Josephus Table of Nations

Go to Main Body the Nation tribes of Japheth, Ham and Shem in 2000BC

Go to Appendix 1 Modern day India (and Sanskrit)

Go to Appendix 2 Modern day China, its main dialect: Mandarin and its two scripts: Simplified and Traditional

Click here to go to Post Script July 2018 — Simplified Chinese taught in a British school Hong Kong

Intro: Population in 1 AD at the time of Josephus.

Population of the world estimate perhaps 200 million.
China's share was perhaps 60 million, India 60 million, and the Parthian Empire (modern day Iran) perhaps 10 million, or 20 million at the most. An estimate 160 years ago in 1857 showed Persia with just 4 million. Since then Iran (as it is now known) has grown to 80 million.

The population of every other country in Asia was probably less than one million with this being the case in most of Africa and probably America. People, as now, moved to where education, farms and townships, trade roads and ports predominated.

In a Roman Empire census in 14 AD, the eastern region shows Anatolia (modern day Turkey) with 8 million, Egypt and Libya 5 million, Syria and Judaea 4 million, the Greek Peninsula 3 million, totalling 20 million.

In the West, Italy including Rome shows 7 million, Gaul (ie Britain & France) plus Germany 6 million, Iberia (Spain) 5 million, Danube Region (ie Austria-Hungary & Slavic peoples) 3 million, Maghreb (Northern Africa) 3 million, Others 1 million, totalling 25 million.

Click here for 2020 population stats

Regarding ancient maps, both before and about the time of Josephus

Josephus was a Jewish general, a descendant of the priestly Maccabee tribe at the time of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. A horrific event, with this extract from his writings declaring 1.1 million perished in the siege and total destruction of Jerusalem, and 97,000 were taken prisoner by Rome. Very few Jews were left alive in Judæa in the immediate aftermath, returning from where they had fled only after the bulk of the Roman army had left. In 71 AD Roman Emperor Vespasian commissioned Josephus to write a history of this war, which he finished in 78 AD. His second major work, the Antiquities of the Jews was a 20 volume work, completed around 93 AD. It was a commentary in Greek that fleshed out the Book of Genesis as well as providing a background to the Jews from the time of Abraham to that present time. He next wrote Against Apion in about 96-100 AD. Finally The Life of Josephus, his autobiography, followed in about 100 AD. He died shortly after.

With regard to Jesus, below are the words he is recorded as having written that were published in paragraph 3, chapter 3, Book 18 of Antiquities of the Jews:

"Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was (the) Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day."


Main Body

Genesis 10

Article acknowledges additional assistance from the Jewish Technical Education NGO — ORT based in Israel. Click here for some of ORT's background.
Extract from Wikipedia.
Click image to view it in a resizable movable window

Click here to go to Japheth's descendants

Click here to go to Ham's descendants

Click here to go to Shem's descendants

The background to the article below (and map on the right) can be found in Wikipedia quoting an extract from Josephus Book 1 of Antiquities of the Jews as translated by William Whiston.

Start of extract from Josephus
Now they were the grandchildren of Noah, in honour of whom names were imposed on the nations by those who first settled them.


Japheth, the son of Noah, had seven sons: they inhabited so, that, beginning at the mountains Taurus and Amanus, they proceeded along Asia, as far as the river Tanais, and along Europe to Cadiz, and settling themselves on the lands which they came upon, which none had inhabited before, they called the nations by their own names, for

  1. Gomer founded those whom the Greeks now call Galatians (Gauls / Celts), but were then called Gomerites (Cimmerians, Crimea).
  2. a. Of the three sons of Gomer, Ashkenaz who are now called by the Greeks Rheginians, also associated with the name "Scythian", founded the home place for the later Ashkenazi Jews speaking Yiddish (in Germany). Rhegium, at the time of Josephus, was a city near the southernmost point of Italy.
    Dwelling in the grasslands north and east of the Black Sea, Scythians were associated by the Greeks with "the epitome of savagery and barbarianism". In history they have been associated with the Slavic (enslaving and enslaved) nomadic peoples of ancient Russia from east to west, from the horseback riding Mongols (or Tartars) in the far east, such as Genghis Khan and Tamburlaine the Great, back to the earlier Huns in the far west, such as Attila the Hun who invaded Germany in 430AD.
    But click here too for Paul the apostle's comments in Colossians "in Christ there are no more barbarians, Scythians, slaves, free".

