Most people will say it is because there are too many homonyms in the Chinese language. But when I realize that homonyms do not bother people very much in oral communications, I begin to question this answer. As a matter of fact, Vietnamese writing system has been successfully romanized. They have a lot of homonyms too, but they are doing fine.

Ever since Sejong the Great invented the Korean alphabet in 1446, Korean vocabulary has become a superset of the Chinese vocabulary. In other words, hangul has no problem with Chinese homonyms.

  • 2
    What are the real advantages of romanizing Chinese characters?
    – Henry HO
    Sep 9, 2014 at 4:49
  • @HenryHO-Easy to learn, easy to expand, easy to import loan words. Traditional Chinese range of activity was mostly agrarian. Our vocabulary does not rise above our range of activity. Now all of a sudden we joined the world's merchant economy. There are many activities, ideas we don't really have words for. Sep 9, 2014 at 8:03
  • Russia had similar problem two hundred years ago. Pushkin simply borrowed roots from western European vernaculars and popularized them in Russia. Sep 9, 2014 at 8:06
  • Great poets herald great civilization. Pushkin to Russia is Homer to Hellas, Chaucer, Marlowe, Shakespeare to Great Britain, together with Milton, with Shelley, Byron, Blake and many others. – Sep 9, 2014 at 8:52
  • Our great poets belong to a bygone era. Their languages are those of literati with no popular root. Sep 9, 2014 at 8:52

1 Answer 1


Nong si gangdu va?

Romanizing Chinese would effectively sever the cultural and historical continuity, and it would also be detriment to the many minority topolects that share the same script.

You would need to romanize not only Mandarin, Wu, Cantonese, Min, Sichuanese and so on, but also the many dialects of these regional tongues.

Furthermore, you would completely lose the poetic charm that Chinese characters carry. Chinese culture and language would be much poorer without the characters, as they are a defining element of the culture.

There used to be a movement for abolishing the characters, since they were perceived as an obstacle to learning. This is no longer the case, and nobody would propose such a reform today.

Japan has long had not one but two alphabets, but still retains the characters, for the same reasons as stated above.

  • Could Europe have had Renaissance without the rise of vernaculars? Of course the rise of European vernaculars also gave rise to nationalism which eventually lead to WWI. Sep 8, 2014 at 17:05
  • I think poetic charm has more to do with sounds than with looks. And poetic power, the vividness of words, comes from how closely related between the meaning of a word and its ostensive origin. Much of Chinese words are so far removed from its ostensive origins that our poems are no longer as powerful as they used to me. Sep 8, 2014 at 18:21
  • Reading English poems can be a very emotional experience. Sep 8, 2014 at 18:23
  • Paradoxically, those who appreciated calligraphic beauties of written Chinese were mostly aristocrats; those who genuinely appreciate poems were rather unsophisticated. Sep 8, 2014 at 19:01
  • I don't think the Chinese language is a people's language. Sep 8, 2014 at 19:03

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