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The stroke order in Chinese calligraphy is a very complex issue. It differs from country to country. China, Japan, Taiwan and Korea may use a different stroke order for the same character. For instance, the grass radical 艹 starts with the left-hand side vertical stroke in Chinese calligraphy, but in Japanese calligraphy the stroke order begins with the vertical line.
Further, each of the five core calligraphy scripts have or may have different stroke order. If you look on my tutorials on cursive script, you will notice at least two rules out of ten which clearly indicate possibility of altering the stroke order, not only in relation to regular script (楷書), but within the cursive script itself.
Clerical script stroke order is somewhere between seal script (篆書), which has very loose and not well defined stroke order to begin with, and the standard script (楷書). Because the clerical script evolved from the seal script, naturally some radicals follow not only the stroke order, but also the shape of the same in seal script. For instance, the stroke order in 口 (mouth / ritual vessel) is based on the way of writing 口 in seal script (see diagram or the video). Some of the older clerical script texts may even contain forms of 口 that look s exactly like the one written in seal script.
It is impossible to lay down the stroke order rules in a short article, probably a book would not be able to cover those either. The only way of learning the proper stroke order is via studying the character structures in the ancient masterpieces. Comparing the forms of seal and clerical script of the same character, we can deduce the stroke order. On the other hand, stroke order in clerical script is much more relaxed and not as well defined as the stroke order in regular script. Certain radicals may have more strokes in clerical script that they have in regular script. In the case of 阿 (Japanese meaning: corner / nook), the 阝 (left village radical) radical, it has 3 strokes in clerical script and also 3 in standard script. However, the seal script form of this radical can have as many as 7 strokes.
In my upcoming tutorials on clerical script I will be coming back to the issue of stroke order numerous times. For the sake of a conclusion, I can say that the best way of learning the stroke order and the stroke number of characters, is to start with the standard script first, then semi-cursive, cursive, and finally clerical together with seal script. Stroke order may seem like a trivial issue, but it is the essential knowledge required for being able to write powerful calligraphy. The stroke order dictates the flow, the rhythm, the balance, the structure and, in result, the composition of the whole work. Learn it is as important as learning the brush operating techniques. So, learn it well.
Ponte Ryuurui (品天龍涙)