  3. b. So did Riphas or Riphath found the Riphasians, now called Paphlagonians in northern Turkey, just below the Black Sea, and

  4. c. Togarmah the Togarmans [Turks], who, as the Greeks resolved, were named Phrygians, inhabitants of western Turkey. The Phrygians were known for the ancient legend of Midas, a king who, everything he touched, turned to gold. In the east, the Turks became the ancient tribes of Turkestan, seen in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Xinjiang (also known as East Turkestan or Chinese Turkestan).
  5. Magog founded those who from him were named Magogites (or Mongols), but who are called by the Greeks Scythians, doubtless due to their settling down with their nephew, Ashkenaz, see 2a above. As mentioned in that note, they were the Slavic (enslaved) nomadic peoples of ancient Russia from east to west, from the horseback riding Mongols (or Tartars) in the far east to the Huns, a Scythian tribe in the near east.
    Click here for an archive Arab reference to the Mongols in
    Click here for further background on Gog and Magog, including their enslaving (and enslavement).
    See Ezekiel 38.

  6. Now as to Javan and Madai, the sons of Japheth, from Madai came the Madeans, who are called Medes by the Greeks (modern day north-western Iran) who later spread into northern India. They were identified by the Greek historian Herodotus with the Aryan race, using a word that means "noble" or "good family" in Sanskrit, and from which comes Persia's modern name (Iran). It was their King Darius the Great who ok'd the finishing of the temple in Jerusalem, who was said by another Greek historian Thucydides to have led his "Median" Navy in the Battle of Marathon with Greece. Darius also oversaw the creation of the Old Persian script to be used for inscriptions e.g. the Behistun Inscription, and calling it an "Aryan" script.
    Many of the Kurds of today consider themselves the modern descendants of the Medes.

  7. But from Javan, Ionia, and all the Greeks, are derived. Note, in the Greek legend of the flood, very much a local affair, Deucalion and his wife were left as the only surviving humans on earth (c. 1528BC). They have a son Hellen (pronounced Helleen), from which comes the Greek word for itself, "Hellas", and two grandsons, Graecus (Greeks) who settled in southern Italy, and Latinus (Latins) who settled in the region of Rome.
  8. a. Of the sons of Javan also, the son of Japheth, Elishah gave name to the Eliseans, who were his subjects, they are now the Aeolians (Thessaly in northern Greece).

  9. b. Tarshish or initially Tharshish to the Tarshians, for so was Cilicia of old called, the sign of which is this, that the noblest city they have, and a metropolis also, is Tarsus (where Paul the apostle was born), the τ tau, pronounced "t" (in Hebrew the Mark of life see Ezekiel 9:4-6) being by change put for the θ theta, pronounced "th" (Thanatos - Greek word for Death).
    Later sailings occurred — west into Tartessos (Cadiz) in southern Spain and east into Asia (possibly Japan and even to Java).

  10. c. Cethimus or Kittim/Chittim possessed the island Cethima, it is now called Cyprus, and from that it is that all islands, and the greatest part of the sea coasts, are named Cethim by the Hebrews, and one city there is in Cyprus that has been able to preserve its name, it has been called Citium by those who use the language of the Greeks, and has not, by the use of that dialect, escaped the name of Cethim.
  11. d. Dodanim (who is omitted by Josephus). In 1 Chronicles 1:7 he is called Rodanim, translated as Rodians in the Septuagint, with many associating him with the island of Rhodes.
  12. Thobel or Tubal founded the Thobelites, who are now called Iberes (Georgia).
    Tubal is also identified by many with settlements around the Tiber River (in Italy) and the Ebra River in the Iberian Peninsula, which the Romans later named Hispania, or Spain, home place for the later Sephardi Jews,

  13. and the Mosocheni were founded by Mosoch or Meshech, now they are Cappadocians, much of central modern day Turkey. There is also a mark of their ancient name still to be shown, for there is even now among them a city called Mazaca, which may inform those who are able to understand, that so was the entire nation once called.
    Identified by many also with the Moscow River and the city of Moscow to the north Click here.

