Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Bad Hanzi in Beijing

Joel Martinsen of has sent me this scan from a newspaper in Beijing.

Although Hanzi Smatter mostly focuses on the misuse of Chinese characters in Western culture, I had to comment about this. Especially the glaring error in the story has embarrassed Beijing City’s Traffic Bureau.

(larger view)

The painted (pedestrian crossing) has an extra dot in .

I should also point out that in Japanese, does indeed include the extra dot.

Related: "SOTP" and "SHCOOL"

Update: March 24, 2006 - UN to Stop Using Traditional Chinese Characters after 2008.

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  1. I get it now! I'm learning Japanese, so I looked and looked, consulted the dictionary, and still couldn't figure out what was wrong with the picture!

    I'm thinking about taking Chinese next, but I think I'll get mixed up waaaay too much >.<

  2. Now this is interesting. I checked a few dictionaries and 步 is in fact the traditional character. It was simplified in Japanese into 歩 to enforce the 少 pattern which has the extra stroke. Which in my mind makes a lot of sense.

    And I enjoy learning Chinese very much after having learned Japanese. The differences provide more amusement than mixup.

  3. Yeah, you've got the PRC government to thank for that. Just learn Chinese with traditional characters... they're more accurate, more aesthetic, and it'll save you a lot of headache. From there it won't be such a big step to go to on simplified characters if you need to.

  4. andrew
    absolutely agree with you,and you should write your characters in seal script instead of others,which is more accurate, more aesthetic...

  5. Yes the trad ones are nice, but if you have to write things like "what" 什么 very often it makes one appreciate the simplified too. I prefer the look of some of the simplified.

  6. Even though I was educated with Simplified Chinese, I am an advocate for Traditional format of Chinese.

  7. >absolutely agree with you,and you >should write your characters in >seal script instead of others,which >is more accurate, more aesthetic...

    Was this supposed to be sarcastic? Because if it was you've missed the point...the main difference being Traditional characters are STILL IN USE (in more country than one). Look I understand the point that all characters, even 'Traditional' ones are still simplified. Even to say that Korea and Japan use traditional characters (therefore we all should use them) would be an oversimplification (if relatively somewhat more accurate). Every modern language is just a vulgarization of its previous incarnations. And I'm not opposed to the PRC's sweeping, prescriptive approach has been done to some degree of success in the past (look at Hangul), but look at the strikes against it:

    1. It's completely half-assed...only a certain number of characters were changed and with no regard for consistency.

    2. It gives no regard to aesthetics. Yes, this may be relative but it's also universal to a certain extent... look at car=che1 or book=shu1 for god's sake... they don't even fit into a consistent stroke pattern.

    3. Radicals were obliterated destroying the original structure.

    4. As a prescriptive system it's hard to standardize...even if an obvious standard existed (which it doesn't) it would be hard to enforce. The PRC seems to have integrated it rather well, but I would not be surprised if it created all sorts of problems in "fringe" areas we don't usually hear about. Native speakers from this site can attest to whether or not this is true.

    I'm sure Chinese characters in their various usages will continue to be revised as time marches on. I'm not against THAT. But time has proven that it is much better to just 'let it happen'... if not then you'd better have a consistent and integrated system of revisions, which is NOT the case with simplified characters. I find that 80% of educated Chinese tend to agree with this, that's probably why every Chinese class I've had has used Traditional characters.

  8. Talking about SOTP, that actually makes sense... It can be short for "Stop On The Paint"!

  9. Traditional Chinese are more aesthetic, but there are 1.3+ billion people using simplified Chinese. Only Taiwan, HK, and a few other areas are still using Traditional. Traditional Chinese will be replaced by simplified sooner or later. My native language is (simplified) Chinese and now I'm learning Japanese and I can tell you it's so much easier and faster writing simplfied (compared to Japanese Kanji) in daily use.

  10. So just sit back and enjoy the inevitable, then?

    No thanks. PRC simplifications may be faster to write, but in most cases they destroy the linguistic and aesthetic qualities of the characters. 体 is a lot easier to write than 體 and maintains the radical structure, so I like this simplification (as do many I assume). But 關 to 关 is such a huge leap, and why simplify 車 into 车? Just to save 3 strokes? Not worth it.

  11. I have no problem with 歩 myself...

    Whenever I read an argument in favor of simplified characters, I always like to point to this link:

    Everything Jose wrote in those pages is right on the money.

  12. >there are 1.3+ billion people using simplified Chinese.

    That is to say, 1.3 billion people using a system that has been imposed on them rather than having developed over the natural course of history. Traditional characters have not been lost, not even on those from Mainland China. Traditional characters being replaced by Simplified would require a major change in the political tide, and even then is highly unlikely. Simplified characters are simply too poorly put together. A better system might stand a chance, but it would take a LOT of time. Keep in mind that even if Simplified characters did take over, the vast majority are traditional anyway, one of the reasons why the Simplified system is so primitive to begin with.

    And Simplified characters are "so" much easier and faster than Japanese?? There's hardly that much difference to begin with. Even if there were it's just a stronger case to keep a standardized system.

    If you're a non-native Chinese speaker, trust me, there's about a 90% chance you want traditional characters.

  13. Wow, I'm seeing a lot of semi-informed opinions here. I won't say too much, because I don't have the statistics with me, but it's clear that some of you in favor of traditional characters don't know what you're talking about.

    I'd like to respond to andrew's 4 points above:

    1. You're totally wrong. You obviously have never studied the character reform.

    2. 车 are 书 written the way they are in simplified Chinese because they follow the stroke patterns of the grass script, which is also {gasp} really old, and considered by many to be the most beautiful form of written Chinese.

    3. Could you be a little more vague?

    4. Nice blind speculation.

    Bottom line: it's an argument ruled by emotions. Don't try to pretend your "reasons" are valid when you don't know what you're talking about.