The entrance to the Ministry of Education is pictured in Taipei in an undated photograph. Photo: Rachel Lin, Taipei Times

CLARIFIED: Most of the changes involved expanding definitions that had previously only referred to people of one gender, such as those for 'lust' and 'voluptuous'

/ Staff writer, with CNA

The Ministry of Education on Wednesday said that it has revised 301 entries in its online Chinese dictionary following criticism that they contained outdated or sexist language.

Lawmakers, including New Power Party Legislator Claire Wang (王娃瑜), have repeatedly called on the ministry to revise two online dictionaries — the Revised Mandarin Chinese Dictionary for adults and the Concise Mandarin Chinese Dictionary for children — to address sexually discriminatory language.

The ministry said that its National Academy for Educational Research, which maintains the dictionaries, has made gradual changes to both directories.

In the concise dictionary, it had previously revised the entry for a traditional term for maternal grandparents — literally “outside grandparents,” based on the old notion that a wife marries “into” a family — to note that they are now only called “grandparents ,” the ministry said.

The latest update to the definitions of 301 words involves the revised dictionary, it said, adding that the amendments followed a gender equality-based review.

One of the changes is the entry for the word “hymen,” which now uses more “medical” and “neutral” language to define it as: “a circular soft tissue (rather than “thin membrane”) on a female's (rather than "woman's") external vagina opening," the ministry said.

Meanwhile, the idiom shui xing yang hua (watery poplar), which means “fickle” but which connotes sexual promiscuity, kept the explanation stating that it is “mainly used in reference to women” but tagged it as a “pejorative term.”

Ye cha po (Ye cha po), originally defined as a “fierce woman or wife,” was revised to say that it was “formerly used to describe a fierce woman, or to jokingly refer to one's wife.”

In many cases, the changes involved expanding definitions that had previously only referred to people of one gender.

For example, the entry for se (色, “lust”) was revised to not specifically refer to “a man's” strong sexual desire, while the definition of feng man (系, “voluptuous”) dropped the word “woman” from “ a description of a woman's curvy physique."

Similarly, the entry for yu (想, “desire”) supplemented one of the original definitions — “the desire for sexual intimacy between people of opposite sexes” — by adding “or the same sex.”

The definition of “comfort women” was changed to refer to women who were forced “or tricked” into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army in occupied territories before or during World War II.

The change was made as “a supplementary explanation based on historical facts,” the academy said.

Lin Ching-lung (林庆龙), director of the academy's Research Center for Translation, Compilation and Language Education, said that the revisions, expected to be the latest in a line of many, were the product of more than 30 meetings with gender equality experts and lexicographers.

However, Lin added that the changes were made to the Revised Mandarin Chinese Dictionary, which is primarily a historical dictionary and thus needs to preserve how words were used in the past.

As a result, many of the changes made this time were in the form of notes or addendum, he said.

In the case of the Concise Mandarin Chinese Dictionary, which is intended for use by junior-high and elementary school students, the academy often makes a decision whether to retain or remove words that are no longer in common use, he added.

News source: TAIPEI TIMES