  14. Thiras or Tiras also called those whom he ruled over, Thirasians, but the ancient Greeks who conquered the land changed the name to Thrace. It included Byzantium (Constantinople) on its eastern border with the Orient (Asia). Thrace was subsequently conquered by the Turkish Ottoman Empire at the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

    And so many nations have the children and grandchildren of Japheth possessed.


    The children of Ham possessed the land from Syria and Amanus (ancient Antioch), and the mountains of Libanus (modern day Lebanon), settling all that was on its sea coasts (in Africa) and as far as the (Atlantic) ocean, and keeping it as their own. Some indeed of its names are utterly vanished away, others of them, being changed, and another sound given them, are hardly to be discovered, yet a few there are which have kept their names entire.

  15. For of the four sons of Ham, time has not at all hurt the name of Cush, for the Ethiopians, over whom he reigned, are even at this day, both by themselves and by all men in Asia, called Kushites.

  16. The memory also of the Mizriy is preserved in their name, for all we who inhabit this country [of Judea] called Egypt Mizraim. Related to fortress, siege, straits, a narrow place, & possibly the basis of miser and misery.

  17. Phut also was the founder of Libya, and called the inhabitants Phutites, from himself, there is also a river in the country of Moors which bears that name, where it is that we may see the greatest part of the Greek historiographers mention that river and the adjoining country by the appellation of Phut,
    but the name it has now, has been by change given it from one of the sons of Mizraim, who was called Lybyos. We will inform you presently what has been the occasion why it has been called Africa also (ie from Epher, son of Midian and grandson of Abraham Genesis 25:4. These Afri peoples, as they were called, settled in modern day Tunisia / Libya).

  18. Canaan, the fourth son of Ham, inhabited the country now called Judea, and called it from his own name Canaan.

    The children of these were these:

    Descendants of Cush

  19. Sabas Seba in Hebrew, who founded the Sabaeans (Yemen "Teman" Hebrew "South"),
  20. Evilas or Havilah, who founded the Evileans, who are called Getuli,
  21. Sabathes or Sabtah, founded the Sabathens–they are now called by the Greeks, Astaborans,
  22. Sabactas or Sabtechah settled the Sabactens, and
  23. Ragmus or Raamah the Ragmeans, and he had two sons,
  24. the one of whom, Judadas or Dedan, settled the Judadeans, a nation of the Western Ethiopians, and left them his name,
  25. as did Sabas Sheba in Hebrew to the Sabaeans.
    Josephus Book 2 Chapter 10 Paragraph 2 states that Sabas was a royal city of Ethiopia, which Cambyses (circa 440 BC) afterwards named Mero, after the name of his own sister.

  26. But Nimrod, the son of Cush, stayed and tyrannized at Babylon, as we have already informed you.
    Nimrod also built the cities of Erech (Uruk) and Accad (Akkad). He is thus associated by many with the mostly legendary account of Gilgamesh (of Uruk) and with Sargon of Akkad.
    Akkadian incidentally, is the language used on those "laws of contract" published on stone tablets that were written at that time, e.g. the complex family laws in the well-known Code of Hammurabi, Amorite king of Babylon around 1750 BC.

    Descendants of Mizraim
    Now all the children of Mizraim possessed the country from Gaza to Egypt, though it retained the name of one only, the Philistim (of Casluhim), for the Greeks call part of that country Palestine.

  27. Ludicim or Ludim, and
  28. Enemim or Anamim, and
  29. Labim or Lehabim, who alone inhabited in Libya, and called the country from himself,
  30. Nedim or Naphtuhim, and
  31. Phethrosim or Pathrusim, and
  32. Chesloim or Casluhim, and
  33. Caphthorim or *Caphtorim, we know nothing of them besides their names, for the Ethiopic war, which we shall describe hereafter, was the cause that those cities were overthrown.

    *Based on Amos 9:7, many identify Caphtor with Crete, where they were joined by Philistim, the descendants of their brother Casluhim, prior to Philistim emigrating to Canaan as the Philistines (Palestine), and to Greece as the ancient Pelasgians.

