The earliest record of complete system of Chinese Language dates back more than 3000 years ago. These are inscriptions on animal bones or tortoise shells, which are sophisticated in structure and meaning, and in many ways resemble the Chinese characters we are using today!
Modern written Chinese consists of 6000 to 7000 characters, of which about 3000 are frequently used. Chinese characters are ideographic signs formed by strokes of different shapes. Each character consists a few to over a dozen strokes.
Traditional and Simplified Form of Chinese Characters
Today, the same Chinese Characters may come in two forms, the Traditional form and Simplified form. A character in the Traditional form normally has more strokes than the same character in the Simplified form.
Figure shows two Chinese characters in their Simplified and Traditional
Simplified Chinese was introduced and promoted in Mainland China since 1949 by the Chinese Government. Today, Simplified Chinese is the official written language in Mainland China; whilst Traditional Chinese is
still used in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao.
Mandarin or Cantonese refers to the spoken Chinese language. It is, therefore, incorrect to equivalent Mandarin to Simplified Chinese, or Cantonese to Traditional Chinese. Mandarin is the official spoken language for Mainland China and Taiwan; whilst Cantonese is a dialect in Canton (or Guangdong) Province in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao – as one can see, people in Canton write Simplified Chinese but people in Hong Kong
and Macao write Traditional Chinese although they all speak Cantonese!
Today, most people in China speak their own dialect as well as Mandarin.