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August 24, 2009

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Public says no to writing changes

A PROPOSAL by the Ministry of Education to readjust the font of 44 Chinese characters has triggered controversy in the country on whether the traditional way of writing should be altered.

After eight years, the ministry unveiled a list of 8,300 standardized characters in common usage to solicit public opinion in hopes to regulate Chinese writing.

Ministry officials and some experts said the revisions would only affect 44 characters printed in the Song typeface in publications, meaning the revised characters would only be used by computers and printing machines.

But they soon gave rise to disputes as people found the characters look different, and they would have to change how they identify them.

An online survey conducted by Internet portal showed 90.2 percent of more than 340,000 respondents opposed the revisions as of Saturday. Only 5.1 percent of voters agreed with the changes.

'Easily confused'

"The characters printed in our textbooks adopt the Kai type and we don't need any change. But students will be easily confused by the revised characters in other publications," said Wang Jiayu, a Chinese language teacher at a primary school in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Many of the 44 characters are used frequently, which would undoubtedly pose challenges to people's reading and writing habits, she said.

"The change is only a slight change of one stroke for a character, but if a student asks me which character is correctly written, I won't know how to reply," the teacher said. "There will be much confusion if different ways of writing the same character exists."

Tang Yunlai, chairman of the Tianjin Municipal Calligraphers' Association, also said the revisions were unnecessary and objections also emerged over the cost.

"The revisions of the 44 characters would lead to amendments in books, dictionaries, signboards, company names, ID cards and more," said Professor Wang Laihua of the Tianjin Municipal Academy of Social Sciences. "That will cost lots of money and time."

The solicitation of opinions will end on August 31.


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