Denseman on the Rattis

Formerly known as the Widmann Blog


The 五笔 input method

I’ve just started learning Chinese in my spare time. Given that I studied Japanese for almost two years at university, Chinese has never been an entirely closed book to me in its written form (to me, obviously a ?? is a teacher, but I had no idea until recently that the Chinese pronounce it xi?nsheng, rather than something sensible such as sensei).

I decided to figure out how to write it on my computer from the outset – these days I hardly ever write anything by hand.

The most obvious way of typing Chinese is by entering the pronunciation in Pinyin and then have the computer display the various options. However, Chinese has so many homophones that it requires you to stop up and read the suggestions extremely frequently, which slows you down.

I therefore decided to learn a stroke-based method instead, and I decided to go for ??/Wubi, which apparently is the most widespread method in the PRC.

It’s an extremely efficient method – any commonly used simplified Hanzi can be written with four keystrokes or less.

As an example, here’s the first paragraph from Chinese Wikipedia’s article about Wubi:


According to Google, this is transcribed as follows in Pinyin:

W?b? zìxíng sh?rù f? shì Wáng Y?ngmín zài 1983 nián 8 yuè f?míng de y? zh?ng hànzì sh?rù f?. Zh?ngwén sh?rù f? de bi?nm? f?ng’àn h?ndu?, dàn j?b?n y?jù d?u shì hànzì de dúy?n hé zìxíng li?ng zh?ng sh?xìng. W? b? zìxíng wánquán y?jù b?huà hé zì xíng tèzh?ng duì hànzì jìnxíng bi?nm?, shì di?nxíng de xíng m? sh?rù f?. W? b? zì xíng sh?rù f? zh?yào yòng yú sh?yòng ji?nt? zh?ngwén de zh?ngguó dàlù, guòqù, w? b? d?zì b? p?ny?n f?ngbiàn, dàn suízhe zhìnéng p?ny?n de x?ngq?, w? b? y?j?ng bù jùbèi y?ushì. Diàochá bi?omíng, mùqián, zài dàxuésh?ng zh?ng, sh?yòng w? b? de rén y?j?ng h?n sh?ole. Érqi?, h?ndu? sh?uj? méiy?u QWERTY jiànpán, wúf? zài sh?uj? shàng sh?yòng w? b?, shì w? b? de jùdà lièshì.

I’ve written a program to generate the Wubi keystrokes to key this text (contact me if you’re interested in the program):

ggtt pbga lwty if j gyna d 1983rh 8eee ntje r ggtk icpb lwty if. khyy lwty if r xydc yypv tvqq, wjg adsg wyrn ftjb j icpb r yfn ujf t pb gae gmww tkh ntnt. ggtt pbga pfwg wyrn ttgl t pb gae trtg cf icpb fjtf xydc, j maga r gae dcg lwty if. ggtt pbga lwty if ygsv etgf wget tuws khyy r khlg ddbf, fpfc, ggtt rspb xx ruuj yywg, wjg bdud tdce ruuj r iw fhn, ggtt nnxc i hwtl wdrv. ymsj geje, hhue, d ditg k, wget ggtt r w nnxc tvit b. dmeg, tvqq rtsm imde QWERTYqvte, fqif d rtsm h wget ggtt, j ggtt r andd itrv.

Note how much shorter it is than the Pinyin version, and don’t forget that keying the Hanzi through Pinyin would require a lot of interactivity whereas the Wubi version can be keyed without looking.

However, I am finding the learning curve for Wubi to be quite steep. Lots of characters are really easy to type (w for ?, eeee for ?, wwf for ?, and even khlg for ?? are all easily learned), but can anybody explain to me why ? is rnb in Wubi?!?

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