In a group discussion on the CPPCC (Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference) this year, Feng Xiaogang, the famous film director, proposed to use some traditional Chinese characters that contain deeper cultural connotations in textbooks. He suggested that 50 or more traditional Chinese characters be selected and added into the primary school textbooks to make pupils experience and better understand the traditional culture.
It is easier said than done. It would be a huge project to urge people to use the traditional Chinese characters again, as people in the Chinese Mainland have gotten used to the simplified characters by now. Feng Xiaogang proposed using some traditional Chinese characters, rather than wholly replacing simplified characters with traditional ones. He suggested a “minor revision”, which seems to be more feasible. There are pros and cons to start using traditional Chinese characters again. Will the meanings of traditional Chinese characters be apparent, once they are added to the textbooks?
Feng cited the example of these two simplified characters, “亲爱”, whose traditional counterparts are quite meaningful. The traditional counterpart of “亲” is “親” (meaning “close relationship” in English), comprising “亲” on the left and “见” (meaning “see” or “meet” in English) on the right; the traditional counterpart of “爱” is “愛” (meaning “love” in English), a “心” (meaning “heart, spirit” in English) being added. As indicated by these two traditional characters, you should see or meet your family or friends frequently to have a close relationship with them, and a love is received with the heart. However, after the hanzi are simplified, “见” and “心” are gone, and one might poetically say they somewhat indicate not meeting your dearest, and loving without real heart.
The traditional Chinese characters are not just symbols. It’s undeniable that they carry massive and profound meanings, vividly and literally expressed. In the argument about using the traditional characters or simplified characters, political factors should not be involved in judging their advantages and disadvantages. Those who feel like using the traditional characters should be allowed to use them freely; they can type the simplified characters at work, but write the traditional characters in their personal diaries, blogs and Facebook. Close relationship or love should not be culturally or logically related to characters directly. Simplified characters have their own advantages and disadvantages, but they should not affect their original meanings. Unfortunately, one might say when some traditional characters are simplified, their meanings are simplified as well.