View Full Version : Kanji

1st October 2007, 13:34
Kanji (漢字) are the Chinese characters that are used in the modern Japanese logographic writing system along with hiragana (平仮名), katakana (片仮名), and the Arabic numerals. The Japanese term kanji (漢字) literally means "Han characters".


Chinese characters first came to Japan on articles imported from China. An early instance of such an import was a gold seal given by the emperor of the Eastern Han Dynasty in 57 AD. It is not clear when Japanese people started to command Classical Chinese by themselves. The first Japanese documents were probably written by Chinese immigrants. For example, the diplomatic correspondence from King Bu of Wa to Emperor Shun of the Liu Song Dynasty in 478 has been praised for its skillful use of allusion. Later, groups of people called fuhito were organized under the monarch to read and write Classical Chinese. From the 6th century onwards, Chinese documents written in Japan tended to show interference from Japanese. This suggests the wide acceptance of Chinese characters in Japan.

When first introduced, texts were written in the Chinese language and would have been read as such. Over time, however, a system known as kanbun (漢文) emerged, essentially using Chinese text with diacritical marks to allow Japanese speakers to read the characters in accordance with the rules of Japanese grammar.

The Japanese language itself had no written form at the time. A writing system called man'yōgana (used in the ancient poetry anthology Man'yōshū) evolved that used a limited set of Chinese characters for their sound, rather than for their meaning.

Man'yōgana written in cursive style became hiragana, a writing system that was accessible to women (who were denied higher education). Major works of Heian era literature by women were written in hiragana. Katakana emerged via a parallel path: monastery students simplified man'yōgana to a single constituent element. Thus the two other writing systems, hiragana and katakana, referred to collectively as kana, are actually descended from kanji.

In modern Japanese, kanji are used to write parts of the language such as nouns, adjective stems and verb stems, while hiragana are used to write inflected verb and adjective endings (okurigana), particles, native Japanese words, and words where the kanji is too difficult to read or remember. Katakana is used for representing onomatopoeia and non-Japanese loanwords.

The characters for Kanji, lit. "Han characters".

Local developments

While kanji are essentially Chinese hanzi used to write Japanese, there are now significant differences between kanji and hanzi, including the use of characters created in Japan, characters that have been given different meanings in Japanese, and post World War II simplifications of the kanji.


Kokuji (国字; literally "national characters") are characters peculiar to Japan. Kokuji are also known as wasei kanji (和製漢字; lit. "Chinese characters made in Japan"). There are hundreds of kokuji (see the sci.lang.japan FAQ: kokuji list). Many are rarely used, but a number have become important additions to the written Japanese language. These include:

* 峠 (とうげ (tōge) mountain pass)
* 榊 (さかき(sakaki) sakaki tree, genus Cleyera)
* 畑 (はたけ(hatake) field of crops)
* 辻 (つじ(tsuji) crossroads, street)
* 働 (どう(dō), hatara(ku) work)

Some of them like "働" have been introduced to China, though rarely used.


In addition to kokuji, there are kanji that have been given meanings in Japanese different from their original Chinese meanings. These kanji are not considered kokuji but are instead called kokkun (国訓) and include characters such as:

* 沖 oki (offing, offshore; Ch. chōng rinse)
* 椿 tsubaki (Camellia japonica; Ch. chūn Ailanthus)

Old characters and new characters

The same kanji character can sometimes be written in two different ways, 旧字体 (Kyūjitai; lit. "old character style") (舊字體 in Kyūjitai) and 新字体 (Shinjitai; "new character style"). The following are some examples of Kyūjitai followed by the corresponding Shinjitai:

* 國 国 kuni, koku (country)
* 號 号 gō (number)
* 變 変 hen, ka(waru) (change)

Kyūjitai were used before the end of World War II, and are mostly, if not completely, the same as the Traditional Chinese characters. After the war the government introduced the simplified Shinjitai in the "Tōyō Kanji Character Form List" (Tōyō Kanji Jitai Hyō, 当用漢字字体表). Some of the new characters are similar to simplified characters used in the People's Republic of China. Also, like the simplification process in China, some of the shinjitai were once abbreviated forms (略字, Ryakuji) used in handwriting, but in contrast with the "proper" unsimplified characters (正字 seiji) were only acceptable in colloquial contexts. This page shows examples of these handwritten abbreviations, identical to their modern Shinjitai forms, from the pre WWII era. There are also handwritten simplifications today that are significantly simpler than their standard forms (either untouched or received only minor simplification in the postwar reforms), examples of which can be seen here, but despite their wide usage and popularity, they, like their prewar counterparts, are not considered orthographically correct and are only used in handwriting.

Many Chinese characters are not used in Japanese at all. Theoretically, however, any Chinese character can also be a Japanese character—the Daikanwa Jiten, one of the largest dictionaries of kanji ever compiled, has about 50,000 entries, even though most of the entries have never been used in Japanese.

2nd October 2007, 00:44
degraba terminam cu kana shi incepem shi noi cu kanji :)

12th November 2007, 19:35
E foarte interesant sa inveti kanji :sohappy: (doar ca cele doua moduri de a fi citite imi dau uneori dureri de cap:sweatdrop: )

20th October 2008, 21:58
E foarte interesant sa inveti kanji :sohappy: (doar ca cele doua moduri de a fi citite imi dau uneori dureri de cap:sweatdrop: )

dear fi doar ku doua moduri de a citi...:want:
da asha sunt si ku 3, 4, 5, etc etc etc moduri de a citi...:'( :(

beauty's motivation
14th May 2009, 22:15
:) e greu la inceput...dak invetzi regulat, si incerci sa le utilizezi, se dau 'la mina' ..si 'la minte'..^^ si par muuult mai usoare, si citirea, si scrisul..
mie imi imi par kiar usoare, e necesar doar antrenamentu si rabdarea...
dar daca le lasi balta pe vreo citeva zile.. lenea pluteste peste creieri, si greu de adus aminte ..[din proprie experienta]