The effects of figure-like orthographs on visual processing of Chinese characters were examined using functional imaging in two inspection tasks: counting the number of strokes and categorizing a character as either a word or a nonword. Pictographic orthographs (characters resembling figures) were easier and faster to be inspected than their nonpictographic counterparts (characters not resembling figures) at the stroke but not the character level. The less intense activations found in the frontal and parietal regions suggest that such facilitation could be attributable to the visuospatial symmetry and regularity of the strokes borne by pictographic orthographs. Our findings further support that learning Chinese characters could begin with pictographic orthographs. Copyright © 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.