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Chinese written language, Chinese culture, Chinese script, Vertical text direction, Text direction, Chinese tradition, Chinese writing, Chinese characters, Canadian Chinese Times Edmonton, Alberta

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Subject-Keyword: Chinese written language Chinese culture Chinese script Vertical text direction Text direction Chinese tradition Chinese writing Chinese characters Canadian Chinese Times Edmonton, Alberta

Type of item: Report

Language: English



Description: This is the English translation of a short essay published on April 11th 2002 in The Canadian Chinese Times, a community newspaper in Edmonton. It is on the validity and sustainability of the traditional vertical text direction of written and printed Chinese texts. The original Chinese essay is also appended.

Date created: 2016-8-31

DOI: doi:10.7939-R3QJ78560

License information: Attribution 4.0 International


Autor: Chor, Louis



1 Chinese and Culture Louis Chor Translated by the author from the Chinese, with slight textual changes. Originally published as “Zhong wen yu wen hua” in The Canadian Chinese Times, a weekly Chinese community newspaper in Edmonton, Canada, on April 11th 2002. Corrections to some information in the original essay are given as endnotes. The original Chinese essay follows this translation. According to the English newspaper Edmonton Journal, Chinese newspapers in the United States would start to be printed in the horizontal text direction [as a change from the present vertical text direction].
This news made me feel much perplexed.
Having recovered from this shock, I decided to render grievance into words.
Whether it is vertical or horizontal, the text direction may not seem to affect the general taste.
But since what this involves is a cultural issue, it deserves serious consideration. It is said that because the early Chinese characters were written in ink on bamboo strips, therefore unlike other written languages which move horizontally from left to right or from right to left, Chinese characters naturally proceed from top to bottom, with columns of characters moving from right to left, forming the tradition.1 As I understand, among the thousands of languages in the world today, there are no languages, other than Chinese, Japanese and Korean of former times, which have vertical written scripts.2 We do not treasure this unique written manifestation of the language, but instead discard it like worn-out shoes.
Yet on the other hand, we are talking nonstop about promoting and glorifying Chinese cultural heritages.
Would this stance seem logically tenable? Under the influence of Western culture for over a hundred years, there is nothing to be criticised that most people have been accustomed to write Chinese horizontally from left to right.
However, in printed Chinese, computerisation allows for either vertical or horizontal layout as a matter of choice.
On the pri...

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