Difference between Glyphs and Abstract Shapes

Three components of a Chinese character are Shape (Glyph), Sound and Meaning. In general, a character is an abstract entity without any particular appearance. In a computing system, a coded character is a character together with its numeric representation in a particular Coded Character Set (CCS). CCS is a mapping from a set of abstract characters to a set of integers. Glyphs are the visual elements used to represent characters. The mapping from a sequence of coded characters to a sequence of glyphs is not exactly a one-to-one mapping, one character sometimes can be mapped to more than one glyph, especially for Han characters with variant glyph shapes.

A character element is the basic unit to create a Chinese character. Six fundamental and different principles of creating Chinese characters are Pictograph, Indication, Understanding, Sound, Borrowing and Derivative. Based on the statistics, there are about 330 character elements with shape information, and there are about 870 with sound information.

A kind of abstract shape that represents a standard way to display a particular character or group of characters in a particular context as specified by a particular writing system is called a presentation form. Different countries have their own presentation forms, same internal code in the computer system may represent different characters among countries. Therefore, the development of the ISO 10646 standard (a unified character-coding standard) for various countries is necessary and important.