Expert face recognition has long been marked by holistic processing. Hence, due to the many visual properties shared between face perception and Chinese characters, it has been suggested that Chinese character recognition may induce stronger holistic processing in expert readers than in novices. However, there have been different viewpoints presented about Chinese character recognition, one of which suggests that expertise in this skill involved reduced holistic processing which may be modulated by writing experiences/performances. In this study we examined holistic processing in Chinese character recognition in adults with and without dyslexia, using the complete composite paradigm. Our results showed that the adults with dyslexia recognized Chinese characters with a stronger holistic processing effect than the typical controls. It seems that those with dyslexia relied overly on the visual spatial information of characters and showed deficits in attending selectively to their components when processing Chinese characters, which hindered the development of expert reading and writing skills. This effect was in contrast to previous perceptual expertise studies in which reduced holistic processing marked deficits in face/visual object recognition. This study is also the first to show that Chinese adults with dyslexia had persistent below average performances in Chinese literacy. Copyright © 2021 The Author(s).