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The Problem of Simplified Chinese Characters: A Historical Review of the Developments of Simplified Chinese Characters by the Communist China
In recent years, there has been a worldwide fever to learn Chinese. However, a common problem encountered by Chinese language teachers is which version of the characters should they teach: the traditional characters from the past 2000 years or the simplified characters as used in mainland China for about half a century? There have been many debates on the usage of traditional Chinese or simplified Chinese. Based on Wang Xue-wen’s article “Reformation of Chinese Characters by Communist China and the Future of Chinese Characters” in 1967, we will give a historical review of the developments of simplified Chinese characters and point out that the language assimilation policy of International Communism has been the driving force behind the campaign to promote simplified Chinese, with the final agenda to perish Chinese characters completely. We show that simplified Chinese has arbitrarily changed many family and place names when reducing the number of character strokes,and caused serious gaps with the traditional culture.We believe that such mistakes should be remedied if the Chinese cultural heritage were to continue. While we do not object to collate Chinese characters, collating characters does not equal to simplification. Thus, the proposal “Understanding Traditional Chinese and Writing Simplified Chinese ” does not address the core issue of the problem. The mistakes in the past 50 years are still remediable if the period is compared with 5,000 years of Chinese history. We propose that Mainland China and Taiwan use the Chinese Structures Database established by Academia Sinica (Taipei) as a basis to study the general rules about the Chinese characters evolution and its connection with the Chinese language. They can work together to establish a set of Chinese patterns free of ambiguity and issues as currently exist in the simplified Chinese characters. By clarifying the issues and providing a possible solution, it is our hope that this paper can bring a new perspective to policy makers.
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