I don't mean traditional characters that weren't simplified, thus being the same in traditional and simplified.

What I ask if there is any simplified character which in turn has the same form of another traditional character?

I ask this because I was thinking if it was correct to mix simplified and traditional characters in the same text, and I guess it wouldn't be ambiguous at least if traditional and simplified character sets are disjoint sets.

  • Traditional and Simplified characters can't possibly be disjoint sets since there are many characters that overlap between the two.
    – Orion
    Commented Dec 27, 2011 at 23:50
  • Well that's the definition of what non disjoint sets are, so yeah, basically.
    – Petruza
    Commented Dec 28, 2011 at 1:47
  • @NullUserException better to see it as a word-to-word mapping. seeing it as character sets misses out the complex, problematic issues. chinese.stackexchange.com/questions/559/…
    – magnetar
    Commented Jan 9, 2012 at 14:19

5 Answers 5


Apart from simplified characters that merge two traditional characters into one, as already pointed out (and there are quite a few of these -- 後 and 后 merged into 后 is one example, 裏, 里 and 裡 merged into 里 is another, 鵰 and 雕 merged as 雕 is another), I couldn't offhand think of any cases where a simplified character has the same form as a completely different traditional character, but ahkow found two (see answer below): 葉 > 叶 (Mandarin yè; leaf) 聼 > 听 (tīng; to listen)

where 叶 was xiè(to make something sound good/euphonous) and 听 was yīn (as an adjective to describe someone smiling) before simplification.

Theoretically merged characters could lead to ambiguity. For example:

他射了學校裡的大鵰. Traditional: He shot a large eagle in the school.

他射了学校里的大雕. Simplified: Either 'He shot a large eagle in the school' or 'He shot a large statue in the school'.

他射了學校里的大雕. Mixed. By throwing 學 in there, you are opening the door to potential confusion. To a person familiar only with traditional characters, this could be interpreted as 'He shot a large statue in school village' (里=village). To a person familiar with simplified characters (but knowing the character 學 as the traditional form of 学), it would be: 'He shot a large statue in the school' or 'He shot a large eagle in the school'.

So theoretically the choice of one character set or the other does imply certain choices and interpretations, and mixing the two can lead to confusion.

That said, users of traditional characters do use simplified forms in handwriting -- because that's often what the simplified characters were originally based on! So in handwriting, it would be perfectly ok for a person from Hong Kong or Taiwan to write, say, 他進了校门, because 门 is a simplified form of 門 that has long been current in ordinary Chinese handwriting. There are also people on the Mainland who sometimes mix traditional characters into their writing because they happen to prefer the traditional form.

The creation of an officially defined 'simplified character set' has in some ways interfered with the older fluidity that existed in writing. What it has done is set in stone the choices to be made (either Traditional or Simplified, and no mixing of the two), making it harder to simply use the form of character suited to the circumstances -- full forms in careful or official writing, simplified forms in casual handwriting.

  • There are even some examples where one traditional has multiple simplified. Even one that's hard enough to explain, I'll just leave a link. Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 17:59

There are plenty actually, mostly due to the merger of multiple traditional characters into one simplified character. For example, the simplified character 后 maps to both traditional 后 (meaning 'queen') and 後 (meaning 'after' or 'behind'). Many of these mergers are listed in this Wikipedia article.

  • So the simplification process brought ambiguity to chinese, in the end did it do better or worst to the language?
    – Petruza
    Commented Dec 28, 2011 at 2:10
  • +1 for the link to Wikipedia
    – dusan
    Commented Dec 28, 2011 at 2:20
  • 1
    @拳拳恳 The simplification does both good and bad to the language. Some traditional characters were merged into one character, and thus this simplified character has more meanings than it had before. In few cases, this multi-meaning character would make a sentence ambiguious(especially when you read classic chinese works with simplified characters, so good classic chinese works are published nowadays with traditional characters), but the writer/speaker can avoid it by using another character with the similar meaning or insert more characters to express the meaning explicitly.
    – Huang
    Commented Dec 28, 2011 at 3:34

Bathrobe wrote (in a very thorough answer):

"I can't offhand think of any cases where a simplified character has the same form as a >completely different traditional character."

Two examples:

  1. 葉 > 叶 (Mandarin ye4; leaf);
  2. 聼 > 听 (ting1; to listen).

叶 and 听 are xie2 (to make something sound good/euphonous) and yin1 (as an adjective to describe someone smiling) before simplification, although they were rarely used, which is why they were selected in the first place as simplified forms.

Hence, strictly speaking these characters now have two different pronunciations each.

  • Very well sought out!
    – Bathrobe
    Commented Jan 9, 2012 at 9:17
  • If I could mark two answers, this would be the other, thanks! @Bathrobe: maybe you want to add the example to your answer ;-)
    – Petruza
    Commented Jan 10, 2012 at 1:42

As the previous answers said, some traditional characters were merged into one simplified character. From a mathematical view, you could say the set of traditional characters and the set of simplified characters have an intersection.

Also, you should not write Chinese in a mixed version, either simplified or traditional.


后来,王后发现她的头发变白了。 Simplified version Right

後來,王后發現她的頭髮變白了。traditional version Right

後来,王后发现她的头髮变白了。mixed version Wrong

pay attention to the simplified character 后 and 发. Both of them map to two traditional character.

  • Oh I see, but how wrong is it? the meaning is wrong?
    – Petruza
    Commented Dec 28, 2011 at 2:03
  • I know that google translate shouldn't be used as a reliable reference, but it happens to translate all the three sentences into Later, the queen found that her hair turned white so, at least with this example, google translate is able to disambiguate its meaning.
    – Petruza
    Commented Dec 28, 2011 at 2:05
  • 1
    I say it is wrong, because you should write chinese either in simplified version or traditional version. Theoretically, a sentence with both traditional and simplified characters could be understood,but this behavior is prohibited by law in the mainland, and in HongKong and Taiwan, people don't understand simplified characters, so it's not a good idea to write with mixed characters,either.
    – Huang
    Commented Dec 28, 2011 at 2:45
  • 3
    I find it extremely hilarious that mixing simplified and traditional characters is prohibited by law. Commented Jan 6, 2012 at 14:55
  • 2
    @Huang: I can understand if there are guidelines, etc. But from a North American perspective, if people want to write confusing, ambiguous text, that's perfectly fine. Commented Jan 7, 2012 at 4:50

It'd be wrong to mix traditional and simplified characters in the same text as suggested by Huang.

The simplification was applied to the characters used mostly in daily conversation and prints. This means a lot of complicated characters were not simplified at all and are identical to their traditional counterparts.

I came across this PDF which lists several thousand characters in simplified and traditional forms. You can see a lot of them are the same. I cannot say this is an authoritative resource but I find it quite comprehensive.


Note that the characters on the top rows are traditional ones and the ones on the bottom rows are simplified characters.

  • 1
    Thanks, but that's exactly why I wrote this as the first line of my question: I don't mean traditional characters that weren't simplified, thus being the same in traditional and simplified.
    – Petruza
    Commented Dec 29, 2011 at 21:44

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