Chung Hwa Drawing Pencil 101

Popular Pencils in the UK and Germany

For me the Staedtler Noris has always been the archetype of a pencil. The Mars Lumograph might come close and these days I might also consider the Castell 9000, but somehow I never really saw the Castell 9000 being used around me when I was younger. My father was a joiner, so he used carpenter pencils and normal pencils …and because he used a lot of them he would not buy the more expensive ones. There was a point, I think it was the early nineties, when Herlitz Scolair pencils became quite cheap. So he usually used those …and he used a lot of them. Even though I also used to use them I never thought of them as nice pencils, they were always just cheap pencils to me. In the eighties there were of course  Japanese pencils in Germany, too,  but they were usually novelty pencils, not branded pencils. Their selling point would be the unusual look, e.g. unusual patterns or colours printed on them, often metallic. Unfortunately they usually suffered from lead breakage, probably because the manufacturers did not have to try hard: Everybody who bought them did so because of how nice they looked, not because of their reputation – and since they were not branded you could not really know which ones to avoid in the future .

Shanghai's Chung Hwa Drawing Pencil 101

Back to my original topic: I think the Staedtler Noris can be seen as the archetype of a pencil in the UK and in Germany. In the UK the Staedtler tradition can also be seen quite often, but in both countries the Noris seems to be the pencil that is most ‘common’ and recognisable the same time.

Shanghai’s popular pencil

Last time I was in Shanghai I was trying find the Shanghainese equivalent by looking for the most common pencil in everyday life. I expected it would be the Chung Hwa 6151, just because it was a Shanghainese pencil you come across in stationery blogs or web sites, but I never really saw the 6151 in the wild. Instead I came across the Chung Hwa Drawing Pencil 101 again and again. Employees in supermarkets used it to make notes. Waiters in restaurants used it to take orders. It just seemed to be the most common pencil in Shanghai. If there are any reader who know or live in Shanghai and disagree please let me know. I would like to know what your experience is.

China First Pencil Company Ltd.

Before I go into more detail about this pencil I would like to talk about the manufacturer, Chung Hwa, first. There are many Chinese companies and products in different and unrelated industry sectors that are called Chung Hwa: there are Chung Hwa cigarettes, cars, there is Chung Hwa cognac, ink, etc. As far as I can tell these companies have usually no connection except the common name. Chung Hwa (PinYin: ZhongHua) does translate as ‘China’ but not in the normal sense, i.e. when you talk about the country, but in a cultural or literary sense.

The Chung Hwa pencil company traces it roots back to 1935. It changed the name a few times and today’s official name is China First Pencil Company Ltd. They manufacture graphite, colour and cosmetic pencils as well as pencil related stationery and machines for the pencil industry.

Chung Hwa Drawing Pencil 101

Prices for a pack of 10 Chung Hwa 101 Drawing pencils start at 6.50 RMB (97¢, 61p, 70c) but usually they are quite a bit higher. The look of this pencil seems to have changed dramatically over time: In the past there was one version of this pencil (i.e. same name and model number) that  looked like a typical Mars Lumograph copy. The article number of Chung Hwa’s pencil with the Mars Lumograph look (Google translation of the linked page) has however changed from 101 to 111, and you can sometimes even find this pencil in supermarkets in the West.

Today the Chung Hwa Drawing pencil‘s body has a dark green body colour with a light green pattern of bamboo leaves and totems printed over it. The pencil is hexagonal without a painted cap and is labelled on three sides. The wood used is rather red, but does not seem to be the Vatta wood (Macaranga Peltata) mention in a previous blog post. Two sides are labelled in white, one in white and gold. As far as I know the Chung Hwa 101 should be available 6H – H, F, HB, H – 6H. Despite my best efforts I was however unable to find this pencil in F, so I bought one pack in HB and one in H.

…compared to the Staedtler Noris

Since this pencil seems to be Shanghai’s everyday pencil I thought it would be a good idea to compare it to what I think is the UK’s and Germany’s everyday pencil, the Staedtler Noris, as explained earlier. Let’s start by looking at the finish. I like the fact that you can see the wood grain through the paint, but on the 101 the paint has not been applied as well as on the Noris. This applies to both the dark green base and the light green pattern. The Chung Hwa Drawing Pencil 101 in HB is also not as soft and smooth as a Noris HB. It is not yet scratchy and certainly  not worse than an average pencil. The graphite is not too reflective and does not smudge, so keeping the price in mind the 101 HB is very good value for money. The 101 in H is also very good for the price, but compared to the Noris in H it is much softer, more like an F grade pencil.


The Chun Hwa Drawing Pencil 101 offers very good value for money. It is not really a great pencil that can compete with good pencils, but it is definitely better than the average no name pencil and better than many cheap branded pencils.

As usual: the paper that can be seen in the comparison photo of this blog post is the Bloc Rhodia Nº 13.

18 thoughts on “Chung Hwa Drawing Pencil 101”

  1. Funny! I am actually going to do a review of the Chung-Hwa 6151 this week! I just got a package of them on eBay on Tuesday. It might make a good supplement to this review. (-:

  2. @Gunther – the display in the thrid photo is a notice informing diners that only dine-in discount vouchers can be used, all other types of vouchers are not accepted. The last two lines states the cost of a take-away box and plastic bag.

  3. David, Thanks 🙂

    Andy, that will be interesting. I am sure you have also seen Stephen’s blog post about the 6151. I bought one in Shanghai last year, but haven’t sharpened it yet.

    Sean, it is inspired by the fantastic “Pencils and Music” blog, I am sure you heard about this blog before 😉 but it is not anywhere near the standard this blog’s photos had. You can see the whole photo used for the banner at this post.

    Stephen, unfortunately not, but I will try to buy some more Chung Hwas next time I am in Shanghai. I might however write a blog post about other pencils I have not seen outside China. This includes the Faber-Castell 13 22 13 and pencils from Taiwan’s Lion Pencil Co. I just hope I find the time soon.

    Gunther & penlover, I just wanted to give you this information, but penlover was faster 🙂 Some more information: every table in this restaurant (serving Cantonese Dim Sum) had one of these Chung Hwa pencils and a sheet of paper where you write down which Dim Sums and how many of them you order. They used the displays as pencil holders.

  4. Nice article. I used quite a few 101s growing up (80s-90s), they were probably the most readily available ones back then. 6151, models from Great Wall (a Chung Hwa label I think) and 3 Star were also popular.

    After reading this post I looked up a bit of the history of Chung Hwa pencils. Turns out it has an intimate connection with Germany. Up to the 30s, China was unable to produce its own pencil lead, it relied on importing lead then applying the woodcasing domestically. Chinese *nuclear physicist* Chung-Yao Chao saved up from his salary and purchased a lead producing machine from Germany, performed a series of experiments and finally produced the first batch of pencils that were completely manufactured in China. The brandname was Great Wall back then. The factory was later transferred to someone else, after several changes (as mentioned in this article) the name became Chung Hwa. (google translate isn’t very reliable for this)

  5. Claire, that is a great story, thanks for sharing this background information with us. I did read about the link to Germany but without any further information so I ignored it. Again, thanks for sharing this with us.

  6. Hi, thanks for the extremely informative page – I got some old Chung Hwa 101s recently and it was very interesting to see how they have changed. I’ve included a link to this page on my post, hope you don’t mind 🙂

  7. Oluseyi Spencer Ogunleye

    I love CHUNGHWA DRAWING PENCIL.. it was very flow whenever am drawing… love it but i cant see it to buy again in some of the shop in nigeria… pls kindly direct me to any shop you know CHUNGHWA DRAWING PENCIL Is available to buy in nigeria… may be in lagos or wherever in nigeria … thanks…

  8. Oluseyi Spencer Ogunleye

    Hello pls … am in need of CHUNGHWA DRAWING PENCIL tested ok, i love it … i do enjoy it whenever am drawing, pls i cant find it to buy in any of nigeria shop again, pls can someone direct me to where i can see it to buy in any of nigeria shop, may in lagos or wherever shop in nigeria …. thank you .

  9. I would love to point you to a Nigerian shop that sells them but I don’t have this information.

  10. Chuang Hwa 101 is definitely one of the most common pencil across China. I was born in an inland city named Changsha and grew up in Shanghai, in both cities these green Chuang Hwa pencils are everywhere to be found. During my years in schools back in China, one of the few things I will never forget to put in my backpack is a pencil case with these pencils. Till today I still keep the practice of writing with pens and pencils despite being a Computer Science student.

    “中华” is translated to “Chuang Hua” under the Wade–Giles system which was introduced around 1890s and is still used in today’s Hong Kong, Taiwan. However, with the establishment of PR China and immediate mass eradicate illiteracy programme, Pin Yin, which translates the word into “Zhong Hua”, soon replaces Wade–Giles to be the official romanization system for Mandarin Chinese.

    It is a common practice for businesses in China to name themselves as “Chuang Hwa” or similar name, to show their patriotism. However, in most cases these companies are unrelated (other than the name).

  11. 6151 is my childhood pencil, they are everywhere in Hong Kong back in the 90s, featuring an eraser head. While Chung hwa seems to love Staedtler a lot, they always make their pencil a replica of Noris. 6181 looks exactly the same as Noris while the former 101 take the look of Mars series.

  12. Darryll G Benson

    Hi, when I was working in Hong kong in 78 and would frequently go to the affectionately known communist store and buy all manner of wonderful things and the drawing 101 price was 9 cents HK and being a starving artist….. I bought fistfuls of all grades and still have some to this day, a fabulous pencil in all aspects, wood, graphite, lovely soft B6 a favourite. Nice to know that are still producing such good items.
    Thanks for the blog.
    D G Benson.

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