Beginners' Chinese
Beginners' Chinese

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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)]


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)


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