Simplified Chinese characters

Simplified Chinese characters (简化字; jiǎnhuàzì)[1] are standardized Chinese characters prescribed in the Table of General Standard Chinese Characters for use in mainland China. Along with traditional Chinese characters, they are one of the two standard character sets of the contemporary Chinese written language. The government of the People's Republic of China in mainland China has promoted them for use in printing since the 1950s and 1960s to encourage literacy.[2] They are officially used in the People's Republic of China and Singapore.

Traditional Chinese characters are currently used in Hong Kong, Macau, and the Republic of China (Taiwan). While traditional characters can still be read and understood by many mainland Chinese and the Chinese community in Malaysia and Singapore, these groups generally retain their use of simplified characters. Overseas Chinese communities generally tend to use traditional characters.

Simplified Chinese characters may be referred to by their official name above or colloquially (简体字; jiǎntǐzì). The latter refers to simplifications of character "structure" or "body", character forms that have existed for thousands of years alongside regular, more complicated forms. On the other hand, the official name refers to the modern systematically simplified character set, which (as stated by then-Chairman Mao Zedong in 1952) includes not only structural simplification but also substantial reduction in the total number of standardized Chinese characters.[3]

Simplified character forms were created by reducing the number of strokes and simplifying the forms of a sizable proportion of Chinese characters. Some simplifications were based on popular cursive forms embodying graphic or phonetic simplifications of the traditional forms. Some characters were simplified by applying regular rules, for example, by replacing all occurrences of a certain component with a simplified version of the component. Variant characters with the same pronunciation and identical meaning were reduced to a single standardized character, usually the simplest amongst all variants in form. Finally, many characters were left untouched by simplification, and are thus identical between the traditional and simplified Chinese orthographies.

Some simplified characters are very dissimilar to and unpredictably different from traditional characters, especially in those where a component is replaced by a simple symbol.[4] This has led some opponents of simplification to complain that the 'overall process' of character simplification is arbitrary.[5] Proponents counter that the system of simplification is straightforward and internally consistent. Proponents have also emphasized a some particular simplified characters as innovative and useful improvements, although many of these have existed for centuries as longstanding and widespread variants.[6]

A second round of simplifications was promulgated in 1977, but was later retracted in 1986 for a variety of reasons, largely due to the confusion caused and the unpopularity of the second round simplifications.[7] However, the Chinese government never officially dropped its goal of further simplification in the future.

In August 2009, the PRC began collecting public comments for a modified list of simplified characters.[8][9][10][11] The new Table of General Standard Chinese Characters consisting of 8,105 (simplified and unchanged) characters was officially implemented for use by the State Council of the People's Republic of China on June 5, 2013.[12]

Simplified Chinese
Hanzi (simplified)
Time period
Since early 20th century
Parent systems
Sister systems
Chữ Nôm
Khitan script
ISO 15924Hans, 501



Before 1949

Although most of the simplified Chinese characters in use today are the result of the works moderated by the government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in the 1950s and 60s, character simplification predates the PRC's formation in 1949. Cursive written text almost always includes character simplification. Simplified forms used in print are attested as early as the Qin dynasty (221–206 BC).

The first batch of Simplified Characters introduced in 1935 consisted of 324 characters.

One of the earliest proponents of character simplification was Lufei Kui, who proposed in 1909 that simplified characters should be used in education. In the years following the May Fourth Movement in 1919, many anti-imperialist Chinese intellectuals sought ways to modernise China. Traditional culture and values such as Confucianism were challenged. Soon, people in the Movement started to cite the traditional Chinese writing system as an obstacle in modernising China and therefore proposed that a reform be initiated. It was suggested that the Chinese writing system should be either simplified or completely abolished. Lu Xun, a renowned Chinese author in the 20th century, stated that, "If Chinese characters are not destroyed, then China will die" (汉字不灭,中国必亡). Recent commentators have claimed that Chinese characters were blamed for the economic problems in China during that time.[13]

In the 1930s and 1940s, discussions on character simplification took place within the Kuomintang government, and a large number of Chinese intellectuals and writers maintained that character simplification would help boost literacy in China.[14] In 1935, 324 simplified characters collected by Qian Xuantong were officially introduced as the table of first batch of simplified characters, but they were suspended in 1936.

People's Republic of China

The PRC issued its first round of official character simplifications in two documents, the first in 1956 and the second in 1964.

Within the PRC, further character simplification became associated with the leftists of the Cultural Revolution, culminating with the second-round simplified characters, which were promulgated in 1977. In part due to the shock and unease felt in the wake of the Cultural Revolution and Mao's death, the second-round of simplifications was poorly received. In 1986 the authorities retracted the second round completely. Later in the same year, the authorities promulgated a final list of simplifications, which is identical to the 1964 list except for six changes (including the restoration of three characters that had been simplified in the First Round: , , ; note that the form is used instead of in regions using Traditional Chinese).

There had been simplification initiatives aimed at eradicating characters entirely and establishing the Hanyu Pinyin romanization as the official written system of the PRC, but the reform never gained quite as much popularity as the leftists had hoped. After the retraction of the second round of simplification, the PRC stated that it wished to keep Chinese orthography stable. Years later in 2009, the Chinese government released a major revision list which included 8,300 characters. No new simplifications were introduced. However, six characters previously listed as "traditional" characters that have been simplified, as well as 51 other "variant" characters, were restored to the standard list. In addition, orthographies (e.g., stroke shape) for 44 characters were proposed to be modified slightly to fit traditional calligraphic rules. Also, the practice of unrestricted simplification of rare and archaic characters by analogy using simplified radicals or components is now discouraged. A State Language Commission official cited "oversimplification" as the reason for restoring some characters. The language authority declared an open comment period until August 31, 2009 for feedback from the public.[15] The proposed orthographic changes to 44 characters were not implemented due to overwhelmingly negative public opinion.[16]

The officially promulgated version of the List of Commonly Used Standardized Characters, announced in 2013, contained 45 newly recognized standard characters that were previously considered variant forms, as well as official approval of 226 characters that had been simplified by analogy and had seen wide use but were not explicitly given in previous lists or documents.

