Graphic pejoratives in written Chinese  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Some historical Chinese characters for non-Chinese peoples were graphically pejorative ethnic slurs, where the racial insult derived not from the Chinese word but from the character used to write it. For instance, Written Chinese first transcribed the name Yao "the Yao people (in southwest China and Vietnam)" with the character for yao "jackal", but 20th-century language reforms replaced this graphic pejorative with yao "precious jade". In alphabetically written languages like English, orthography does not change ethnic slurs —but in logographically written languages like Chinese, it makes a difference whether one writes Yao as 猺 "jackal" or 瑤 "jade".

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