Ancient Chinese VS Modern Chinese

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Jun 24, 2016 23:23
Speaking of the Chinese language, many non-Chinese speakers tend to think that it’s a language with a long history. Admittedly, the origins of the language can be traced back thousands of years. The creation of paper and Chinese characters enabled written texts from ancient times to be passed down from one generation to the next.

In actuality, standard Modern Chinese is a young language with a history of around 100 years. Until the early 1910s, what people wrote substantially differed from what they spoke in daily life. The written texts had to adhere to the ancient Chinese fashion, though the grammar and vocabulary were very different. The strict conformity to ancient Chinese curbed the spread of the language teaching and learning, and therefore resulted in widespread illiteracy. Only the well-educated were capable of writing.

During the 1910s and the 1920s, the New Culture Movement was launched, which aimed to free people from their fetish of traditional Chinese culture. One of the leaders was Hu Shi, a key advocate of the use for written vernacular Chinese. From then on, the pioneers endeavored to write books and publish newspapers in vernacular literature.

The impact of the movement was huge, and marked the first time Chinese people had come to know what science and democracy were. Many eminent, influential writers appeared in that period, such as Lu Xun, Hu shi, most of whom had received quality international schooling. However, I don’t recommend you learn Chinese using their literature, because the modern Chinese language has been evolving, and the language in those works in the embryonic stage seems unnatural now, and you’re very likely to be unable to notice that (distinguish the unnatural parts from the natural).

Over the past hundred years, the language reforms and development have never ceased. Some people think the language was tainted by the CR in terms of aesthetics, but in my eyes, it‘s still one of the most beautiful languages in the world. And, I’m also happy to see that China’s Millennials have been coining new words and even new Chinese characters, making it a living language.

An anecdote:
Mr. Hu Shi did his undergraduate studies at Cornell University and received his PhD from Columbia University. He was influenced by the philosophy of pragmatism proposed by his tutor, Mr. John Dewey. In the 1920s, when Mao worked at Peking University as a librarian, Hu was president of the university. Mao adored him, but Hu looked down on him. So, before the PRC was founded, Hu, who was always skeptical of Communism and knew what would happen to him in the years to come, fled to Taiwan, while his son remained in mainland China, and committed suicide under torture in the 1950s, because he was considered a bourgeois.
不好意思,不知不觉又写那么长。。。希望这些背景知识能帮到大家。


古代汉语和现代汉语

说起中文,很多外国人都会认为中文有很长的历史。诚然,中文的起源可以追溯到数千年前。纸张和汉字的发明能够让文献数千年来代代相传。

实际上,现代中文却又是一门很年轻的语言,才100年左右的历史。早在1920年代,人们说的和写的完全不一样。尽管语法和词汇有很大的不同,书面语言必须严格按照古代汉语方式来写,所以只有少数受过良好的教育的人才能够写得出书面文章,不利于文字教学,导致很多人不识字不识文章。

1910年到1920年,中国掀起了一场“新文化运动”,旨在解除人们对中国古代文化的盲目崇拜。其中一个领导人物是胡适,他倡导使用白话文。从那以后,大量新文化先驱们开始用白话文写书,出版报纸。

新文化运动对中国的影响非常大。因为这是中国人第一次得知“德先生”、“赛先生”。很多有名的作家在这个时期如雨后春笋般地涌出。比如鲁迅、胡适,他们大多数人都在国外的高等学府受过良好的教育。但我不建议外国人用他们的文章来学习现代中文,因为那时候的白话文运动处于萌芽期,他们用的语言,现在看起来有些不地道不自然,而作为一个外语学习者,外国人是无法区分的。

在现代汉语的百年史中,中文一直在不断地变化和发展。有些人认为现代汉语在CR运动中还受过污染,但在我眼里,中文仍然是世上最美丽的语言之一。我非常高兴地看到,中国的年轻人们在不断创造新词,甚至是新汉字,使得这门语言成为一门活语言。