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Traditional Chinese characters

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Traditional Chinese
Time period
Since 5th century AD
Parent systems
Child systems
ISO 15924Hant, 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 (健力宝), 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 (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[edit]

Mainland China[edit]

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[edit]

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

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 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 中文). 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. Sociolinguistics Today: International Perspectives. Routledge. pp. 211. Search this book on
  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. Search this book on
  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. Search this book on
  10. "Noto CJK". Google Noto Fonts.
  11. "Internationalization Best Practices: Specifying Language in XHTML & HTML Content". Retrieved 2009-05-27.

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