Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Is it Right Side Up - or Up Side Down

True confession time - a little pet peeve of mine is the proliferation of Chinese and Japanese characters in the US - being used incorrectly. I guess 10 years of studying and using the language have made me a bit critical - but it really can be comical at times.

Character meaning is a whole topic in itself, but one of the simplest things is keeping the writing RIGHT SIDE UP! I have seen fabrics, tatoos, clip art and more that simply have things upside down - or worse yet - mirror image. In some cases all mixed up. Yes - I know they can be looked at as "artistic" - but if we did the same with English, we would get laughed at!

So to avoid the laughter, I found a quick "guide to writing" that can help you look at your fabric or whatever and perhaps determine if it is upside down. If it does not look like the strokes could be created using the rules below - you are probably looking at it upside down. Flip it over - check again. If it looks more reasonable - then you might have it right.

If you are still not sure - take a picture and email it to me - I will be glad to help out!

(thanks to Wikipedia for this great info)

The Chinese character meaning "person" (人 animation, Chinese: rén, Korean: in, Japanese: hito, nin; jin). The character has two strokes, the first shown here in dark, and the second in red. The black area represents the starting position of the writing instrument.
1. Write from left to right, and from top to bottom

As a general rule, characters are written from left to right, and from top to bottom. For example, among the first characters usually learned is the number one, which is written with a single horizontal line: 一. This character has one stroke which is written from left to right.The character for "two" has two strokes: 二. In this case, both are written from left to right, but the top stroke is written first. The character for "three" has three strokes: 三. Each stroke is written from left to right, starting with the uppermost stroke:

This rule applies also to more complex characters. For example, 校 can be divided into two. The entire left side (木) is written before the right side (交). There are some exceptions to this rule, mainly occurring when the right side of a character has a lower enclosure (see below), for example 誕 and 健. In this case, the left side is written first, followed by the right side, and finally the lower enclosure.

When there are upper and lower components, the upper components are written first, then the lower components, as in 品 and 襲.

2. Horizontal before vertical

When strokes cross, horizontal strokes are usually written before vertical strokes: the character for "ten," 十, has two strokes. The horizontal stroke 一 is written first, followed by the vertical stroke 十.

3. Cutting strokes last

Vertical strokes that "cut" through a character are written after the horizontal strokes they cut through, as in 書 and 筆.

Horizontal strokes that cut through a character are written last, as in 母 and 海.

4. Diagonals right-to-left before diagonals left-to-right

Right-to-left diagonals (ノ) are written before left-to-right diagonals (乀): 文.

5. Centre verticals before outside "wings"

Vertical centre strokes are written before vertical or diagonal outside strokes; left outside strokes are written before right outside strokes: 小 and 水.

6. Outside before inside

Outside enclosing strokes are written before inside strokes; bottom strokes are written last: 日 and 口. This applies also to characters that have no bottom stroke, such as 同 and 月.

7. Left vertical before enclosing Left vertical strokes are written before enclosing strokes. In the following two examples, the leftmost vertical stroke (|) is written first, followed by the uppermost and rightmost lines (┐) (which are written as one stroke): 日 and 口.

8. Bottom enclosing strokes last

Bottom enclosing strokes are always written last: 道, 週, 画.

9. Dots and minor strokes last

Minor strokes are usually written last, as the small "dot" in the following: 玉.

And just for the record (for those of you still reading) -the fabric pictured above was taken from an eBay auction - and is upside down - not mixed - but truly upside down. Funny that the same seller had the same fabric in a different color - shown the correct way...


Suzan said...

I studied Chinese when I was a child and just about the only thing I really remember is how the characters are written! Thanks for the great information!!

Moneik said...

That's an interesting lesson! Thanks for sharing.

Jen said...

That is fascinating!!! Thanks!!

Barb said...

I have a good friend who I taught quilting to and she was a Chinese translator for the military and this is something that makes her crazy too. I was happy in my ignorance but she set me straight. Thanks for the lesson!

BitnByAQuiltingBug said...

very interesting...
I never even thought about that before. Good to know....

Connie said...

Those written characters are so amazing--just beautiful to look at, aren't they? Thanks for the fun lesson!