Strokes of characters are traced according to a certain sequence: from top to bottom; left to right; outside to inside. So we can speak of a stroke order, and say that each stroke occupies a position in the sequence of all the strokes of a character.
The situation is very similar with the CJ signs: when we look at a character to decompose it into signs, we have to follow (most of the time) the order of its strokes and each sign will occupy a specific position in this sequence.
(We suppose that by now you are familiar with the shapes of the main signs (don't forget to download and read well Chapter 1 of the CJ Method Book). We will only use characters made of main signs shapes only in this page. The rules apply identically to the secondary signs that we will examine in next page.
To determine the position of a sign, we must look at it in its own unit, and follow the direction: from top to bottom; left to right; outside to inside.
1) Characters made of horizontally aligned sign shapes:
2) Characters made of vertically aligned signs shapes:
When signs are on top of each other, as in 果, 王, 早, their order is determine by their position considered from top to bottom. In the character 果, [田] (represented by code letter W) is the first sign because it is located at the top. [木] is the second (and last) sign because at the bottom. Code is WD
果 è è code= WD
3) Characters with signs surrounding other signs:
When signs are in an inside/outside position as in 甘, 某, their order is determined, in principle, by their position considered from outside to the inside: 廿, (represented by code letter T) is the first Sign because it is positioned outside; 一, (represented by code letter M) is the last Sign because it is positioned inside.
甘 è è code TM=甘
Important point: the three above characters given as example are made of one "block" of signs (defined as "units" later in STEP 4). But when characters are made of more than one unit (two or three) then the order of the signs is determined inside each unit.
Example: the character 理 is clearly composed of to groups (units) of shapes: first group ("unit") is [ 王 ] composed of 一(M) as first sign because at the top, and of 土 (G) as second (last) sign, because at the bottom); the second group ("unit") is [里] composed of 田(W) as first sign because at the top, and of 土 (G) as second (last) sign, because at the bottom)
理 è è code MGWG
If you have followed STEPS 1 to 3, you can know very easily do the two exercises at the end of chapter 1. That will completely familiarize yourself with the main signs and the position of their corresponding keyboard keys.
The characters in the exercise are very simple: a) they are made of main signs only; b) all the signs shapes forming the characters are to be inputted (there are no signs to "skip"). So, to get a character on the screen, you need just to spot its different signs and type the code in the Input Method Editor of your Chinese system.
In doing the exercises, the best is to look at the list of characters given for input and type them on your keyboard computer. You could also just write their code down in special column next to them. But the essential thing is to cover-hide the "Answers" column, so you make your brains working for the answers. unless the code cannot be found.
One additional benefit deriving from the way these exercises are presented is that the user can learn new characters: each character has its main translation and its pinyin transliteration. The exercises cover more than 100 characters or "phrases".
The "Reconstruction" exercise is also worthwhile: with the same list of characters, another way to learn is to look at the CJ signs on the "Answers" column and try to write down the character from the shapes of the signs: rebuild the characters! It's like putting back a puzzle, and its quit fun. The student can also hide the English translation and pinyin, and test his/her recollection of it. Make your base strong! Download Chapter 1. You can also practice the main signs with the tutoring program.