China’s system of writing is one of the oldest and most complicated in the world. But texting and typing could be putting it at risk.

The written form of modern Chinese has over 50,000 characters. Few master them all – but just to read a newspaper, you’ll need to know at least 1,000.

A smartphone with a 50,000 character keyboard would obviously be impractical. Instead devices in China feature a system that allows users to type words using the Roman alphabet and then select the corresponding characters. But some worry that this will lead to the ancient and complicated art of Chinese handwriting dying out.

Watch this video in which Cameron Andersen travels to Anyang, a city in China’s northern Henan province, to visit the National Museum of Chinese Writing. He meets a leading researcher on Chinese characters to find out about their origins – and talk about their future.

Tales from Modern China airs on BBC World News, 2-3 June 2017. Check the schedule for details.

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