December 31, 2012 (TSR) – In many Chinese-spoken societies (or places where Chinese characters are adopted), people vote for the “Character of the Year,” a single character that can best represent the collective memory of the country be it a disaster, sports event or political scandal. First started by Japan in 1995, the nomination of “Character of the Year” soon spread to China, Singapore and Malaysia.
2012 is drawing to an end, and the Chinese character of the year has been announced. Characters and words were selected from print media, TV, radio and the Internet across these countries in 2012.
On December 12, Japan’s character of the year was revealed to be jin in Chinese (Japan’s Kanji character for “Kane”) meaning gold with 9156 votes. Reasons for jin’s election include a few events that made the headlines of the nation in 2012: the annular solar eclipse on May 21 (which was given the name of “golden ring eclipse”); the opening of the Sky Tree, the highest tower in the world on May 22; the Japanese delegation’s wonderful performance in the London Olympics and Professor Shinya Yamanaka’s reception of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, all deserved the gold.
Singapore also had their character nomination, since last year. Organized by “Lianhe Zaobao”, “United Morning Paper”, the activity is called Zì Shù Yìnián, let the character tell the story of the year. On December 11 it was decided that sè, “color” in literal meaning, also associated with sex, was nominated as their character of the year, referring to a series of sex scandals that occurred throughout the year.
The voting for character of the year in Malaysia had its the deadline set on December 19.
Malaysians on Christmas Eve picked the word “Gai” or “change” in English as the Chinese character that best represents 2012, the year that saw demonstrations occurring more frequently than before in an otherwise quiet country.
Organizers said 5,000 people had took part in the second annual poll to select the character as”change” made the cut by winning 19. 4 percent of the votes. “Xuan” (choice), “luan” (mess) and “zheng” (tussle) were among the characters that made it to the top 10. “The word (change) can mean the global climate. It can also mean the global developments, the responses that were triggered by the sociopolitical happenings domestically, the people’s experience in thoughts and life generally throughout the year and their aspiration and attitude towards the future,” Pheng Yin Wah, president of the Federation of Chinese Associations in Malaysia, told the result announcement ceremony on Monday.
The Federation was one of the organizers of the poll.
Demonstrations held in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur throughout the year had drawn record turnouts– notably the Bersih rally in April that saw at least 50,000 protesting against alleged electoral fraud and several marches organized by environmental group Himpunan Hijau against a controversial rare earth refinery.
The rallies had prompted the government to improve governance transparency and introduce civil reforms ahead of looming polls.
The 13th general elections due by June next year would be a tough assignment for prime minister Najib Razak to restore the ruling coalition National Front’s former glory after it lost a two- third parliamentary majority and five out of 13 states in its worst showing in election in 2008.
Chinese, the second largest ethnic group in Malaysia, made up 24.6 percent of its total population.
Last year,”zhuan” which means turn in English were chosen as the character of the year in the Southeast Asian nation.
Besides Malaysia, China, South Korea, Japan, Singapore were among the seven countries that hold similar character polls each year.
For China, It was organized by Hùdòng B?ik?, Interactive Encyclopedia, the biggest Chinese online encyclopedia and the nomination also featured ten candidates: píng, “peace or justice”, bào, “to expose”, h?i, “sea”, “zh?ng, “dispute, tussle or struggle”, w?n, “stable”, k?i, “to open”, g?i “to change or revise”, qi?nyí “mobile or to migrate”, x?n “new” and J?jí, “positive”. The winner was chosen by the National Language Resource Monitoring and Research Center, Commercial Press and China Network Television.
China chose the words “Heng”, meaning check and balance, as the International Character of the Year, as it reflects people’s concern over the balance of power in the world and “Meng” which means “dream” for 2012.
Why “Meng”? Some say that “Meng” is considered to reflect the realization of China’ dreams in the past year: from space exploration to the first Chinese Nobel Prize-winning author, from China’s first aircraft carrier to China’s great performance at the 2012 London Olympics.
Other top choices include “Diaoyu Dao”, the Diaoyu islands, which was chosen as the term of the year, because of the dispute with Japan; and “Xuanju”, meaning election, was chosen as the international term of the year. It shows people’s interest in elections across the globe in 2012.
Many dreams have come true and many more are to be accomplished, I guess that’s why “Meng” was named the character of the year.
How will 2013 be, you think?