    Descendants of Canaan

  34. The sons of Canaan were these: Sidonius, who also built a city of the same name–it is called by the Greeks, Sidon,
  35. Amathus or Hamath inhabited in Amathine, which is even now called Amathe by the inhabitants, although the Macedonians named it Epiphania, from one of his posterity Antiochus Epiphanes,
  36. Arudeus or Arvadite possessed the island Aradus,
  37. Arucas or Arkite possessed Arce, which is in LibanusLebanon, but for the seven others,
  38. Chetteusor **Heth,
  39. Jebuseus or Jebusite,
  40. Amorreus or Amorite,
  41. Gergesus or Girgasite,
  42. Eudeus or *Hivite,
  43. Sineusor **Sinite,
  44. Samareus or Zemarite we have nothing in the sacred books but their names, for the Hebrews overthrew their cities, and their calamities came upon them on the occasion following.

    *The Hivites are identified with the ancient Horites (and Hurrians) who inhabited Mount Seir and who intermarried and were subsequently replaced by Esau's family of Edomites – Idumaeans. See Genesis 36:2 and Genesis 36:20 where Zibeon is referred to as a Hivite and the son of Seir the Horite, inferring that the two words were used interchangeably.

    **And while Josephus was unfamiliar with the outcome of Heth (i.e. the Hittites), the following extract comes from

    Heth (Hittites) and Sin (Sinites) are believed by many to be the progenitors of the families of China and Mongolia. "Hittite" in Cuneiform appears as Khittae, representing a once powerful nation from the Far East, preserved through the centuries in the more familiar Chinese term, Cathay. "Sin", a brother of Heth, has many occurrences in variant forms in the Far East. Many believe the reference to the Sinim in Isaiah 49:12 is a reference to China. Those who came from the Far East to trade with the Scythians were called Sinae (Sin). Ptolemy, a Greek astronomer, referred to China as the land of Sinim or Sin. Arabs called China Sin, Chin, Mahachin, or Machin. The Ch'in (from which the name "China" is taken) were spoken of as a people in the remotest parts of Asia. Their most important town was Xian (pronounced Shee-an), a great trading emporium in the province of Shensi. The Ch'in became independent in Western China, their princes reigning there for some 650 years before they finally gained dominion over the whole land. In 217 B.C., Prince Cheng unified China and took the title of Shih Hwang-ti (First Emperor). Shih Hwang-ti built much of the Great Wall of China, and a network of roads and canals that converged on his capital, near modern Xian, in Shensi province.

    With respect to the Cathay people of historical reference, it would make sense to suppose that the remnants of the Hittites, after the destruction of their empire, travelled towards the east and settled among the Sinites who were relatives, contributing to their civilization, and thus becoming the ancestors of many Asian people groups in Asia and the Americas.

    Click here for a recent article on ancient Chinese history by Hieromonk Damascene.


    Shem, the third son of Noah, had five sons, who inhabited the land that began at Euphrates, and reached to the Indian Ocean.

  45. For Elam left behind him the Elamites modern day south-western Iran, the ancestors of the Persians modern day eastern Iran (& Tajikistan). Their most famous leader was Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achaemenid empire which followed Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom of Babylon.

  46. Ashur lived at the city of Nineveh, and named his subjects Assyrians (north Iraq), who became the most fortunate nation beyond others.

  47. Arphaxad named the Arphaxadites, who are now called Chaldeans (south Iraq).

  48. as Laud or Lud founded the Laudites, which are now called Lydians (west Turkey).

  49. Aram had the Aramites, which the Greeks called Syrians,

    Of the four sons of Aram,

  50. a. Uz founded Trachonitis and Damascus, this country lies between Palestine and Coelosyria.
  51. b. Ul or Hul founded Armenia, and
  52. c. Gather or Gether the Bactrians (Pakistan/Afghanistan), and
  53. d. Mesa or Mash the Mesaneans, it is now called Characene (Kuwait).

  54. Sala or Salah was the son of Arphaxad,
  55. and his son was Heber, from whom they originally called the Jews Hebrews.
  56. a. Heber's sons Joktan
  57. b. and Peleg: he was called Peleg, because he was born at the dispersion of the nations to their various countries, for Peleg among the Hebrews signifies Division.

