Differences Between Traditionally Printed and PRC Standard Chinese Books

Background Info

After the success of the communist revolution in 1949, the People’s Republic of China decided to use horizontal writing. All newspapers in China changed from vertical to horizontal alignment on January 1, 1956.


Tradition: writing is from top to bottom and from right to left and and the binding is on the right

The traditional writing direction for Chinese is from top to bottom (vertical) and from right to left.

Differences between traditional and PRC standard student exercise books

The picture above is the comparison between traditional and PRC standard student exercise books. The exercise book on the left is traditionally printed while the one on the right is printed with the standard of Mainland China. There are spaces between columns for the traditionally printed as the writing direction is from top to bottom and from right to left. As for the PRC standard one, the spaces are between rows as the writing direction is from left to right horizontally.

Due to differences in writing direction, traditionally printed book has binding on the right, that means you have to flip to the right when you read, while PRC standard book has binding on the left.

Different bindings of traditional and PRC Standard Chinese books

Advantages of Vertical Writing

Vertical Stroke is a major component of Chinese character.

Vertical stroke is one of the two most important components of Chinese character, another one is horizontal stroke. The vertical stroke is made by pressing the index finger down on writing instrument.  According to this book, as the stroke order of Chinese character is also from top to bottom, vertical writing creates vertical axis and helps the downward movement of index finger. Hence, vertical writing makes Chinese writing straighter and smoother.


Due to the great influence of  Mainland China, many Chinese books that are published outside of Mainland China follow the PRC standard. However, Chinese books that are on the subject of Chinese languages are usually printed traditionally, if they are published out of Mainland China.

My Opinion

I think more Chinese books should be printed traditionally. The forceful change of writing direction (and Chinese character) is the by-product of the era in which people believed that the cleareance of old Chinese culture could lead to a better China. The purpose of the change is to alienate and disconnet people from the tradition. In the end, time proves that the disconnection with tradition is wrong and people are now striving to connect with tradition again. Also, I am not happy with the treatment of vertical writing with nowadays technology. To this date, we still can’t type Chinese character vertically on any web browsers.

Extra Info

Mixing horizontal writting language into vertically written Chinese

As you can see, it is harder to mix English into vertically written Chinese.


  1. […] Traditional Chinese and PRC Chinese Printings | 廣府話小研究 … […]

  2. Thank you very much for this post!

  3. […] be published in Mainland China with no change and it will be in traditional Chinese character and printed vertically. (Pin-suh is the courtesy name of Chien Mu) … Not many people know that Chien Mu opposed the […]

  4. are children in hong kong required to write traditionally? are books in hong kong printed traditionally? I know they still do in taiwan. their books are also traditional

  5. Kieran Maynard · · Reply

    I find my Chinese friends are interested in the fact that my Japanese novels are printed vertically, like old Chinese books. As for mixing English, indeed it is a little awkward to write English “sideways,” but I can read it just fine.

  6. […] vertically with a Chinese seal over the stone wall and colorful cloud, which represents the estate. Vertical writing is how traditional Chinese should be […]

  7. Cheung Wung · · Reply

    That’s what I like with litterature, newspapers, comic books, magazines in HK/Taiwan/Japan (+traditional characters ♥).

    The horizontality of writting is imposed on web browsers and a lot of electronic devices.

    It would indeed bea good thing the days we at last can also have content written vertically.
    Don’t forget to add the possibility to write vertically from not only right to left for Japanese/Korean/Chinese languages and Vietnamese/Tai-Kadai/etc written with chinese characters and their derivates, but also from left to right for Mongol/Manchu/Old Uyghur please.

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