Park that simplification

One of my grittier walks in Beijing meanders through crooked streets where the most common sign advertises, in glorious neon, “成人用品24h” [chéngrén yòngpǐn / Adult Products]. So when I stumbled across this No Parking sign*…


… 禁止仃车 (jìnzhǐ tíng chē), in which the third character is 仃 instead of the proper 停, I immediately assumed it was an uneducated mistake propagated by one of society’s fringe characters.

But it turns out to be a fringe character of a different sort.

I asked Sinoglot’s Kellen Parker if he’d run across 仃 used this way. where is my ip ask edd Not only had he run across it, he had the Wikipedia reference! According to that article (which has some fascinating-looking references — I just expanded my Amazon wishlist) 仃 was used for a few years as a completely legitimate simplification of 停 in the so-called “second round” of character simplifications. The simplifications didn’t stick and were repealed in 1986, but it’s possible, if our No Parking writer was educated between 1977 and the mid-80s, that 仃 was simply how they learned to write it.


*Yes, that’s my gloved finger in the upper left — there’s a reason I’m generally prohibited from taking pictures, let alone posting them

[Here’s a 歺 in neon, complete with a half-assed shot at English:

That was taken at the big hotel in Fuyu, Qiqihaer, Heilongjiang on my trip to Sanjiazi. ~RA]

14 responses to “Park that simplification”

  1. You beat me to it! But your picture is much better.

    In a college I recently taught at, the campus butts right up against the countryside, and from one of my classroom windows I noticed exactly the same phrase with that character. I took a picture (which of course I can’t now find) but it was from far away.

    I’m also fascinated by that second attempt at character reform, especially because I think it’s really too bad that it didn’t stick (I’m not one of those traditional character lovers).

    I also found a really interesting website. I’m kicking myself now because I didn’t bookmark it, and I found it serendipitously, so it wasn’t because of some search terms. I tried finding it again just now, but couldn’t. I think it has a parchment-colored background (approximately).

  2. jdmartinsen says:

    I snapped this down the street from where I live. One second-round character (亍 for 街) and one non-standard simplification (柚 for 楼). The community across the street has attractive building signs with the inside of 源 written as 元, which you’d think would be a second-round character, except that the standard was in no way systematic: 原 became [厂+元], but 源 was overloaded on 沅.

    I think I first became aware of the characters when I noticed a simplified version of 部 (卩 whose top stroke extends further to the left) cast into some of the iron benches in Jilin’s Longtanshan Park. Or maybe when a friend wrote 量 as 旦 over 力. Fun stuff.

  3. Brendan says:

    The ones I’ve seen most commonly in the wild are 歺 (on hand-lettered breakfast stall signs) and 伩 (in a handwritten note from someone who teaches at Beida). I’d be curious to know how many of these existed previously as folk simplifications: I have no problem believing in 伩 and 歺 (餐 really is a pain in the ass to write by hand when you’re hungry and all you want is some cheap and cheerful 歺); 亍 existed previously as part of 彳亍. 旦 over 力 is just weird.

  4. Syz says:

    JDM, that’s a classic pic. Brendan, somehow I’d never caught on to 歺, but it sure as hell beats 餐

    While we’re waiting for Randy to find his cool website, does anyone know of better documentation of these wild characters? Somebody must be trying to document them, but the idea has all sorts of issues with web searchability.

  5. Georg says:

    There is Andrew West’s “modest” Unicode proposal (PDF here) from about five months ago, which is also referenced from the Wikipedia article mentioned above. He even provides a font.

  6. Randy Alexander says:

    [See update, above, for a 歺 pic.]

  7. Syz says:

    Randy: nice pic. perfect garish example for the opponents of simplification 😀

    Georg: Thanks for pointing to this. The unicode issues are philosophically (not just practically) interesting.

  8. Zev Handel says:

    The proposed 1977 simplifications were, as I understand it, never formally adopted. They were removed from consideration in 1986, but I don’t think they were ever part of the official writing system, in part because there were so many objections raised to them from the start.

    Looking over the full list of 1977 proposals is fascinating, because most of the characters look so bizarre. Yet nearly every one is based on one of the same set of simple principles that was used to create the simplified characters that we all know and love/hate. Had history taken a different turn, we’d be perfectly comfortable using them today.

    One of these principles was to take common, long-standing written abbreviated forms and formalize them. This is where simplified forms like 头 come from. (It would be kind of like making “nite” and “lite” official English spellings.) I would guess that the reason 仃 is seen on signs has nothing to do with the 1977 proposals; rather, the character got into the 1977 proposals precisely because it already had an informal existence.

    I have some images of pages from the original 1977 proposal, I’d be happy to email them in to someone who wants to post them.

  9. Syz says:

    FYI for those following this thread. Zev sent me his scans of the 1977 proposed simplifications and they’re up in this post.

  10. Antoine says:

    Great post. I am actually doing research on “Second Round Simplifications”. My favorite is 氿. Even as a Mandarin learner rather than a native speaker, this character (meaning of course good old 酒) looks just absurd to me.

  11. Zev Handel says:

    @Antoine: Unfamiliarity breeds absurdity. But wouldn’t you agree, as a Mandarin learner, that 氿 would be much easier to learn and remember than 酒? After all, the right-hand component 九 jiǔ is familiar to the most novice beginner, and sounds exactly the same as the word for ‘alcoholic beverage’. In contrast, the right-hand component 酉 is far less frequently encountered, and is not pronounced the same as ‘alcoholic beverage’.

  12. 慈逢流 says:

    zev, 酒 makes some sense as 酉 depicts a wine vessel and reads yǒu, so it acts as a carrier of both sound and meaning. i am a bit weary of simplifying characters that are already not so complicated, and i find 酒 much easier to learn and faster to write than, say, 餐. of course it is well possible to go through all the 400 (without tones; or > 1200 with tones) or so syllables of mandarin, select very few simple characters such as 九,西,月 and so on and then restrict oneself to always bolting two of them together; this leaves you with a few thousand characters that are all formed like 氿 and 仃 (and a few hundred non-composed characters). alas, it also leaves you with an orthography in its nascent stage with zilch literature to read.

  13. Zev Handel says:

    慈逢流, I don’t disagree with anything you say. I wouldn’t advocate for making these kinds of simplifications. And I understand the historical role that the component 酉 plays in 酒. My point was merely that, for a beginning learner of Chinese, all else being equal, 氿 is probably easier to learn than 酒. I’m very appreciative of the fact that a significant rupture in the writing system has very high social and cultural costs. (Not to mention that the hypothetic procedure you describe would make the writing system far more Mandarin-friendly at the expense of speakers of other dialects.)

  14. […] more on 仃 at Sinoglot. Posted at 8:55am. Posted in language Tags: Chinese characters Related ContentA […]

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