Beginners' Chinese
Beginners' Chinese

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

Beginners' Chinese

1.5 Simplified and traditional forms of Chinese characters

In this section you will learn about traditional and simplified characters and work on some activities.

After the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the Chinese government introduced a range of ‘simplified characters’ ( 简体字 jiăntĭ zì) in an effort to improve the literacy level in the population. About 2,000 characters have been simplified and the rest of the characters remain the same. It is useful to be aware of traditional forms (sometimes referred to as ‘complex characters’ ) ( 繁体字 făntĭ zì ), as they are still used in Hong Kong, Taiwan and other overseas Chinese communities.

The simplification of the 2000 characters involved reducing the number of strokes in most cases, while also preserving either the overall shape of the character or of one part of the character. In the table below are some examples of characters in both simplified and traditional form, and the number of strokes that these forms comprise.

Examples of traditional characters

简体字 jiăntĭ zì Strokes 繁体字 făntĭ zì Strokes
xué to learn 8 16
medical 7 18
mén door 3 7
chén dust 6 14
shū book 4 10

Activity 3 Identifying simplified characters

In the quiz linked below try to match the simplified characters with what you think might be their traditional forms.

Click here to open the quiz. [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]  

Answer

Below you’ll find a table with all the characters used in the quiz for reference.

Matching characters

1国 (d)

2们 (b)

3见 (c)

4谢 (e)

5吗 (a)

L197_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has over 40 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus