East Asian Calligraphy/The dot

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The dot stroke is the simplest stroke in East Asian writing systems. Despite its name, it is not just a dot — it has length (sometimes quite long), and direction. In fact, it is the shape of this stroke, and not its length, that makes it a dot stroke.

Examples of the dot stroke:

Chinese characters the first and fourth strokes of 六
the first, third, and fourth strokes of 心
the first and second strokes of the water radical: 江、河、法
the first and second strokes of the heart radical: 忙、性、快
the first stroke of the walking radical: 送、道、遇
and so on
Japanese kana 1 Katakana: シ、ス、ソ、タ、ツ、ト、ヌ、ネ、ハ、ホ、マ、ミ、ム、メ、ン
Korean jamo 2 ㅅ, ㅈ, ㅊ, ㅉ

1 It's harder to determine what a stroke is in hiragana, since hiragana is inherently cursive. Dot-like shapes can be found in い、う、え、お、か、く、な、ふ、へ、む、や、ら.
2 Korean jamo tend to be freer in stroke specification, sometimes ㅅ, ㅈ, ㅊ, ㅉ can end on a vertical stroke or a right falling stroke as well.

If dot strokes can come in so many shapes or sizes, then what makes a "dot"?

In general, a dot stroke is defined by the following properties:

  1. They go downward.
    • Most dot strokes go diagonally downwards and rightwards. A few go leftwards, or straight down.
  2. They start soft and end hard.
    • Dot strokes don't trail off. The instant before you lift your pencil / pen off the paper should be one where you're applying force onto the paper.
  3. They tend to curve down.
    • This is mostly a consequence of the second point above. As you apply more and more force you tend to draw your hand closer to your body, hence curving the stroke downwards.
    • However, please don't overdo this. This feature should be a natural result of point 2 above. If you find yourself curving the stroke deliberately, then you're probably overdoing it. If it doesn't curve, then leave it. Not all dot strokes need to curve.

Let's take a look at three examples, the Chinese character for "heart", the Japanese katakana mi, and the Korean syllable for si:

CJK 1-01-01.PNG

The first, third and fourth strokes of "heart", all of the strokes of "mi", and the second stroke of "si" all show the properties of dot strokes.