The writing system used throughout mainland China is known as “Simplified Chinese characters.” On the other hand, “Traditional Chinese characters” are used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau. It’s fascinating how one language can have two different writing systems, isn’t it?
China’s land area is approximately 25 times that of Japan, and even within China, different regions have distinct cultures, cuisines, and even facial features that can make them feel like different countries. It’s understandable, then, that different regions would use different writing systems.
Knowing the difference between Simpified Chinese and Traditional Chinese can greatly facilitate the process of learning Chinese. Here, we will provide a detailed introduction to these Chinese characters.
1.How many writing systems are there in Chinese?
Chinese has two main writing systems: Simplified Chinese characters (简体字) and Traditional Chinese characters (繁體字). Why does the same country have two different writing systems? And in which regions are they used, and what are the differences between them?
1-1.Simplified Chinese characters (简体字)
The standard writing system used throughout mainland China is Simplified Chinese characters (简体字). Originally, the Chinese characters used in China were the complex and stroke-intensive Traditional Chinese characters (繁體字). However, after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, there was a need to promote literacy and the use of Chinese characters as a national language. In 1956, the Simplified Chinese character reform was enacted in China. This reform aimed to simplify the Traditional Chinese characters, resulting in the creation of Simplified Chinese characters, officially known as “Simplified Standardized Characters” (简化字).
Currently, Simplified Chinese characters are primarily taught in schools across China. They have also been adopted in countries like Singapore and Malaysia.
1-2.Traditional Chinese characters (繁體字)
The other type of Chinese characters is Traditional Chinese characters (繁體字). They represent the complex character forms that have been used in China for a long time. Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau continue to use Traditional Chinese characters because they were not affected by China’s simplification policy. Even Japanese kanji characters are influenced by Traditional Chinese characters.
When living in China, you may come across signs, TV subtitles, or karaoke lyrics written in Traditional Chinese characters. Native Chinese speakers can read both Simplified and Traditional characters, but for English speakers, it can be challenging to imagine the original form of Simplified characters.
2.Difference between Simplified and Traditional Chinese
Let’s check the representation of Simplified Chinese characters, and Traditional Chinese characters It is interesting to see how they can be the same or different depending on the characters!
|Simplified Chinese (简体字)||Traditional Chinese (繁體字)||Pinyin||English Translation|
Simplified Chinese characters are created by simplifying the strokes and components of complex characters. This involves simplifying the “radicals” (偏旁部首, pinyin: piānpáng bùshǒu) and using the simplified forms derived from cursive script. Currently, there are about 2,200 simplified characters recognized as official characters.
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