Singapore and Malaysia

Singapore underwent three successive rounds of character simplification, eventually arriving at the same set of simplified characters as Mainland China.[17]

The first round, consisting of 498 Simplified characters from 502 Traditional characters, was promulgated by the Ministry of Education in 1969. The second round, consisting of 2287 Simplified characters, was promulgated in 1974. The second set contained 49 differences from the Mainland China system; those were removed in the final round in 1976. In 1993, Singapore adopted the six revisions made by Mainland China in 1986. However, unlike in mainland China where personal names may only be registered using simplified characters, parents have the option of registering their children's names in traditional characters in Singapore.

Malaysia promulgated a set of simplified characters in 1981, which were also completely identical to the simplified characters used in Mainland China. Chinese-language schools use these.

Traditional characters are still often seen in decorative contexts such as shop signs and calligraphy in both countries.

Hong Kong

A small group called Dou Zi Sei (T:導字社; S:导字社)/Dou Zi Wui (T:導字會; S:导字会) attempted to introduce a special version of simplified characters using romanizations in the 1930s. Today, however, the traditional characters remain dominant in Hong Kong.


After World War II, Japan also simplified a number of Chinese characters (kanji) used in the Japanese language. The new forms are called shinjitai. Compared to Chinese, the Japanese reform was more limited, simplifying only a few hundred characters, most of which were already in use in cursive script. Further, the list of simplifications was exhaustive, unlike Chinese simplification – thus analogous simplifications of not explicitly simplified characters (extended shinjitai) are not approved, and instead standard practice is to use the traditional forms.

The number of characters in circulation was also reduced, and formal lists of characters to be learned during each grade of school were established. The overall effect was to standardize teaching and the use of Kanji in modern literature and media.

Method of simplification

Structural simplification of characters
All characters simplified this way are enumerated in Chart 1 and Chart 2 in Jianhuazi zong biao (简化字总表), "Complete List of Simplified Characters" announced in 1986.简化字总表
Chart 1 lists all 350 characters that are used by themselves, and can never serve as 'simplified character components'.
Chart 2 lists 132 characters that are used by themselves as well as utilized as simplified character components to further derive other simplified characters. Chart 2 also lists 14 'components' or 'radicals' that cannot be used by themselves, but can be generalized for derivation of more complex characters.
Derivation based on simplified character components
Chart 3 lists 1,753 characters which are simplified based on the same simplification principles used for character components and radicals in Chart 2. This list is non-exhaustive, so if a character is not already found in Chart 1, 2 or 3, but can be simplified in accordance with Chart 2, the character should be simplified.
Elimination of variants of the same character
Series One Organization List of Variant Characters accounts for some of the orthography difference between Mainland China on the one hand, and Hong Kong and Taiwan on the other. These are not simplifications of character structures, but rather reduction in number of total standard characters. For each set of variant characters that share the identical pronunciation and meaning, one character (usually the simplest in form) is elevated to the standard character set, and the rest are obsoleted. After rounds of revisions, by 1993, some 1,027 variant characters have been declared obsolete by this list. Amongst the chosen variants, those that appear in the "Complete List of Simplified Characters" are also simplified in character structure accordingly.
Adoption of new standardized character forms
New standardized character forms originated from the "List of character forms of General Used Chinese characters for Publishing" containing 6,196 characters, published in 1965. The new forms tend to adopt vulgar variant forms for most of its characters. The List of Commonly Used Characters in Modern Chinese list, published in 1988, contains 7,000 commonly used characters, and replaces the 1965 list. Since the new forms take vulgar variants, many characters now appear slightly simpler compared to old forms, and as such are often mistaken as structurally simplified characters.

Structural simplification of characters

All characters simplified this way are enumerated in Chart 1 and Chart 2 in the Complete List of Simplified Characters. Characters in both charts are structurally simplified based on similar set of principles. They are separated into two charts to clearly mark those in Chart 2 as 'usable as simplified character components', based on which Chart 3 is derived.[18]

Replacing a character with another existing character that sounds the same or similar:

; ; ; ; ; 乾、幹; ; etc.

Using printed forms of cursive shapes (草書楷化):

; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; → 学; etc.

Replacing a component of a character with a simple symbol such as and :

→ 对; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; etc.

Omitting entire components:

; 廣 → 广; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; → 气; etc.

Further morphing a character after omitting some components:

; → 丽; ; ; ; etc.

Preserving the basic outline or shape of the original character

; 龜→ ; → 齿; ; ; 見 → 见; etc.

Replacing the phonetic component of phono-semantic compound characters:

; → 毙; ; 鍾/鐘→ 钟; 艦 → 舰; etc.

Replacing some arbitrary part of a character with a phonetic component, turning it into a new phono-semantic compound character:

; ; 歷、曆 → 历; → 宾; etc.

Replacing entire character with a newly coined phono-semantic compound character:

護 → ; ; ; ; etc.

Removing radicals from characters

; ; ; ; → 関 → 关; etc.

Only retaining radicals from characters

广; ; ; ; ; ; ; etc.

Adopting obscure ancient forms or variants:[19]

→ 尘; → 肤; → 从; 眾 → ; ; 網 → ; ; → 无; ; etc.

Adopting ancient vulgar variants:[19]

體 → 体; 國 → ; ; ; ; etc.

Re-adopting abandoned phonetic-loan characters:

; → 后; , ; etc.

Modifying a traditional character to simplify another traditional character:

义(乂); 发(友); 龙(尤); 无(天); 头(大); 万(方); etc.

Derivation based on simplified character components

Based on 132 characters and 14 components listed in Chart 2 of the Complete List of Simplified Characters, the 1,753 'derived' characters found in the non-exhaustive Chart 3 can be created by systematically simplifying components using Chart 2 as a conversion table. While exercising such derivation, following rules should be observed:

  • The "Complete List of Simplified Characters" employs character components, not the traditional definition of radicals. A component refers to any conceivable part of a character, regardless of its position within the character, or its relative size compared to other components in the same character. For instance, in the character , not only is (a traditional radical) considered a component, but so is .
    • Each of the 132 simplified characters in Chart 2, when used as a component in compound characters, systematically simplify compound characters in exactly the same way the Chart 2 character itself was simplified. For instance, is simplified in Chart 2 to . Based on the same principle, these derivations can be made: ; ; ; etc.
    • The 14 simplified components in Chart 2 are never used alone as individual characters. They only serve as components. Example of derived simplification based on the component 𦥯, simplified to , include: ; ; ; etc.
  • Chart 1 collects 352 simplified characters that generally cannot be used as components. Even in rare cases where a Chart 1 character is found as a component in a compound character, the compound character cannot be simplified in the same way. For instance, is simplified in Chart 1 to , but cannot be simplified to 「衤习」.
  • A character that is already explicitly listed as simplified character in the "Complete List of Simplified Characters" cannot be alternatively simplified based on derivation. For instance, and are simplified in Chart 1 to and respectively, thus they cannot be simplified alternatively by derivation via and in Chart 2 to 「𢧐」 and 「讠夸」. is simplified in Chart 2 to , thus it cannot be alternatively derived via in Chart 2 as 𬨨.

Sample Derivations:

𦥯, thus ; ; ; etc.
, thus ; ; ; etc.
, thus ; ; ; ; etc.
, thus ; ; ; etc.
, thus ; ; ; ; etc.
, thus ; ; ; etc.

Elimination of variants of the same character

The "Series One Organization List of Variant Characters" reduces the number of total standard characters. First, amongst each set of variant characters sharing identical pronunciation and meaning, one character (usually the simplest in form) is elevated to the standard character set, and the rest are obsoleted. Then amongst the chosen variants, those that appear in the "Complete List of Simplified Characters" are also simplified in character structure accordingly. Some examples follow:

Sample reduction of equivalent variants:

; ; ; ; 虖、嘑、謼; etc.

In choosing standard characters, often ancient variants with simple structures are preferred:

; ; 災、烖、菑; etc.

Vulgar forms simpler in structure are also chosen:

; ; ; 獃、騃; etc.

The chosen variant was already simplified in Chart 1:

; ; 唘、啓; 鬦、鬪、鬭; 厤、暦; ; etc.

In some instance, the chosen variant is actually more complex than eliminated ones. This is often taken up by opponents of simplification who are not aware of the dual goals of simplification (i.e. in structure of characters as well as in total number of characters) to decry that simplification does not always simplify characters. An example is the character which is eliminated in favor of the variant form . Note that the "hand" radical , with three strokes, on the left of the eliminated is now "seen" as more complex, appearing as the "tree" radical , with four strokes, in the chosen variant .

Adoption of new standardized character forms

The new standardized character forms started in the "List of character forms of General Used Chinese characters for Publishing" and revised through the "List of Commonly Used Characters in Modern Chinese" tend to adopt vulgar variant character forms. Since the new forms take vulgar variants, many characters now appear slightly simpler compared to old forms, and as such are often mistaken as structurally simplified characters. Some examples follow:

The traditional component becomes :

; ; etc.

The traditional component becomes :

; ; etc.

The traditional "Break" stroke becomes the "Dot" stroke:

; ; etc.

The traditional components and become :

; ; etc.

The traditional component becomes :

; ; etc.

The traditional component becomes :

; ; etc.


It is a common misconception that the simplification process is arbitrary and not based on consistent rules. These allegations are often made when people 'discover' their own 'principles of simplification' from anecdotal evidence.[5] Note, however, that simplification by derivation must follow the rules mentioned earlier.

An often cited example of the apparent irregularity of simplification involves characters that appear to share the simple symbol used in many simplified characters in Chart 1. Often it is intuited that is a 'character component', after observing , , , etc. A student of simplification may infer that the same simplification mechanism also works for and . When observing that , , , (not simplified) and (not simplified), one may come to the conclusion that the process of simplification is irregular.

However, in the Complete List of Simplified Characters, appears in Chart 1. is listed in Chart 2. And is a derived character found in the non-exhaustive list in Chart 3. Therefore, is defined as a 'simplified character component' according to the standard, while is not. Based on , is simplified to , and to .

In the "Series One Organization List of Variant Characters", the variant character is replaced by . The character is simplified in Chart 1 to . Therefore, .

Both and appear in Chart 1. Thus they are not defined as derived characters.

There are no characters or components found in Chart 2 usable for derivation of and . Further investigation reveals that these two characters do not appear in Chart 1 nor in "Series One Organization List of Variant Characters". Thus they are not defined as simplified characters; they remain unchanged from traditional forms in the "List of Commonly Used Characters in Modern Chinese".

Not all new character forms result in simpler characters (i.e. fewer strokes). For instance, the old form , with 11 strokes, now appears as , with 12 strokes, in the new form. However, technically, these new character forms do not constitute simplified characters.

Strangely, some characters with the water radical with three dots 氵 in the traditional form were simplified into the ice radical with two dots 冫 in the simplified form. Some examples are , , and .

Distribution and use

The slogan 战无不胜的毛泽东思想万岁! (Zhàn wúbù shèng de Máo Zédōng sīxiǎng wànsuì!; Long live the invincible Mao Zedong Thought!) on Xinhua Gate in Beijing.

The People's Republic of China, Singapore and Malaysia generally use simplified characters. They appear very sparingly in printed text produced in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and overseas Chinese communities, although they are becoming more prevalent as China opens to the world. Conversely, the mainland is seeing an increase in the use of traditional forms, where they are often used on signs, and in logos, blogs, dictionaries, and scholarly works.

Mainland China

The Law of the People's Republic of China on the National Common Language and Characters implies simplified Chinese as the standard script, with Traditional Chinese being used for purposes such as ceremonies, cultural purposes (e.g. calligraphy), decoration, publications and books on ancient literature and poetry, and research purposes. Traditional Chinese remains ubiquitous on buildings predating the promotion of simplified characters, such as former government buildings, religious buildings, educational institutions, and historical monuments. Traditional Chinese is also often used for commercial purposes, such as shopfront displays and advertisements.

