Wednesday, April 12

Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese

Traditional Chinese characters have been used for a really long time. From Wikipedia, we can see that Chinese people have been using them from Han Dynasty(206BC-AD220). All the books were written in Traditional Chinese character.

In early 1900s, people realized that the hard written characters are one of the reason why many Chinese people can't read and write. Some simplified characters have been used in calligraphy, so in 1900s people started to make those simplified characters official. Not too much characters, but at least it is a begining.

After the Liberation, Mainland China pushed the action much forward. 1964, in the first official Simplified Chinese Characters List, there are 2236 simplified characters. But at the same time, Taiwan people keep using the traditional characters.

It's hard to say which one is better, Simplifed or Traditional characters.
Simplified characters are easier to write, so it's useful in promoting Chinese Language. But Traditional characters users say that in the Information Age, we don't need to write. We simply type the keyboard. So it doesn't matter if it's hard to write or not :)
To simplify the Traditional Characters, some characters having the same pronounciation are combined into one character. For example, 發 of 發生(happen) and 髪of头髪(hair) are combined as 发. Simplified Characters users think it's very normal because these two meanings of 发 is very different, so no one will get confused. But Traditional Characters users think it's breaking the rule of Chinese Character creation.
Also, Traditional Characters users are saying that Simplified Characters lose the beauty of the characters. It's hard to argue because it's hard to define "beauty".
Traditional Characters users also think it's brutal to simplify characters because no one will be able to read those ancient books any more. It will lead to the death of Chinese culture. But I would say, it's hard to read those ancient books anyway, because the language has changed a lot. People have to get trained to read those books. So it doesn't matter if common people have to read the translated version.

Believe it or not, there're rumous saying that Taiwan KMT government stopped simplifying the characters after 1949, because Mainland China was doing so.

The truth is: The Simplified Characters are popular nowadays. Simplified Chinse Not only the Mainland China but also Singapore and Malysia are using them. February 28, the President of Taiwan Government signed an important official report. Surprisedly he wrote a lot of Simplifed Chinese characters. 9 of the 52 characters are Simplified characters, including one character in his signature. People asked why, and the House of President answered: "What he wrote was Chinese Simplified characters, not the Simplified characters of Mainland". It doesn't make any sense at all. The thing is, people attemp to simplify the writing, because the Traditional characters are unnecessary complicate. Simplified Chinese characters are not invented by Mainland government from in vain. They have been using in calligraphy in the last 1000 years, and they were first officialy announced by KMT government in 1930s. So it's not surprised that Taiwan people keep simplifying the characters.


The first Simplified Chinese Characters List Draft was published in 1956. In the 50th anniversary, Professor Chen Zhangtai, a known researcher and the vice president of National Language Committee, announced that the United Nations will abandon the Traditional Chinese characters by 2008. The T characters users are being upset, and the S characters users are so delighted. But 10 days later people found it was wrong. The truth is: The United Nations has been stopped using Traditional Chinese characters after 1971 when Taiwan was expelled from the UN. I don't know how Prof Chen got the idea about 2008, but surely he hurt so many people's feeling in these days.

I hate people using data from untrusted source. April 10, when reporter asked Prof Chen about the false news, he said the source is from 2005 Report of Language's Application and Distribution. "You can still get that report from the Internet", he added proudly. It is not clear who is the author of this report, but Prof Chen should not use this source if the source is not clear.
The old news saying that the UN will abandon Traditional Chinese characters is very popular. You can got a lot of webpages from Google. But the news that Prof Chen admitted his source is not from the UN is only showed in several Taiwan newspaper and some forums. Not even one Simplified Chinese characters website has this news.

That's the war between Simplified Chinese characters and Traditional Chinese characters. Someone says, it's like the war between Apple and Windows, no one will ever win, and no one will be able to convice each other. Looks like the war between man and woman though.

5 Comments:

At April 13, 2006 11:00 AM, Blogger xls said...

are you practicing your English? It's quite well written but still there is some room for improvement. :-)

 
At September 22, 2007 12:28 AM, Blogger 黃馨玉 Anna Huang said...

I've grown up learnign Traditional Chinese, and I don't have any problem reading them at all. The way I see it, Traditional Chinese is not the reason why people were illiterate. Before KMT moved to Taiwan, the literacy in Taiwan was very low. Most people did not know how to read and write in Chinese, except those who had secretly attended the 私塾 (they were banned but still exist secretly). But when education became one of the obligation of the people, everyone in the younger generation at that time had learned to read and write in Traditional Chinese fluently. So I personally don't think it was the Simplified Chinese that improved the literacy in mainland China. Instead, it was the effort they put into in making people literate.

 
At November 23, 2007 12:03 PM, Blogger Ben said...

Anna: I don't judge which one is better. I am giving out the fact. It's good to know your opinion.

 
At November 29, 2009 8:40 PM, Blogger Global_Voyager said...

Hi Ben,

I am also from Calgary :) I am trying to learn chinese. I prefer simplified because I am influenced by the mainland, but I can tell you as a learner traditional would be much easier and make more sense to learn because traditional characters contain a lot more information about the character through radicals, and other components. Simplified has replaced components of characters by things such as just plain lines. I use to dislike traditional because it was so different and looked really compicated, but as I learn I realize that simplified is actually somewhat flawed because those lines that cut through what use to be meanlingfull parts of the character also cut right through its culture and heritage. The use of ancient characters is the one living testament that all chinese do that makes chinese really chinese. I agree with the previous comment, it may have been helpful when everyone had to write the characters; but now it doesn't really help much, I myself have never written a character on paper, but I can write on my Iphone and on my computer etc.. it is a real shame, it was supposed to be to increase litteracy in china but really China would have benefited much more by addressing the problems with the education system, not dumbing down the language. A possible solution would be for mainland China to allow the use traditional characters in the mainland. I know they are quite picky, for example business's must use simplified chinese for their names etc by law.. If they were to allow traditional they could still use simplified for education but at least permit the use of traditional by those whom like to use it, that way everyone would at least have some exposure to more of your history... At least only some of the characters have been simplified, that at least is comforting.

Ohhh.... if anyone knows of a chinese bookstore in calgary that has simplified please let me know, I cant find anything at all to help me learn simplified in Calgary. If you have any ideas, please let me know peoples, thanks! :0

 
At April 19, 2010 4:40 PM, Blogger Ben said...

1978, Taiwan published a "Standard writing sample" which has a lot of simplified Chinese characters:

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標準行書範本係台灣中學到大學通用的官方行書教材,係台灣人日常書寫之參考基準,共收錄2010個常用字的行書字體,最大的特點是採用了多達700餘個行書簡體字,這些簡體字寫法中有563個與中共現行簡化字相同,131個相似。
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