanese characters to simplified Chinese characters.

  • 2
    Regarding 必 in Japanese, the ノ is written after the first/topmost dot and not the leftmost one.
    – Christer
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 20:57
  • 2
    左&右 are also interesting to compare. Commented May 29, 2017 at 23:01
  • @Christer Thanks. I had in mind that it came after the first dot, and since 心 is written with the leftmost dot first, I got mixed up.
    – Blavius
    Commented May 30, 2017 at 4:46
  • 馬 "the middle vertical stroke is written before all those horizontal strokes" - "al those" at this moment means "all in the character", not "those specific ones that are mentioned in the next sentence", so it's not true.
    – macraf
    Commented May 30, 2017 at 8:16
  • The last strokes of 糸 are written from left because it changes shape when it becomes a radical in China. The full form of 糸 (as in 索) is written in the same order as Japanese. See en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E7%B3%B8 Commented May 30, 2017 at 9:16

AFAIK, the Japanese Ministry of Education (MEXT) defines some general stroke order rules given by importance below (known as 筆順指導の手びき):

  1. Generally characters are proceeds from top to bottom (e.g. 三).
  2. Generally characters are proceeds from left to right (e.g. 川).
  3. When strokes crossing each other, the horizontal stroke usually precedes vertical ones (e.g. 十).
  4. In some circumstances, vertical stroke precedes multiple horizontal strokes (e.g. 田).
  5. Center strokes are written first and then the left and right strokes if the left & right components do not exceed two strokes each (e.g. 小, 糸).
  6. Inside/outside frames written first, but bottom enclosures written last (e.g. 日, 門, 近, 建).
  7. Vertical strokes drawn to the center are written last (e.g. 中, 聿, 用)
  8. Right-to-left diagonal order precedes from left to right strokes (e.g. 文, 父)
  9. Strokes which cutting or pass through the middle part are written last (e.g. 母, 舟)
  10. Dashes, except placed on the top are written last (e.g. 求)

Rules which often contradicts each other due to radical order:

  • Rule (2) & (3)

    左 & 右 are known written opposite each other - in 左 the left-down stroke written first, but in 右 the horizontal stroke written first.

    九 & 力 have similar form, but different writing order (in 力 horizontal-with-hook stroke written first).

  • Rule (3), (4) & (7)

    Minor strokes in Chinese context are often written latter following rule (3), such in 王 & 玉. But in Japanese, the rule (4) sometimes prioritized, such in 書. In case of 重, the center stroke is written in 7th order which Chinese people often write it in 8th order (all horizontal top strokes written first, then vertical stroke followed by horizontal bottom enclosure).

Note that Chinese people tend to a principle that each component should be written on its entirety before writing another component, while Japanese view may treat it differently.

The stroke order for every letter (especially compound letters) are heavily dependent with radical composition, and 必 known as one of non-standard radical identification (some listed with 心, others may listed with ノ).


How does kanji stroke order work?

  • 1
    上半分のソース、それ じゃなくて これ ですよね‥明らかに・・ おんなじだし・・
    – chocolate
    Commented May 26, 2018 at 2:43

When I read Blavius's answer, I was greatly astonished there are so many same characters with different stroke order between ones in Japan and China. Just before that, I was preparing an answer where I wrote there was no substantial difference between the two.
I'll show my preparatory answer later on for mere reference.

I searched for the Chinese characters with the different stroke order from that of equivalent Japanese kanjis on the Internet. What I searched are the Chinese characters written as top 180 frequently used ones, and I found some characters with different stroke order as follows.
To my regret for some of them of Japanese kanjis I couldn't find the actual stroke videos.

Not for all, but in most cases in Japanese, the vertical stroke is written before the last two horizontal strokes. In Chinese, it's written as if the middle part were 土 as is written in Blavius's answer.

Japanese 生, Chinese 生

Japanese 睡, Chinese 睡

Japanese 住, Chinese 住

Japanese 里, Chinese 里

Chinese 出

Japanese 国, Chinese 国

Chinese 星

For mere reference:

Here is an article about the stroke order of a Chinese character (or Chinese derivative character including Japanese kanji).

In this article there is a description as: Minor variations exist between countries, but the basic principles remain the same, namely that writing characters should be economical, with the fewest hand movements to write the most strokes possible.

I agree this explanation about the stroke order, and I would add another explanation to it as: basically any Japanese kanji might have the same stroke order as that of Chinese character, because the stroke order has been maintained for many years by the art of calligraphy between the countries.

We write kanjis not only to convey or record information but also to express beauty of them as art materials. We practice their writing for a long time by using instruction copies and/or by instructors in order to be skillful in writing them beautifully.
In this process, you can't change the stroke order for each kanji even if you learn it in Japan or in China with some exceptions.

And very importantly, as for the variations of the stroke order of each kanji, it depends on mainly what kind of script you mastered in the learning process, aside from the misunderstanding of the stroke order. As for the kinds of script, there are mainly three: regular script, semi-cursive script and cursive script.

Regular script is most common in modern writings and publications, and when you talk about the stroke order including this question and answer we put this regular script as a base.

Cursive script is faster to write than other styles, but difficult to read for those unfamiliar with it. It functions primarily as a kind of shorthand script or calligraphic style. People who can read standard or printed forms of Chinese characters and Japanese kanjis may not be able to comprehend this script. In this script they often use a dynamic method by omitting some strokes and/or changing the stroke order of regular script to be convenient for faster writing.

Semi-cursive script is a cursive style of Chinese characters and Japanese kanjis. Because it is not as abbreviated as cursive, most people who can read regular script can read semi-cursive. It is highly useful and also artistic. And, when a person writes in semi-cursive script, he/she sometimes writes with a different script order from regular script which is affected by the stroke order of cursive script. The more skillful in handwriting he/she may be the more often the confusions of stroke order may occur.

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