    Now Joktan, one of the sons of Heber, had these sons:

  58. Almodad
  59. Sheleph
  60. Hazarmaveth
  61. Jerah
  62. Hadoram
  63. Uzal
  64. Diklah
  65. Obal
  66. Abimael
  67. Sheba
  68. Ophir
  69. Havilah
  70. and Jobab.
    These inhabited from Cophen (now known as the Kabul River in Afghanistan) and in part of Asia adjoining to it.

And this shall suffice concerning the sons of Shem.

Note, in Genesis 2:10-12 we are told that

"a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good."

Josephus declared that this Pishon River that encompassed the land of Havilah was in fact the River Ganges click here for this reference.

Click here to see a map showing the town of Gangotri in India, the source of the River Ganges, and Mount Kailash in Tibet, the source of the Indus nearby. This land, later renamed as India from The Indus (literally, The River), was settled by these 13 sons of Joktan, as it says in Genesis 10:30 "The territory they occupied extended from Mesha (thought by many to be close to Mashhad in Iran, the start of the Silk Road) all the way to Sephar in the eastern mountains" (i.e. the Himalayas).

The land was famous for its gold: as well as the reference in Genesis 2:11-12 to Havilah, there are also numerous references to the gold of Ophir. Sadly however, used to build numerous idols for worship, as it says in Romans 1:21-25, "they exchanged the truth about God for a lie, worshiping and serving the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen."

** End of Extract

Go Top

Appendix 1 Modern day India (and Sanskrit)

India and English and Sanskrit
Sent: Friday, January 17, 2014 1:40 PM
Subject: Now over to India — and English — and Sanskrit :-)

Hi all /wiki/List of countries by English-speaking population
Now, going through that link above, checking into English, yes, it’s spoken by, perhaps, up to 10% of the people in India, mainly in the media and in the government, well they were ruled by England for a few hundred years, makes sense
But the other 90% of India have many languages and scripts, makes it tricky, Hindi, the “official” language is of course the most popular at around 40%, with all the other 1600 languages or so generally based, yes, mainly around the Sanskrit language. As a spoken language, “Vedic (chanted) Sanskrit” apparently lasted until about 400 BC, when it morphed into a written form “Classical Sanskrit”.
If Josephus’s comments are correct, probably are, that means Sanskrit was spoken by Joktan and his big family listed after the flood in Genesis 10, because they were the ones who moved into Ophir, by the Ganges, around 2000 BC, and also into the other parts of northern India, Havilah (where there was gold — and the gold was good — meaning, of course, you could build things with it).
Then around 400BC, it was Esther’s husband Ahasuerus, King of the Medes (Aryans) and Persians (Elamites), who ruled over India. Esther 1:1. And so classical Sanskrit, in its written form, would have emerged from the script used by the conquering Medes (Aryans) — the “holy” people from the north, as they are now called.
Now going back to Joktan, see Genesis 10:26, he was the son of Eber (the Hebrew), along with his brother Peleg whose descendant was Abraham.
Thus, yes, after the tower of Babel, before which it says that all the people were together and they all spoke one language, this breakup by Josephus ties
1. the Sanskrit languages spoken by the people in India more closely with
2. the people of Israel (i.e. Jews speaking Hebrew),
3. Ishmael (i.e. Arabs speaking Arabic),
4. Aram (Syrians speaking Aramaic),
5. Assyrian (Iraqis speaking Assyrian), and
6. Elamites (Iranians speaking Persian)
as we go back to the languages spoken, and the script used by their fathers. There have been a lot of changes, of course, but unlike we Westerners, these families do, most of the time, prefer to stay in the one area.
So, going back through the dad, these are said to be the descendants of Shem.
And yes, staying put, he’s generally seen as the more “spiritual” one, see Genesis 9:26.
So it’s a bit tricky too, when people in those countries become anti-Semites, it means, not only spiritually, but even naturally, that they are at war with themselves. Ahh the Lord knows.
Blessings all Steve

Go Top

Appendix 2 Modern day China, its main dialects and its two scripts: Simplified and Traditional

