Recently, Member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), Pan Qinglin, proposed to abolish Simplified Chinese characters gradually and resume use of traditional Chinese characters within 10 years.
Pan brought up three reasons.
First, the simplified Chinese characters have lost their original meaning. Pan gave an example: in traditional Chinese characters, there’s a character of ‘heart’ inside the character of ‘love.’ However, in simplified Chinese, the ‘heart’ element was taken away, and became ‘love without a heart.’
Second, one reason for creating simplified Chinese characters was that the traditional Chinese characters were relatively complicated and hard to learn and write, which was disadvantageous for widespread teaching. Nevertheless, nowadays, people use computers to type words. Both simplified and traditional are the same when typing, so this problem no longer exists.
Last, resuming the use of traditional Chinese characters is advantageous for the reunion of China and Taiwan. Taiwan uses traditional Chinese characters and calls them ‘Zheng Ti characters’ (standard or orthodox characters), which has profound meaning. Moreover, Taiwan is going to apply for a United Nation Intangible Cultural Heritage listing for orthodox Chinese characters, which embarrasses the mainland.
New York Chinese classical literature expert, Hsieh Xuanjun, said that he supported Pan’s suggestion. He pointed out that the simplified Chinese characters undermine the meanings and structures of the Chinese words.
‘Simplified characters are actually quite ugly. You don’t feel each individual word. When you print an article, compared to orthodox characters, simplified characters look like a group of beggars and disabled people who lack arms or legs, crowding together. They look ugly because they lack logic in many aspects. There are six books in the Shu?wén Ji’zì (‘Explaining Simple and Analyzing Compound Characters’) series about the structure of Chinese characters, with six rules for forming Chinese characters. However, simplified characters destroyed them all,’ Hsieh said.
He said that the simplified characters use one simplified character to replace many traditional characters with a similar sound but with different meanings. It causes confusion for people trying to learn the meaning of words. For example, the word ‘hou’ in Huang hou (‘queen’) is written in the same way as the word, hou (‘after’) in simplified characters. It creates a lot of confusion.
‘Chinese characters have their own logic and rules, but simplified characters spoil the rules. It’d be like an inexperienced doctor operating. Surgeons always cut along the tendon, but if a doctor were to cut across the tendon, the wounds would not heal. The reformation of Chinese characters is like cutting across the tendon of words in the middle.’
Hsieh pointed out that the statement that simplified characters can reduce illiteracy is groundless, because it’s not harder to learn traditional Chinese characters than simplified characters. In addition, with the current popularity of computers, traditional Chinese characters can gradually be resumed.
Epoch Times reported Hsieh as saying, ‘I don’t think that simplified characters have played the role [of reducing illiteracy]. It’s mainly because Mao Zedong wanted to be remembered forever. He thought after reforming Chinese characters, he could be another Qin Shi Huang (First emperor of the Qin Dynasty), who had done a similar thing. However, Qin Shi Huang unified the characters from six kingdoms, which was necessary. There’s no necessity to undermine traditional Chinese characters to make simplified characters. Taiwan does not undermine traditional characters, but the rate of illiteracy in Taiwan is lower than China. So it’s a problem of education, not of characters. What Mao did was completely uncultivated. It’s totally a barbarous practice of a warlord.’