Commons:Ancient Chinese characters project

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Nuvola apps kopete.png Hello!

Welcome to the Ancient Chinese characters project, which plans to eventually provide a large set of high quality images of Ancient Chinese characters. This illustration set will be freely usable to make educational books, websites, and calligraphic historical explanations.

You are free to use the graphics we have made so far and we invite you to join us in our work.

The work is divided in twelve subcategories: (click blue links to browse)

Historical Evolution via examples
Ancient Scripts Modern Scripts
Shang Western Zhou Spring-Autumn Warring States Clerical Kaishu trad. Kaishu simp.
馬-bronze.svg 馬-bronze-spring.svg 馬-bronze-warring.svg
馬-clerical-han.svg 馬-kaishu.svg 马-kaishu.svg
(4,808202) (1,333) (355) (29421535216) (0) no need (font available)
Transcribed Ancient Scripts
Shuowen Liushutong
Seal Zhou Ancient
馬-seal.svg 馬-zhou.svg 馬-ancient.svg 馬-bigseal.svg
(3,092) (15) (57) (3,479)
Icon apps query.svg Public domain images that you can use freely

Of course, you can use all them for your own website. All this work is in the public domain. Legally, you can do what you like, but the moral conditions of use are that you state:

  1. Source: Images from (or the specific image description page)
  2. Licence: Public Domain (verify that Commons may also accept specific free licences)
  3. Authors: Erin Silversmith, Micheletb (look at the contributors list in image information page)
Crystal Clear app korganizer.png Objectives, current news

The aim of the project is eventually to provide examples for all characters available in Ancient Chinese script. The 214 radicals have already been completed. Current project focuses on (these categories are not exclusive):

  • Non-compound characters.
  • Most frequently used characters.
  • Characters that appear frequently in compound characters.
Consensus icon.svg Active on the project

We need you !

Active contributors :

Your contributions are welcome to expand this set !

You can ask questions to yug and Michelet.

Nuvola apps cache.png Want to help?

You can help by uploading historical version of a characters. Available Ancient Chinese Character sources are :

  • Graphic etymology : (preferred) only source for great seal, does not contain silk characters.
  • Sinica Database : several examples per characters, updated, academical information available.
  • Chinese text project : mostly reproduces ancient Chinese character fonts.

Please see our Tutorial to create new files, and use the template {{ACClicense}} when uploading.

Add new Ancient Chinese Characters to the database by uploading (when available) :

  • *-oracle.svg (variant 2 to 6)
  • *-bronze.svg (variant 2 to 6)
    • *-bronze-shang.svg (variant 2 to 3)
    • *-bronze-spring.svg (variant 2 to 5)
    • *-bronze-warring.svg (variant 2 to 5)
  • *-silk.svg (variant 2 to 6)
  • *-slip.svg (variant 2 to 5)
  • *-seal.svg (variant 2 to 3)
    • *-ancient.svg (variant 2 to 3)
    • *-zhou.svg
    • *-odd.svg
  • *-bigseal.svg (variant 2 to 3)
(P.S. Would you like to provide a bit of encouragement to this team and this free project?)

Naming conventions[edit]

