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A book I have from 1987 uses 象 to mean "to be like"/"to resemble." For instance it defines 粗沙沙 as:

形容感觉不细腻,象沙一样粗糙

Nowadays this would be considered a wrong 错别字. The book, though, is only thirty years old.

When did 像 become the 'proper' form for "to be like"/"to resemble"?

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From 1986/10.

“像”字有这么多含义,但在《现代汉语词典》中只有第一个“画像、雕像”的意思,这是因为《现代汉语词典》是在1964—1968年期间出版的。 1964年,经中国国务院批准,公布了《简化汉字总表》。在这个总表中,“像”是作为“象”的繁体字出现的,但注明“象和像意义可能混淆时,仍用‘像’ 字”。所以在此之后出版的词典仍保留了“像”字,但是只有第一个含义,也就是说,只有在涉及到“人像、画像、塑像”等情况时,才用“像”,其余都用 “象”。

所以后来经专家学者研究讨论,在1986年重新公布《简化汉字总表》时,对个别字作了调整,其中就包括恢复“象、像”的原状,“象”不再作“像”的简化字。

According to the 《简化汉字总表》 published in 1964, is treated as the traditional character of , only used for the meaning of appearance;looks;statue;picture. For other cases should be used.

From 1986 it's repealed, was not treated as the traditional character of again, and regained its meaning of "resemble;be like;take after;similar;alike".

Even it has benn corrected but the confusion still continues. That might be why the book in 1987 still used .

像和象的用法有什么区别
像和象的区别

  • Yeah I’m sure the book was being prepared for many years before publication. – user3306356 Oct 27 '17 at 3:22
  • @user3306356 This is common; even nowadays they're quite confusing. – songyuanyao Oct 27 '17 at 3:29

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