Chinese Fonts Explained

Find a wide variety of Chinese fonts at!

Linotype offers many new and classic Chinese fonts in several formats. To help explain a bit of this complex writing system, we have compiled definitions for many of these different encodings.

Chinese is written in two different varieties of characters: Traditional and Simplified. Their names are illustrative of how you can generally distinguish the two versions – characters in Traditional Chinese are often more intricate composed of many strokes; while the characters in Simplified Chinese uses forms which have been reduced to fewer strokes (in some cases brought back to the more ancient forms of the characters).

Both sets of Traditional and Simplified character shapes are roughly square, and the letters have a monospaced square width, which can form clean grids no matter the direction of the text. Historically, Chinese was set vertically, reading from top to bottom and right to left (Fig. 1). However in the 1950’s – along with the introduction of Simplified Chinese – it became standard to write in the Western standard from left to right and top to bottom (Fig. 2). You will generally find that Simplified follows this Western method whereas Traditional can be found written in several directions. However, in 2004 Taiwan mandated the standard writing (in most cases) to be horizontal and left to right using Traditional characters. This only goes to show that Chinese can be written in many directions, but the writing orientation is not always a good indicator of which character style is being used.

Figure 1 Figure 2

Examples of Traditional vs Simplified Chinese Characters

Beyond the graphical contrasts of the two characters, they are used in different areas and by different Chinese speakers. Simplified Chinese characters are officially used in Mainland China, Singapore and Malaysia, and used in some overseas Chinese communities. Traditional Chinese characters are officially used in Taiwan, HongKong and Macau, and used by many Overseas Chinese communities.

The character sets and encodings for Chinese fonts can be very confusing. There have been a number of standards developed over the years to suit the needs of a variety of situations. We sell fonts produced by DynaComware and China Type which each have unique naming structures. The name of the font will indicate what encoding it supports. Below you will find the description of the characters contained in each encoding.

There are three categories our Chinese fonts fit into. Traditional and Simplified have been explained, but there is a third variety of encoding: “Transitional”. “Transitional” fonts are created so that a user can type in either Traditional or Simplified but the output text will be in opposite style. This means that one could type in Traditional Chinese but have the text rendered in Simplified, and vice versa. In the case of these fonts the name indicates the style of the output text, so the input text would be the contrasting style.

Traditional: Generally used in Taiwan, HongKong, and Macau

(e.g. M Sung HK Traditional Chinese)
HK series fonts are in Unicode encoding and consists of BIG 5 character set and HKSCS characters. The character glyphs are based on the regular Traditional Chinese writing form and style.

Simplified: Generally used in Mainland China, and Singapore

DFP Simplified
(e.g. DFP Yuan Simplified Chinese)
DynaComware’s Simplified Chinese fonts. These should not be confused with their DF Simplified fonts which have Simplified characters encoded into Traditional Character slots. These DFP Simplified fonts are both input and output Simplified.


(e.g. M Sung HKS Light)
HKS series fonts are irregular (but useful for specific cases) Simplified Chinese fonts. It is in Unicode encoding and consists of BIG 5 character set and HKSCS characters. The character glyphs are, however, based on simplified Chinese writing form and style. As both the font encoding and character set is the same as HK series, this series of fonts is convenient for converting a Traditional Chinese inputted text into Simplified Chinese by just changing the font style.

DF Simplified
(e.g. DF Hei Simplified Chinese)
Made by DynaComware, these fonts are used to input Traditional Chinese but the output is Simplified Chinese. Not to be confused with DFP Simplified fonts which are “true” Simplified fonts.

Browse through our font collection of traditional and simplified chinese fonts.

For more specified results, please use various terms of our keyword search:
Chinese Basic | Chinese Calligraphic | Chinese Freestyle | Chinese Handwriting | Chinese Modern Style | Chinese Old Style | Chinese Pop Style

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