Everyday Variants: 垃圾「乱」丟


I walked past this sign the other day near Dingxi MRT station and was reminded of how often Taiwanese people use simpler variants of some characters when writing some of the more complex Chinese characters, many of which were adopted in China as the standard simplified version of the character:


It reads:




Dumping rubbish
[Incurs a] fine [of]

It’s not OK to throw bags inside

Here 「亂」, meaning here “carelessly” or “against the rules”, is written using the variant 「乱」, which is identical to its simplified form.

This variant form is listed in the MOE’s Variant dictionary:


Church Leaflet Fancy Talk:「纔」vs 「才」

I got this leaflet through the letterbox the other night (the people called up to ask if they could put it inside) from a group called “The Church in Taipei”.



Leaflet from The Church in Taipei (highlights mine)

Although the content of the leaflet was largely unremarkable (we will help you find meaning for your life/true freedom), a few things about it did catch my eye.

The first was a detail of the story:


A child who had gone to elementary school in the US and returned to Taiwan with their parents was going on and on asking to go back to the US. When you asked him why, he said precociously “Because American students have more freedom!”. This is freedom for a child – not having to wear a uniform, not having to carry a schoolbag, not having to read too many books  and not having to undergo corporal punishment.

Leaving aside the suggestion that American kids don’t have to read or carry school bags, I thought it interesting that the author was unaware that corporal punishment is illegal in Taiwan.

The other aspect of the leaflet that I found interesting was the choice of characters, which suggested the author wasn’t using the most common input system Zhuyin (Bopomofo), and that they were trying to some extent to sound authoritative through the use of more traditional variants. Some can be, perhaps, be ascribed to font choices, but I’m inclined to believe it is more of a stylistic choice. Examples are as below:

爲 vs 為

「爲」 is used in all cases in the leaflet above, rather than the more commonly seen 「為」, including together with the more  formal 「甚麼」 in place of 「什麼」. If you’re typing in zhuyin you have to scroll to access the character 「爲」 whereas 為 will come out in combination with 什麼 and 甚麼 automatically:


Perhaps the author uses Cangjie or Sucheng, more popular input methods among older people in Taiwan.

着 vs 著

The character 「着」 is a variant of the character 「著」 and it’s also listed the standard simplified character, but it’s not often used in Taiwan:

纔 vs 才

I remember at university we had to learn to read texts in traditional Chinese. Many of the pre-Revolutionary texts from China used the traditional form 「纔 」 as opposed to 「才」 to mean “only then”. At several points in the text the author uses this more traditional form, however, both are listed in the Ministry of Education dictionary in separate listings, 「才」 has the additional meaning of talent or ability, but in this context they have similar meanings and 「才」is also the simplified version of 「纔」.

群 vs 羣

「羣」 is a variant of 「群」 and also suggests a stylistic choice made, rather than an accident.

This perhaps all makes sense when you think of the language used in the Bible in English and its surrounding literature, so this is perhaps an attempt to echo this kind of usage in Chinese.

Another Cangjie Geek Post: 「節」Variant and the Taipei International Book Expo

The character 「節」 can mean ‘festival’, ‘a joint or node’ or it can also mean ‘to use restraint’ or ‘to economize’. The Cangjie code when looking at the character is pretty straightforward: 「竹日戈中」. For those of those unfamiliar with Cangjie, you can find more info at the Cangjie input Wikipedia page. Basically for a character with three elements like 「節」 we break it into three constituent parts: 竹, the abbreviated form of 艮 and 卩. We take the 1st and last element of the first part – here that would be 竹 (which serves as both the first and the last element of the first part of the character), then the first and last element of the second part of the character which are 日 and 戈 (the dot on the bottom) and the last element of the final part of the character, which is 中 (a vertical line. This leaves us with 「竹日戈中」(hail) , however, when presented in certain fonts, like the one I found below, the appearance of the character in variant form, suggests alternative ways to write the character that do not work:


This rendering of the character 「031」 suggests the Cangjie code 「竹竹心中」(竹 is the first and last element of the first part; 竹 (the top stroke of 白) and 心 (which is used to represent 匕) are the first and last elements of the second part and 中 is still the final element of the final part, however, this obviously doesn’t work, as the standard form is the one the code is based on. If anyone knows which font throws up this variant of 「節」 please let me know. You can find more variants of 節 at the Ministry of Education variant dictionary.

