Or, as they’re known in Chinese characters, “Jews.”

“There are many Chinese characters for ‘you-tai,’ or Jew, but the combination that is currently being used refers to an animal of the monkey species and has the connotation of parsimoniousness,” Chien Hsi-chieh, the director of the Peacetime Foundation of Taiwan, said recently.

[…]Members of Taiwan’s Jewish community, some of whom are fluent in Chinese but not in the ancient Mandarin writing system, are following Chien’s campaign in the media. None would comment publicly for this article, since “the complex and varied way of writing Chinese characters is beyond most Westerners’ comprehension,” one longtime Jewish expatriate in Taipei explained.

Jews are not the only people that written Chinese discriminates against, Chien added. He also recommended that the Chinese world community replace the current term for Islam, “hui,” with a better combination of characters, “yi-si-lan,” because the current term has a negative connotation of paganism.

In Chinese, there are three words for “river,” and eleven words for “rice“. Maybe they could add another word for Jew that doesn’t have the xenophobia element? Without any knowledge of how Chinese characters operate, I have a few suggestions:

* Use a variant on whatever character means “lion,” in tribute to the tribe of Judah.
* Use a character depicting a man crossing a river, to capture the meaning of the word “ivri”
* Use whatever symbol they use to depict Israel

And while we’re changing things, let’s give those former Ishmaelites a new character too. How about someone kneeling, or some other image that captures the meaning of Islam as “submission”?

About the author

Esther Kustanowitz

For more posts by Esther, see EstherK.com, MyUrbanKvetch.com and JDatersAnonymous.com.

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