Chinese characters

Another common alternation is between voiced and voiceless initials (though the voicing distinction has disappeared on most modern varieties). This is believed to reflect an ancient prefix, but scholars disagree on whether the voiced or voiceless form is the original root. For example,

Pictograms are primary characters in the sense that they, along with ideograms (indicative characters i.e. symbols), are the building blocks of associative compound characters (会意字/會意字) and phono-semantic characters (形声字/形聲字).

Comparative evolution from pictograms to abstract shapes, in cuneiform, Egyptian and Chinese characters
The first batch of Simplified Characters introduced in 1935 consisted of 324 characters.

The People's Republic of China issued its first round of official character simplifications in two documents, the first in 1956 and the second in 1964. In the 1950s and 1960s, while confusion about simplified characters was still rampant, transitional characters that mixed simplified parts with yet-to-be simplified parts of characters together appeared briefly, then disappeared.

Current (dark and medium green) and former extension (light green) of the use of Chinese characters

Chinese character simplification is the overall reduction of the number of strokes in the regular script of a set of Chinese characters.

The first round, consisting of 498 Simplified characters from 502 Traditional characters, was promulgated by the Ministry of Education in 1969. The second round, consisting of 2287 Simplified characters, was promulgated in 1974. The second set contained 49 differences from the Mainland China system; those were removed in the final round in 1976.

It ultimately adopted the reforms of the People's Republic of China in their entirety as official, and has implemented them in the educational system. However, unlike in China, personal names may still be registered in traditional characters.

Malaysia started teaching a set of simplified characters at schools in 1981, which were also completely identical to the Mainland China simplifications. Chinese newspapers in Malaysia are published in either set of characters, typically with the headlines in traditional Chinese while the body is in simplified Chinese.

Although in both countries the use of simplified characters is universal among the younger Chinese generation, a large majority of the older Chinese literate generation still use the traditional characters. Chinese shop signs are also generally written in traditional characters.

There are numerous styles, or scripts, in which Chinese characters can be written, deriving from various calligraphic and historical models. Most of these originated in China and are now common, with minor variations, in all countries where Chinese characters are used.

The nature of Chinese characters makes it very easy to produce allographs (variants) for many characters, and there have been many efforts at orthographical standardization throughout history. In recent times, the widespread usage of the characters in several nations has prevented any particular system becoming universally adopted and the standard form of many Chinese characters thus varies in different regions.

In addition to strictness in character size and shape, Chinese characters are written with very precise rules. The most important rules regard the strokes employed, stroke placement, and stroke order. Just as each region that uses Chinese characters has standardized character forms, each also has standardized stroke orders, with each standard being different. Most characters can be written with just one correct stroke order, though some words also have many valid stroke orders, which may occasionally result in different stroke counts. Some characters are also written with different stroke orders due to character simplification.

Another dictionary system is the Four-Corner Method, in which characters are classified according to the shape of each of the four corners.

, a publication from 1871, now in the public domain in the United States.