Traditional Chinese Characters
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Traditional Chinese Characters

Traditional Chinese (Taiwanese Since 1950's)
Hanzi (traditional).svg
Script type
Time period
Since 2nd century AD[1]
Official script
LanguagesChinese, Korean (Hanja), Japanese (Ky?jitai)
Related scripts
Parent systems
Oracle Bone Script
Child systems
ISO 15924
ISO 15924Hant (502), ​Han (Traditional variant)
 This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and ⟨ ⟩, see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.
Traditional Chinese characters
Traditional Chinese???
Simplified Chinese???
Literal meaningStandard form characters
Alternative rendering
Traditional Chinese???
Simplified Chinese???
Literal meaningComplex form characters
Countries and regions officially using Chinese characters currently or formerly as a writing system:
  Traditional Chinese used officially (Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau)
  Simplified Chinese used officially but traditional form is also used in publishing (Singapore and Malaysia)[2]
  Simplified Chinese used officially, traditional form in daily use is existent but uncommon (Mainland China, Kokang and Wa State of Myanmar)
  Chinese characters used in parallel with other scripts in respective native languages (South Korea, Japan)
  Chinese characters were once used officially, but this is now obsolete (Mongolia, North Korea, Vietnam)

Traditional Chinese characters are one type of standard Chinese character sets of the contemporary written Chinese. The traditional characters had taken shapes since the clerical change and mostly remained in the same structure they took at the introduction of the regular script in the 2nd century.[1] Over the following centuries, traditional characters were regarded as the standard form of printed Chinese characters or literary Chinese throughout the Sinosphere until the middle of the 20th century,[1][3][4] before different script reforms initiated by countries using Chinese characters as a writing system.[3][5][6]

Traditional Chinese characters remain in common use in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, as well as in most overseas Chinese communities outside Southeast Asia;[7] in addition, Hanja in Korean language remains virtually identical to traditional characters, which is still used to a certain extent in South Korea, despite differing standards used among these countries over some variant Chinese characters. In Taiwan, the standardization of traditional characters is stipulated through the promulgation of the Standard Form of National Characters, which is regulated by Taiwan's Ministry of Education. In contrast, simplified Chinese characters are used in Mainland China, Malaysia and Singapore in official publications.

The debate on traditional and simplified Chinese characters has been a long-running issue among Chinese communities.[8][9] Currently, many Chinese online newspapers allow users to switch between both character sets.[2]


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.

Modern usage in Chinese-speaking areas

Mainland China

Although simplified characters are endorsed by the government of China and taught in schools, there is no prohibition against using traditional characters. Traditional characters are used informally, primarily in handwriting (Chinese calligraphy), but also for inscriptions and religious text.[] 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, however, simplified Chinese characters are also used to accommodate Mainland Chinese tourists and immigrants.[10] The use of simplified characters has led to residents being concerned about protecting their local heritage.[11][12]


Taiwan has never adopted simplified characters. The use of simplified characters in government documents and educational settings is discouraged by the government of Taiwan.[13][14][15][16] Nevertheless, simplified characters () might be understood by some Taiwanese people, as it could take little effort to learn them. Some writing stroke simplifications have long been in folk handwriting from the ancient time, existing as an informal variant form () of the traditional characters.[17][18]


The Chinese Filipino community continues to be one of the most conservative in Southeast Asia regarding simplification.[] Although major public universities teach simplified characters, many well-established Chinese schools still use traditional characters. Publications such as 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 characters.

DVD subtitles for film or television mostly use traditional Characters, that subtitling being influenced by Taiwanese usage and by both countries being within the same DVD region, 3.[]

Job announcement in a Filipino Chinese daily newspaper written in traditional Chinese characters

United States

Having immigrated to the United States during the second half of the 19th century, well before the institution of simplified characters, Chinese-Americans have long used traditional characters. Therefore, US public notices and signage in Chinese are generally in traditional Chinese.[19]


Traditional Chinese characters are known by different names within the Chinese-speaking world. The government of Taiwan officially calls traditional Chinese characters standard characters or orthodox characters (traditional Chinese: ; simplified Chinese: ; pinyin: zhèngt?zì; Zhuyin Fuhao: ` ?`).[20] However, the same term is used outside Taiwan to distinguish standard, simplified, and traditional characters from variant and idiomatic characters.[21]

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 the traditional characters complex characters (traditional Chinese: ; simplified Chinese: ; pinyin: fánt?zì; Zhuyin Fuhao: ?`), old characters (Chinese: ; pinyin: l?ozì; Zhuyin Fuhao: ?`), or full Chinese characters (traditional Chinese: ; simplified Chinese: ; pinyin: quánt? zì; Zhuyin Fuhao: ? ?`) to distinguish them from simplified Chinese characters.

Some users of traditional characters argue that traditional characters are the original form of the Chinese characters and cannot be called "complex". Similarly, they argue that simplified characters cannot be called "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.[22]

Some people refer to traditional characters as simply proper characters (Chinese: ; pinyin: zhèngzì; Zhuyin Fuhao: `?` or Chinese: ; pinyin: zhèngxi?; Zhuyin Fuhao: `? ) and to simplified characters as "simplified-stroke characters" (traditional Chinese: ; simplified Chinese: ; pinyin: ji?nb?zì; Zhuyin Fuhao: `) or "reduced-stroke characters" (traditional Chinese: ; simplified Chinese: ; pinyin: ji?nb?zì; Zhuyin Fuhao: `) (simplified- and reduced- are actually homophones in Mandarin Chinese, both pronounced ji?n; ? ).

Printed text

When printing text, people in mainland China and Singapore use the simplified system. In writing, most people use informal, sometimes personal simplifications. In most cases, an alternative character () will be used in place of one with more strokes, such as ? for ?. In the old days,[when?] there were two main uses for alternative characters. First, alternative characters were used to name an important person in less formal contexts, reserving traditional characters for use in formal contexts, as a sign of respect, an instance of what is called "offence-avoidance" () in Chinese. Secondly, alternative characters were used when the same characters were repeated in context to show that the repetition was intentional rather than a mistake ().

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. However, Unicode, which gives equal weight to both simplified and traditional Chinese characters, has become increasingly popular as a rendering method. 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 being the character used in the Shanghainese dialect instead of ?, which is U+20C8E ? (? with a ? radical).[]

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.[23]

Web pages

The World Wide Web Consortium recommends the use of the language tag zh-Hant as a language attribute and Content-Language value to specify web-page content in traditional Chinese.[24]

Usage in other languages

In Japanese, ky?jitai is the now-obsolete, non-simplified form of simplified (shinjitai) J?y? kanji. 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 J?y? list are generally recommended to be printed in their original non-simplified forms, save for a few exceptions.

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

Traditional Chinese characters are also used by non-Chinese ethnic groups, especially the Maniq people--of southern Yala Province of Thailand and northeastern Kedah state of Malaysia--for writing the Kensiu language.[25][26]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Wei, Bi (2014). "The Origin and Evolvement of Chinese Characters" (PDF). Gda?skie Studia Azji Wschodniej. 5: 33-44. Retrieved 2021.
  2. ^ a b Lin, Youshun (June 2009). "Dà m?huá shè yóuz?u yú ji?n fánzh? ji?n" [The Malaysian Chinese Community Wanders Between Simple and Traditional] (in Chinese). Yazhou Zhoukan. Retrieved 2021.
  3. ^ a b "Why Use CJKV Dict?". CJKV Dict. Retrieved 2021.
  4. ^ Kornicki, P. F. (2011). "A Transnational Approach to East Asian Book History". In Chakravorty, Swapan; Gupta, Abhijit (eds.). New Word Order: Transnational Themes in Book History. Worldview Publications. pp. 65-79. ISBN 978-81-920651-1-3.
  5. ^ Pae, H. K. (2020). "Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Writing Systems: All East-Asian but Different Scripts". Script Effects as the Hidden Drive of the Mind, Cognition, and Culture. Literacy Studies (Perspectives from Cognitive Neurosciences, Linguistics, Psychology and Education), vol 21. Vol. 21. Cham: Springer. pp. 71-105. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-55152-0_5. ISBN 978-3-030-55151-3. S2CID 234940515.
  6. ^ Twine, Nanette (1991). Language and the Modern State: The Reform of Written Japanese. Taylor and Francis. ISBN 978-0-415-00990-4.
  7. ^ Yan, Pu; Yasseri, Taha (May 2016). "Two Roads Diverged: A Semantic Network Analysis of Guanxi on Twitter". arXiv:1605.05139 [physics.soc-ph].
  8. ^ O'Neill, Mark (8 June 2020). "China Should Restore Traditional Characters-Taiwan Scholar". EJ Insight. Hong Kong Economic Journal. Retrieved 2021.
  9. ^ Sui, Cindy (16 June 2011). "Taiwan Deletes Simplified Chinese from Official Sites". BBC News. Retrieved 2021.
  10. ^ Li, Hanwen (24 February 2016). "F?nx?: Zh?ngguó y? xi?ngg?ng zh? ji?n de 'fán ji?n máodùn'" :. BBC News (in Chinese). Retrieved 2018.
  11. ^ Lai, Ying-kit (17 July 2013). "Hong Kong Actor's Criticism of Simplified Chinese Character Use Stirs up Passions Online". Post Magazine. Retrieved 2018.
  12. ^ "Hong Kong TV Station Criticized for Using Simplified Chinese". SINA English. 1 March 2016. Retrieved 2018.
  13. ^ Chiang, Evelyn (11 April 2006). "Character Debate Ends up Being Nothing but Hot Air: Traditional Chinese Will Always Be Used in Education, Minister Says". Taiwan News. Archived from the original on 25 May 2021. Retrieved 2021.
  14. ^ "Taiwan Rules out Official Use of Simplified Chinese". Taiwan News. Central News Agency. 17 June 2011. Archived from the original on 25 May 2021. Retrieved 2021.
  15. ^ "Xi?zuò cèyàn" ? [Writing Test]. Guozhong jiaoyu huikao (in Chinese). ?,,?,......,,?,?
  16. ^ "Zhu?n zh?: Gè xiào bànl? kè hòu shètuán, y?ng ji?nshì shòukè jiàosh? zh? jiàocái nèiróng, bìmi?n y?u bùfú w?guó guóqíng huò sh?yòng ji?nt?zì zh? qíngxíng" :,,. Xin beishi tong rong guomin xiaoxue (in Chinese). 3 June 2020.
  17. ^ Cheung, Yat-Shing (1992). "Language Variation, Culture, and Society". In Bolton, Kingsley (ed.). Sociolinguistics Today: International Perspectives. Routledge. pp. 211.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ See, for instance, (Internal Revenue Manual - "The standard language for translation is Traditional Chinese."
  20. ^ ?. Laws and Regulations Database of The Republic of China. Ministry of Justice (Republic of China). 26 September 2014. Retrieved 2014.
  21. ^ Academy of Social Sciences (1978). Modern Chinese Dictionary. Beijing: The Commercial Press.
  22. ^ Norman, Jerry (1988). Chinese. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 81.
  23. ^ "Noto CJK". Google Noto Fonts.
  24. ^ "Internationalization Best Practices: Specifying Language in XHTML & HTML Content". Retrieved 2009.
  25. ^ Phaiboon, D. (2005). "Glossary of Aslian Languages: The Northern Aslian Languages of South Thailand" (PDF). Mon-Khmer Studies. 36: 207-224.
  26. ^ Bishop, N. (1996). "Who's Who in Kensiw? Terms of Reference and Address in Kensiw" (PDF). Mon-Khmer Studies Journal. 26: 245-253. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 2010.

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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