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01 July, 2007:
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Written Chinese 汉字和书面语

Chinese Calligraphy (书法)

The written form of Chinese is an area of profound difference between the East and West. There are twenty six letters used to write fluently in English, but Chinese uses  over 5,000 distinct characters. Still, the same characters can be used to record languages that are as different from one another as French is from Spanish.

If the differences between Western languages and Chinese are not enough to pique your interest, then think about internal characteristics of the Chinese writing system. Characters written over 2,000 years ago can be read as if they were written yesterday; nevertheless, the shape of the characters has changed in certain places at various times, and today there are many different styles of writing that are still used. Chinese calligraphy is more than just a way of writing stylishly, it is also a form of high art. To say all this speaks nothing of the countries around the Middle Kingdom such as Japan and Korea, that adopted its writing system despite its seeming mismatch with their spoken languages.

If you are intrigued, choose on of the topics below to discover more about the written word of Chinese:

The History Of Characters

Chinese characters have thousands of years of history. Over that time the system has been developed and refined to fit the language spoken in China throughout the course of Chinese history. Find more about the origins and development of written Chinese here.


Different Characters

Everyone says that Chinese people now can read texts written over 2,000 years ago, and that Japanese uses Chinese characters. But for some reason characters today look different in different places. How come a language renowned for its consistency over time is inconsistent over space?


Phonetic Transcription

It is difficult to record the sounds of Chinese in a comprehensible way without using characters. Find out more about the ways that people have written Chinese "alphabetically," their reasons, and the places where these transcriptions might appear.


Typing In Chinese

If there are so many Chinese characters, how can they be typed into a computer or anything else electronic? People don't use enormous keyboards. Read more to find out about different character entry systems and the future for writing electronically with characters.