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Evolution of Chinese characters

The images below illustrates how a number of Chinese characters have changed over time from their earliest known pictographic forms, to the versions used today.

Evolution of Chinese characters

The Large Seal and Small Seal scripts are still used to write names on personal name chops, and are also occasionally used to write company names on buildings, stationery, namecards, etc.

The Draft or cursive script (草書) is used mainly for Chinese calligraphy. This script can be written very quickly and uses a number of method to achieve this: omitting part of a character, merging strokes together, replacing portions with abbreviated forms (such as one stroke to replace four dots), or modifying stroke style.

The Simplified script (a.k.a. Simplified Chinese), was officially adopted in the People's Republic of China in 1949 in an effort to eradicate illiteracy. It is also used in Singapore.

Sample texts

Small Seal Script (小篆)

Chinese sample text in the Smal Seal Script

Clerical Script (隸書)

Chinese sample text in the Clerical Script

Standard Script with zhùyīn fúhào (楷書)

Chinese sample text in the Standard Script

Running script (行書)

Chinese sample text in the Running Script

Draft script (草書)

Chinese sample text in the Grass Script

Simplified characters (简体字)

Chinese sample text in simplified characters

Hànyǔ pīnyīn (汉语拼音)

Rénrén shēng ér zìyóu, zài zūnyán hé quánlì shàng yīlǜ píngděng. Tāmen fùyǒu lǐxìng hé liángxīn, bìng yīng yǐ xīongdì guānxì de jīngshén hùxiāng duìdài.


All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)


Further information about the Chinese script

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