President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday donated NT$100,000 (US$3,000) to help preserve traditional Chinese characters.
The donation came after he made controversial remarks that Taiwan and China should come to an agreement on the use of simplified Chinese characters.
Realizing his comments had caused a stir, Ma yesterday said that his proposal was made with the hope that Beijing would change its policy on Chinese characters so there would be more Chinese who could understand Chinese history and culture.
Ma made the remarks while visiting the Jih Hsing Typefoundry in Taipei City yesterday afternoon. Jih Hsin is one of the country’s few typefoundries using lead typeface in traditional Chinese characters.
Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦), who accompanied Ma, said that the president was touched after he learned the news about a group of people launching a campaign to preserve Jih Hsing’s lead typecasting by digitalizing the foundry type hoping to preserve traditional culture. Their long-term goal is to establish a museum.
Describing Ma as someone with deep affection for Chinese culture and characters, Wang said the president decided it was necessary to visit the Jih Hsing Typefoundry to show his personal support. As a token of his backing for the program, Ma made a NT$100,000 donation.
He also called on the Council of Cultural Affairs to gain a better understanding of the situation and offer assistance.
On June 9, Ma said he hoped Taipei and Beijing could reach an agreement on the teaching of traditional and simplified Chinese characters at schools for overseas Taiwanese and Chinese, so that students would be taught to read traditional characters and write simplified characters.
He did not elaborate on what he meant by “understanding traditional Chinese characters and writing in simplified Chinese,” nor on how such an agreement would be reached with Beijing.
The remarks drew ire from Democratic Progressive Party legislators, who said Ma’s push for simplified characters was another move toward unification.
Dubbing it a “very big misunderstanding,” Ma later clarified that his comments were strictly aimed at the people of China, not Taiwan.
Ma yesterday said that it was important to read traditional Chinese characters because ancient books were written in traditional script.
As the Republic of China government has relocated from China to Taiwan, Ma said he wondered what would happen to traditional Chinese characters and culture if the government had not moved to Taiwan 60 years ago.