Character Introduction 4 – Simplified vs. Traditional Characters

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Simplified Chinese Characters vs. Traditional Chinese Characters

Should I learn Simplified or Traditional characters? A lot of Chinese learners might have asked this question. In this introduction we will talk about the difference between Chinese Characters Simplified and Traditional. And we will explain the 6 methods through which traditional Chinese characters became simplified Chinese characters as they are today. And to conclude, (1) the relationships between Chinese Characters Simplified vs Traditional is that there are parts that belong to each other. And (2) There are strict rules applied in the simplification process.



  • Simplified Chinese Characters
  • Traditional Chinese Characters
  • difference between Chinese Characters Simplified and Traditional


  1. What is the difference between Chinese Characters Simplified and Traditional ?
  2. What are the ways used for Chinese characters to be simplified?
  3. Should I learn Simplified or Traditional characters?
  4. Is switching between Chinese Characters Simplified vs Traditional difficult?


Simplified Chinese characters

The first character simplification program started in the 1920s and 1930s but didn’t get officially carried out until in the1950s. Simplified Chinese characters are now used in Mainland China and Singapore.


Traditional Chinese characters

Traditional Chinese characters are now more commonly used in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. But are still in use in Mainland China as well such as for classical Chinese study.


Should I learn Simplified or Traditional Characters?

It is not easy to answer this question because each learner has their own goal. Generally, we would recommend that you make the decision based on where you would more likely to visit, study or live in.


What’s the difference between Chinese Characters Simplified and Traditional?

The ways how Traditional Chinese characters are simplified are not random and there are strict rules. Generally there are six rules:

1. Simplifying Radicals and Elements

Every character that has certain Radicals and Elements are replaced by the simplified version and are easy to spot.

2.Using the simplest character

When two or more characters share the same pronunciation, only the simple and easy one was kept to carry on the meanings of both or all.

3. Partial Replacement

Replace complex elements with simpler elements.

4. Partially Omitted

Complicated elements were omitted with only the simple element remaining.

5. Shape Simplification

Characters are simplified based on its shape.


Characters were remade to replace the old ones.


Collapse Comments

Does HSK use simplified Chinese or traditional Chinese characters ?

HSK uses simplified Chinese characters.

lenglengPremium Student May 30, 2020 at 11:46 am

I plan to learn traditional as I want to live in Hong Kong (my company uses Mandarin). Will I have issues passing HSK as a complete beginner?

Everything in the test will be in simplified characters, and starting from HSK 3, there will be writing questions where writing or inputting simplified characters are required.

Olivia WilliamsPremium Student October 31, 2019 at 5:38 pm

Thank you, this covered a lot of my concerns about which system to learn!

niallhalloranPremium Student July 11, 2019 at 6:49 am

Really interesting

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