The Coming Crisis of Chinese 中文與文化

The Chinese people seem to be very proud of their written language. The popularity of Chinese calligraphy is a good indication of this mentality. There may be reasons for this. Firstly, Chinese characters as they are used today are still mostly pictographs, reminiscent of an earliest form of writing. Secondly, Chinese characters, to the Gardener's understanding, are probably the only written semantic symbols that can be written vertically.

To our regret, nowadays more and more we find people forsaking this unique way of language writing and, perhaps in the name of globalisation -- another way of saying global Westernisation -- using Chinese horizontally. More and more Chinese writings, especially printed texts, run horizontally just like any other language.

As a member of the Chinese civilisation, the Gardener is deeply concerned about this growing trend. Chinese characters are perfectly user-friendly to be written and printed vertically. The majority of Japanese printed materials are still in the vertical format, whereas more and more we find Chinese printed materials appear only in the horizontal format. Perhaps we forgot altogether that Chinese characters as invented by the Chinese people were created in the vertical manner from Day One of our language evolution.

Computers can print vertical texts running from right to left without any difficulty at all, as shown in the following image of my essay.

The following essay by the Gardener on this topic was published on 11 April 2002 in Canadian Chinese Times, a weekly Chinese community newspaper in Edmonton, Canada.

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From the Gardener, Canada, September 2005. Revised October 2012