Fonts begin where character sets end. The characters defined by the encodings inside your computer are abstract, whereas the glyphs defined by a font are concrete visual forms that can be rendered on screen or paper.

Outline fonts are fonts in which glyphs are described mathematically as "outlines," i.e., a series of line segments, arcs, and curves. They are thus fully scalable: to print or display a character the outline is scaled to the desired size, then rendered by filling the outline with bits or pixels. The information provided here is limited to what the typical Chinese Mac user might want to know. If you want to learn more about font formats and printing technologies, Ken Lunde's CJKV Information Processing is very thorough on these topics.

Developed by Adobe, PostScript is a "page-description" language for printers. It supports both graphics and text, with built-in support for fonts. The most common PostScript font format is Type 1. Chinese Postscript fonts use the CID format, which uses Type 1 character descriptions tailored especially for East Asian writing systems. CID stands for "Character Identifier," which refers to the numbers that are used to index and access the characters in the font. Apple incorporates the Adobe Type Manager rasterizer into OS X (licensed from Adobe), which provides full support for all types of PostScript-based fonts.

In 1991, Microsoft adopted Apple's new TrueType font format. Unfortunately, they used a different approach to storing the font data, so files had to be converted between Windows and Macintosh. Regardless, all TrueType fonts contain "cmap" tables that map the glyphs to encodings. With Mac OS X, Apple introduced support for Windows TrueType font files, fully implemented on OS X 10.5. The files, however, must contain Unicode cmap tables. Most Windows 98 and later fonts have them, while most Windows 95 and earlier fonts do not.

OpenType is an open standard developed by Microsoft and Adobe in 1996 to absorb the underlying differences between the TrueType and PostScript formats. OpenType fonts also use cmap tables. There are two kinds of OpenType fonts: those that use PostScript Type 1 outlines and carry the .OTF extension, and those that use TrueType outlines and carry the .TTF (or .TTC) extension.

You can learn more from:


The best way for individuals to obtain reliable, high-quality Chinese fonts in weights and styles not already supplied by Apple or Microsoft is in bundles on retail CDs/DVDs from established foundries. There aren't a lot of these companies. The making of an original Chinese font is a huge undertaking, somewhat less so now with the advent of new approaches and advanced technologies, but producing a finished, unique font is still a monumental task, involving a team of people working for months, if not years. Founder in Beijing has a PDF (in English) on their process that may give you some idea of what is involved.

OpenType support has been complete since Mac OS 9, while OS X 10.5 and above fully support Windows TrueType formats. Many font bundles include installers (and other software) that only work on Windows, and thus they are sold as Windows-only, but you can always manually install the fonts on a Mac. In OS X, the best place to put them is in a folder of their own within the /Library/Fonts/ folder.

Arphic [文鼎]

Taiwan. They sell a variety of retail bundles through their online store.

  • Arphic OpenType 221. [PDF] Arphic's full OpenType set, mostly traditional-Chinese.
  • Arphic OpenType 43. [PDF] A selection from the full set.
  • Arphic GB OpenType. [PDF] Twenty simplified-Chinese GB 2312 fonts, with ten GB/T analogs.

There are also a number of good Windows TrueType packages. These will soon be updated for Windows 7, if they haven't already, so you may be able to find the old editions on sale:

  • Arphic UniFonts 2007 [字博士] [PDF] Arphic's full TrueType set, mostly traditional-Chinese.
  • Arphic UniFonts 2006 [字達人] [PDF] A selection from the full set.

Note: Arphic's web site is Big5-encoded, while their online checkout process (they ship worldwide) is Unicode-encoded (UTF-8).

DynaComware [華康]

Hong Kong. Formerly DynaLab. Maker of the "DynaFont" [金蝶] line. They are the source of the fonts LiHei Pro and LiSong Pro in OS X, as well as the venerable LiGothic Medium, LiSung Light, and BiauKai, which have been part of Apple's Chinese-language support since the beginning. They also make the MingLiU/PMingLiU and DFKai-SB fonts that come with Windows.

