The image below shows part of the list of simplified Chinese characters introduced by the Republic of China Department of Education in 1935. They were retracted in 1936, so China continued to use traditional characters until the People's Republic of China made simplified characters official in the 1950s.

What are the official reasons for the retraction?

ROC simplified Chinese characters Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:ROC24_SC1.jpg

Other pages of the document: pages 2-3, page 4

Side note for those unfamiliar with Chinese characters: It is interesting to note that many of the simplifications introduced by the Republic of China (ROC) are similar to those eventually introduced by the People's Republic of China (PRC), because many of the simplifications have already existed as variant characters. Relative to the current simplified characters in use, the ROC simplifications appear to be more conservative both in stroke reduction, and in the number of characters being simplified (about 300 characters).

  • 1
    As with everything in history, there's probably a plethora of reasons. Possibilities include problems with the system (this was the first batch; perhaps they found that the system couldn't be used to simplify all the necessary Chinese characters with consistency). Perhaps there were problems seen with the collector, Qian Xuantong, who seemed to be rather radical in his views. Perhaps there was opinion that the deteriorating political situation should put tinkering with the writing system on the backburner. I wonder, from the phrasing of your question, if you expect one specific reason?
    – DevSolar
    Feb 11, 2019 at 10:36
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    @DevSolar I'm asking if the government gave any specific reason(s) for the retraction. I mean the government must have announced the retraction somewhere, and it probably gave the reason(s) for doing so in that announcement. (Edited the question).
    – Flux
    Feb 11, 2019 at 11:07
  • The fourth character in brackets definitely looks like Japanese hiragana . What could be the reason for it to be in this document? Is there a relation, potentially involving hanzi/kanji that is said to be the root of said hiragana?
    – Right leg
    Feb 11, 2019 at 12:43
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    @Rightleg The characters ㄚ, ㄛ, ㄜ, ㄝ, etc. are zhuyin symbols, which are phonetic symbols used in China from 1918 to 1958 for transliterating Mandarin. Also, ㄝ comes from 也, and not from 世.
    – Flux
    Feb 11, 2019 at 14:00
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    @Flux On the other hand, it’s also interesting to note that some of the ROC suggestions are more radical simplifications than the eventually adopted PRC ones. Consider how PRC 答 retains its 竹 top where the ROC form has 丷 over 一 (can’t find that as a standalone character); or how the 丶 (dian) in PRC 国 isn’t there in the ROC form; or 闔, whose only PRC form 阖 is only simplified in the reduction of 門 to 门, whereas the ROC form 𬮤 (now non-standard and probably just a square here) also reduced 盍 to 合. Feb 12, 2019 at 18:02

1 Answer 1


Victor Henry Mair is an American Sinologist and professor of Chinese at the University of Pennsylvania, and this is what he wrote (emphasis mine):

An English language report in The Quarterly Bulletin of Chinese Bibliography states that, on October 4, 1935, the government “authorized” the use of simplified characters in official and private documents. In other words, the government granted permission for the use of simplified characters, but did not insist that they be used. This passive attitude toward script reform was not sufficiently powerful to undermine the edifice of well-established tradition it faced. Thus in January of 1936 the simplified character scheme was withdrawn before it could be truly applied. This withdrawal is typically attributed to the intervention of Dai Jitao, an influential conservative in the government who used his connections in the Ministry of Education to have the scheme rescinded. Whether or not the withdrawal can be traced back to a specific individual, conservative opposition was certainly the major factor in its failure.

Source: Victor H. Mair, ed., “Language and Ideology in Nationalist and Communist China” Sino-Platonic Papers, 256 (April 2015), pp. 11-2. PDF available: Sino-Platonic Papers

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