As part of the one country, two systems model, the PRC has not attempted to force Hong Kong or Macau into using simplified characters. The PRC tends to print material intended for people in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, and overseas Chinese in Traditional characters. For example, it prints versions of the People's Daily in Traditional characters and both the People's Daily and Xinhua websites have versions in Traditional characters using Big5 encoding. Mainland companies selling products in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan use Traditional characters on their displays and packaging to communicate with consumers (the reverse is true as well).

Dictionaries published in mainland China generally show both simplified and their Traditional counterparts. In digital media, many cultural phenomena imported from Hong Kong and Taiwan into mainland China, such as music videos, karaoke videos, subtitled movies, and subtitled dramas, use Traditional Chinese characters.

Hong Kong

Textbooks, official statements, newspapers, including the PRC-funded media, show no signs of moving to simplified Chinese characters. However, some students may opt to use the simplified form when taking notes or doing test papers to write faster.

It is common for Hong Kong people to learn traditional Chinese characters in school, and some simplified Chinese in passing (either through reading mainland-published books or other media). For use on computers, however, people tend to type Chinese characters using a traditional character set such as Big5. In Hong Kong, as well as elsewhere, it is common for people who use both sets to do so because it is much easier to convert from the traditional character set to the simplified character set because of the usage of the aforementioned methods 8 and 9 of simplification.


Simplified Chinese characters are not officially used in governmental and civil publications in Taiwan. However, it is legal to import simplified character publications and distribute them. Certain simplified characters that have long existed in informal writing for centuries also have popular usage, while those characters simplified originally by the Taiwanese government are much less common in daily appearance.

In all areas, most handwritten text will include informal simplifications (alternative script) which are not the same as the simplifications officially promulgated by the PRC and are often instead influenced by the shinjitai used in Japan. The informal simplification of the first character of "Taiwan" from to rivals its orthodox form in commonality, even in print and in answers to school exams.[20][21]

Singapore and Malaysia

In Singapore, where Chinese is one of the official languages, simplified characters are the official standard and used in all official publications as well as the government-controlled press. While simplified characters are taught exclusively in schools and are used in all official publications, the government does not officially discourage the use of traditional characters and still allow parents to choose whether to have their child's Chinese name registered in simplified or traditional characters.

In Malaysia, Chinese is not an official language, but over 90% of ethnic-Chinese students are educated in Chinese schools, which have taught simplified characters since 1981. However, traditional characters are widely used by older generations and are widespread on signboards, etc. Most of Malaysia's Chinese newspapers compromise by retaining traditional characters in article headlines but using simplified characters for content.

As there is no restriction of the use of traditional characters in the mass media, television programmes, books, magazines and music CD's that have been imported from Hong Kong or Taiwan are widely available, and these almost always use traditional characters. Most karaoke discs, being imported from Hong Kong or Taiwan, have song lyrics in traditional characters as well. Many shop signs continue to be written in traditional characters.[22] Menus in hawker centres and coffee shops are also commonly seen in traditional characters.


In general, schools in Mainland China, Malaysia and Singapore use simplified characters exclusively, while schools in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan use traditional characters exclusively.

Today, simplified Chinese characters predominate among college and university programs teaching Chinese as a foreign language outside of China,[23] such as those in the United States.[24]

Mainland China

In December 2004, Ministry of education authorities rejected a proposal from a Beijing CPPCC political conference member that called for elementary schools to teach traditional Chinese characters in addition to the simplified ones. The conference member pointed out that most mainland Chinese, especially young people, have difficulties with traditional Chinese characters; this is especially important in dealing with non-mainland communities such as Taiwan and Hong Kong. The educational authorities did not approve the recommendation, saying that it did not fit in with the "requirements as set out by the law" and it could potentially complicate the curricula.[25] A similar proposal was delivered to the 1st Plenary Session of the 11th Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in March 2008.[26]

Hong Kong

Most, if not all, Chinese language text books in Hong Kong are written in traditional characters. Before 1997, the use of simplified characters was generally discouraged by educators. After 1997, while students are still expected to be proficient and utilize traditional characters in formal settings, they may sometimes adopt a hybrid written form in informal settings to speed up writing. With the exception of open examinations, Simplified Chinese characters are considered acceptable by the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority for their speed.

Singapore and Malaysia

Chinese textbooks in Singapore and Malaysia are written exclusively in simplified characters, and only simplified characters are taught in school. Traditional characters are usually only taught to those taking up calligraphy as a co-curricular activity or Cantonese as an elective course at school.

Chinese as a foreign language

As the source of many Mandarin Chinese textbooks is mainland China, the majority of textbooks teaching Chinese are now based on simplified characters and Hanyu Pinyin – although there are textbooks originating in China which have a traditional version. For practical reasons, universities and schools prepare students who will be able to communicate with mainland China, so their obvious choice is to use simplified characters.

In places where a particular set is not locally entrenched, e.g., Europe and the United States, instruction is now mostly simplified, as the economic importance of mainland China increases, and also because of the availability of textbooks printed in mainland China. Teachers of international students often recommend learning both systems.


In the United Kingdom, universities mainly teach Mandarin Chinese at the undergraduate level using the simplified characters coupled with pinyin. However, they will require the students to learn or be able to recognise the traditional forms if they are studying in Taiwan or Hong Kong (such as taking Cantonese courses). In Australia and New Zealand, schools, universities and TAFEs use predominantly simplified characters.

Russia and most East European nations are traditionally oriented on the education of the PRC's system for teaching Chinese, which uses simplified characters but exposes the learners to both systems.

East Asia

In South Korea, universities have used predominantly simplified characters since 1990s. In high school, Chinese is one of the selective subjects. By the regulation of the national curricula standards, MPS I and traditional characters had been originally used before (since the 1940s), but by the change of regulation, pinyin and simplified characters have been used to pupils who enter the school in 1996 or later. Therefore, MPS I and traditional characters disappeared after 1998 in South Korean high school Chinese curriculum.

In Japan there are two types of schools. Simplified Chinese is taught instead of traditional Chinese in pro-mainland China schools. They also teach Pinyin, a romanization system for standard Chinese, while the Taiwan-oriented schools teach Zhuyin, which uses phonetic symbols. However, the Taiwan-oriented schools are starting to teach simplified Chinese and Pinyin to offer a more well-rounded education.[27]

Southeast Asia

In the Philippines, the use of simplified characters is getting more and more popular. Before the 1970s, Chinese schools in the Philippines were under the supervision of the Ministry of Education of the Republic of China. Hence, most books were using the Traditional Characters. Traditional Characters remained prevalent until the early 2000s. However, institutions like the Confucius Institute, being the cultural arm of the People's Republic of China, are strong proponents of the use of Simplified Characters. Also, many new schools are now importing their Mandarin textbooks from Singapore instead of Taiwan.

Public universities such as the Linguistics and Asian Languages Department of the University of the Philippines use Simplified Characters in their teaching materials. On the other hand, private schools such as Chiang Kai Shek College and Saint Jude Catholic School remain major proponents of the usage of Traditional Characters. However, some private universities, such as the Ateneo de Manila University, now use Simplified Characters.

Computer encoding

In computer text applications, the GB encoding scheme most often renders simplified Chinese characters, while Big5 most often renders traditional characters. Although neither encoding has an explicit connection with a specific character set, the lack of a one-to-one mapping between the simplified and traditional sets established a de facto linkage.

Since simplified Chinese conflated many characters into one and since the initial version of the GB encoding scheme, known as GB2312-80, contained only one code point for each character, it is impossible to use GB2312 to map to the bigger set of traditional characters. It is theoretically possible to use Big5 code to map to the smaller set of simplified character glyphs, although there is little market for such a product. Newer and alternative forms of GB have support for traditional characters. In particular, mainland authorities have now established GB 18030 as the official encoding standard for use in all mainland software publications. The encoding contains all East Asian characters included in Unicode 3.0. As such, GB 18030 encoding contains both simplified and traditional characters found in Big-5 and GB, as well as all characters found in Japanese and Korean encodings.

Unicode deals with the issue of simplified and traditional characters as part of the project of Han unification by including code points for each. This was rendered necessary by the fact that the linkage between simplified characters and traditional characters is not one-to-one. While this means that a Unicode system can display both simplified and traditional characters, it also means that different localization files are needed for each type.

The Chinese characters used in modern Japanese (called Kanji characters) have also undergone simplification, but generally to a lesser extent than with simplified Chinese. It is worth mentioning that Japan's writing system utilizes a reduced number of Chinese characters in daily use, resulting partly from the Japanese language reforms; thus, a number of complex characters are written phonetically. Reconciling these different character sets in Unicode became part of the controversial process of Han unification. Not surprisingly, some of the Chinese characters used in Japan are neither 'traditional' nor 'simplified'. In this case, these characters cannot be found in traditional/simplified Chinese dictionaries.

Web pages

The World Wide Web Consortium's Internationalization working group recommends the use of the language tag zh-Hans as a language attribute value and Content-Language value to specify web-page content in simplified Chinese characters.[28]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Refer to official publications: zh:汉字简化方案, zh:简化字总表, etc.
  2. ^ 教育部就《汉字简化方案》等发布 50 周年答记者提问 Semi-centennial celebration of the publication of Chinese Character Simplification Plan and official press conference.
  3. ^ 書同文 :《漢字簡化方案》制訂始末,黄加佳,新华网. Detailed account of the Chinese simplification effort.
  4. ^ Examples of characters where a component is replaced by a simple symbol include: (), (), (), ().
  5. ^ a b In his book, 彭小明 fails to understand that is not used as a simplified component (簡化偏旁 or 简化偏方), thus deriding the 'supposedly inconsistent application' of in , , , etc. The author also misrepresents the rationale behind the simplification of , as well as cursive-based simplifications. See Chinese Wikipedia's discussion on simplification and explanations in original, official papers such as 简化字总表. 彭小明 (January 2008). 漢字簡化得不償失. Hong Kong: 夏菲爾國際出版公司. ISBN 9789629380687.
  6. ^ In '17个角度看到繁简体汉字 (经济观察网)' (part1 and part2), for instance, the scholar 裴钰 praises the simplified character 体 as an ingenious new invention, when in fact it has existed for hundreds of years (see 康熙字典「体」).
  7. ^ "Simplified Chinese characters". Retrieved 2016-03-16.
  8. ^ 关于《通用规范汉字表》公开征求意见的公告 Archived 2009-08-15 at the Wayback Machine. Page about the list at the State Language Commission's website, including a link to a pdf of the list. Accessed 2009.08.18.
  9. ^ 汉字,该繁还是简? Archived 2009-04-28 at the Wayback Machine. Syndicated from 人民日报 (People's Daily), 2009-04-09. Accessed 2009.04.10.
  10. ^ "Archived copy" 专家称恢复繁体字代价太大 新规范汉字表将公布. Xinhua News. 2009-04-09. Archived from the original on 2009-04-12. Retrieved 2009-04-10.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) Syndicated from 新京报, 2009-04-09. Accessed 2009.04.10.
  11. ^ China to regulate use of simplified characters_English_Xinhua Archived 2009-08-16 at the Wayback Machine. (2009-08-12). Retrieved on 2013-07-21.
  12. ^ 国务院关于公布《通用规范汉字表》的通知. Government of the People's Republic of China. 2013-08-19.
  13. ^ Yen, Yuehping. [2005] (2005). Calligraphy and Power in Contemporary Chinese Society. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-31753-3.
  14. ^ 简化字的昨天、今天和明天. Archived from the original on 2011-07-14. Retrieved 2010-01-17.
  15. ^ "China to regulate use of simplified characters Archived 2009-08-16 at the Wayback Machine", China View, August 12, 2009. Accessed 2009-08-17.
  16. ^ Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China. "Archived copy" 《通用规范汉字表》44个汉字"整形"引发争论. Archived from the original on 2017-01-09. Retrieved 2017-01-09.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  17. ^ 新加坡与中国调整简体字的评骘],谢世涯,華語橋.
  18. ^ All examples listed here are sourced from 简化字#字型結構簡化#簡化方法 where all entries are associated with proper references.
  19. ^ a b This is very similar to the 'elimination of variants of the same character' in "Series One Organization List of Variant Characters", except that these eliminations happen in Chart 1 and Chart 2 of "Complete List of Simplified Characters". Characters simplified in Chart 2 can be further used for derivation of Chart 3, but those chosen in "Series One Organization List of Variant Characters" cannot.
  20. ^ 基測作文 俗體字不扣分],蘋果日報. Apple News. April 12, 2006.
  21. ^ Shih, Hsiu-chuan (14 December 2010). "Premier respects 'choice' on spelling". Taipei Times. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
  22. ^ 新加坡汉字规范的回顾与前瞻,谢世涯,華語橋
  23. ^ Xing, Janet Zhiqun (2006). Teaching and Learning Chinese as a Foreign Language: A Pedagogical Grammar. Hong Kong University Press. p. 105. ISBN 978-962-209-763-6. For programs in teaching and learning Chinese as FL outside China, the simplified version has gradually gained ground and become the first choice because of student demand…
  24. ^ Norden, Bryan W. Van (2011). Introduction to Classical Chinese Philosophy. Hackett Publishing. p. 242. ISBN 9781603846158. Most contemporary Chinese language programs at U.S. colleges and universities emphasize the simplified form.
  25. ^ 千龙网-北京-市教委驳回政协委员普及繁体字教学建议 [Beijing – City Education Committee rejects commissar of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference to popularize the traditional character teaching suggestion]. 2004-12-08.
  26. ^ "Debate: A need to introduce traditional characters to schools?". Archived from the original on 2008-03-17. Retrieved 2008-03-15.
  27. ^ School bridges China-Japan gap
  28. ^ Richard Ishida (editor): Best Practice 13: Using Hans and Hant codes in Internationalization Best Practices: Specifying Language in XHTML & HTML Content – W3C Working Group Note 12 April 2007.

