Reassessing the Evidence of Chinese "Character Amnesia"

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Increasing numbers of Chinese and Japanese speakers have been reporting that their ability to handwrite Chinese characters has been steadily diminishing, a phenomenon which is most likely a result of the growing reliance upon digital technologies. This so-called character amnesia has recently attracted a great deal of concern from a large number of observers, especially within the People's Republic of China. Unsurprisingly, many of the concerned participants involved in the discourse on this issue tend to rely on various empirical means in order to illustrate why they consider character amnesia such a worrying phenomenon. This article argues, however, that the bulk of this empirical support is unreliable and/or invalid. The article also suggests possible amendments which could hopefully lead to a better understanding of this important subject.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)524-533
Number of pages10
JournalChina Quarterly
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I wish to thank Rotem Kowner, Victor H. Mair, Nimrod Chiat, Ni Yinglu, Mark Gamsa, Imre Galambos, K. Sagol and the anonymous reviewers and editors from The China Quarterly for their valuable comments and feedback. I am also very grateful to the Nathan Rotenstreich Scholarship Program for its continuous support throughout my PhD studies at the University of Haifa, during which this article was written.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2018 SOAS University of London.


  • China
  • Chinese characters
  • Input Method Editors (IMEs)
  • character amnesia
  • handwriting
  • validity and reliability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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