A freshly painted road marking in south-west Taiwan’s Yunlin County has earned public censure by replacing a traditional Chinese character with the simplified counterpart in use across the Taiwan Strait.

On the marking, which delineates a priority lane for scooters, the traditional characters for “special use” are painted over with “priority”. Instead of the traditional「優」, however, is「优」: the variation used in mainland China since the Communist government began simplifying China’s national language in the 1950s. The first two characters (“scooter”) are left unchanged in traditional form.

Road marking in Douliu, Yunlin.
Road marking in Douliu, Yunlin.

Politically separate from the mainland following the conclusion of the Chinese Civil War, Taiwan has continued to use traditional characters since the Republic of China retreated to the island in 1949. With residents wary of increasing influence from Beijing, the appearance of simplified characters can exacerbate fears of “mainlandisation.”

The location of the marking, outside a primary school in Douliu City, only made the affront more egregious to many.

Municipal authorities have explained that the particular simplification was a common one and was likely made in order to save time. However, Taiwan’s Apple Daily reports that the mayor of Douliu, “taking into account public perception,” has nonetheless promised a correction to the offending character.

Ryan Ho Kilpatrick

Ryan Ho Kilpatrick is an award-winning journalist and scholar from Hong Kong who has reported on the city’s politics, protests, and policing for The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, TIME, The Guardian, The Independent, and others