More than half of those polled in a recent survey said they were ashamed they no longer penned handwritten letters.
The study was jointly conducted by website Sohu.com and the survey office of the China Youth Daily.
"Of the 1,055 people polled, about 54 percent thought handwriting letters should be preserved as a part of traditional culture," Li Tao, a researcher at the survey center, told China Daily.
"Even though only 0.5 percent of respondents insisted on handwriting letters, I believe a larger number will use this traditional way of communicating when they are delivering special messages to special people," Li said.
For many, e-mails and text messages are deleted regularly, but handwritten letters are kept for decades, he said.
"A handwritten letter is a more formal, sensitive and romantic form of correspondence, not only for older people but also youngsters who grew up in the information age," Li said.
Gan Xiaowei, a 25-year-old who works for a public relations company in Beijing, said she wrote at least two letters a month to her parents in Guangdong Province, as it was the most relaxing way of communicating with them.
"I live alone in a strange city and always have a lot of things and issues I want to share with my parents.
"Writing can be a more calm and effective way to get the message across," she said.
Wang Changxiao, a professor at Beijing Normal University, said traditional and new ways of communication do not have to be independent of each other.
"They are like the eyes and nose, having different functions, but both important for social life," Wang said.
Li said writing letters was also the most economic way for large rural populations.
"It is too early to sound the death knell for handwritten letters in China," he said.
(China Daily January 15, 2008)