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the answer to your question turns out to be a complex one. firstly, when we talk about characters (i.e. 'squarish East Asian writing symbols with a certain shape, sound, and meaning'—not a good definition but maybe an understandable one), one has to know that there are (historically speaking) both 'simple' shapes (such as e.g. 馬 ma 'horse') that are ...
Zhonghua Zihai (simplified: 中华字海 (1994)) has 85,568 characters; The Dictionary of Chinese Variant Form (traditional: 異體字字典 (2004)) has 106,230 characters.
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