I don’t think many people know this about me, but I am a type geek. I love looking at different fonts and pondering things like “Sans-serif typefaces. Overrated or not? Discuss with self.”

When I heard about Ri Xing Typography (also known as Ri Xing Type Foundry, 日星鑄字行), my head nearly exploded. Located near Taipei Train Station, Ri Xing has the last complete set of traditional Chinese character molds for lead-type casting in the world. It is still an active business, supplying lead type to printers who refused to give up movable type two decades ago when it started to become obsolete. Owner Chang Chieh-kuan (張介冠) is now focused on digitizing Ri Xing’s typefaces and turning the workshop into a museum where visitors can experience movable type for themselves. Chang, the son of Ri Xing’s founders, is a great person to talk to. I interviewed him for my article about Ri Xing (PDF link), and you can tell that he really adores his work and traditional Chinese characters. Ri Xing is currently open to the public for a few hours each week and individual lead type can be purchased as souvenirs. For more information, please look at my story (PDF link) and Ri Xing’s blog.

Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan are the only places that use traditional Chinese characters on a day-to-day basis, making Taiwan the last country to use traditional Chinese as its standard writing system. For a good synopsis of the debate on traditional and simplified Chinese characters, check out this Wikipedia entry.

Some of Ri Xing’s typecasting molds.
Decorative motifs and the Chinese character for “double happiness.”
Chang at a typecasting machine.
A comparison chart showing the difference between one of Ri Xing’s versions of the Chinese character for “rice” and a standard computer font.
Lead type in action