The Chinese character is an ideographic writing system, in which the graphic structure is directly related to the meaning. Hence the first step toward mastery of Chinese characters is to learn the characteristics of their composition. In the study of the composition of Chinese characters, there is a traditional theory known as Liu Shu (six writings). That is, there are six types of characters in the terms of their composition: pictographic, indicatives, ideographs, phonetic compounds, mutual explanatory, and phonetic loans. Strictly speaking, only the first four refer to the ways of composing Chinese characters, the last two are concerned with the ways to use them. The traditional view that Liu Shu is a summary of the different ways of composing characters, therefore, is not very accurate. Nevertheless the Liu Shu theory is basically correct in revealing the general pattern in the creation and development of Chinese characters. It may help learners better understand the composition of Chinese characters and their original meanings, and hence use them more accurately.
A good first step in making Chinese characters less intimidating is identifying their most basic parts. A number of unique, identifiable strokes (individual marks of the brush or pen) are used to write Chinese. The chart below shows you the eleven most common strokes, giving the name and direction in which each should be drawn.