Two Styles of Chinese Characters

In the second part of this column on the Chinese language, we would like to explain as comprehensively as possible the difference between simplified and traditional Chinese characters, which we touched upon briefly at the end of the last column.

How Simplified Chinese Began

Chinese was originally all written in traditional Chinese characters. However, when the People’s Republic of China was established in the middle of the 20th century, a movement to spread written Chinese widely among its citizens was born. However, because traditional Chinese characters were quite difficult to learn, simplified Chinese characters were created and diffused in the 1950s with the intent of lessening the burden on the people as much as possible.

The Difference Between Simplified and Traditional Chinese Characters

What is the difference between traditional Chinese characters, which have been used since the age of Chinese emperors, and the new, simplified characters that were born after there were no longer any emperors in the country? As you can imagine from the name, “simplified” Chinese characters are just that—a simplified version of traditional Chinese characters. As a result of the reduction in the number of strokes used, the characters came to look quite different from the original. However, they have indeed been changed to make writing easier.

How much have they changed? Here are some examples that show this clearly.

Simplified Chinese: 台湾、数学、广东、欢迎
Traditional Chinese: 臺灣、數學、廣東、歡迎
Japanese: 台湾、数学、広東、歓迎

Simplified Chinese Characters Today

How are simplified and traditional Chinese characters used? Simplified Chinese characters are used today in mainland China and Singapore, while traditional Chinese characters are used in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Particularly in Taiwan, where its use is forbidden and they continue to use traditional Chinese characters, probably because they consider simplified Chinese characters to be symbolic of the Chinese Communist party. There is something profound in the fate of Chinese characters, which was split in two for political reasons.

In the Next Issue

Do you now understand the difference between simplified and traditional Chinese characters? Next time, we will take a look at the difference between written and colloquial Chinese, explained in an easy to understand manner using actual examples. Don’t miss it!

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