Chinese Dialects
Sent: Friday, January 17, 2014 7:49 AM
Subject: Chatting about Chinese the other day

Hi all
While the figure is about 70% that speak Standard Chinese (or Mandarin) at home as their first choice, according to the following table, virtually all of China can now understand it, due to that heavy government push that’s been going on for some time now. /wiki/Chinese language#Varieties
So, Standard Chinese — able to speak — understand it: 1.365 billion
Wu (spoken around Shanghai): 80 million
Yue (Cantonese spoken around Guangdong and Guanxi, Hong Kong and Macau): 60 million
Min (Hokkien — spoken in Taiwan and by many Chinese overseas): 50 million
Smaller ones in the south are
Xiang: 38 million
Hakka: 30 million
Gan: 22 million
and apparently the number that speak English fluently is just under 1%, i.e. just over 10 million.
Also, apparently, while the traditional Chinese script is still used by many in the south east, nearly everyone can read, and most use as first choice now the new, simplified script.
Which means the same “hieroglyph” gets used for the word, regardless of the language the speaker uses. Keeps it simple.
Yep, despite what gets said at times, there doesn’t appear to be a strong “independent” streak in China. Unlike Australia — and England, and India :-)
Central government is the rule, whether it’s the emperor, or the party.
Blessings all Steve

Postscript 8th July 2018

Click here for an editor page for Pinyin i.e. Roman (English) characters to Chinese.

In chinese, no plurals — one cat many cat (no plurals) and there are no suffixes.

All language in Chinese is gender neutral (e.g. chair person) not chairman. Prior to 20th century it did tend to assume a male person.
20th Century in particular has brought in gender. So now to specify a male chair person, one can prefix nan (male) or nu (female)
In pidgin it's similar, suffix "man" for male, "meri" for female

Present, past, future tense is same verb. "Eat" disregards time. (no "ate")
Add "le" after a verb (e.g. "find" vs "found") to show completion of task. In Pidgin, add "bin" before a verb.
For future tense, add words that specify "when", next day tomorrow, next month, next year.

In Chinese, use the same character for the noun, the verb, the adverb and the adjective.

British School Hong Kong script

A British School in Hong Kong will teach a controversial script
Published on Inkstone June 6 2018

by Viola Zhou /education /harrow-international-school-stop-teaching-traditional-chinese-characters-hong-kong/article/2149524 (archived)

A prestigious British school in Hong Kong has stirred up controversy by deciding to stop teaching children the type of Chinese characters widely used in the city.

The Harrow International School Hong Kong, which has ties with the famed Harrow School in England, this week announced it will focus on teaching simplified Chinese characters while phasing out the use of the older, more complicated traditional characters.

Across the Chinese-speaking world, mainland China, Singapore and Malaysia mostly use simplified characters, while the former colonies of Hong Kong and Macau as well as the self-ruled Taiwan have kept the traditional form.

Supporters of traditional characters argue that when Beijing simplified more than 2,000 characters in the 1950s to raise literacy, it also rid the characters of their beauty and rich meaning.

The Chinese government adopted simplified characters in 1950s to increase literacy in the country.
Photo: Gene Lin


And for many who grew up with traditional characters, defending the writing system is not only about aesthetics, but about resisting the creeping influence of the Communist regime.

Harrow International School says the decision to teach simplified characters is to prepare its students for the future, when Hong Kong, now a semi-autonomous territory in China, may become no different from the rest of the country.
"Whilst we know there are many reasons why our context makes the teaching of traditional characters desirable," the school said in a Monday letter to parents, "we need to prepare our pupils to be fully literate in the context that Hong Kong will be in by 2047."

The city's mini-constitution, the Basic Law, guarantees that Hong Kong will keep its capitalist system and "way of life" until 2047.


Although Hong Kong uses traditional characters, retailers have put up advertisements written in simplified Chinese to attract big-spending mainland tourists. Photo: May Tse


Ruth Benny, founder of Hong Kong-based education consultancy Top Schools, says many international schools in Hong Kong teach only simplified characters, which are more widely used and easier for non-Chinese speakers to pick up.
The choice also helps if students continue their Chinese studies in the UK or other countries, where the language is mostly taught in the simplified form, Benny says.

