For example there are characters such as 熵 which as far as I know only means one thing - in this case entropy - and which have to have been deliberately added by some person or organization. An earlier example is the character 逛, which according to evidence in manuscripts of Dream of the Red Chamber was added to the language fairly recently, in the 18th century.

My question is: who / what at presently decides what new characters get added to the language? If we were to petition some one or thing to get the 招財進寶 rebus added to the language as an actual character, who would we petition? And do new characters added to the language have to have a pronunciation?

2 Answers 2


国务院, or the State council, decides formally on official characters, for example characters for new chemical elements (like 钐), species (like 鳤) or physical properties, like your example 熵.

But the decisions in China are made just like they are in the rest of the world, that is, they adapt to actual usage. Some characters go, some come.

If a character becomes popular, the government will most likely incorporate it into the 通用规范汉字表 (see http://www.gov.cn/zwgk/2013-08/19/content_2469793.htm for the last edition of 8105 characters).

Names like 喆 (Zhé) and 淼 (Miǎo) are now part of the official standard, although they have of course existed all the time. There is also the classical example of premier 朱镕基, where 镕 was not part of the standard. This is fairly common in China, as odd name characters exist in abundance.

Sometimes existing characters are modified to contemporary usage, like 囧, but is mostly slang and will often not make a permanent mark in dictionaries.


From the point of view of computing, rather than linguistics, character sets are standardized and revised by committee.

  1. In the PRC, the GB2312 character set standard has evolved into GBK:

    With the arrival of GBK, certain names with characters formerly unrepresentable, like the "róng"(镕) character in former Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji's name, are now representable.

    In 1995, China National Information Technology Standardization Technical Committee set down the Chinese Internal Code Specification (汉字内码扩展规范), Version 1.0, known as GBK 1.0, which is a slight extension of Codepage 936. The newly added 95 characters were not found in GB 13000.1-1993, and were provisionally assigned Unicode PUA code points.

    … and GB18030:

    Some characters used by ethnic minorities in China, such as Mongolian characters and Tibetan characters (GB 16959-1997 and GB/T 20542-2006), have been added as well, which accounts for the renaming of the standard.

  2. In Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau, which use traditional characters, Big5 has long been used as the standard. It is named after the consortium of five Taiwanese companies that developed it. However, various software makers developed their own variants of the original standard. In addition,

    Cantonese uses many archaic and some colloquial Chinese characters that were not available in the normal Big5 character set. To solve this problem, the Hong Kong Government created the Big5 extensions Government Chinese Character Set in 1995 and Hong Kong Supplementary Character Set in 1999. The Hong Kong extensions were commonly distributed as a patch. It is still being distributed as a patch by Microsoft, but a full Unicode font is also available from the Hong Kong Government’s web site.

  3. Both standards are being supplanted by Unicode or ISO 10646. The evolution of the Unicode standard is driven by the Unicode Consortium, whose members include software companies and government organizations.
  • an equally excellent answer, from a different perspective. i wish i could accept both. thank you. Feb 15, 2015 at 3:16
  • Ill just upvote both for you :-) Jul 13, 2018 at 13:29

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