Speaking of variant forms, after penning my last post on the variant forms of 「免」 I was amused to see the variant form 「001」 used in a poster advertising the upcoming  Taipei International Book Exhibition on the MRT:


Incidentally, the book exhibition is well worth a visit – it’s going to held from February 16-21 at the Taipei World Trade Center Exhibition Halls 1 and 3. It’s open 10am-6pm, with late night sessions until 10pm on Friday the 19th and Saturday the 20th, as well as until 8pm on Sunday the 21st. The first day at Exhibition Hall 1 is just for professionals, so you can visit from the 17th to the 21st, whereas Exhibition Hall 3 is open the whole time to everyone. It’s also free for under-18s.

Visit the MOE Variant Dictionary here.

Non-Cangjie Geeks Should “Avoid” This Article (Snort)

I was doing an exam on a computer when I came across 「免」(avoid), and couldn’t for the life of me remember how to write it in cangjie. This is because the font on my computer used a variant form of 「免」, as below:


According to cangjie logic this should be written 尸竹日竹山(shahu), with the 刀 similar to that on the top right part of 「解」(弓月尸竹手/nbshq), but, of course 免 is written 弓日竹山(nahu), following the logic of 色。

Other variants of 免 can be found here, one of which bears a striking resemblance to 「兑」 the simplified version of the character 「兌」(dui4/ㄉㄨㄟˋ to exchange).

Curious if anyone knows what fonts feature the variant of 「免」, I also wonder if there are any plans (as unproductive a goal as it may be) to add variants to unicode, as I think they add something to the language.

If you have an unhealthy obsession with Chinese characters and want to share some of your observations, you can contact me or comment below.

If you want to see a similar post to this one, click here.

When is it 裡 and when is it 裏? Commonly used variants in action!

I recently posted a list of Chinese character variants and the Taiwanvore blogger posted an additional pair of variants to the list in the comments section – one in very common usage in Taiwan, specifically 裡 (for Cangjie fans that is 中田土) and 裏 (卜田土女). This variant pair is quite a rare example in modern Chinese as both are in regular usage, although according to Taiwan’s Ministry of Education, 裡 is the standard character (正體) and 裏 is the variant (異體). Continue reading

Various Variants – Antiquated or Alternate versions of Chinese Characters

I started a collection of variants some time ago on Google Docs, but I gradually forgot about it – would be happy to hear from anyone about variants they have discovered in their language learning process.

Strokes (Original) Standard Form Character Variant pinyin 倉頡碼 Unicode Note
3 yi3 unknown u382f Classical only
5 ran3 月一一 u5184
8 jie3 女中x竹 u59ca
10 wan3 十十弓日山 u8f13
10 xiao4 口廿大 u54b2
10 鬭、鬬、閗 dou4 中弓口一中、中弓月一中、中弓卜十 U9B2D, u9b2c, u9597 found in 齊物論
12 pu3 卜廿日 u669c
13 qun2 尸口廿手 u7fa3
14 bao1 日弓日弓 u95c1
15 pu4 人口戈十月 u8216 4th tone 鋪 only – both written 鋪 in classical, later 舍 replaced 金 as it reflected the noun’s meaning more accurately
15 xuan2 一土卜月山 u74bf
17 lian3 人人弓人 u6b5b

Comment below!

An alms bowl by any other name 盋/砵/缽/鉢 bō

3542008756_b127c70724_oEver seen buddhist monks on the street collecting money with an alms bowl? Did you notice what it was made of? It’s interesting when you come across variants in Chinese based on the difference between the materials used to make it.

The Taiwanese Ministry of Education dictionary lists 缽 Bō as an alms bowl. I also found 缽 in 《馬橋詞典》:


I came across the character 盋 online and when I presented it to two Taiwanese colleagues, neither of them were able to identify it, however when I said it was pronounced Bō, one wrote 鉢 and the other wrote 缽.

盋 is a rare variant of Bō, made up of 犮 quǎn – itself a variant of 犬 (hound/dog) – and 皿 mǐn (dish/shallow container). 

The other three characters all combine 本 běn, which seems to be a phonetic component, with three different materials 缶 fǒu (pottery), 石 shí (stone) and 金 jīn (metal): 缽 砵 鉢

If you know of any other variants that follow this pattern, hit the comments section and I’ll feature them in a future post.

Photo credit: 心道法師

Side by side or top and bottom? Varying it up with variants

m500_22024607701OK – just a quick post today! Am reading 《馬橋詞典》(Dictionary of Maqiao) by 韓少功 (Han Shaogong) at the minute and came across a word for a woman’s period or menstruation – 例假 – that I hadn’t seen before. For some reason I read this as 例期 however and looking it up I found the variant 朞 – a bottom top variant of 期 – combining 其 and 月. This reminded me of a few other variants that follow this pattern, like 峰 and 峯 feng1 “summit,” and 群 and 羣 for “qun1” crowd.

There’s also 鑒 and 鑑 jian4 which have their ingredients stirred around a little.

Let me know if you know of any others!