12288 seems a little odd for a directory. Any suggestions?
Yes it does, but it's not really unusual.
~/> ll /usr/share/locale/zh_CN/
drwxr-xr-x 2 root root 12288 2009-09-25 11:32 LC_MESSAGES
The fact that you can't get a listing of what's inside that directory would be a strong suggestion that something about the directory structure is corrupt. The only thing I know to suggest is to try to delete that directory.
rm -rf /usr/share/locale/zh_CN/LC_MESSAGES
If you get any kind of error message that the directory can't be deleted, then that's a bigger problem. If it deletes successfully, then create it anew
and try the updates again.
Edit: The 12288 is 3 times 4096, which is what you're normally accustomed to seeing for directory size. Whatever unit (number of bytes reserved to hold the directory table I think) 4096 represents, the 12288 just indicates that two more are needed and used to hold all the directory table info for that directory.