Monday, 24 July 2006

Traditional Chinese Character

United Nation wants so stop using traditional Chinese from 2008. Please help to stop this by signing a petition at

Some background [my view]:

While Chinese has many different dialects (Cantonese and Mandarin are two of the more popular dialects), we have a unified written character set for 5,000 years - until the simplified Chinese was introduced. The traditional set, consists of about 56,000 characters, is used in ALL Chinese written work ever since the beginning of the written Chinese culture. Obviously there is a rich culture embedded and will only be understood if the traditional set is continuously being used.

Simplified Chinese reduces the set to about 3,000 characters. A lot of characters are either dropped or combined. Hence there will be a very significant overloading of meaning, which was clearly represented by different characters in the traditional set. I believe such an overloading eventually lead to a lost of Chinese culture.

Language is our most important tool to enable communication, between parties at present and between generations. The switch from traditional set to simplified set cut off the link between past and present - a sad situation for the Chinese as a whole.

Simplified Chinese as a way to reduce illiteracy and promote Chinese as an easier language is also a weak argument. I have read a study which suggests that we need around 800 to 1000 common characters in order to understand national newspapers. Chinese students, in Mainland, Hongkong and Taiwan, are able to read national newspapers by Primay 6. Can English, or any other language, do that? My mother, according to her, has only 3 years of education. She can write to me in Traditional Chinese with no problem!

Let me give an example.

When I came to Australia, I have big problem ordering food in restaurant - still the same today (My favourite disk is "me too" which has helped me to overcome this handicap!). Beef, pork, chicken, fish, lamb suggest nothing to me if I don't know each of these word individually.

In Chinese, 肉 means meat. If you are reading a Chinese menu, 牛肉, 豬肉, 雞肉, 魚肉 or 羊肉 means the meat part of the corresponding animal. So, even if we don't know what do 牛, 豬, 雞, 魚 or 羊 mean, we still know that the dish has meat in it. The equivalent of these in simplified Chinese are: 牛肉, 猪肉, 鸡肉, 鱼肉, 羊肉. There are the same number of words that you need to know. However, as I know the traditional set, I have no problem reading the simplified set. But not necessarily vice versa!

Chinese do not have variations for tense, gender nor number! Time is either implicit from context or explicit using words to represent the time.

Please support me and vote to keep the traditional set of Chinese characters and help to preserve the culture of China!


Martin said...

I totally agree. But where can I vote?

Martin said...

Oh, sorry. I saw the link. I voted.

Project X Truck said...

Signed! Upholding tradition, much respect.