  • DynaFont OpenType 161 H.K. Edition. [PDF] 124 Big5 (at least) fonts, 37 of which have GB5 analogs. This is a professional typography collection, with no extras. The font names and selection match those of DynaFont's high-resolution CID-keyed fonts used by publishers.
  • DynaFont 2010 H.K. Edition. [PDF] 128 Big5 (at least) fonts, 43 of which have both GB5 analogs and GB 2312 companions. These are Windows TrueType fonts. The system used for the font names is different from the DynaFont OpenType 161 collection, but the selection is largely the same. Includes extras like Hanzi+Pinyin fonts, various ornamental fonts, and more. There is a less-expensive "Home" edition for non-commercial use.

A good place to buy these bundles online (shipping worldwide) is R & B Computer Systems.

Monotype [蒙納]

Hong Kong. A long time vendor of Chinese OEM fonts, in 2006 Monotype's new owners [Monotype Imaging] also acquired China Type Design [中國字體設計] in Hong Kong. Maker of the "Microsoft ZhengHei" fonts that come with Windows Vista and later. Fonts from both sources are available via LinoType and, albeit priced for the commercial publishing market. Monotype Imaging also sells various combined retail packages in Hong Kong and China:

Note: These fonts are also available in the first truly functional and affordable solution for serving Chinese fonts as web fonts via HTML5:

Hanyi [汉仪]

Beijing Hanyi is a well-known Chinese foundry, with an excellent web site showing a fine selection of original fonts, most available online through LinoType and Unfortunately, the fonts are priced for the commercial publishing market, and they do not seem to offer retail bundles. Nonetheless, they are at least available.

Founder [方正]

Beijing. Founder Group was created at Beida [北京大学] in 1986 and incorporated in 1992. Now a large, diverse company. Maker of the "Microsoft YaHei" fonts that come with Windows Vista and later, as well as Simsun (Founder Extended). They continue to produce original fonts. They do sell retail packages:

  • Founder Lanting [兰亭/蘭亭] TrueType 200. $125 from TwinBridge. A set of 62 GB 2312 fonts, each paired with GB/T analogs (one is GB/T only). Many also have Big5 and/or GB5 companions. If you want simplified-Chinese fonts, this is a good way to get started.

ZhongYi [中标]

Beijing. ZhongYi is the maker of the standards-compliant SimHei (simhei.ttf), SimSun (simsun.ttf, simsunb.ttf), FangSong (simfang.ttf) and KaiTi (simkai.ttf) OEM fonts that come with Windows.

SinoType [华文]

Another important commercial foundry is SinoType in Changzhou, Jiangsu. They don't sell fonts retail, but their "ST" fonts have been widely distributed on a variety of platforms, including OS X and Microsoft Office.


UPDATE! In partnership with Google, Adobe has developed a new, open-source pan-CJK font in seven weights with regional glyph localizations, Adobe Source Sans.

Adobe has defined two Chinese "character collections" for its fonts. Adobe-GB1-5 supports GB 18030 (including the Yi regional script), with glyphs localized for China/Singapore. Adobe-CNS1-6 supports Big Five (i.e., CNS 11643-1992 Planes 1 and 2) and HKSCS-2008, with glyphs localized for Taiwan/Hong Kong.

Adobe's Creative Suite 5.x installs the following OpenType Chinese fonts:

  • Adobe Song Std (Light) [Adobe-GB1-5]
  • Adobe Heiti Std (Regular) [Adobe-GB1-5]
  • Adobe Kaiti Std (Regular) [Adobe-GB1-5]
  • Adobe Fangsong Std (Regular) [Adobe-GB1-5]
  • Adobe Ming Std (Light) [Adobe-CNS1-6]
  • Adobe Fan Heiti Std (Bold) [Adobe-CNS1-6]

Adobe's "Std" designation means the fonts cover standard character sets, without defining glyph variants or other "Pro" features. Adobe plans to do so in the future, but as of 2009 they do not make "Pro" Chinese fonts. Note that other vendors use the "Pro" designation differently, meaning the font simply has an expanded character set, like the LiHei Pro and LiSong Pro fonts (Big-5E and HKSCS-2001) that come with OS X.

