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  • Nov 24, 2014
  • Updated: 2:35pm
NewsHong Kong

Hong Kong actor's criticism of simplified Chinese character use stirs up passions online

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 July, 2013, 4:19pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 July, 2013, 10:52am

Award-winning Hong Kong actor Anthony Wong Chau-sang has stirred up passions in cyberspace with his lament at what he sees as the "death" of China’s ancient culture in the mainland due to its use of simplified Chinese characters.

Wong’s message has drawn both fierce criticism and passionate support from mainland and Hong Kong users of the Sina Weibo micro-blogging site.

Over half of the population in China does not read traditional Chinese characters. Sigh. The Huaxia civilisation is dead
Anthony Wong Chau-sang

“Over half of the population in China does not read traditional Chinese characters. Sigh. The Huaxia civilisation is dead,” Wong said in his message posted early this week. (Huaxia refers to Chinese civilisation in historical literature.)

Some bloggers who agreed with Wong pointed out that traditional characters were important as they were used to write most of China's ancient cultural classics.

But critics of Wong said the Hong Kong star had failed to acknowledge the merits of the mainland’s simplified characters.

“One of its big advantages is that it makes it easier to reduce illiteracy, and therefore promote cultural exchange,” said one user identified as Happy Spear.

The issue of simplified Chinese characters often touches the nerves of the people in Hong Kong, which along with Taiwan, uses the traditional characters as their standard written form of Chinese.

Last April, a Hong Kong café chain was forced to change its menus that used simplified Chinese characters only after it was accused of discriminating against Hongkongers by internet users.

Wong, often an outspoken critic of the mainland in his blog and other media, was also accused by some bloggers of simply using the issue of simplified characters to promulgate his anti-mainland sentiments.

“You habitually look down upon mainlanders to establish your own sense of superiority! You oppose everything [that is] mainland Chinese. You prefer to be a British dog rather than a Chinese man,” one user said in a reply to Wong.

“[You have] no dignity and no brain!” a user identified as Moonshadow Sunlight wrote.

Wong, 50, has won the Hong Kong Film Awards Best Actor Award twice, in 1994 for his serial killer role in The Untold Story and in 1999 for his appearance in Beast Cops.



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This article is now closed to comments

I should have removed my comment towards KMT in case another friend catches C fever. Shame on me! BTW, at the end of 1930s, WAR began.
I fully understand your idea but it does not response other arguments.
Also, thank you for deleting some word.
@baishui: There's no anger involved here, but if that's what you perceive, that's your business. However i haven't said anything different than what supporters of Traditional chinese would agree with. It's important to have both points of view in order to make one's own opinions.
@mbop: Glad you're not angry. So stop calling another reader 'idiot' then. It's bad form you know.
@baishui: Btw, I removed the 'idiot' from my post, in retrospect it may have sounded a bit harsh
****blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_40305bff0101a2p7.html this blog may explain some of the story focusing the character itself other than politics.
@zack.chen.3726: Hello, I just hope you know that's a CCP approved web site. It just might be a bit biased ;)
There are many Chinese dialects. The written Chinese language should be the same one so that we can understand one another. There are many Chinese living outside China.
Compare with other languages the written Chinese is more difficult to learn,but we can learn it if we want to.
To follow up, the Chinese language, simplified or traditional, is not a very multi-purpose language. It is inherently ambiguous and lacks specificity. For comparison, there are nine specific tenses in English, whereas there are (correct me if I am wrong) three in Chinese.
It is is cumbersome. Imagine using Chinese numbers for complicated mathematical equations in place of Arabic numerals. It is also very difficult to learn, being memory based. Alphabet based, phonetic languages are far easier to learn as it relies on more than rote pictorial memory, allowing aural sequencing and patterning to serve as memory aids.
I may probably have rotten eggs thrown at me, but if the aim was to reduce illiteracy, the Chinese language would not be the best choice. It is, however, a most beautiful art form. Chinese poetry is in a class of itself.
Sure, but is making more tenses going to remove ambiguity ? What about asking negative questions like: You don't want to go ? Yes, I ... or No, I ....
Russian and French e.g. are richer in tenses, does that mean less ambiguity ?
There's no such thing as Chinese numbers, or English, or French numbers, for that matter. I'm not sure what you are getting at here. Arabic numerals is similar to Chinese characters, except that Arabic single numerals can be written with just one stroke each, without lifting one's pen, in contrast with Chinese characters for the numerals which requires one or more strokes.
Chinese is more difficult than European languages, and that just implies you need a "bigger" brain. In fact, Chinese requires alot more brain sections compared to other languages, including Arabic. I read articles of these before, and here's one e.g. : ****voices.yahoo.com/how-brain-processes-language-2046733.html?cat=58
Memory is important, but I'm not saying we should regurgitate or rote. Are you saying that lawyers, doctors, scientists, or the likes don't need a strong memory ? Without memory, you can't "upgrade" to the next level. I too find Chinese hard at times, and hope we have a book on the origin of each word, to give meat to them. It's a language and not a language at the same time.
I'll say reducing illiteracy here, means reducing the brain power needed to know and remember the strokes, but at the same time, not expunging the language.
More tenses are just one way a language can be more specific and descriptive. Since a language is a sum of its parts, more tenses do not necessarily lead to a language with less ambiguity, but it can certainly help. That certain tenses do not exist, and thus certain ideas cannot be clearly described or conveyed, can be seen as a limitation of a language with perhaps far reaching results. For instance, clarity and specificity can be very important for scientific applications.
Another inherent point of ambiguity is the high frequency with which the same sound represents different words/pictographs, leading to a heightened necessity for contextual information for interpretation. This not only increases the processing required for comprehension (thereby lowering efficiency), but also the chance for interpretation error (increasing ambiguity), since contextual interpretation is not standardized and tends to be more subjective. This additional layer of ambiguity is in addition to the ambiguity that exists whenever a word with more than one meaning is used, no matter what the language.



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