Skip to content

Culinary Chinese 101: Traditional ain’t Simple…

CC Traditional-Simple 1

Well, I REALLY, REALLY hate to do this to you… We were progressing so well in our culinary Chinese lessons and, now, I have to introduce a nasty new complication that is going to make our job that much harder…

Take a look at the two noodles bowls in the picture above. We encountered the left-most Chinese character a few weeks back and identified it as ‘miàn’, meaning the wheat-flour noodle of the ‘Chow Mein’ type. Well, as it turns out, the character on the bowl on the right is also ‘miàn’. In fact, it is the actually same character.

Well, sort of … Unfortunately, I now have to break the news to you that there are, in fact, two parallel systems of Chinese characters. We’ll take a look at the actual details of that in a moment but, first, you need to know a bit about the story behind the situation… 

CC Traditional-Simple 2

Back in the early 1950’s, the Government of the People’s Republic of China embarked on a program to simplify some of the more complex Chinese characters. The idea was to come up with a new official system of writing that would improve general literacy and make learning the written language that much easier. Although the plan sounds to be a great idea on the face of it, there was actually considerable resistance, particularly amongst academics. However, despite some very cogent arguments against making the changes, mainland China went ahead and began the process anyway…

CC Traditional-Simple 3

In all, about 2000 characters were simplified and you can see, just from the few examples above, that they all have far fewer strokes and are thus much easier to both read and write.

At this point, as novice students of written Chinese, you are probably thinking that this must be a good thing and that this new system should actually make things easier… Unfortunately, it just ain’t that simple.

Outside of mainland China, only Singapore formally adopted the simplified characters. Taiwan and Hong Kong both remained resolutely loyal to the old system as did almost all overseas Chinese in Europe, North America and elsewhere. The changes were either viewed as objectionable (and resisted), or not worth worrying about (and ignored).

AHA! (You must now be thinking) … We, here in the rest of the world, can simply forget about the new-fangled characters and just concentrate on learning one system of characters, right? Well, again. It would be nice if things were that easy…

CC Traditional-Simple 4

As it happens, simplified characters are appearing more and more frequently outside of mainland China. Here in the west, restaurant menus in particular are using simplified characters at an increasing rate and adding to the confusion is the fact that many places mix and match the two systems by using traditional characters for some things, and simplified characters for others.

I would say that in about two decades from now it will be possible to become generally literate in written Chinese without needing to learn more than a few ‘die-hard’ traditional characters. For now, however, you really can’t afford to ignore one system in favor of another. Accordingly, as new characters are introduced in future lessons, I will also provide the simplified type (where necessary) along with pictorial examples for both versions.

Until next week…

Previous Lesson | Lesson Index | Next Lesson

No comments yet

Comments, thoughts or suggestions most welcome...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Meet & Eats

The food that I've had the pleasure of meeting and eating.

Uncle Grumpy's Playroom

Current events, humor, science, religion, satire

Food Travel Lover

走过的地方 尝过的美食 留下的回忆

The Odd Pantry

Essays on food

Reputable Sources

Organizing ferments since 2013

that Other Cooking Blog

. food . think . sous vide . blog .

REMCooks

My Virtual Cookbook to Share My Love and Joy of Food and Cooking One Recipe at a Time

lola rugula

my journey of cooking, gardening, preserving and more

Yummy Lummy

I cook, photograph and eat food with the occasional restaurant review!

Eye Of the Beholder

A pair of eternally curious eyes and a camera...Life is beautiful.

gluten free zen

Taking The Stress Out Of Gluten-Free Grain-Free & Dairy-Free Living

Clayton's Kitchen

Big flavors and fun cooking from a cubbyhole kitchen

Bunny Eats Design

Happy things, tasty food and good design

DENTIST CHEF

Dentist chef, just a dentistry student who practice the dentist's cooking recipes in a dentist's kitchen

Mad Dog TV Dinners

Guess what's coming to dinner?

Chefsopinion

Real Food & Real Opinions

Bento Days

Making bentos for kids

Garden to Wok

Fresh and tasty!

Bam's Kitchen

Healthy World Cuisine

Trang Quynh

everyone is special in their own way :)

Farm to Table Asian Secrets

Full-Flavored Recipes for Every Season

HolyPrettyApple

If people say that life is too short to drink bad wine, it means also that life is too short to eat crappy food!

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

The Unorthodox Epicure

Confessions of an Aspiring Food Snob

The 好吃 Challenge

1 girl, 273 days, 100 recipes

Rabbitcancook

a recipe sharing and bento blog

benleeirene

Just another WordPress.com site

The Food Nazi

Never try to eat more than you can lift

Expat Chef in Barcelona

From my kitchen to yours

Keeping Up With the Holsbys

a journey into my head and my pantry

Nurul's Culinary Adventures

I Love Food, the Universe and Everything!!

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

home-cooking recipes, restaurant reviews, International cuisine ,

Naked Vegan Cooking

Body-positive Vegan Goodness

Bites of Food History

Sharing my Experimental Archaeology of Food

Stefan's Gourmet Blog

Cooking, food, wine

FOODTRAIL

A Journey About Food, Recipes And Destinations

bcfoodieblogger

Fresh, exciting and adventurous food journey

One Man's Meat

Multi-award winning food blog, written in Dublin, Ireland.

%d bloggers like this: