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UPDATED: October 2, 2009 NO. 40 OCTOBER 8, 2009
Should China Resume the Use of Traditional Characters?

As long as traditional characters are still the major carriers of Chinese civilization, as long as there are still undiscovered mysteries in the works written in traditional characters, and as long as the study of things like traditional Chinese medicine depends on traditional characters, it is premature to remove traditional characters from our lives.

Rule is inviolable

Hou Jiang (Beijing Evening News): Traditional Chinese characters came into shape after thousands of years of evolution in line with changes in the social and cultural environment, and in this way they managed to survive. Indeed, traditional characters are of great cultural importance. But nowadays, their significance is diminishing. In this case, if traditional characters are imposed on the current simplified set of characters, users will find it difficult to adapt and daily communication will fall into disorder.

Whether simplified characters are reasonable or not, they have developed into the officially accepted standard form, and their use is one of China's state policies.

As long as a set of written characters is of real significance and survival capability, without forced regulations, people will still be willing to use it. We'd better follow the rules of cultural inheritance and preservation, instead of being overprotective. Otherwise, we might end up with what we don't want to see.

Wang Shaohui (www.gmw.cn): Before the Chinese mainland adopted simplified Chinese characters in the 1950s, most of them already existed. The government has only standardized their use. The purpose of doing so is to help hundreds of millions of illiterate and semi-illiterate people read and write more easily. Only when they had learned a certain number of characters would it possible for them to acquire scientific and cultural knowledge and then work well in all sectors of the country's development. Simplified characters have contributed a lot to China's social and economic progress over the years.

We learn characters to make our lives easier. It was only at a certain period of historical development that characters began to have cultural significance. Written characters are not the only way to carry Chinese culture.

Although we rely more on computer keyboards than handwriting today, simplified characters are widely used all over the Chinese mainland. Under these circumstances, even if authorities spend 10 or 20 years encouraging the use of traditional characters, it is difficult to predict how many people will accept and use them.

Li Zhenzhong (Yangzi Evening News): From the evolution of Chinese brush calligraphy, we can see that the ancient Chinese never stopped simplifying characters, but that the characters evolved in accordance with the development of writing materials, tools and culture. As long as the trend is toward a more reasonable and acceptable direction, we should encourage it. Thus, it is unnecessary to repeatedly alternate between traditional and simplified characters.

Actually, some current simplified characters were used long ago by writers or even in official documents. We are standardizing the use of these simplified characters. Simplifying Chinese characters is not a frivolous pursuit, but something that is demanded by the times. To be frank, Chinese character simplification is a cultural "revolution," and its function is more than making characters easy to read and write.

Wang Bo (China Reading Weekly): As far as Chinese characters' evolution is concerned, first they developed into complex forms from ideographic symbols, which happened during the primary stage of their development to suit the demands of reality, and then the characters experienced a process of simplification to better suit the faster pace of life. Thus, character simplification is an irreversible trend. The advantages of simplified characters, such as that they are easy to read and write, make them more suitable for the information age. These characters are now widely used to record and spread culture and thus should be stabilized. As for problems with simplified characters we currently use, authorities are trying to solve them and make the characters more standard and regular.

Qu Fangye (Oriental Morning Post): It's exaggerating to say the replacement of traditional characters by simplified ones has caused cracks in the Chinese culture. Many factors are responsible for the extinction of cultural traditions, so people should not blame the problem on simplified characters alone. It's ridiculous to forbid hundreds of millions of Chinese people from using simplified characters for the sake of preserving traditional culture.

As a product of the ancient Chinese farming era, traditional characters are of little importance to modern society. Is it necessary to resume traditional characters just for the sake of traditional culture? Take Taiwan for example. Residents there all know traditional characters, but they are not necessarily all traditional culture lovers. Thus, as long as related experts know traditional characters, the preservation of traditional culture will continue. But we ordinary people do not need to all use this set of characters.

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