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I ask because I'm curious as to what's the reasoning behind simplification. It would look something like:

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Simplification is a bit of a joke to be honest. I wouldn't expect much of a "real" explanation as to why one is simplified and the other is not. The only hint is that apparently 能 was originally supposed to be (read:represent) a bear - thus no simplification... –  user3306356 May 28 '14 at 15:53
Shouldn't the simplification be 太 一 with the 'heng' underneath any way? (Think 魚->鱼 the 'huo' becomes 'heng' right?) –  user3306356 May 28 '14 at 16:15
@user3306356 most simplification has their reasons :) not all of them is a joke. –  Stan May 28 '14 at 17:23
I wouldn't say simplification is a joke, but I would say it's a lot less consistent than most people imagine. –  hippietrail Jul 8 '14 at 8:45

2 Answers 2

up vote 11 down vote accepted

態 to 态

态 is a "new" Phono-semantic compound character. 態 sounds tài, so a simple character 太 with the same pronunciation is chosen for the phonetic part. Then it becomes 态.

This character was simplified by the people who lived in places governed by the CCP during 1940s.

Why not simplify 灬 to 一 for 熊, but for 魚

Answer: 灬 came from 火 (fire) in the seal script. For 灬 under 熊, it has the meaning of fire. But for the character 魚:

鱼 goldfish

though the bottom is written like 火, it is not really 火. Duan Yucai's Annotation to Shuowen said:

"非从火也 the semantic part is not 火 (fire)"

"象形。魚尾與燕尾相佀。 (this character) is a pictogram character. The fishtail is just like the swallow tail."

Thus, when simplifying 魚, they made 灬 (fishtail) as 一; while for 熊, they kept 灬.

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Good Answer! 灬 is always one of the most confusing ones in either learning or teaching Chinese! –  ChineseHulu.com May 28 '14 at 17:41
@ChineseHulu.com thanks! But maybe it's not a good idea to explain too many details to students, they would ask "why does the bear (熊) have anything to do with fire?" (because Shuowen said "炎省聲", the 炎 is the phonetic part of 熊 but it's simplified in the bottom). Anyway, don't try to consider the logic of a character too much and stick to one of the traditional or simplified Chinese as a beginner :) or it will make your head ache. –  Stan May 29 '14 at 0:25
Thorough and spot-on as always! –  NS.X. May 29 '14 at 3:59
The information you have provided while very interesting is unable to explain why there isn't a simplified version though. A lot of simplifications are very arbitrary - 熊 could have been simplified to anything and people would have just accepted it. Like my comment said above our best guess can only be that 熊 contains 能 which, supposedly, is supposed to be 'bear' but again this doesn't explain why it wasn't simplified. –  user3306356 May 29 '14 at 4:01
@user3306356 you have a point. My answer just explained why it can't be "太+灬" for 熊, but lacked a reason for why it wasn't simplified. If we want to summarize all rules for simplification, it would be a voluminous doctoral dissertation :) But your 能 theory won't be the only thing, because many characters were simplified just by "convention" (like 凤, the "bird" part of the character was completely simplified). How did conventions form? We can guess many reasons. –  Stan May 29 '14 at 10:32


Second Stage Simplification Tables

Table 2 Subtable 9 : Generic Simplifications of Component Elements (16 entries)

Where the second stage simplified form of an example character is already encoded it is put in parentheses after the corresponding example character, but these parenthesized forms are not given in the actual second stage simplification tables.


We can see that a simplification for 熊 was actually proposed before.

Wikipedia cites the following as:

Reason For Failure

The Second Scheme broke with a millennia-long cycle of variant forms coming into unofficial use and eventually being accepted (90 percent of the changes made in the First Scheme existed in mass use, many for centuries[13]) in that it introduced new, unfamiliar character forms.[14][15] The sheer number of characters it changed — the distinction between simplifications intended for immediate use and those for review was not maintained in practice — and its release in the shadow of the Cultural Revolution (1966–1978) have been cited among the chief reasons for its failure.[9][16][17][18] As a result of the Cultural Revolution, trained experts were expelled and the Second Scheme was compiled by the Committee and its staffers without outside consultation, which may also have been a factor.[13]

The exact circumstances surrounding the creation and release of the Second Scheme remain shrouded in mystery due to the still-classified nature of many documents and the politically sensitive nature of the issue. However, the Second Scheme is known to have encompassed only about 100 characters before its expansion to over 850.[19] A two-year delay from 1975 to 1977 was officially blamed on Zhang Chunqiao, a member of the Gang of Four; however, there is little historical evidence to support this.[20] Against the political backdrop of the Cultural Revolution, a special section known as the "748 Project" was formed with an emphasis on non-experts, under whose supervision the lists grew significantly. The bulk of the work is believed to have been performed by staffers without proper oversight.[18][21]

The Second Scheme's subsequent rejection by the public has been cited as a case study in a failed attempt to artificially control the direction of a language's evolution.[22] Indeed, it was not embraced by the linguistic community in China upon its release;[23] despite heavy promotion by official publications, Rohsenow observes that "in the case of some of the character forms constructed by the staff members themselves" the public at large found proposed changes "laughable."[24]

Political issues aside, Chen objects to the notion that all characters should be reduced to ten or fewer strokes. He argues that a technical shortcoming of the Second Scheme was that the characters it reformed occur less often in writing than those of the First Scheme. As such it provided less benefit to writers while putting an unnecessary burden on readers in making the characters more difficult to distinguish.[25] Citing several studies, Hannas similarly argues against the lack of differentiation and utility: "it was meaningless to lower the stroke count for its own sake." Thus, he believes simplification and character limitation (reduction of the number of characters)[26] both amount to a "zero-sum game" — simplification in one area of use causing complication in another — and concludes that "the 'complex' characters in Japanese and Chinese, with their greater redundancy and internal consistency, may have been the better bargain."[27]

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oh, I see. But when we native speakers talk about "simplification", we don't include the second stage. Because it's invalid now, and it actually broke many rules that many experts consider important (or we can say it brutally made a very simple new rule), as you know. Yes, the current version of simplification can't be perfect, but it would be a good compromise. –  Stan May 30 '14 at 17:30
Just trying to add another perspective on the subject. –  user3306356 May 31 '14 at 4:17

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