Further reading

  • Bergman, P. M. (1980). The basic English-Chinese, Chinese-English dictionary: using simplified characters (with an appendix containing the original complex characters) transliterated in accordance with the new, official Chinese phonetic alphabet. New York: New American Library. ISBN 0-451-09262-7.
  • Bökset, R. (2006). Long story of short forms: the evolution of simplified Chinese characters. Stockholm East Asian monographs, No. 11. Stockholm: Dept. of Oriental Languages, Stockholm University. ISBN 91-628-6832-2.
  • Chen, H. (1987). Simplified Chinese characters. Torrance, CA: Heian. ISBN 0-89346-293-4.

External links

Ambiguities in Chinese character simplification

A relatively small number of Chinese characters known as (in Chinese): 简繁一对多; (in Chinese): 簡繁一對多 do not have a one-to-one mapping between their simplified and traditional forms.

This is usually because the simplification process merged two or more distinct characters into one. In most cases, these traditional characters are homonyms, having the same pronunciation but different meanings. As a result, converting text from simplified to traditional characters is difficult to automate, especially in the case of common characters such as 后後后 ("behind" or "empress"), 表表錶 (table, clock), 奸奸姦 ("traitor" or "rape") and more.

In a much smaller number of cases, a single traditional character is mapped to multiple simplified characters.

The following is an exhaustive list of all characters whose simplified and traditional forms do not map in a one-to-one manner. Simplified characters are marked with a pink background, and traditional characters with light blue.


Big-5 or Big5 is a Chinese character encoding method used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau for traditional Chinese characters.

The People's Republic of China (PRC), which uses simplified Chinese characters, uses the GB character set instead.

Big5 gets its name from the consortium of five companies in Taiwan that developed it.

Chinese Character Code for Information Interchange

The Chinese Character Code for Information Interchange (Chinese: 中文資訊交換碼) or CCCII is a character set developed specifically to address the problem of interchange of Chinese information. It is used mostly by libraries because the code contains various properties considered to be desirable by libraries. Its 94 ISO 2022 planes are grouped into 16 layers of 6 planes each. Layer 2 contains Simplified Chinese characters, with their row and cell numbers being the same as the Traditional Chinese equivalent in layer 1. Layers 3 through 12 contain further variant forms, at row and cell numbers homologous to the first two layers. Layer 13 contains kana and Japanese kokuji, and layer 14 contains hangul.CCCII is a superset of ASCII designed to conform to ISO 2022. Each Chinese character is represented by a 3-byte code in which each byte is 7-bit. Thus, the maximum number of Chinese characters representable in CCCII is 94×94×94 = 830584. In practice the number of characters encodable by CCCII would be less than this number, because variant characters are encoded in related ISO 2022 planes under CCCII, so most of the code points would have to be reserved for variants.

The code is adopted as the character set for Library of Congress with the name East Asia Coded Character (EACC, ANSI/NISO Z39.64). However, some CCCII characters don't have EACC equivalent.

Chinese Character Simplification Scheme

The Chinese Character Simplification Scheme (simplified Chinese: 汉字简化方案; traditional Chinese: 漢字簡化方案; pinyin: Hànzì jiǎnhuà fāng'àn) is the standardized simplification of Chinese characters promulgated in the 1950s by the State Council of the People's Republic of China. It contains the existing Simplified Chinese characters that are in use today. To distinguish from the later Second round of simplified Chinese characters, this reform is also known as the First Chinese Character Simplification Scheme.

Chinese Wikipedia

The Chinese Wikipedia (traditional Chinese: 中文維基百科; simplified Chinese: 中文维基百科; pinyin: Zhōngwén Wéijī Bǎikē) is the (Standard) Chinese language edition of Wikipedia. It is run by the Wikimedia Foundation. Started on 11 May 2001, the Chinese Wikipedia currently has about 1,050,000 articles and about 2,705,000 registered users, of which 81 have administrative privileges. The Chinese Wikipedia has been blocked in Mainland China since May 2015.The Chinese Wikipedia is the fourth largest online Chinese encyclopedia after Hudong Baike (互动百科), Baidu Baike (百度百科) and Soso Baike (搜搜百科).

