Chinese (Simplified and Traditional) (2024)

Page Contents

  1. Script Basics
  2. Test Sites
  3. Font Recommendations
  4. Activate Input/Typing Utilities for Typing
  5. Web Development and Language Codes
  6. Other Chinese Languages/Dialects
  7. Links

Script Basics

The Chinese script is a logographic script structured so that each character
represents a single concept; characters are then combined
to form compound words.
Note: The script does also have a phonetic component.

Although there are several distinct varieties (or "dialects") spoken in China including Mandarin and Cantonese (Hong Kong),they can all read many of the same "written words" because the script is more based on meaning, not on sound.

See the links below for more information

Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Pinyin

There are several variants of the the Chinese script used in different contexts.

  1. Chinese Traditional is the older form of the script and is used in Taiwan, Hong Kong and other locations outside of China, including various "Chinatowns" in the West. Chinese Traditional characters are more complex and more numerous.
  2. Chinese Simplified was developed in Mainland China (and adopted in Singapore) as a way of simplifying the older system in order to increase literacy. As part of the of the simplification, several Traditional characters were collapsed into one character in Simplified. Although it is relatively easy to convert from Chinese Traditional to Chinese Simplified, the reverse is not always true. As a result, most systems support both Traditional and Simplified Chinese in parallel.
  3. Pinyin is the term used to refer to the system of writing Chinese words in the Latin (English) alphabet. This was developed in the 1950’s in Mainland China to help increase literacy.

Example Traditional vs. Simplified Chinese

The table below shows how the name for Mandarin Chinese changes between scripts and even nationalities. Note though that the characters in the form from China are the same in both Traditional and Simplified Chinese.

Phrase "Spoken Mandarin Chinese" in Different Forms
‘Chinese language’
華語 华语Huáyǔ
‘national language’
國語 国语Guóyǔ
‘common speech’
普通話 普通话 Pǔtōnghuà


See the Other Language/Dialects section for information on forms like Cantonese and Wu.

Test Sites

If you have your browser configured correctly, the Web sites above should display the correct characters. If you have difficulties, see list below for font and browser configuration instructions.

If these sites are not displaying correctly, see the Browser Setup page for set up information.

Font Recommendations

Both Windows and Mac (and mobile platforms) provide a set of Japanese fonts, but more decorative versions may be found through font vendors or font download sites.

Traditional Chinese Fonts by Platform

  • Windows – MingLiU, PMingLiU, Microsoft JhengHei
  • Mac OS X – AppleLiGothiic Medium, Li Hei Pro, Apple LiSung, BiauKai, LiSongPro
  • Mac System 9 – Taipei, others

Simplified Chinese Fonts by Platform

  • Windows – SimSun, NSimSun, SimHei, Microsoft YaHei, others
  • Mac OS X – Hei, STHeiti Light and Regular, STFangsong, STKaiti, STSong, Kai
  • Mac System 9 – Beijing, others

Activate Input/Typing Utilities

Different Input Options

In Windows, Macintosh/iOS and Droid, input options for both Simplified and Traditional Chinese are available.

You can also activate different input options for each script. Typical options include

  • Phonetic/Pinyin – Users can type a syllable in pinyin and then select the correct character.
  • By Radical/Stroke – This allows a user to search and enter characters by radical or stroke forms.
  • Handwriting – Some systems allow users to write a character on a trackpad.
  • Additional standards may be supported.

Activate Input Utilities (Windows and Mac)

Yabla How to type Chinese using Pinyin gives detailed instructions for activating Chinese pinyin input on both Windows and Macintosh as well as iPhone and Droid.

You can also view generic documentation for

  • Windows
  • Macintosh
  • iPhone/Droid

Tone Marks in Pinyin


If you activate the Extended (ABC) Keyboard on the Macintosh, the following codes allow you to type different accent codes.

