Traditional Chinese characters in Taiwan are a cultural treasure

Friday, June 17, 2011

I agree with Taiwan on this. The article says that simplified Chinese characters are being deleted on Taiwanese government sites, due to traditional characters being now being a cultural treasure in Taiwan that it should not be pressed to give up (even inadvertently). Personally, my favourite to least favourite goes as follows:

- Japanese kanji (simplified after WWII)
- Traditional characters
- PRC simplified characters

Japan has probably done the best job in simplifying but retaining most of the feel of the original. Let's take a look at a few examples.


(Japan, PRC)

This is an example of a drastic yet good simplification. The word body is used frequently enough that it makes sense to do so.

Next up is a character that kind of means thought or intention, and is used often in the -ism part of commun-ism, real-ism and other such compound words.

(traditional, Japan)

The PRC version is yuck, yuck, yuck. The original has the character for self on the bottom (sheep radical on the top), the simplified one looks like......looks like a handwritten version of something, could be anything. This character isn't used frequently enough to warrant such a drastic simplification. Also note the simplified body character just above at least has some meaning: a human on the left, a character meaning base/root on the right. This one is just nothing.

The word sun is just weird.

太陽 (traditional, Japan)
太阳 (PRC)

Uh, okay, if the extra few strokes there were killing you then by all means simplify. I doubt they were though.

Some characters like the character to emit are sadly differently written in all three:


I don't really have a favourite there. The traditional one has the bow on the left and the club on the right so it's kind of fun, but it is a bit noisy for a frequent character. Tough call on this one.

One good thing about PRC simplified characters though are the simplified radicals that don't look much different from their original form but are much quicker to write. The form is of course based on how people write them in practice (cursively or somewhat cursively) so it's nothing new, but even when printed out in this way they haven't changed their form all that much so no problem at all.

Changes from




are perfectly fine.

Anyway, good job by Taiwan in aggressively promoting traditional characters. There is no need to be ashamed of, nor stop using them. I may one day write a longer post giving more examples of where reforms have been good and other times not so good. How many to bring up though is a good question, since one could write a whole blog about the subject.


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