Chinese simplification

Chinese simplification may refer to:

Simplified Chinese characters, standardised Chinese characters promulgated by the People's Republic of China

Chinese Character Simplification Scheme, a scheme to introduce the simplified Chinese characters

Shinjitai, simplified Chinese characters, or Kanji used in Japan

Chung Ling (Private) High School

Chung Ling (Private) High School (simplified Chinese: 槟城锺灵独立中学; traditional Chinese: 檳城鍾靈獨立中學) is a Chinese Independent High School in Malaysia, located in George Town, Penang. Its affiliated schools are Chung Ling High School and Chung Ling Butterworth High School.

Established in 1962, the school's purpose was to provide education for students who were deemed non-eligible to attend public schools due to surpassing the age limit set by the Ministry of Education of Malaysia at that time. It is one of the 60 Chinese Independent High Schools in the Malaysia. Unlike Chung Ling High School, Chung Ling (Private) High School provides secondary education in the Chinese language, with the medium of instruction being Mandarin using simplified Chinese characters.

Chung Ling (Private) High School has also produced some remarkable people, an example being Koh Tsu Koon, former Chief Minister of Penang.

Debate on traditional and simplified Chinese characters

The debate on traditional Chinese characters and simplified Chinese characters is an ongoing dispute concerning Chinese orthography among users of Chinese characters. It has stirred up heated responses from supporters of both sides in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and among overseas Chinese communities with its implications of political ideology and cultural identity. Simplified characters here exclusively refer to those characters simplified by the People's Republic of China (PRC), instead of the concept of character simplification as a whole. The effect of simplified characters on the language remains controversial for decades after their introduction.

GBK (character encoding)

GBK is an extension of the GB2312 character set for simplified Chinese characters, used in the People's Republic of China. It includes all unified CJK characters found in GB13000.1-93, i.e. ISO/IEC 10646:1993, or Unicode 1.1. Since its initial release in 1993, GBK has been extended by Microsoft in Code page 936/1386, which was then extended into GBK 1.0. GBK is also the IANA-registered internet name for the Microsoft mapping, which differs from other implementations primarily by the single-byte euro sign at 0x80.

GB abbreviates Guojia Biaozhun, which means national standard in Chinese, while K stands for Extension (扩展 kuòzhǎn). GBK not only extended the old standard GB2312 with Traditional Chinese characters, but also with Chinese characters that were simplified after the establishment of GB2312 in 1981. With the arrival of GBK, certain names with characters formerly unrepresentable, like the 镕 (róng) character in former Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji's name, are now representable. 0.1% of all web pages used GBK in December 2018.

Lianhe Zaobao

Nanyang Sin-Chew Lianhe Zaobao (Chinese: 南洋·星洲联合早报; pinyin: Nányáng Xīnzhoū liánhé zǎo bào; literally "Nanyang Sin-Chew United Morning Paper"), commonly abbreviated as Lianhe Zaobao (Chinese: 联合早报; pinyin: Liánhé zǎo bào; literally "United Morning Paper"), is the largest Singapore-based Chinese-language newspaper with a daily circulation of about 200,000. Published by Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), it was formed on March 16, 1983 as a result of a merger between Nanyang Siang Pau and Sin Chew Jit Poh, two of Singapore's oldest Chinese newspapers.The paper establishes itself as a serious broadsheet with extensive local news coverage while international news tend to be largely centered on the East Asia region, especially China. Zaobao has an extensive East Asian correspondent network spanning Beijing, Chongqing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul and Tokyo. It is SPH's flagship Chinese daily, the only Chinese-language morning daily in Singapore. As with all Chinese-language publications currently based in Singapore, it uses simplified Chinese characters.

The newspaper is establishing a regional presence for itself, with subscriptions for its print edition from Southeast Asia, China, Hong Kong as well as organisations such as the United Nations. Its regionalisation drive was given a shot in the arm especially when the online version of the paper was launched in August 1995 under the name of "Lianhe Zaobao Online". Today it serves as a news portal drawing news not just from the Lianhe Zaobao, but also from other Chinese newspapers in the region, numbering as much as 100 sources in total. From 8 September 2016, the portal also presents news from two other Singapore Press Holdings Chinese-language newspapers, Lianhe Wanbao and Shin Min Daily News. Lianhe Zaobao is the only Chinese-language overseas newspaper which can be purchased in major cities of mainland China.

List of territorial entities where Chinese is an official language

The following is a list of territorial entities where Chinese is an official language. While those countries or territories that designate Chinese as an official language use the term "Chinese", as Chinese is a group of related language varieties, of which many are not mutually intelligible, in the context of the spoken language such designations are usually understood as designations of specific varieties of Chinese, namely Cantonese, Taiwanese Hakka and Standard Mandarin. In the context of the written language, written modern standard Chinese is usually understood to be the official standard, though different territories use different standard scripts, namely Traditional Chinese characters and Simplified Chinese characters.

Today, Chinese has an official language status in five countries/regions or territories. In China it is the sole official language as Mandarin, while in Singapore (as Mandarin) it is one of the four official languages, while in Taiwan (as Mandarin) it is a co-official language alongside with Taiwanese Hakka and Formosan languages. In Hong Kong and Macau it is a co-official language as Cantonese, alongside English and Portuguese respectively. Chinese is also an official language in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and also one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Chinese was added as an official language in the United Nations in 1973, when the General Assembly made Chinese a working language.

Radical 17

Radical 17 is one of 23 of the 214 Kangxi radicals that are composed of 2 strokes.

It does not occur as a character on its own. In combination, it historically takes meanings such as "open mouth", "box", "frame", "hole" or "receptacle". In contemporary use, it is the base radical of the following characters:

凶 "bad, inauspicious"

出 "go out, send out"

函 "box"Also derived from the radical are the Simplified Chinese characters 击 "to hit" and 画 "to paint", without any historical connection to the radical.

幽 "deep, dark" is derived from radical 46, "mountain" 山 rather than radical 17.

As for the similar radicals 22 匚 and 13 冂, the name of radical 17 is purely descriptive of its shape, 下三框 "lower three-sided frame".

