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Simplified Chinese characters are standardized Chinese characters prescribed in the Xiandai Hanyu Tongyong Zibiao (List of Commonly Used Characters in Modern Chinese) for use in mainland China. Along with traditional Chinese characters, it is one of the two standard character sets of the contemporary Chinese written language. The government of the People's Republic of China in mainland China has promoted them for use in printing since the 1950s and 1960s in an attempt to increase literacy. They are officially used in the People's Republic of China and Singapore.

Traditional Chinese characters are currently used in Hong Kong, Macau, and Republic of China (Taiwan). While traditional characters can still be read and understood by many mainland Chinese and Singaporeans, these groups generally retain their use of Simplified characters. Overseas Chinese communities generally tend to use traditional characters.

Simplified Chinese characters are officially called in Chinese jiǎnhuàzì (简化字 in simplified form, 簡化字 in traditional form). Colloquially, they are called jiǎntizì (简体字 / 簡體字). Strictly, the latter refers to simplifications of character "structure" or "body", character forms that have existed for thousands of years alongside regular, more complicated forms. On the other hand, jiǎnhuàzì means the modern systematically simplified character set, that (as stated by Mao Zedong in 1952) includes not only structural simplification but also substantial reduction in the total number of standardized Chinese characters.

Simplified character forms were created by decreasing the number of strokes and simplifying the forms of a sizable proportion of traditional Chinese characters. Some simplifications were based on popular cursive forms embodying graphic or phonetic simplifications of the traditional forms. Some characters were simplified by applying regular rules, for example, by replacing all occurrences of a certain component with a simplified version of the component. Variant characters with the same pronunciation and identical meaning were reduced to one single standardized character, usually the simplest amongst all variants in form. Finally, many characters were left untouched by simplification, and are thus identical between the traditional and simplified Chinese orthographies.

Some simplified characters are very dissimilar to and unpredictably different from traditional characters, especially in those where a component is replaced by an arbitrary simple symbol. This often leads opponents not well-versed in the method of simplification to conclude that the 'overall process' of character simplification is also arbitrary. In reality, the methods and rules of simplification are few and internally consistent. On the other hand, proponents of simplification often flaunt a few choice simplified characters as ingenious inventions, when in fact these have existed for hundreds of years as ancient variants.

A second round of simplifications was promulgated in 1977, but was later retracted for a variety of reasons. However, the Chinese government never officially dropped its goal of further simplification in the future.

In August 2009, the PRC began collecting public comments for a modified list of simplified characters. The new Table of General Standard Chinese Characters consisting of 8105 (simplified and unchanged) characters was promulgated by the State Council of the People's Republic of China on June 5, 2013.


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