Fonts via Apple

Apple distributes a selection of Chinese outline fonts with OS 9 and OS X 10.2 and above:

Font name File name Charset OS 9 OS X 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 10.7 10.8‡
Heiti TC
Heiti SC
STHeiti Light.ttc*
STHeiti Medium.ttc*
Unicode+           x x x
Hiragino Sans GB Hiragino Sans GB W3.otf
Hiragino Sans GB W6.otf
GB18030           x x x
Kaiti SC 楷体.ttc* GB18030               x
Songti SC 宋体.ttc* GB18030               x
Yuanti SC Yuanti.ttc* GB18030               x
STXihei 华文细黑.ttf GB18030   x x x x x x x
STHeiti 华文黑体.ttf GB18030   x x x x x x x
STKaiti 华文楷体.ttf† GB18030   x x x x x x x
STSong 华文宋体.ttf† GB18030   x x x x x x x
STFangsong 华文仿宋.ttf GB18030   x x x x x x x
Hei Hei.ttf GB2312 x x x x x x x x
Kai Kai.ttf GB2312 x x x x x x x x
Song Song.ttf GB2312 x x x          
Fang Song Fang Song.ttf GB2312 x x x          
Beijing   GB2312 x x            
LiHei Pro Medium 儷黑 Pro.ttf Big-5E
    x x x x x x
LiSong Pro Light 儷宋 Pro.ttf Big-5E
    x x x x x x
BiauKai BiauKai.ttf Big-5 x x x x x x x x
Apple LiGothic Medium Apple LiGothic Medium.ttf Big-5 x x x x x x x x
Apple LiSung Light Apple LiSung Light.ttf Big-5 x x x x x x x x
Taipei   Big-5 x x            
Arial Unicode MS Arial Unicode.ttf Unicode         x x x x
  • Unicode = Contains the Unicode CJK Unified Ideographs block.
  • Unicode+ = Contains the CJK Unified Ideographs block, Extension A, and a selection of 6,217 characters from Extension B. These fonts support GB 18030, Big-5E, HKSCS-2001, Japanese JIS X 0213, and Vietnamese Hán-Nôm.
  • Big-5E HKSCS = Contains 17,607 characters from the CJK Unified Ideographs block, 512 from Extension A, and 1,640 from Extension B. Supports Big-5E and Hong Kong SCS-2001.

* = These are TrueType "font collections" (note the .ttc extension) containing multiple fonts (usually different weights of the same font). They also use the technology of "glyph variants" within Mac OS X 10.6 and above to provide localized glyphs for users in Taiwan/Hong Kong (the "TC" locale) and China/Singapore (the "SC" locale).
† = Beginning with OS X 10.8, STKaiti (华文楷体.ttf) and STSong (华文宋体.ttf) are located within the larger Kaiti SC (楷体.ttc) and Songti SC (宋体.ttc) font collections.
‡ = Beginning with OS X 10.8, Apple distributes a variety of additional Chinese fonts with OS X. See Mountain Lion for details.

Fonts via Microsoft

Note: PMingLiU and SimSun are proportional fonts, while MingLiU and NSimSun are monospaced. The difference only applies to Roman text.

