Simplified v Traditional Characters

Have you ever seen those ugly simplified characters? Just looking at them makes me cry.

Those mainland commies threw away a big part of their culture, and it was clearly an ideological decision to do so; they wanted to use new characters for their wonderful new society.
I read that in the southern parts of china the use of traditional characters is reviving, but the Beijing commies are fiercly fighting this tendency and forbidding by law to use them.

I agree with you on KK and PinYin, but please…you got to be kidding about the simplified pidgin characters.

I agree. They’re hideous. Not widely used outside the Mainland either. Thank God.

Au contraire, I have spent many months over the years among the Chinese community in Malaysia (Singapore doesn’t count - they have slavishly followed the Mainland for years and the day Singapore come to represent Chinese culture is the day I start to intensely dislike Chinese culture) and if you had you would know that there are two main Chinese language newspapers there - one in Long Form and one in Short Form. Furthermore, Chinese schools in Malaysia when I was there taught both long and short form characters, and zhuyinfuhao and Hanyu Pinyin. (When in Malaysia I got to know a couple of teachers and we discussed this very topic at great length.) Good ones still do, although the government there (which hates Chinese schools anyway) is trying to enforce simplified characters on Chinese schools.

The overseas newspaper you refer to is crap, and is the only thing you will see in Chinatowns in the UK or Ireland written in simplified characters. The newsagents in London who sell Chinese language newspapers carry all the HK dailies, icluding overseas editions - all in long form. The vast majority of Overseas Chinese in the UK and Ireland are from HK and have no time for short form characters.

I disagree that characters aren’t supposed to be pretty. Every single Chinese person I have met takes a pride in the beauty of the Chinese writing system, and the 1920s/30s movement to abandon characters altogether was universally unpopular in China amongst those who actually go to hear about it, and the main objection was one of aesthetics.

Some misc. responses:

Singapore doesn’t use exactly the same set of simplified characters as China. Japan doesn’t either, for that matter.

I wouldn’t say that the idea of abandoning characters was universally unpopular. Some people embraced it wholeheartedly: Lu Xun, for one. He was right. China would have much higher literacy – a situation that looks to get worse there, not better – had it followed his path. The direction China and other Mandarin-speaking areas should take is digraphia (with romanization recognized as no less official than characters).

As for simplified characters, they are a failed, inconsistent experiment that has improved nothing.

I especially don’t like it when people write Taiwan or Taipei with the simplified Tai. :wink:

And can the government at least make up their mind which one to use?

Lu Xun’s essays appear in that book I mentioned elsewhere. Regarding literacy - what is Taiwan’s literacy rate ? Would it for example be lower that that it the USA or UK ? In discussion some years ago on this subject (who knows it might even have been with you !!? My memory is that bad !) someone compared literacy rates in HK (low- trad char), Taiwan (high - trad char), and the Mainland (appalling - SC), and the USA (not great) but I don’t have the fugures.

Of course the CCP said at the time SC were introduced to help literacy. Which is especially ironic. But Mao knew if you control the language, you control everything.

[edit: found the name of the book Advanced Reader of Modern Chinese: China’s Own Critics, Princeton University Press, 2 vols, 1993]

Which is what tiny fraction of one percent of all the Chinese-speaking people in the world?

Juba: I don’t get your point. All Chinese people in the world outside Greater China are a small fraction of the Chinese-speaking people in the world.

Cranky: Lu Xun’s arguments were based on his belief that China’s continued use of characters was holding it back in relation to advances made in the West. I’m not sure history has shown his argument (in this respect anyway) to be 100% accurate. Nor do I think deliberately engineering a language is a great idea. Doing away with characters would be a revolutionary step - surely there are better things the Chinese could be doing with their time, and what would be the benefits of taking on such a huge task ?

Which other country except Taiwan uses Traditional characters then? IMHO none, not even Malaysia. They may teach it in school but publications are simplified.

I think the only reason Taiwan holds on to the Traditional characters is to be different from the mainland.

I remember before China took over HK in 1997, HK still mostly used traditional characters. Has it overall changed to the simplified yet? I doubt it, though. As far as I know, traditional characters are still mostly used in China towns or communities in North America. Walking on the streets in China towns there, we see shop signs mainly written in the traditional form. After all, those Chinese descendants immigrated to the US or Canada long before China communists evicted KMT and built their regime in the mainland. But I don’t know which form of characters is most commonly used in Australia or New Zealand, where many Taiwanese have been emigrating to.

