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Second-round simplified Chinese character

Second-round simplified Chinese character

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The second round of Chinese character simplification, made by official document Second Chinese Character Simplification Scheme (Draft) ("Second Scheme" or "Second Round" for short) to introduce second round of simplified Chinese characters, was an aborted orthography reform promulgated on 20 December 1977 by the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

. It was intended to replace the existing (first-round) simplified Chinese character
Simplified Chinese character
Simplified Chinese characters are standardized Chinese characters prescribed in the Xiandai Hanyu Tongyong Zibiao for use in Mainland China. Along with traditional Chinese characters, it is one of many standard character sets of the contemporary Chinese written language...

s that were already in use. The complete proposal contained a list of 248 characters that were to be simplified immediately, as well as another list of 605 characters for evaluation and discussion. Of these, 21 from the first list and 40 from the second also served as components of other characters, amplifying the impact on written Chinese.

Following widespread confusion and opposition, the second round of simplification was officially rescinded on 24 June 1986 by the State Council
State Council of the People's Republic of China
The State Council of the People's Republic of China , which is largely synonymous with the Central People's Government after 1954, is the chief administrative authority of the People's Republic of China. It is chaired by the Premier and includes the heads of each governmental department and agency...

. Since then, the People's Republic of China has used the first-round simplified characters as its official script. Rather than ruling out further simplification, however, the retraction declared that further reform of the Chinese character
Chinese character
Chinese characters are logograms used in the writing of Chinese and Japanese , less frequently Korean , formerly Vietnamese , or other languages...

s should henceforth proceed with caution. Today, some second-round simplified characters, while considered nonstandard, continue to survive in informal usage. The issue of whether and how simplification should proceed remains a matter of debate.

History


The traditional relationship between written Chinese and vernacular Chinese
Varieties of Chinese
Chinese comprises many regional language varieties sometimes grouped together as the Chinese dialects, the primary ones being Mandarin, Wu, Cantonese, and Min. These are not mutually intelligible, and even many of the regional varieties are themselves composed of a number of...

 has been compared to that of Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 with the Romance languages
Romance languages
The Romance languages are a branch of the Indo-European language family, more precisely of the Italic languages subfamily, comprising all the languages that descend from Vulgar Latin, the language of ancient Rome...

 in the Renaissance era. The modern simplification movement grew out of efforts to make the written language more accessible, which culminated in the replacement of Classical Chinese
Classical Chinese
Classical Chinese or Literary Chinese is a traditional style of written Chinese based on the grammar and vocabulary of ancient Chinese, making it different from any modern spoken form of Chinese...

 (wenyan) with Vernacular Chinese
Vernacular Chinese
Written Vernacular Chinese refers to forms of written Chinese based on the vernacular language, in contrast to Classical Chinese, the written standard used from the Spring and Autumn Period to the early twentieth century...

 (baihua) in the early 20th century. The fall of the Qing Dynasty
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

 in 1911 and subsequent loss of prestige associated with classical writing helped facilitate this shift, but a series of further reforms aided by the efforts of reformers such as Qian Xuantong
Qian Xuantong
Qian Xuantong was a Chinese linguist.-Biography:Born in Huzhou, Zhejiang, Qian was named 錢夏錢夏 at birth, and was given the courtesy name Deqian trained in traditional Chinese philology. After receiving his university education in Japan, Qian held a number of teaching positions in mainland China...

 were ultimately thwarted by conservative elements in the new government
Republic of China
The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan , is a unitary sovereign state located in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China currently governs the island of Taiwan , which forms over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other minor...

 and the intellectual class.

Continuing the work of previous reformers, in 1956 the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 promulgated the Scheme of Simplified Chinese Characters, later referred to as the "First Round" or "First Scheme". The plan was adjusted slightly in the following years, eventually stabilizing in 1964 with a definitive list of character simplifications. These are the simplified Chinese character
Simplified Chinese character
Simplified Chinese characters are standardized Chinese characters prescribed in the Xiandai Hanyu Tongyong Zibiao for use in Mainland China. Along with traditional Chinese characters, it is one of many standard character sets of the contemporary Chinese written language...

s that are used today in Mainland China
Mainland China
Mainland China, the Chinese mainland or simply the mainland, is a geopolitical term that refers to the area under the jurisdiction of the People's Republic of China . According to the Taipei-based Mainland Affairs Council, the term excludes the PRC Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and...

 and Singapore
Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

. Taiwan
Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

, Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

, and Macau
Macau
Macau , also spelled Macao , is, along with Hong Kong, one of the two special administrative regions of the People's Republic of China...

 did not adopt the simplifications, and the characters used in those places are known as traditional Chinese character
Traditional Chinese character
Traditional Chinese characters refers to Chinese characters in any character set which does not contain newly created characters or character substitutions performed after 1946. It most commonly refers to characters in the standardized character sets of Taiwan, of Hong Kong, or in the Kangxi...

s.
Also released in 1964 was a directive for further simplification in order to improve literacy, with the goal of eventually reducing the number of strokes in commonly used characters to ten or less. This was to take place gradually, with consideration for both "ease of production [writing] and ease of recognition [reading]". In 1975, a second round of simplifications, the Second Scheme, was submitted by the Script Reform Committee of China to the State Council for approval. Like the First Scheme, it contained two lists, one (comprising 248 characters) for immediate use and another (comprising 605 characters) for evaluation and discussion. Of these, 21 from the first list and 40 from the second also served as components
Radical (Chinese character)
A Chinese radical is a component of a Chinese character. The term may variously refer to the original semantic element of a character, or to any semantic element, or, loosely, to any element whatever its origin or purpose...

 of other characters, which caused the Second Scheme to modify some 4,500 characters. On 20 December 1977, major newspapers such as the People's Daily
People's Daily
The People's Daily is a daily newspaper in the People's Republic of China. The paper is an organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China , published worldwide with a circulation of 3 to 4 million. In addition to its main Chinese-language edition, it has editions in English,...

and the Guangming Daily
Guangming Daily (China)
The Guangming Daily was launched on June 16, 1949 by the China Democratic League, and is a nationwide comprehensive newspaper based in Beijing. Its sponsorship was shifted to various democratic parties in China and the China Federation of Industry and Commerce in 1953...

published the second-round simplifications along with editorials and articles strongly endorsing the changes. Both newspapers began to use the characters from the first list on the following day.

The Second Scheme was received extremely poorly, and as early as mid-1978, the Ministry of Education and the Central Propaganda Department were asking publishers of textbooks, newspapers and other works to stop using the second-round simplifications. Second-round simplifications were taught inconsistently in the education system, and people used characters at various stages of official or unofficial simplification. Confusion and disagreement ensued.

The Second Scheme was officially retracted by the State Council on 24 June 1986. The State Council's retraction also emphasized that Chinese character reform should henceforth proceed with caution, and that the forms of Chinese characters should be kept stable. Later that year, a final version of the 1964 list was published with minor changes, and no further changes have been made since.

Methods of simplification


The second round of simplification continued to use the methods used in the first round. For example:

In some characters, the phonetic component of the character was replaced with a simpler one, while the radical was unchanged. For example:
  • 菜 > 𦬁 (艹 + 才)
  • 酒 > 氿
  • 稳 > 禾 + 文


In some characters, entire components were replaced by ones that are similar in shape:
  • 幕 > 大 + 巾
  • 整 > 大 + 正


In some characters, components that are complicated are replaced with a simpler one not similar in any way:
  • 鞋 > 又 + 圭
  • 短 > 矢 + 卜


In some characters, the radical is simply dropped, leaving only the phonetic. This results in mergers between previously distinct characters:
  • 稀 > 希
  • 彩 > 采
  • 帮 > 邦
  • 蝌蚪 > 科斗
  • 蚯蚓 > 丘引


In some characters, entire components are dropped:
  • 糖 > 米 + 广
  • 停 > 仃
  • 餐 > 歺

Some characters are simply replaced by a similar-sounding one:
  • 萧 > 肖
  • 蛋 > 旦
  • 泰 > 太

Reasons for failure


The Second Scheme broke with a millennia-long cycle of variant forms coming into unofficial use and eventually being accepted (90 percent of the changes made in the First Scheme existed in mass use, many for centuries) in that it introduced new, unfamiliar character forms. The sheer number of characters it changed — the distinction between simplifications intended for immediate use and those for review was not maintained in practice — and its release in the shadow of the Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

 (1966–1978) have been cited among the chief reasons for its failure. As a result of the Cultural Revolution, trained experts were expelled and the Second Scheme was compiled by the Committee and its staffers without outside consultation, which may also have been a factor.

The exact circumstances surrounding the creation and release of the Second Scheme remain shrouded in mystery due to the still-classified nature of many documents and the politically sensitive nature of the issue. However, the Second Scheme is known to have encompassed only about 100 characters before its expansion to over 850. A two-year delay from 1975 to 1977 was officially blamed on Zhang Chunqiao
Zhang Chunqiao
Zhang Chunqiao was a prominent Chinese political theorist, writer, and politician...

, a member of the Gang of Four
Gang of Four
The Gang of Four was the name given to a political faction composed of four Chinese Communist Party officials. They came to prominence during the Cultural Revolution and were subsequently charged with a series of treasonous crimes...

; however, there is little historical evidence to support this. Against the political backdrop of the Cultural Revolution, a special section known as the "748 Project" was formed with an emphasis on non-experts, under whose supervision the lists grew significantly. The bulk of the work is believed to have been performed by staffers without proper oversight.

The Second Scheme's subsequent rejection by the public has been cited as a case study in a failed attempt to artificially control the direction of a language's evolution. Indeed, it was not embraced by the linguistic community in China upon its release; despite heavy promotion by official publications, Rohsenow observes that "in the case of some of the character forms constructed by the staff members themselves" the public at large found proposed changes "laughable".

Political issues aside, Chen objects to the notion that all characters should be reduced to ten or fewer strokes. He argues that a technical shortcoming of the Second Scheme was that the characters it reformed occur less often in writing than those of the First Scheme. As such it provided less benefit to writers while putting an unnecessary burden on readers in making the characters more difficult to distinguish. Citing several studies, Hannas similarly argues against the lack of differentiation and utility: "it was meaningless to lower the stroke count for its own sake". Thus, he believes simplification and character limitation (reduction of the number of characters) both amount to a "zero-sum game" — simplification in one area of use causing complication in another — and concludes that "the 'complex' characters in Japanese
Japanese language
is a language spoken by over 130 million people in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities. It is a member of the Japonic language family, which has a number of proposed relationships with other languages, none of which has gained wide acceptance among historical linguists .Japanese is an...

 and Chinese, with their greater redundancy and internal consistency, may have been the better bargain".

Effects


While the stated goal of further language reform was not changed, the 1986 conference which retracted the Second Scheme emphasized that future reforms should proceed with caution. It also "explicitly precluded any possibility of developing Hanyu Pinyin
Pinyin
Pinyin is the official system to transcribe Chinese characters into the Roman alphabet in China, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan. It is also often used to teach Mandarin Chinese and spell Chinese names in foreign publications and used as an input method to enter Chinese characters into...

 as an independent writing system (wénzì)". The focus of language planning
Language planning
Language planning is a deliberate effort to influence the function, structure, or acquisition of languages or language variety within a speech community. It is often associated with government planning, but is also used by a variety of non-governmental organizations, such as grass-roots...

 policy in China following the conference shifted from simplification and reform to standardization and regulation of existing characters, and the topic of further simplification has since been described as "untouchable" in the field. However, the possibility of future changes remains, and the difficulties the Chinese writing system presents for information technology
Information technology
Information technology is the acquisition, processing, storage and dissemination of vocal, pictorial, textual and numerical information by a microelectronics-based combination of computing and telecommunications...

 have renewed the Romanization
Romanization of Chinese
The romanization of Mandarin Chinese is the use of the Latin alphabet to write Chinese. Because Chinese is a tonal language with a logographic script, its characters do not represent phonemes directly. There have been many systems of romanization throughout history...

 debate.

Today, second round characters are officially regarded as incorrect. However, some have survived in informal contexts; this is because some people who were in school between 1977 and 1986 received their education in second-round characters. For example, eggs at markets are often advertised as "鸡旦" rather than "鸡蛋", parking venues may be marked "仃车" rather than "停车", and street side restaurants as "歺厅" rather than "餐厅". Another example is handwritten license plates from Hebei
Hebei
' is a province of the People's Republic of China in the North China region. Its one-character abbreviation is "" , named after Ji Province, a Han Dynasty province that included what is now southern Hebei...

 and Henan
Henan
Henan , is a province of the People's Republic of China, located in the central part of the country. Its one-character abbreviation is "豫" , named after Yuzhou , a Han Dynasty state that included parts of Henan...

 provinces, which often use 丠 and 予 as opposed to 冀 and 豫 to represent those provinces.

In one case, the second round has split one family name into two. Originally, the surname 蕭 (Xiāo) was rather common while the surname 肖 (Xiào) was extremely rare, mentioned only sporadically in historical texts. The first round of simplification simplified 蕭 into 萧, while keeping the two characters distinct. The second round, however, merged 萧 into 肖. Despite the retraction of the second round, some people have kept 肖 as their surname, so that there are now two separate surnames, 萧 and 肖.

Technical information


Most systems of Chinese character encoding
Chinese character encoding
In computing, Chinese character encodings can be used to represent text written in the CJK languages — Chinese, Japanese, Korean — and obsolete Vietnamese, all of which use Chinese characters...

, including Unicode
Unicode
Unicode is a computing industry standard for the consistent encoding, representation and handling of text expressed in most of the world's writing systems...

 or GB 18030
GB 18030
GB18030 is a Chinese government standard describing the required language and character support necessary for software in China. In addition to the "GB18030 code page" this standard contains requirements about which scripts must be supported, font support, etc....

, do not support second-round characters. Mojikyo
Mojikyo
is a set of computer software and fonts for enhanced logogram word-processing. , it collected 126,560/142,228 characters . Among them, 101,936/128,573 characters belong to the extended CJKV family...

 supports 248 characters on the first list. Also, the font "SongUni-PUA" is composed primarily of the second-round characters.

External links