Converting Chinese Names Into Traditional or Simplified Characters
Traditional Chinese characters are used in Hong Kong, Macao, and the Republic of China (Taiwan).
Simplified Chinese characters are used in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Singapore, and Malaysia.
This article will advise analysts on how to convert between these two writing systems to assist with searches, and avoid common pitfalls when doing cross-jurisdiction searches of Chinese entities or individuals.
Traditional Chinese characters are a pictographic writing system, with each character representing a syllable and concept. Since Chinese characters are not phonetic representations, the same characters can be used for multiple Chinese dialects.
For instance, though most residents in Hong Kong and Macao speak Cantonese and residents in the Republic of China (Taiwan) speak Mandarin, both jurisdictions use the same traditional Chinese characters.
Simplified Chinese is a revision of traditional Chinese, with abbreviated versions of many characters and components. Script written in simplified Chinese can be converted to traditional Chinese without modifying the content understood by the reader.
Like traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese can be used to write Mandarin, Cantonese, or other Chinese dialects. The characters themselves are not phonetic.
Converting names across jurisdictions
Every character in simplified Chinese has a corresponding traditional character, and vice versa.
Individuals or companies who cross jurisdictions will translate their name into the Chinese character system used locally. Likewise, news reports will translate Chinese names into the character system used by their readers.
For instance, newspapers in Hong Kong will write Xi Jinping’s name in traditional Characters. Likewise, a businessman traveling from Hong Kong to the PRC will have his name recorded in official PRC documents using simplified characters.
If one is searching for a person or entity crossing between jurisdictions, it is important to remember to convert Chinese characters to match the target jurisdiction.
Search results using the incorrect characters for a given region will return limited or no results. Converting characters on the other hand will allow researchers to search official government documents and major newspapers.
Online translators and dictionaries will allow you to convert between traditional and simplified Chinese characters. Even if one does not read Chinese, it is possible to copy and paste characters and their converted form to perform searches.
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