Chinese Type Styles

The Chinese basic type groups are divided into two broad categories; Song and Hei. Song is very much like a Serif typeface, most Songs are similar to Times or Garamond in weight and feel. Hei is a Sans Serif style font, sharing similarities with Helvetica and Futura, both Hei and Song typefaces come in families with many different weights, however there is no approximation to italic. There are many variations of Song and Hei which we'll look at in their respective sections. Other styles include decorative or P.O.P. fonts, typically used in advertising and script fonts—typically hand made and not computer typefaces—which are also used in branding and advertising.

Major Type Categories

Song (serif)

Hei (sans serif)


Adobe Song is popular for newspapers. FZ Bao is used for newspapers exclusively. Shu Song (Song Book) is also popular in newspapers, a bit more dense than Bao. These typefaces have a lot in common with Times, Garamond, and Caslon, you will see thin strokes that change to thick strokes, with a serif to terminate most strokes.

Kai is a form of Song, suitable for text about tradition or that is written about a traditional subject. Kai is commonly used in Chinese textbooks — for all levels of education. Kai fonts are similar to the Song (serif) fonts, but Kai fonts relate visually more directly to the tradition of brush writing, it is thought of as a calligraphy font.

Windows computers come preinstalled with MS Yahei, a now common Hei font. Chinese designers consider MS Yahei to be spaced too tightly for commercial use, it does not come in weights. Lanting Hei is a popular font among designers, Lanting fonts have a subtle stroke weight change, similar to Helvetica.

Dong Qing is considered a Hei font, but has a slight flare or suggestion of a serif, similar to Optima. Dong Qing comes in two weights, Dong Qing medium is similar to Lanting Hei light. Lanting is generally spaced more tightly than Dong Qing, Dong Qing may be a better choice for titles and other larger text.

Decorative fonts (often called P.O.P. fonts—point of purchase) are designed to be used as the name implies, for short groups of text, usually set at a large size, as in a logo, on a poster headline, or packaging. These fonts are not intended to be read in paragraph form.

Script fonts are typically not "fonts" at all. These are digitized versions of hardwriting created by popular calligraphers and notable politicians alike, these are useful in advertising and branding. Used in graphic form in programs like Photoshop and Illustrator.