Our overall naming conventions. More dots for priority. Full page contains explanations.
Type Minimal definition Dominant objective Time periods Old convention New convention Example Coverage
Images showing stroke order
•••• 楷書 / 楷书 kǎishū Row of grey chars teaching web era 馬-bw.png 馬-bw.svg* 馬-jbw.png 91,06770
•• 楷書 / 楷书 kǎishū Black to red progression teaching web era 馬-red.png 馬-red.svg* 馬-red.png 1423835
•••• 楷書 / 楷书 kǎishū Animated calligraphy teaching web era 馬-order.gif 馬-order.gif ** 馬-order.gif 970425
楷書 / 楷书 kǎishū Animated by Stroke teaching web era 馬-sbs.gif 馬-sbs.gif ** 馬-sbs.gif 4
Do not use “m”, “t”, or “j” freely in filenames above. We use them such : "m" for "modern", "t" for "traditional", "j" for Japanese, etc. <ed>
Images showing writing styles
•• 金文 jīnwén>Shang Casted bronze scripts, Shang period 1300–1046 BCE 馬-s.svg 馬-bronze-shang.svg 馬-bronze-shang.svg 202
•••• 甲骨文 jiǎgǔwén Knife carved oracle scripts 1300–1046 BCE 馬-oracle.svg 馬-oracle.svg 馬-oracle.svg 4,808
•••• 金文 jīnwén Casted bronze scripts, Western Zhou period 1046–771 BCE 馬-bronze.svg 馬-bronze.svg 馬-bronze.svg 1,333
甲骨文 jiǎgǔwén>Western Zhou Knife carved oracle scripts, Western Zhou period 1046–771 BCE 馬-oracle-zhouyuan.svg N/A 1
•• 金文 jīnwén>Spring and Autumn Casted bronze scripts, Spring and Autumn period 771–476 BCE 馬-sa.svg 馬-bronze-spring.svg 馬-bronze-spring.svg 355
•• 金文 jīnwén>Warring States Casted bronze scirpts, Warring States period 476–221 BCE 馬-w.svg 馬-bronze-warring.svg 馬-bronze-warring.svg 294
••• 簡帛文字 jiǎnbówénzì Brush on slip or silk scripts by Chu state 476–221 BCE 馬-silk.svg 馬-silk.svg 21535
••• 簡牘文字 jiǎndúwénzì Brush on slip scripts by Qin state 476–221 BCE 馬-slip.svg 馬-slip.svg 216
•••• 篆 > 小篆 xiǎo zhuàn Normalized zhuan scirpts by Qin dynasty and some Han dynasty zhuan scirpts, collected by Shuowen 221 BCE–220 CE 馬-seal.svg 馬-seal.svg 馬-seal.svg 3,092
•• 籀文 zhòuwén Script from Shizhoupian by late Western Zhou, collected by Shuowen 221 BCE–220 CE 馬-zhou.svg 馬-zhou.svg 馬-zhou.svg 15
•• 古文 gǔwén Script from Zuo zhuan by Warring States, collected by Shuowen 221 BCE–220 CE 馬-ancient.svg 馬-ancient.svg 馬-ancient.svg 57
奇字 qízì Similar to variants, collected by Shuowen 221 BCE–220 CE 馬-odd.svg N/A 2
•• 隸書 / 隶书 lìshū Early ancient clerical script to be specific, collected by Libian 221 - 134 BCE 馬-clerical.svg 馬-clerical-han.svg 23
•• 隸書 / 隶书 lìshū [Temporary category under discussion]
Early ancient clerical script to be specific, collected by Libian
historical Actual 221 - 134 BCE 馬-clerical-han.svg 馬-clerical-han.svg 27
•• 隸書 / 隶书 lìshū [Temporary category under discussion]
Modern stylisation of early ancient clerical script
teaching Fake 221 - 134 BCE 馬-clerical-qing.svg 20px 43
篆 > 傳抄古文字 Chuánchāo gǔwénzì Transcribed various ancient scripts before Qin dynasty, collected by Liushutong 1627–1644 CE 馬-bigseal.svg 馬-bigseal.svg 馬-bigseal.svg 3,479
New Modern Chinese Characters*
•• 草書 / 草书 cǎoshū Brush on paper's fast script, aka Cursive. teaching 43 BCE-present — (font available) 馬-caoshu.svg 馬-caoshu.svg 1
•• 行書 / 行书 xíngshū Brush on paper's fluid writing, aka Semi-cursive. teaching ca.100 CE-present — (font available) 馬-xingshu.svg 馬-xingshu.svg 3
•• 楷書 / 楷书 kǎishū Brush on paper since Han dynasty, aka Regular scripts teaching ca. 200 CE-present — (font available) 馬-kaishu.svg 馬-kaishu.svg 7
•• 宋體 / 宋体 sòngtǐ,
明體 / 明体 míngtǐ
Printing-blocks scripts. Aka Songti, Mingti. teaching 1368 CE-present — (font available) 馬-songti.svg 馬-songti.svg 4
明體 / 明体 míngtǐ > 康熙 kāngxī Printing-blocks scripts in Kangxi dictionary historical 1716 CE-present — (font available) 馬-mingti-kangxi.svg 馬-mingti-kangxi.svg 0, 215

NEW! On dominant objective[edit]

  • Styles are artificial groupings along a spectrum of writings. Outside Wikimedia, each style actually gather endless variations by its writers.
  • Two opposite objectives are therefor possible on that spectrum:
    • historical accurate: documents the exact glyph as done by the writers of that time. Various glyph representations of a same character may be uploaded. This is what history, calligraphy enthusiasts, academics look for.
    • teaching principles: represents the implicitly agreed, canonical, idealized, shape-simplified, smoothed principle of a style. This is what fonts do and propagate, and what teachers looks for.
  • ACC categories are on this spectrum. Those who do and upload, decide where their category stands.


  • Copybook of Common Characters with Kaishu, Lishu, Xinshu, Caoshu, Seal, and Kaishu traditional (pocket format, available on :
    • 常用字字帖 / Copybook of Common Characters[1] (in Chinese), 1st edition edition, Shanghai Painting and Calligraphy Press, 1990, pages 490.
    • 常用字字帖[2], 第1版 edition, 上海书画出版社出版, 1990, pages 490.
  • 細說漢字部首 左民安 ISBN 7801953568
  • 高岛谦一 甲骨文字字释综览
  • 簡牘名蹟選7:甘粛篇(二)漢2
    , 2009, ISBN 978-4544002478,
    , for Han-era manuscripts in clerical script (dated the Xin dynasty in the book)
  • 中国法書選3:石門頌
    , 1989, ISBN 978-4544005035, also for clerical script characters.
  • Richard Sears's Chinese character etymology site references:
    • XuJaGuWenBian 續甲骨文编 by JinXiangHeng 金祥恒. Richard Sears 31,876 oracle characters are taken from this source.
    • JinWenBian 金文编 by RungGeng 容庚. The most accurate book of character samples from the bronze artifacts. Richard Sears 24,223 bronze characters are taken from this source.
    • ShuoWenJieZi 說文解字. The earliest complete 987 copy by XuXuan 徐鉉, clearly printed. Richard Sears 11109 ShuoWen seal characters are taken from this source.
    • LioShuTong 六書通. A Ming Dynasty collection of non standard seal type characters. Richard Sears 38,596 Liushutong seal characters are taken from this source.
  • 饒宗頤
    , ISBN 962-2317081, for the Chu Silk Manuscript, an important source of the Chu script, Warring States.

See also[edit]

The sister-project Commons:CJK stroke order project.