Traditional Chinese characters

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Traditional Chinese
Hanzi (traditional).svg
Languages Chinese
Time period
Since 5th century AD
Parent systems
Child systems
ISO 15924 Hant, 502
The east square of Guangzhou railway station in 1991. Notice the prevalence of traditional Chinese characters as brand logos during that time, including Jianlibao (Jian Li Bao ), Rejoice (Piao Rou ) and Wan Jia Le , only Head & Shoulders (Hai Fei Si ) printed in simplified. In Mainland China, it is legal to design brand logos in traditional characters, yet by 2020, apart from Jianlibao, the other three have changed to simplified. Guangzhou 1991.jpg
The east square of Guangzhou railway station in 1991. Notice the prevalence of traditional Chinese characters as brand logos during that time, including Jianlibao (健力寶), Rejoice (飄柔) and 萬家樂, only Head & Shoulders (海飞丝) printed in simplified. In Mainland China, it is legal to design brand logos in traditional characters, yet by 2020, apart from Jianlibao, the other three have changed to simplified.
The character Fan 
(Pinyin: fan) meaning "complex, complicated (Chinese characters)" Traditional chinese.svg
The character (Pinyin: fán) meaning "complex, complicated (Chinese characters)"

Traditional Chinese characters (traditional Chinese : / ; simplified Chinese : / ; Pinyin: Zhèngtǐzì/Fántǐzì) [1] are Chinese characters in any character set which does not contain newly created characters or character substitutions performed after 1946.[ dubious ]


Traditional Chinese characters are used in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, as well as in most overseas Chinese communities outside Southeast Asia. In contrast, simplified Chinese characters are used in Mainland China, Malaysia and Singapore in official publications.

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 in the 1950s by the government of the People's Republic of China on Mainland China.

The debate on traditional and simplified Chinese characters has been a long-running issue among Chinese communities. Currently, many overseas Chinese online newspapers allow users to switch between both character sets.[ citation needed ]

Modern usage in Chinese-speaking areas

Mainland China

Although simplified characters are taught and endorsed by the government of China, there is no prohibition against using traditional characters. Traditional characters are used informally, primarily in handwriting, but also for inscriptions and religious text.[ citation needed ] They are often retained in logos or graphics to evoke yesteryear. Nonetheless, the vast majority of media and communications in China use simplified characters.

Hong Kong and Macau

In Hong Kong and Macau, Traditional Chinese has been the legal written form since colonial times. In recent years, simplified Chinese characters have started being used,by whom? to accommodate Mainland Chinese tourists and immigrants. [2] This has led to residents being concerned about protecting their local heritage. [3] [4]


Taiwan has never adopted simplified characters. The use of simplified characters in official documents and educational settings is prohibited by the government of Taiwan.[ citation needed ] Simplified characters are mostly understood by any educated Taiwanese and learning to read them takes little effort. Some stroke simplifications that have been incorporated into Simplified Chinese were already in common use in handwriting. [5] [6]


Job announcement in a Filipino Chinese daily newspaper written in traditional Chinese characters Announcement in a Filipino Chinese daily newspaper (Traditional Chinese).jpg
Job announcement in a Filipino Chinese daily newspaper written in traditional Chinese characters

The Chinese Filipino community continues to be one of the most conservative in Southeast Asia regarding simplification.[ citation needed ] Although major public universities teach simplified characters, many well-established Chinese schools still use traditional characters. Publications like the Chinese Commercial News , World News and United Daily News all use traditional characters. So do some magazines from Hong Kong, such as the Yazhou Zhoukan. On the other hand, the Philippine Chinese Daily uses simplified.

DVD subtitles for film or television subtitles mostly use Traditional Characters. This is because the Chinese dub used in the Philippines is the same as the one used in Taiwan, because the DVDs belongs to DVD Region Code 3.[ citation needed ]

United States

Chinese emigrants in the United States have long used traditional characters. Many Chinese immigrated to the United States during the second half of the 19th century, before the standardization of simplified characters. Therefore, US public notices and signage in Chinese are generally in Traditional Chinese. [1]

Chinese names

Traditional Chinese characters (the standard characters) are called several different names within the Chinese-speaking world. The government of Taiwan officially calls traditional Chinese characters standard characters or orthodox characters (traditional Chinese:正體字; simplified Chinese:正体字; pinyin:zhèngtǐzì; Zhuyin Fuhao:ㄓㄥˋ ㄊㄧˇ ㄗˋ). [7] However, the same term is used outside Taiwan to distinguish standard, simplified and traditional characters from variant and idiomatic characters. [8]

In contrast, users of traditional characters outside Taiwan, such as those in Hong Kong, Macau and overseas Chinese communities, and also users of simplified Chinese characters, call them complex characters (traditional Chinese:繁體字; simplified Chinese:繁体字; pinyin:fántǐzì; Zhuyin Fuhao:ㄈㄢˊ ㄊㄧˇ ㄗˋ). Users of simplified characters sometimes informally refer to them as "old characters" (Chinese:老字; pinyin:lǎozì; Zhuyin Fuhao:ㄌㄠˇ ㄗˋ).

Users of traditional characters also sometimes call them "full Chinese characters" (traditional Chinese:全體字; simplified Chinese:全体字; pinyin:quántǐ zì; Zhuyin Fuhao:ㄑㄩㄢˊ ㄊㄧˇ ㄗˋ) to distinguish them from simplified Chinese characters.

Some traditional character users argue that traditional characters are the original form of the Chinese characters and cannot be called "complex". Similarly, simplified characters cannot be "standard" because they are not used in all Chinese-speaking regions. Conversely, supporters of simplified Chinese characters object to the description of traditional characters as "standard," since they view the new simplified characters as the contemporary standard used by the vast majority of Chinese speakers. They also point out that traditional characters are not truly traditional as many Chinese characters have been made more elaborate over time. [9]

Some people refer to traditional characters as simply "proper characters" (Chinese:正字; pinyin:zhèngzì or Chinese:正寫; pinyin:zhèngxiě ) and simplified characters as "simplified-stroke characters" (traditional Chinese:簡筆字; simplified Chinese:简笔字; pinyin:jiǎnbǐzì) or "reduced-stroke characters" (traditional Chinese:減筆字; simplified Chinese:减笔字; pinyin:jiǎnbǐzì) (simplified- and reduced- are actually homophones in Mandarin Chinese, both pronounced jiǎn).

Debate on traditional and simplified Chinese characters explores the differences of opinion that exist on this matter within Chinese-speaking regions.

Printed text

When printing text, people in mainland China and Singapore officially use the simplified system, developed by the People's Republic of China government in the 1950s. In writing, most people use informal, sometimes personal simplifications. In most cases, an alternative character (異體字) will be used in place of one with more strokes, such as for . In the old days,[ when? ] there were two main uses of alternative characters. First, alternative characters were used to avoid using the characters of the formal name of an important person in less formal contexts as a way of showing respect to the said person by preserving the characters of the person's name. This act is called "offence-avoidance" (避諱) in Chinese. Secondly, alternative characters were used when the same characters were repeated in context to show that the repetition was intentional rather than an editorial mistake (筆誤).

Computer encoding and fonts

In the past, Traditional Chinese was most often rendered using the Big5 character encoding scheme, a scheme that favours Traditional Chinese. Unicode, however, has become increasingly popular as a rendering method. Unicode gives equal weight to both simplified and traditional Chinese characters. There are various IMEs (Input Method Editors) available to input Chinese characters. There are still many Unicode characters that cannot be written using most IMEs; one example would be the character used in the Shanghainese dialect instead of , which is U+20C8E 𠲎 ( with a radical).[ citation needed ]

In font filenames and descriptions, the acronym TC is used to signify the use of traditional Chinese characters to differentiate fonts that use SC for Simplified Chinese characters. [10]

Web pages

The World Wide Web Consortium recommends the use of the language tag zh-Hant as a language attribute value and Content-Language value to specify web-page content in Traditional Chinese. [11]

Usage in other languages

In Japanese, kyūjitai is the now-obsolete, non-simplified form of simplified Shinjitai Jōyō kanji; as with Korean, these non-simplified characters are mostly congruent with the traditional characters in Chinese, save for a few minor regional graphical differences. Furthermore, characters that are not included in the Jōyō list are generally recommended to be printed in their original non-simplified forms, save for a few exceptions.

In most cases, traditional Chinese characters are identical with Hanja in Korean (now almost completely replaced by Hangul for general use, but nonetheless unchanged from Chinese except for some Korean-made Hanja).

See also

Related Research Articles

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Chinese input methods are methods that allow a computer user to input Chinese characters. Most, if not all, Chinese input methods fall into one of two categories: phonetic readings or root shapes. Methods under the phonetic category usually are easier to learn but are less efficient, thus resulting in slower typing speeds because they typically require users to choose from a list of phonetically similar characters for input; whereas methods under the root shape category allow very precise and speedy input but have a difficult learning curve because they often require a thorough understanding of a character's strokes and composition.

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Written Chinese comprises Chinese characters used to represent the Chinese language. Chinese characters do not constitute an alphabet or a compact syllabary. Rather, the writing system is roughly logosyllabic; that is, a character generally represents one syllable of spoken Chinese and may be a word on its own or a part of a polysyllabic word. The characters themselves are often composed of parts that may represent physical objects, abstract notions, or pronunciation. Literacy requires the memorization of a great number of characters: educated Chinese know about 4,000. The large number of Chinese characters has in part led to the adoption of Western alphabets or other complementary systems as auxiliary means of representing Chinese.

Chinese characters Logographic writing system used in the Sinosphere region

Chinese characters, also called Hanzi, are logograms developed for the writing of Chinese. They have been adapted to write other Asian languages, and remain a key component of the Japanese writing system where they are known as kanji. Chinese characters are the oldest continuously used system of writing in the world. By virtue of their widespread current use in East Asia, and historic use throughout the Sinosphere, Chinese characters are among the most widely adopted writing systems in the world by number of users.

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

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Simplified Chinese characters Standardized Chinese characters used in mainland China, Malaysia and Singapore

Simplified Chinese characters are standardized Chinese characters used in mainland China, as prescribed by Table of General Standard Chinese Characters. 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. They are officially used in the People's Republic of China and Singapore, while traditional Chinese characters are used in Hong Kong, Macau, the Republic of China (Taiwan) and occasionally in the Chinese community of Malaysia and Singapore.

Regular script

Regular script, also called 正楷, 真書 (zhēnshū), 楷體 (kǎitǐ) and 正書 (zhèngshū), is the newest of the Chinese script styles. It is the most common style in modern writings and third most common in publications.

Stroke order order in which the strokes of a Chinese character are traditionally written

Stroke order refers to the order in which the strokes of a Chinese character are written. A stroke is a movement of a writing instrument on a writing surface. Chinese characters are used in various forms in Chinese, Japanese, Korean and formerly Vietnamese. They are known as Hanzi in (Mandarin) Chinese, kanji in Japanese (かんじ), Hanja in Korean (한자) and Chữ Hán in Vietnamese. Stroke order is also attested in other logographic scripts, e.g. cuneiform.

Ming (typefaces)

Ming or Song is a category of typefaces used to display Chinese characters, which are used in the Chinese, Japanese and Korean languages. They are currently the most common style of type in print for Chinese and Japanese.

Simplified Cangjie, known as Quick or Sucheng is a stroke based keyboard input method based on the Cangjie IME (倉頡輸入法) but simplified with select lists. Unlike full Cangjie, the user enters only the first and last keystrokes used in the Cangjie system, and then chooses the desired character from a list of candidate Chinese characters that pops up. This method is popular in Taiwan and Hong Kong, the latter in particular.


Shinjitai 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.


Kyūjitai are the traditional forms of kanji, Chinese written characters used in Japanese. Their simplified counterparts are shinjitai (新字体), "new character forms". Some of the simplified characters arose centuries ago and were in everyday use in both China and Japan, but they were considered inelegant, even uncouth. After World War II, simplified character forms were made official in both these countries. However, in Japan fewer and less drastic simplifications were made: for example "electric" is still written as "電" in Japan, as it is also written in Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea and Taiwan, which continue to use traditional Chinese characters, but has been simplified to 电 in mainland China. Prior to the promulgation of the tōyō kanji list in 1946, kyūjitai were known as seiji or seijitai (正字體). Even after kyūjitai were officially marked for discontinuation with the promulgation of the tōyō kanji list, they were used in print frequently into the 1950s due to logistical delays in changing over typesetting equipment. Kyūjitai continue in use to the present day because when the Japanese government adopted the simplified forms, it did not ban the traditional forms. Thus traditional forms are used when an author wishes to use traditional forms and the publisher agrees.

Variant Chinese character Chinese characters of non-standard application

Variant Chinese characters are Chinese characters that are homophones and synonyms. Almost all variants are allographs in most circumstances, such as casual handwriting. Some contexts require the usage of certain variants, such as in textbook editing.

The Chinese telegraph code, Chinese telegraphic code, or Chinese commercial code is a four-digit decimal code for electrically telegraphing messages written with Chinese characters.

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, decades after their introduction.

Bopomofo or Mandarin Phonetic Symbols, also named Zhuyin, is a major Chinese transliteration system for Mandarin Chinese and other related languages and dialects which is nowadays most commonly used in Taiwanese Mandarin. It is also used to transcribe other varieties of Chinese, particularly other varieties of Mandarin Chinese dialects, as well as Taiwanese Hokkien. Consisting of 37 characters and four tone marks, it transcribes all possible sounds in Mandarin. Bopomofo was introduced in China by the Republican Government in the 1910s and used alongside the Wade–Giles system, which used a modified Latin alphabet. Bopomofo is an official transliteration system in Taiwan, being widely used as the main electronic input method for Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan (ROC) and used in dictionaries and other documents.


WenQuanYi is an open-source project of Chinese computer fonts licensed under GNU General Public License.

Differences between Shinjitai and Simplified characters

Differences between Shinjitai and Simplified characters in the Japanese and Chinese languages exist.

Jiu zixing Traditional printing press form

Jiu zixing, also known as inherited glyphs form, or traditional glyph form, is a traditional printing orthography form of Chinese character which uses the orthodox forms, mainly referring to the traditional Chinese character glyphs, especially the printed forms after movable type printing. Jiu zixing is formed in the Ming Dynasty, and is also known as Kyūjitai in Japan; it also refers to the characters used in China before the Chinese writing reform and the issuing of 1964 "List of Character Forms of Common Chinese characters for Publishing".


  1. 1 2 See, for instance, (Internal Revenue Manual – "The standard language for translation is Traditional Chinese."
  2. Li, Hanwen (李翰文). 分析:中國與香港之間的「繁簡矛盾」. BBC News (in Chinese). Retrieved 2018-07-01.
  3. Lai, Ying-kit (17 July 2013). "Hong Kong actor's criticism of simplified Chinese character use stirs up passions online | South China Morning Post". Post Magazine. Retrieved 2018-07-01.
  4. "Hong Kong TV station criticized for using simplified Chinese". SINA English. 2016-03-01. Retrieved 2018-07-01.
  5. Cheung, Yat-Shing (1992). "Language variation, culture, and society". In Bolton, Kingsley (ed.). Sociolinguistics Today: International Perspectives. Routledge. pp.  211.
  6. Price, Fiona Swee-Lin (2007). Success with Asian Names: A Practical Guide for Business and Everyday Life. Nicholas Brealey Pub. ISBN   9781857883787 via Google Books.
  7. 查詢結果. Laws and Regulations Database of The Republic of China. Ministry of Justice (Republic of China). 2014-09-26. Retrieved 2014-10-07.
  8. Academy of Social Sciences, (1978), Modern Chinese Dictionary, The Commercial Press: Beijing.
  9. Norman, Jerry (1988). Chinese. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 81.
  10. "Noto CJK". Google Noto Fonts.
  11. "Internationalization Best Practices: Specifying Language in XHTML & HTML Content". Retrieved 2009-05-27.