Saturday, April 16, 2011

The history of despising the Chinese character set



I have discussed the views of many great Western sinologists on the issue of Chinese characters, and none of them knew that Chinese word set is an axiomatic system. Then, what is the view of those native Chinese linguists and scholars? 

In 1958, a major effort to simplify the Chinese word system was launched. That is, at that time, no one in China knew that Chinese written language is an 100% root word system. This is a historical fact.

1. The ignorance of Chinese Scholars in 1958 is not an incidental case. During the past two thousand years, not a single Chinese scholar truly understands the structure of Chinese word system as an axiomatic system. During the
period (Tong and Song dynasties, from 650 a.d. to 1,150 a.d.), there were eight great Chinese scholars ( ). (Wang) and (Shu) are two of those eight. Wang was also the Prime Minister of Song dynasty for decades, and he was Shu's boss. As the leader of intelligentsia and of political hierarchy, Wang set out to decode Chinese word system. He wrote a book (Discussions on Chinese words). That book soon became a laughing stock, and Wang burnt it. That book is no longer in existence today; only the name of the book and a few lines survived as quotations in other person's writing. The most important critic was Shu. Wang wrote, " (wave) " (Wave is the skin of water), as skin. Then, Shu asked, " (slippery) " (Is slippery the bone of water?) as bone. Unable to answer one laughing question, Wang burnt his book. 

2. Around 1660s, the Emperor Kangsi ( ) and his grandson ( ) launched a major effort of organizing the Chinese books with two major publications.
    • Kangsi dictionary ( ) -- it lists about 48,000 words. It becomes the Bible of Chinese characters. It classifies all Chinese words with 214 (leading radicals), the most scientific way of analyzing Chinese words at the time. Yet, each word is still treated as a blob which cannot give out its meaning from its face. 
    • (Four College of Encyclopedia) -- it consists of over 30,000 volumes of books. Over 1,000 books are dealing with Chinese characters. Yet, not a single book hinted that Chinese character set is an axiomatic set.

And, these led the 1920s movement of despising Chinese written language, especially accusing that the character set was the culprit for China's demise at the time. 

3. In 2005, I searched the Library of Beijing university. It had over 3,000 books on Chinese written characters. Not a single book describes Chinese characters as a root word set, let alone an axiomatic set. 

Tienzen (Jeh-Tween) Gong

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