Font name Chinese Charset File name Windows 2000 Windows XP Windows Vista Windows 7
Microsoft JhengHei* 微軟正黑體 UnicodeA msjh.ttf
    v5.00 v6.02
Unicode mingliu.ttc v3.00 v3.21 v6.02†‡ v7.00†‡
  UnicodeB mingliub.ttc     v5.00† v7.00†
DFKai-SB 標楷體 Unicode kaiu.ttf v3.00 v3.00 v5.00 v5.00
Microsoft YaHei* 微软雅黑体 GB18030 msyh.ttf
    v5.00 v6.02
SimHei 黑体 GBK simhei.ttf v2.10 v3.02 v5.01‡ v5.01‡
GBK simsun.ttc v2.11 v3.03 v5.00‡ v5.03‡
SimSun-ExtB   UnicodeB simsunb.ttf     v5.00 v5.00
FangSong 仿宋 GB18030 simfang.ttf     v5.01 v5.01
KaiTi 楷体 GB18030 simkai.ttf     v5.01 v5.01
FangSong_GB2312 仿宋_GB2312 GB2312 SIMFANG.TTF v2.00 v2.00    
KaiTi_GB2312 楷体_GB2312 GB2312 SIMKAI.TTF v2.00 v2.00    
  • Unicode = Contains the Unicode CJK Unified Ideographs block.
  • UnicodeA = Contains the Unicode CJK Unified Ideographs and Extension A blocks.
  • UnicodeB = Contains the Extension B block (only).

* = These ClearType system fonts for Vista come in two weights, Regular and Bold.
** = The GB18030 Support Package for Windows 2000/XP includes an extended version of SimSun/NSimSun: SimSun-18030/NSimSin-18030 [simsun18030.ttc]. This font includes four of the regional scripts (Mongolian, Tibetan, Uyghur, Yi), unlike the Windows Vista and later versions of SimSun/NSimSun (Microsoft provides separate fonts for the regional scripts in Windows Vista and later).
† = Includes MingLiU_HKSCS and MingLiU_HKSCS-ExtB.
‡ = Also supports Unicode's CJK Unified Ideographs Extension A block.

In addition, the Microsoft Office XP Proofing Tools (and Chinese editions) include the font Simsun (Founder Extended) [SURSONG.TTF, 宋体-方正超大字符集]. Created in January 2001, it contains over 64,000 hanzi, including most of the CJK Unified Ideographs Extension B block. Works perfectly in OS X 10.3 and above. Install it in the /Library/Fonts folder, and re-login after installing it. To avoid problems in OS X 10.4, you should use Font Book to install this font. Use File > Add Fonts...


  • DFKai-SB has the same PostScript name ("DFKaiShu-SB-Estd-BF") as BiauKai, which comes with OS X (see above). Only one font with a given PostScript name can be active in Mac OS X at any time. They are the same font in terms of design and weight, but the Apple font is limited to the Big Five character set, while the Windows version is a GBK font. If you want to use this font for both simplified and traditional Chinese, then use Font Book to deactivate BiauKai and activate DFKai-SB instead.
  • Microsoft YaHei Bold v5.00 (Vista) has the same PostScript name ("MicrosoftYaHei") as Microsoft YaHei Regular. Only one font with a given PostScript name can be active in Mac OS X at any time. This problem is fixed in v6.02 (Windows 7).
  • Both mingliu.ttc and/or mingliub.ttc cause application crashes in Adobe Creative Suite 2, notably Photoshop. Upgrade to Creative Suite 3 and above to fix the problem.

Open Source

Google Noto Sans

New in 2014, this is a major font in seven weights that pretty much everyone who uses Chinese should have, unless they have access to Adobe's Source Han Sans, which is the same font. Each font contains 65,536 characters (the maximum allowed in a single font), with the individual fonts fully supporting regional glyph variants. The principal designer was Ryoko Nishizuka of Adobe, working with three font foundries in China (SinoType), Korea, and Japan. The selection of the character set was overseen by Ken Lunde of Adobe.

Hanazono [花園]

The Hanazono fonts are an offshoot of the GlyphWiki project, a database project based in Japan, with all the advantages and drawbacks of the Wiki approach. As of May 2011, GlyphWiki contains more than 180,000 glyphs. (Japanese) (English translation)

As of May 2011, Hanazono MIncho [花園明朝] is comprised of two fonts with a total of 75,616 Unicode kanji plus 1,632 glyph variants registered in the current Ideographic Variation Database (IVD):

  • HanaMinA.ttf (CJK Unified Ideographs, Extension A, Compatibility Ideographs, Radicals, Strokes, plus the IVD variants)
  • HanaMinB.ttf (Extensions B, C, and D)


Mojikyo [文字鏡]

The Mojikyo fonts are Japanese Shift-JIS (JIS X 0208) fonts for the over 50,000 characters in the Morohashi dictionary [大漢和辞典] and its supplement, along with additional characters, including coverage beyond Unicode. Each font assigns characters to the code points for 5,641 Shift-JIS kanji [889F–979E, 989F–E79E]. The remaining code points for kanji in Shift-JIS are assigned blank characters.

There is a free "web" version of the fonts, available here:

These are Unicode-based OpenType fonts, perfect for Mac OS X. The Morohashi characters are contained in fonts M101-109. Each character is assigned a six-digit Mojikyo number — the main 48,902 Morohashi numbers first, then the supplement [補遺], then the numbers with primes [ダッシュ付き]. There is an online index to this part of the Mojikyo fonts, with characters listed by Mojikyo number after each radical:

Most of the Morohashi character set is now in Unicode, so the above is mainly just a curiosity. Fonts M110 and above contain characters not in Morohashi. These include oracle-bone characters [甲骨文字, M117–118], Siddham [梵字, M119–121], and Tangut [西夏文字, M202–203]. Many tens of thousands of additional CJK characters appear in fonts M110–116, M133–142, M186–201.

These fonts could be useful to anyone needing a CJK character or glyph not found in Unicode, but good luck finding what you're looking for without purchasing the commercial CD (see below) and running it in Windows. Still, we provide a text file containing the Shift-JIS kanji used by Mojikyo. This will allow you to examine the fonts. [Download] In OS X, you can use Apple's Font Book for this — just copy the text and paste it into the Preview > Custom window, then select the Mojikyo font you want to see. To use a Mojikyo character, just copy it into your document, then change the font for that character (only) to the correct Mojikyo font.

Kinokuniya distributes a commercial version on a CD which adds over 10,000 seal-script characters [篆書] (a nice feature of the original Morohashi dictionary, so I presume the Mojikyo glyphs are taken from there), and more. [Kinokuniya] [Amazon] See:

Font Managers

To our knowledge, no font manager provides detailed information about Chinese character-set coverage in a given font. At best, they organize the glyphs in a font by Unicode character blocks, like LinoType FontExplorer does. This can be helpful, but it won't tell you, for example, what version of Hong Kong SCS is supported. Toward that end, we provide text files containing selected Chinese character sets (hanzi only):

  • Beyond Big Five: Big-5E (1998), listed by Big-5 block: [Download]
  • Beyond Big Five: Hong Kong SCS 1999, 2001, 2004, 2008: [Download]
  • Unicode CJK Unified Ideographs Extension A (1999), plus six Extension B (2001) characters required for GB 18030 compliance: [Download]
  • Unicode CJK Strokes 2005, 2008: [Download]
  • Unicode CJK Unified Ideographs Extensions C (2009) and D (2010): [Download]

In theory, you can use these by copying and pasting the text into the Preview > Custom window in Font Book, the font manager that comes with OS X. In practice, such large files can cause problems. FontExplorer has a similar feature.

Font Editors

Apple Font Tools

Free. Apple provides a suite of command-line font tools, along with a set of instructions and a tutorial.


Open-source. Tricky installation, steep learning curve, limited feature set, but it is free and it works.

DTL OTMaster

Dutch Type Library's OTMaster allows you to review and edit the tables and contours of all OpenType and TrueType font formats. Full Unicode support for large CJK fonts and complex-script (Indic, Arabic etc.) fonts.

OS X 10.4 and above. €255

Note: OTMaster is available at a considerable discount when bundled with Fontographer 5:

Fontographer 5

Fontographer 5 handles CJK fonts in all formats. Full Unicode support.

OS X 10.4 and above. $399


FontLab's TypeTool 3 allows you to create new and edit existing TrueType and OpenType fonts. Full Unicode support.

OS X 10.3 to 10.6. $99

AsiaFont Studio

FontLab's AsiaFont Studio 4 handles CJK fonts in all formats. Full Unicode support.

OS X 10.3 to 10.6. $1999