Recognition of both faces and Chinese characters is commonly believed to rely on configural information. While faces typically exhibit behavioral and N170 inversion effects that differ from non-face stimuli (Rossion, Joyce, Cottrell, & Tarr, 2003), the current study examined whether a similar reliance on configural processing may result in similar inversion effects for faces and Chinese characters. Participants were engaged in an orientation judgment task (Experiment 1) and a one-back identity matching task (Experiment 2). Across two experiments, the N170 was delayed and enhanced in magnitude for upside-down faces and compound Chinese characters, compared to upright stimuli. The inversion effects for these two stimulus categories were bilateral for latency and right-lateralized for amplitudes. For simple Chinese characters, only the latency inversion effects were significant. Moreover, the size of the right-hemisphere inversion effects in N170 amplitude was larger for faces than Chinese characters. These findings show the N170 inversion effects from non-face stimuli closely parallel effects seen with faces. Face-like NI 70 inversion effects elicited by Chinese compound characters were attributed to the difficulty of part-whole integration as well as the disrupted regularity in relational information due to inversion. Hemispheric difference in Chinese character processing is also discussed. (C) 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.