Although Chinese characters were derived from pictures, it has a very logical and systematic structure which is closely related to its functional meaning. Before learning and practicing Chinese handwriting, one must have some idea of the characteristics of Chinese characters because handwriting is based on the characters themselves. Only after understanding the principles of the structure in Chinese characters can one know how to write them.
A Chinese character is usually composed of a group of lines or points, which may form a single key component in a character; various components then combine together to form a character. Therefore, all Chinese characters are composed of points and lines drawn in different angles. Each character has its own form, meaning and pronunciation.
There are six categories in which Chinese characters belong to:
1. Ideographs: In this category, each character can be defined by its appearance. For example:
2. Picture Characters: In this category, each character looks like a physical object. For example:
3. Implied Meaning: In this category, each character is made up of two or more meaningful parts, which are logically combined together. For example:
4. Combination of Shape and Sound: In this category, a character is made up of two parts, one to indicate the meaning of the character and the other for its pronunciation. For example:
5. Transition: In this category, each character is usually transformed into another character by changing its basic component(s). For example:
6. Assumption: In this category, each character is created according to the meaning of the original character, rather than by referring to the appearance or pronunciation of the original. For example:
(By Professor Wu Heng, translated by Harold L.K. Siu, Chinese Art (Taipei: Youth Cultural Enterprises Co., Ltd., 1985)).