Top Two Things Foreigners Must Know about Chinese Characters
posted at  2011-07-20 01:29  Sandy
When seeing some Chinese characters for the first time, many foreigners would be puzzled by the special shape of Chinese Characters. They may find these characters are in different shapes and written in different directions. After finishing reading the following article, you will get more.
Two forms of Chinese character
There are two standards for printed Chinese characters currently. One is used in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, called the Traditional Chinese characters (E.g. 声, which means voice). The other is the Simplified Chinese characters (E.g. 声,which is the simplified form of the word声), used in Mainland China and Singapore, developed by the PRC government in the 1950s and finalized in the 1964 list.

Many simplified versions are derived from historically-established and albeit simplifications, which are mostly calligraphic simplifications (through cursive script), others through the replacement of a complex part of a character with a phonetically-similar glyph. In Taiwan, some simplifications are used when characters are handwritten, for the sake of speed and convenience, but in printing traditional characters is the norm. In addition, most Chinese use some personal simplifications.
The simplification process is actually not restricted to the Simplified system. In order to computerize Chinese, the authorities in Taiwan have tried to "standardize" the glyphs of characters being used, in order to eliminate unnecessary variations. As a result, several characters are combined into one, and some characters have their written form altered to ease the glyph generation process by computing technologies at that time.
Writing direction
Due to the unique block, square nature and the morphologically inactive nature of the language, Chinese characters are generally written without spaces at word boundaries, and can be written either horizontally or vertically and from right to left or left to right, or from top to bottom or bottom to top. Traditionally, writing was done vertically, going from top to bottom and arranged in columns going from right to left.
After the modernization efforts of the PRC government in several years, however, horizontal left-to-right writing has become usual practice. In Taiwan and Hong Kong, a parallel process has developed with increased exposure to the West, especially the United States, and especially with the advent of technology. Singapore, for its part, has been dually influenced by both its tradition of adopting PRC guidelines with regard to Chinese writing, and by its special predominantly Anglophone society.