Second round of simplified Chinese characters

The second round of Chinese character simplification, according to the official document, Second Chinese Character Simplification Scheme (Draft) ("Second Scheme" or "Second Round" for short) to introduce a second round of simplified Chinese characters, was an aborted orthography reform promulgated on 20 December 1977 by the People's Republic of China (PRC). It was intended to replace the existing (first-round) simplified Chinese characters that were already in use. The complete proposal contained a list of 248 characters that were to be simplified, as well as another list of 605 characters for evaluation and discussion. Of these, 21 from the first list and 40 from the second served as components of other characters, amplifying the impact on written Chinese.

Following widespread confusion and opposition, the second round of simplification was officially rescinded on 24 June 1986 by the State Council. Since then, the PRC has used the first-round simplified characters as its official script. Rather than ruling out further simplification, however, the retraction declared that further reform of the Chinese characters should be done with caution. Today, some second-round simplified characters, while considered nonstandard, continue to survive in informal usage. The issue of whether and how simplification should proceed remains a matter of debate.


Shinjitai (Japanese: 新字体, "new character form") are the simplified forms of kanji used in Japan since the promulgation of the Tōyō Kanji List in 1946. Some of the new forms found in shinjitai are also found in Simplified Chinese characters, but shinjitai is generally not as extensive in the scope of its modification.

Shinjitai were created by reducing the number of strokes in kyūjitai ("old character form"), unsimplified kanji usually the same as Traditional Chinese characters, also called seiji (正字, "proper/correct characters"). This simplification was achieved through a process (similar to that of simplified Chinese) of either replacing the onpu (音符, "sound mark") indicating the On reading with another onpu of the same On reading with fewer strokes, or replacing a complex component of a character with a simpler one.

There have been a few stages of simplifications made since the 1950s, but the only changes that became official were the changes in the Jōyō Kanji List in 1981 and 2010.

Singapore Chinese characters

The development of Singapore's Chinese characters can be divided into three periods:

Before 1969 : Used Traditional Chinese characters

1969-1976: The Ministry of Education promulgated the Table of Simplified Characters (simplified Chinese: 简体字表; traditional Chinese: 簡體字表; pinyin: jiǎntǐzì biǎo), which differed from the Chinese Character Simplification Scheme of the People's Republic of China

After 1976: fully adopted the Simplified Chinese characters of the People's Republic of China. In 1977, the second attempt to simplify the characters was stopped, ending the long period of confusion associated with simplification.

Traditional Chinese characters

Traditional Chinese characters (traditional Chinese: 正體字/繁體字; simplified Chinese: 正体字/繁体字; Pinyin: Zhèngtǐzì/Fántǐzì) are Chinese characters in any character set that does not contain newly created characters or character substitutions performed after 1946. They are most commonly the characters in the standardized character sets of Taiwan, of Hong Kong and Macau, and in the Kangxi Dictionary. The modern shapes of traditional Chinese characters first appeared with the emergence of the clerical script during the Han Dynasty, and have been more or less stable since the 5th century (during the Southern and Northern Dynasties).

The retronym "traditional Chinese" is used to contrast traditional characters with Simplified Chinese characters, a standardized character set introduced by the government of the People's Republic of China on Mainland China in the 1950s.

Traditional Chinese characters are currently used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau; as well as in Overseas Chinese communities outside Southeast Asia. In contrast, Simplified Chinese characters are used in mainland China, Singapore and Malaysia in official publications. However, several countries – such as Australia, the US and Canada – are increasing their number of printed materials in Simplified Chinese, to better accommodate citizens from mainland China.

The debate on traditional and simplified Chinese characters has been a long-running issue among Chinese communities. Currently, a large number of overseas Chinese online newspapers allow users to switch between both character sets.

United International Bank

United International Bank (Chinese: 國際銀行) is an overseas Chinese bank in the United States, and headquartered in New York City.

The bank established itself as a locally-based community bank serving Chinese Americans and Asian Americans in the New York City-area. Most of its clients are newly-arrived immigrants and local small business owners who faced difficulties in obtaining financial support from other mainstream banks. In addition to serving the needs of small business owners and entrepreneurs, the bank specializes in financing credit arrangement for import and export trades.

Unlike most overseas Chinese banks in the United States whose managements consist mainly of Chinese people, the managerial team of United International Bank includes a significant number of non-Asians. These include many experienced former executives of mainstream banks invited to help lead the bank to prosperity. The advisory committee and board of directors of the bank includes a number of celebrities such as the famed Dr. Henry C. Lee, and other community activists and leaders.

The bank is one of the first in providing both traditional and simplified Chinese characters on its ATMs and internet banking website.

In 2015, Preferred Bank acquired UIB for $22.2 million.

Xinhua Zidian

The Xinhua Zidian (simplified Chinese: 新华字典; traditional Chinese: 新華字典; pinyin: Xīnhuá Zìdiǎn; literally: 'New Chinese Dictionary'), or Xinhua Dictionary, is a Chinese language dictionary published by the Commercial Press. It is the best-selling Chinese dictionary and the world's most popular reference work (Xinhua 2004). In 2016, Guinness World Records officially confirmed that the dictionary, published by The Commercial Press, is the "Most popular dictionary" and the "Best-selling book (regularly updated)". It is considered a symbol of Chinese culture.This pocket-sized dictionary of Chinese characters uses simplified Chinese characters and pinyin romanization. The most recent Xinhua Zidian edition (the 11th) contains 3,300 compounds and includes over 13,000 logograms, including traditional Chinese characters and variant Chinese characters. Bopomofo is used as a supplement alongside Pinyin. Xinhua Zidian is divided into 189 "radicals" or "section headers" (DeFrancis 1984:291).

Besides their popular concise version Xinhua Zidian, Commercial Press also publishes a large-print edition and a Xinhua Dictionary with English Translation (Yao 2000, reviewed by Clark 2001). In addition, the Shanxi Education Press publishes a pinyin-edition Xinhua Zidian with both characters and orthographically precise transcriptions (Yi et al. 1999).

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