Mac Accent Codes, X = any letter
MacronĀ,ā Option+M, X
CircumflexÂ,â Option+6, X
Acuteá,Á Option+E, X
GraveÀ,à Option+`, X
Umlautü,Ü Option+U, X


A more limited set of accent codes are if the Windows International keyboard is activated. The long mark (macron) is not available there.

Web Development

This section presents information specific to Chinese. For general information about developing non-English Web sites, see the Encoding Tutorial or the Web Layout sections.

Historical Encodings

Unicode (utf-8) which corresponds to GB18030 (mandated in the People’s Republic of China) is the preferred encoding for Web sites, but the following older encodings may be encountered.

  • Use Unicode (utf-8) whenever possible
  • Simplified Chinese Historic Encodings: gb18030, gb2312, gbk , Others
  • Traditional Chinese Historic Encodings: big5, euc-tw, Others

Language Tags

Language Tags allow browsers and other software to process Chinese text more efficiently. Below are the recommended codes for different scripts

  • Chinese: zh (the most generic tag, but rarely used)
  • Mandarin Chinese, Simplified Script: zh-Hans is preferred, but zh-CN may be found on older sites.
  • Mandarin Chinese, Traditional Script: zh-Hant or zh-Hant-TW (Taiwan) is preferred zh-TW
  • Pinyin (Mandarin): zh-Latn-pinyin for Mandarin. If the text is not Mandarin,use one the dialect codes below.
  • Cantonese (Hong Kong): zh-HK
  • Additional tags for dialects

Vertical Text

See the Vertical Text page for information on vertical Chinese text

Other Chinese Languages/Dialects

About Chinese Dialects/Sinitic Languages

Different regions of China speak in varieties which are traditionally called "dialects", but they are so far apart that spealers from different regions may not understand each other. Linguists usually consider these dialects to be separate related languages and sometimes use the term "Sintic languages".

The standard form of modern spoken Chinese is called Mandarin Chinese, but other forms include Cantonese/Yue (Hong Kong), Wu (Shanghai) and Hakka.

Language Codes

For these varieties, there are currently two standards available, the IANA standard which adds "variety" tags to the base zh tag or the SIL ISO-639-3 standard which treats dialects as separate languages.

Note: A indicates no IANA or ISO-639-3 code registered.

Regional Chinese Codes
Mandarinzh-guoyo or
Cantonesezh-yue or
Hakkazh-hakka hak
Min Bei mnp
Min Dong cdo
Min Zhong czo
Xiangzh-xiang hsn

* Min includes Fuzhou, Hokkein, Amoy, Taiwanese

Script and Language Tag

Most non-Mandarin Chinese documents are written in either Traditional Chinese (or Simplified Chinese with additional characters), pinyin or some other Western phonetic form. To distinguish the forms, one can use a script tags like wuu-Latn-pinyin (Wu Chinese in pinyin) or wuu-Hant (Wu Chinese in Traditional Chinese)

Links on Chinese Dialects


Chinese Computing





  • Pinyin Joe – Includes updates on Ubuntu Linux
  • Linux Chinese How To – Guide to Linux set up and common Linux/Unix problems. Out of Taiwan.
  • – In Chinese

Chinese Language

Script Basics

Chinese Dialects

Web Development Tips

Technical Issues

Top of Page

Chinese (Simplified and Traditional) (2024)


What is the difference between traditional and simplified Chinese? ›

When Simplified Chinese was developed, some Traditional characters were merged, so the new language has fewer commonly used characters. While Traditional uses a single character to express a word or part of a word, Simplified may represent multiple words or concepts using the same character.

Do most Chinese speak traditional or simplified? ›

In general, simplified Chinese is used on mainland China, as well as in Malaysia and Singapore. However, traditional Chinese is still used in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.

Can simplified and traditional Chinese understand each other? ›

The good news is that you'll be able to speak with Traditional Chinese speakers even if you only know Simplified Chinese, as long as you're both speaking the same dialect (such as Mandarin or Cantonese). That's because a word's pronunciation is largely separate from the character(s).

Can you mix simplified and traditional Chinese? ›

If you're from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, or any Chinese expatriate community (especially in Southeast Asia) you might mix traditional and simplified characters. In these places, traditional characters are still being used. The use of simplified characters is gaining popularity, so the old and the new are mixed.

Is Duolingo Chinese simplified or traditional? ›

Does Duolingo teach traditional or simplified Chinese? Duolingo offers only courses for the simplified form of Chinese characters.

Does Japanese use traditional or Simplified Chinese? ›

It is important to know that the Japanese language does not use simplified Chinese radicals but its own simplification system, known as shinjitai (新字体). For this reason, even though traditional kanji and Chinese characters are the same, simplified versions of both Japanese and Chinese languages are quite different.

Is Cantonese Simplified or traditional? ›

Simplified or Traditional? A Cantonese speaker in Hong Kong will likely read and write Traditional Chinese . A Cantonese speaker in mainland China (Guangdong province, for example) will read and write Simplified Chinese . Don't assume someone who speaks Mandarin will know how to read and write Traditional Chinese.

Can you read Cantonese if you speak Mandarin? ›

Although Cantonese follows the same grammar rules as Mandarin, there are certain Cantonese words that simply don't exist in Mandarin. So, a Mandarin speaker won't be able to understand 100% of Cantonese texts, as some characters are completely unique to Cantonese.

Can Chinese people read traditional and Simplified? ›

Both are used to record standard Chinese, but with some local variations in terminology. You'll also find that people in Taiwan and Hong Kong can generally read Simplified characters, but not vice versa.

What is the hardest language to learn? ›

1. Mandarin Chinese. Interestingly, the hardest language to learn is also the most widely spoken native language in the world. Mandarin Chinese is challenging for a number of reasons.

Does Hong Kong speak traditional or Simplified Chinese? ›

In mainland China and Singapore, Mandarin is the spoken language and people use Simplified Chinese (SC) when they write. In Hong Kong, Cantonese is the predominant dialect while people write in Traditional Chinese (TC). The exception is Taiwan where people speak Mandarin and write in Traditional Chinese.

Which is harder traditional or Simplified Chinese? ›

As the name suggests, simplified Chinese is easier and quicker to write than traditional Chinese. The characters use fewer strokes which made them more accessible for learners. These days, some people argue that simplified Chinese is not as important as it used to be.

Does Taiwan use simplified or traditional? ›

"Traditional" as such is a retronym applied to non-simplified character sets in the wake of widespread use of simplified characters. Traditional characters are commonly used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau, as well as in most overseas Chinese communities outside of Southeast Asia.

Who still uses traditional Chinese? ›

Traditional Chinese characters are only still used primarily by those in Taiwan, Macau, Hong Kong, and many overseas communities, comprising a small minority of the Chinese-speaking population (~50 million people). However, they also remain in use in mainland China for artistic, scholarly, and advertising purposes.

Why did Chinese change from traditional to simplified? ›

Many members of the Chinese intelligentsia maintained that simplification would increase literacy rates throughout the country. In 1935, the first official list of simplified forms was published, consisting of 324 characters collated by Peking University professor Qian Xuantong.

Should I learn Mandarin or Chinese? ›

So Which Chinese Language Should I Learn? Mandarin is the lingua franca and the sole official language of China, so if you plan on doing business in China or traveling around the country, Mandarin is the language to learn.

How is Simplified Chinese different from Traditional Chinese code? ›

The standard way to distinguish these would be with a country code, e.g. zh_CN for mainland China, zh_SG for Singapore, zh_TW for Taiwan, or zh_HK for Hong Kong. Mainland China and Singapore both use simplified characters, and the others use traditional characters.

What language do most Chinese people speak? ›

The official dialect of China is Mandarin, also call “Putonghua”. More than 70% of the Chinese population speaks Mandarin, but there are also several other major dialects in use in China: Yue (Cantonese), Xiang (Hunanese), Min dialect, Gan dialect, Wu dialect, and Kejia or Hakka dialect.

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