Standard Chinese Characters and Their Role in Cultural Heritage


Hanzi is a system of ideograms that encodes the Chinese language built on the integrated representation of form, sound and meaning of matters and deeds. Over several thousand years, it has been playing an important role for cultural heritage in establishing a record of the language, history and life of the Chinese people. Only until the 19th century that some people regarded Hanzi as scripts which is difficult to recognize, write, learn and memorize, hence is a backward writing system, which hindered the progress of China. Thus the demand to reform hanzi fermented gradually. Coming to the mid-1950s, with less than ten years' research and preparation, a scheme of standardized Chinese characters was implemented in the People's Republic of China (PRC). Then in October 2000, PRC adopted the Law on the Standard Spoken and Written Chinese Language which provided Standard Chinese characters the legal foundation of its irreplaceability; till now it has been utilized for over half a century. Standard Chinese characters are used by many people. The characters are composed of fewer strokes, thus faster and easier to write. While their communicative function is apparently not anything weaker than the traditional Chinese characters' however, the system of Standard Chinese characters has many intrinsic weaknesses that conflicted with traditional culture. The present paper will identify some of the defects in the system of Standard Chinese characters and examine from the cultural perspective how these might affect its otherwise important role in cultural heritage.

Author Information
Chi Hung Chan, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Paper Information
Conference: ACCS2016
Stream: Linguistics, Language and Cultural Studies

This paper is part of the ACCS2016 Conference Proceedings (View)
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