再談正體字 More about authentic Chinese characters
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說時遲那時快，我所擔憂的原來已經發生。不知何時連 The Guardian 也開始有中文版，數天前看到 The Guardian 的一篇中文報導，竟然是用上殘體字。連 The Guardian 也如是，正體中文字於國際上的地位境況相當堪虞。
前陣子到荷蘭的 Maastricht 採訪 The European Fine Art Fair (Tefaf)，有幸認識到一些來自中國內地的藝術品買家和收藏家。跟他們訪問當然要用上普通話，但有一兩位懂廣東話的忽然轉台，興致勃勃的用廣東話跟我聊起來，旁邊的人看到對他們投以艷羨目光，對他們稱讚不絕，而那些買家和收藏家也十分 proud of 自己能操廣東話。撰寫報導時細閱他們的名片再有重大發現：他們的名片都是用上正體字。
用正體字的討論與否並非只限於香港。去年，還是《南華早報》中國版編輯的王向偉先生（現任《南華早報》總編輯）於他的 China Briefing 專欄討論過內地繁簡中文字的問題。該文章題目為 "How our old characters build culture - Beijing's new cultural revolution needs more than cash and advertising to achieve its goals - dual nationality and traditional writing will surely help" (24/10/2011)。文章提及「國家現在正醞釀一場新的文化革命，不是毛澤東的那套，而是現在國家經濟發展起飛，中國有必要提高國民的文化精神生活及發展『軟實力』來提高中國於國際社會的地位，配合國家的經濟發展」。那就是中國十二五規劃的其中一個重點。
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Either I'm a fortune teller or I haven't been paying close attention to the international media scene, what I have been worried has in fact happened. Just since when did The Guardian launch a Chinese edition? Few days after my last post, I spotted a story in The Guardian published in crippled Chinese characters. If leading media like The Guardian is adopting these crippled Chinese characters in their Chinese version, I seriously fear for the future of those authentic characters.
The question that pops up in my head is that, has anyone ever asked mainlanders if they only prefer reading those crippled/ simplified characters?
A while ago I went to Maastricht in the Netherlands to cover The European Fine Art Fair (Tefaf), and I had the opportunity to meet a group of mainland art collectors and buyers who have been invited by the fair organisers to attend the fair for a "shopping spree". To interview them, of course I had to speak Mandarin. But it turned out that a couple of them could speak Cantonese, and they suddenly changed their channel and started chatting with me happily in Cantonese. They made a great impression on other group members travelling with them, who couldn't help praising for their versatile language ability. And these couple of buyers or collectors were acting very proud of being able to converse in Cantonese. But later when I studied their name cards carefully, what was more impressive to me what that the name cards of these art buyers and collectors were printed in authentic Chinese characters.
I haven't conducted any research, but logically speaking, if these people had the ability to travel overseas to shop for valuable works of art, that means that not only are they wealthy, but they must be very cultured. Art is not a Louis Vuitton handbag. You can't buy it simply because you like it. Just like one of the collectors said to me, to appreciate a work of art isn't just to look at its aesthetic merits; one must know about its history, its provenance, and records in literature. What these buyers and collectors need to know will probably be more than any exhibition curators, for they are the ones who spend the real money to buy these works of art that are worth millions of dollars.
And if these wealthy and cultured mainlanders are using authentic Chinese characters on their name cards, what does it mean?
I didn't get the opportunity to ask them, but I suspect that they believe only authentic Chinese characters are good enough for them: they are not nouveau riche peasants - they are cultured Chinese people.
In fact the discussion of whether or not to use authentic/ traditional Chinese characters does not limit to just Hong Kong. Last year, Wang Xiangwei, the then China Editor of the South China Morning Post (he is currently the newspaper's editor-in-chief), discussed the issue of traditional and simplified characters in his column China Briefing.
Entitled "How our old characters build culture - Beijing's new cultural revolution needs more than cash and advertising to achieve its goals - dual nationality and traditional writing will surely help" (24/10/2011), Wang wrote that a new cultural revolution was waiting to begin, not the kind initiated by Mao Zedong, but "one that aims to give mainlanders richer cultural lives and boost the country's soft power overseas to match its economic progress." And that coincided with one of the key points of China's 12th five-year plan.
The author cited a few suggestions for the country to achieve this goal, and among them was to bring traditional characters back to the nation: "mainland authorities must recognise the urgency and importance of bringing back traditional Chinese characters, as a way to protect its own cultural heritage and forge closer cultural links with overseas Chinese."
The author wrote that since traditional Chinese characters are widely used in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and the overseas Chinese communities, the use of traditional Chinese characters can bring China culturally closer to these communities; and since most of the 5,000 years of Chinese culture is recorded in traditional Chinese, in order to preserve the cultural roots of the nation, China must teach traditional characters, together with simplified characters, in schools.
I have no idea how it has progressed so far. But based on what I have observed, traditional characters mean a great deal not just to us but to all Chinese people, and Hong Kong has this undeniable responsibility to keep using traditional Chinese characters, not only to preserve and respect Chinese cultural heritage, but also to respect mainlanders aspiring for a more cultured life. And I'm sure those well-educated and cultured mainland big spenders will have no respect for those wiping out their cultural roots for nothing but to please them and capture their cash.