A VLSI implementation of the optical Chinese character recognition (OCCR) system with pipelined and parallel structure is presented. We also propose an efficient method for performing block classification and character segmentation as well as an effective and adaptive feature extraction algorithm for recognizing multifont printed Chinese characters. With the complex and huge amount of data involved in Chinese characters, their recognition requires numerous complex computations. Therefore, to improve the recognition efficiency for practical applications, a VLSI chip is designed and fabricated. To preserve a certain degree of flexibility so that various recognition algorithms can be implemented with the system, only the most time-consumig parts are implemented into the VLSI circuit. By combining the VLSI technology and the effective Chinese character recognition algorithm, a practical OCCR system with high speed, high-recognition rate, and accumulated learning capability is developed. Based on the experimental results, the VLSI chip can process up to 200 characters/s, which is one hundred times faster than the original software algorithm. The recognition rates of three different test conditions are also given.