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Variant Chinese characters (simplified Chinese: 异体字; traditional Chinese: 異體字; pinyin: yìtǐzì; Kanji: 異体字; Hepburn: itaiji; Hanja: 異體字; Hangul: 이체자; Revised Romanization: icheja) are Chinese characters that are homophones and synonyms. Almost all variants are allographs in most circumstances, such as casual handwriting. Some contexts require the usage of certain variants, such as in textbook editing.

Variant character
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 異體字
Simplified Chinese 异体字
Literal meaning different form character
Alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 又體
Simplified Chinese 又体
Literal meaning also form
Second alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 或體
Simplified Chinese 或体
Literal meaning or form
Third alternative Chinese name
Chinese 重文
Literal meaning repeated writing
Korean name
Hangul 이체자
Hanja 異體字
Japanese name
Hiragana いたいじ
Kyūjitai 異體字
Shinjitai 異体字


Regional standardsEdit

From right to left: Kangxi Dictionary forms, Mainland China standard, Hong Kong standard, Taiwan standard, Japanese standard. Areas in the rightmost column where there are significant differences among different standards are highlighted in yellow. (玄 is not written completely in the Kangxi Dictionary because 玄 is a character in the Kangxi Emperor's given name, 玄燁. It was taboo to write a character in the emperor's given name.)

Variant Chinese characters exist within and across all regions where Chinese characters are used, whether Chinese-speaking (mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore), Japanese-speaking (Japan), or Korean-speaking (North Korea, South Korea). Some of the governments of these regions have made efforts to standardize the use of variants, by establishing certain variants as standard. The choice of which variants to use has resulted in some divergence in the forms of Chinese characters used in mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. This effect compounds with the sometimes drastic divergence in the standard Chinese character sets of these regions resulting from the character simplifications pursued by mainland China and by Japan.

The standard character forms of each region are described in:

Orthodox and vulgar variantsEdit

Character forms that are most orthodox are known as orthodox characters (Chinese: 正字; pinyin: zhèngzì) or Kangxi Dictionary form (Chinese: 康熙字典體; pinyin: Kāngxī zìdiǎn tǐ), as the forms found in the Kangxi dictionary are usually orthodox. Other variants are known as vulgar characters (Chinese: 俗字; pinyin: súzì; Hepburn: zokuji).

Usage in computingEdit

Variants of the Chinese character for guī 'turtle', collected ca. 1800 from printed sources.
Five of the 30 variant characters found in the preface of the Kangxi Dictionary which are not found in the dictionary itself.

Unicode deals with variant characters in a complex manner, as a result of the process of Han unification. In Han unification, some variants that are nearly identical between Chinese-, Japanese-, Korean-speaking regions are encoded in the same code point, and can only be distinguished using different typefaces. Other variants that are more divergent are encoded in different code points. On web pages, displaying the correct variants for the intended language is dependent on the typefaces installed on the computer, the configuration of the web browser and the language tags of web pages. Systems that are ready to display the correct variants are rare because many computer users do not have standard typefaces installed and the most popular web browsers are not configured to display the correct variants by default. The following are some examples of variant forms of Chinese characters with different code points and language tags.

Different code points,
Mainland China language tag
Different code points,
Taiwan language tag
Different code points,
Hong Kong language tag
Different code points,
Japanese language tag
Different code points,
Korean language tag
戶戸户 戶戸户 戶戸户 戶戸户 戶戸户
爲為为 爲為为 爲為为 爲為为 爲為为
強强 強强 強强 強强 強强
畫畵画 畫畵画 畫畵画 畫畵画 畫畵画
線綫线 線綫线 線綫线 線綫线 線綫线
匯滙 匯滙 匯滙 匯滙 匯滙
裏裡 裏裡 裏裡 裏裡 裏裡
夜亱 夜亱 夜亱 夜亱 夜亱
龜亀龟 龜亀龟 龜亀龟 龜亀龟 龜亀龟

The following are some examples of variant forms of Chinese characters with the same code points and different language tags.

Same code point, different language tags
Mainland China Taiwan Hong Kong Japanese Korean
Same code point, different language tags
Mainland China Taiwan Hong Kong Japanese Korean

Graphemic variantsEdit

Some variants are not allographic. For a set of variants to be allographs, someone who could read one should be able to read the others, but some variants cannot be read if one only knows one of them. An example is and , where someone who is able to read might not be able to read . Another example is , which is a variant of , but some people who could read might not be able to read .

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit