A short exploration of the history, controversy, and possible future of China’s dualistic written language. And the perspective of a student trying to balance an appreciation for culture with a desire to learn the language sometime in his lifetime.
Many centuries of history form the foundation of logographic written Chinese. But it is only in the last sixty years that we have seen the bifurcation of that character system, and the debate that inevitably followed, when the Communist government in the late 1950s introduced what would be known as the set of simplified characters, officially eliminating the use of the previous character set (now known as traditional characters) in mainland (People’s Republic of) China. Since many were opposed to this significant change, and because other Chinese-speaking entities continued using traditional characters, the debate over simplified versus traditional characters began immediately and continues today. Now, as modern technology and globalization wield ever more influence over an ancient culture, novel arguments lend further intrigue to an already fascinating political and linguistic question.