Simplified characters have been winning on the global stage alongside China's growing economic and political power.
In popular tourist spots around the world, street signs and restaurant menus are translated into simplified Chinese for big-spending mainland travelers.

The Chinese government has also established over 500 Confucius Institutes outside of the country, where foreigners learn Chinese culture and language - all in simplified characters.

In the US, traditional characters can still be found in old Chinatowns, but the Chinese characters you see on advertisements or in government offices are mostly simplified.


Shop signs written in traditional characters can be found in the Chinatown in New York City. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP


Both Taiwan and Hong Kong have seen recurring calls to preserve the traditional writing system, either as cultural heritage or a symbol of political identity. In 2011, then Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou ordered simplified characters to be removed from government websites and documents.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong's pro-Beijing government encourages students to learn to speak Mandarin and read simplified Chinese, an education policy protested by pro-democracy groups and independence supporters.

Simplified or Traditional Chinese, Mandarin or Cantonese?

Kay Feng

The market comprised of Chinese-speaking people is obviously massive; over 980 million can be found in mainland China alone, Hong Kong and Taiwan add another 19 million potential customers, and substantial numbers of Chinese-speaking communities can be found in Southeast Asia as well. So if you have a product or service targeting this market, translating and localizing into Chinese is a no-brainer. But that's where the confusion often starts.

Should you translate into Simplified or Traditional Chinese? And how do Mandarin and Cantonese relate to these two options?

Firstly it is important to understand what these terms refer to. Mandarin and Cantonese are the two most common verbal Chinese dialects. But when it comes to writing, you need to distinguish between Simplified and Traditional Chinese instead. The interesting thing is that not everybody who speaks Mandarin writes in Simplified Chinese and not everybody who speaks Cantonese writes in Traditional Chinese. The table below solves the riddle: In mainland China and Singapore, Mandarin is the spoken language and people resort to Simplified Chinese when they write. In Hong Kong, Cantonese is the predominant dialect while people write in Traditional Chinese. The exception is Taiwan where people speak Mandarin and write in Traditional Chinese.
Target Market Written Spoken
China Simplified Mandarin
Hong Kong Traditional Cantonese
Taiwan Traditional Mandarin
Singapore Simplified Mandarin

When it comes to your next translation and localization project, it might be helpful to understand that Simplified Chinese was established in 1949 when communist regime in China took power. The new government started a big push to increase literacy. The complex traditional writing was simplified, using fewer strokes for complex characters. Some characters were replaced altogether in order to motivate more people to learn how to write.

While Simplified Chinese took over mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong stayed with Traditional Chinese, which people have been using for thousands of years. Simplified Chinese itself has evolved over time, too.

As recently as 2013, the Chinese government released an official List of Commonly Used Standardized Characters. This list contained 45 newly recognized standard characters (previously considered variant forms) and 226 characters simplified by analogy, most of which already were widely used.

In the beginning, the differences between the two writing methods only had to do with stroke types. But over time, new words and concepts were added to Simplified Chinese, widening the gap to the traditional way of writing. And because the People's Republic of China and Taiwan added political distance to them being geographically apart, variations in style and vocabulary have formed as well, similar to those between British and US English.

That explains why in most cases, translating from Simplified Chinese into Traditional Chinese or vice versa is not as easy a task as it might seem. A simple machine translation won't cut it because it needs a well-versed translator to pick up on certain unique terms and ways of saying things and correct all the potential mistakes a character-for-character translation will cause. Even if you have a document with Traditional characters perfectly converted from Simplified ones, a native speaker from Taiwan or Hong Kong will likely be able to tell the document was just converted and not properly localized.

So, in the end, it comes down to the geographic location of your target audience. If you find it in mainland China, Simplified Chinese is the way to go. If your potential customers are mainly based in Hong Kong and Taiwan, Traditional Chinese is what you want to translate your documents and services to. An interesting quirk in this equation is that most Chinese living in Hong Kong and Taiwan can read Simplified Chinese, but the majority of residents from the People's Republic have trouble deciphering Traditional characters.

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