Ma correct to advocate use of traditional Chinese characters
The China Post news staff
June 19, 2011, 12:48 am TWN
Taiwan may soon be welcoming more tourists from mainland China as it gears up for its opening to individual visitors from the mainland at the end of the month. However, it is apparently not welcoming the Chinese characters they use.
President Ma Ying-jeou recently asked the Tourism Bureau to remove a version of its official website that uses simplified Chinese characters and instead offer a character comparison table as a reference for people unable to understand traditional characters.
Taiwan, a repository of ancient Chinese culture for the international community, should lead the world in appreciating the beauty of traditional Chinese characters, Ma was quoted by Presidential Office spokesperson Fan Chiang Tai-chi as saying.
While the government is not going to ban the use of simplified characters, Fan Chiang called for private businesses not to use simplified Chinese in written instructions for products they sell or on restaurant menus.
The simplified characters were introduced by the government of the People's Republic of China in the 1950s to promote literacy. The government of the Republic of China, on the other hand, recognizes the traditional characters as its official written language.
As its name suggests, the simplified characters were designed to increase the speed that one could learn to read and write the language by reducing the number of strokes in the historical (traditional) characters. However, drastic simplification of character structure also removes the rich meaning and traces of linguistic evolution from the hieroglyphic Chinese characters. In one of the best know examples, the simplified version of the Chinese character for love takes away the stroke for "heart," resulting in a "heartless" character which many believe contradicts its meaning.
Ma's high profile push for the limitation of the use of simplified characters will no doubt be seen as a political move to defend himself from criticism over his detente policies. The sight of simplified characters proliferating at Taiwanese tourist attractions could be used as a symbol that Ma "sold out" the nation to Beijing. Indeed, the opposition Democratic Progressive Party has argued for an outright ban of simplified Chinese at tourist hotspots.