Geez, anybody out there who thinks simplified is better than traditional has got to be an ignorant fool. Simplified characters are a stupid idea from an incompetent government. Taiwan keeps traditional characters because that’s the correct way of writing Chinese. It’s as simple as that. Name one positive thing about the symplified system. Imagine there’s some idiot who comes up with a new way of writing English, like leaving out all vowels , or some other stupid system. Do you think that’s a good idea? Should everyone start writing English that way? Give me a break. After a couple hundred years Chinese people are going to look back and thank Taiwan for saving one of the most important aspects of Chinese culture.

Surely over time the trend will be toward SC? It’s a pity. It may be easier to write but not to read, IMHO.

My pet peeve is the character for ‘love’. SC literally plucked the heart (radical) right out of the middle of it. Now it is easiy confused with “shou4” to accept. Why is that such an improvement over the traditional form?


Easier to teach and easier to learn?[/quote]

It’s not easier to learn. At least if you want more than a 2000 character vocabulary. It probably is easier to learn if you only want to learn the absolute basics, but beyond that, the pattern behind traditional Chinese characters makes sense and actually helps you learn/memorize more; this pattern is non-existant or at least skewed in simplified.

It’s not.
A tongxue of mine wrote a dissertation on the origins of SC. I remember being surprised how many SC characters are not new.
The obvious ones are the cursive forms (with 1500+ years of use), but there are other characters that were widely used throughout the last 1000 /2000 years but gradually supplanted by the standard (TC) character.Some SC characters were resurrected from pre-Qin Chinese and were older than the equivalent "traditional’ form.

I thought it was accepted that literacy rose dramatically in post-revolution China after SC was introduced with the stated aim of raising literacy in post-revolution China :?:

Why don’t you just say “anybody who disagrees with me is an ignorant fool.” Actually you are the fool because I am right and you disagree with me. [color=blue]Really constructive way of arguing, isn’t it?[/color]

Anyway, Salmon is not a fool because he agrees with me and I am right, therefore logically he must be right, too. Case closed.

This is not a valid argument for pro-simplified characters. For the past 60 years, literacy in Taiwan has dramatically improved too, but Taiwan didn’t change the form of characters from SC to TC. Literacy has much more to do with availability of education to all.


I have heard of Webster, thank you very much. Not quite sure what your point is, however.

Juba and Salmon:

The literacy rate has to to do with the quality of the educational system and some other related factors, the least of which is the difficulty of the language. The rise of the literacy rate in China has nothing to do with simplified characters. That’s like saying the per capita income in China increased because communism is better than democracy. Ha. Ridiculous. I still haven’t heard a good reason why SC are any good.

Well, the fact that German has just been simplified (“reformed”) shows that it can be done for Western languages. Ok, not the characters itself but the spelling.
However personally I think it’s just a mess and they haven’t simplified but instead complicated quite a few words, not to mention that we have proven to be incompetent to learn our own language correctly.

Else I don’t mind keeping the traditional characters, but it has been shown (in my line of business) that it’s quite a costly issue, too, as providing documentation or user interfaces (for SW applications) in traditional chinese are hard to come by. I stand corrected but IMHO Taiwan is the only one holding on to it officially (no matter Chinatown in some American city) and thus the market is rather small to justify the translation or conversion.

Well, if they would be willing to practice their English that wouldn’t even be necessary (and mind you, I am not a native English, too!).

I asked some people about the tai in taiwan since my book uses the old form and they said that it wasn’t simplified as in Mainland simplified, but was a simplified version of a classical character, if that makes any sense. There are several others that are used in the traditional character set that are simplier versions of earlier words.

I see simplified characters as the same sort of experiment as South Korea abadoning Chinese characters. Yes, makes it easier, but it also takes away part of the culture. Lots of historical stuff in Korea is written in Chinese characters and now a whole generation can’t read them (while Taiwanese and Japanese tourists can at least understand some of it). I hear they’re starting to teach more Chinese characters there now.

Thank god Taiwan is holding out and keeping traditional characters. Someone has to keep this part of Chinese culture alive. :stuck_out_tongue: