Simplified Chinese characters

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Simplified Chinese characters is one of the two commonly used forms of Chinese characters. As its name shows, it is made of characters that have in part been "simplified" from the original written form, which are called traditional Chinese characters.

History[change | change source]

When the People's Republic of China was formed in 1949, the Communist Party of China under Mao Zedong wanted to help the Chinese people read and write, most of which could not do so. The government hoped that by reducing the number of strokes needed to write characters, along with many other changes in the education system, the Chinese language would become more like Japanese, in which the Empire of Japan brought a lot of changes to the Japanese writing system during the Meiji Restoration to make education more widely available to all Japanese citizens. Mao also hoped that the simplification of Chinese characters would begin a shift away from the character system itself that would eventually lead Chinese-speakers to using only a phonetic alphabet to write.

The first set of simplified Chinese characters were first put to public use in 1956. Over time, more characters became "simplified", or existing ones changed, once in 1964 and again in 1978 and 1984. Many people did not like these changes because too many characters with different meanings were merged.

In hopes of promoting phonetic writing, the CCP was also working creating a standard romanization to accurately represent the pronunciation of Standard Chinese, pinyin, which was introduced to primary schools in 1958.

Current use[change | change source]

Today, simplified Chinese characters are used throughout Mainland China. It is also taught and used in some countries in Southeast Asia, including Singapore, and Malaysia.

Since the Republic of China fled to Taiwan and became separated from the rest of China, the government there did not choose to simplify its writing system, and so it still uses the older traditional Chinese characters. The territories of Hong Kong and Macau have also kept using traditional characters, even though they are politically of the rest of China that switched to simplified characters.

It could not be proven that Simplified Chinese characters were able to help people with reading and writing. As places using Traditional Chinese characters did not have literacy problems, in 2009 Pan Qing-Lin, a Chinese official, suggested to stop using Simplified Chinese characters. This did not happen.

In multi-racial societies, like Singapore, students have been learning a second language for many years. Because of this, Simplified Chinese characters are welcomed by students. People who learned the simplified set had little problem changing over to the traditional set. Even to this day, there are many reasons for the need to use traditional Chinese characters, such as working in places that did not adapt the simplified Chinese characters or reading older books that have not yet been translated to Simplified Chinese characters.