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Why are Chinese Characters similar to Japanese Kanji?


Somebody asks me why Chinese characters are similar to Japanese Kanji? In other words, are Chinese characters the same with Japanese Kanji?




First of all, that is the difference between Japanese and Chinese Kanji, although they look like similar.
Historically, Chinese Characters are originated in China and older than those in Japanese.




Although Japanese and Chinese speak different languages, there is no doubt that writing system used by Japan is originated from Chinese. Chinese writing system was introduced to Japan at five or six century A.D. Japan made supplementation to the writing system of hiragana and katakana based on Chinese writing system.

Surprisingly, you will find that there are lots of Chinese characters in Japanese language. For non-Chinese, it will make them confused. Where on earth are Chinese characters originated? There is no doubt that Chinese character is created by ancient Chinese people dating from 3000 years ago. While in ancient Japan, there are no formal characters but language. During the Sui and Tang dynasties of China, with the spread of Chinese characters into Japan, it began to systematically use Chinese characters to record their own language. At the beginning, Japan take Chinese characters as symbols of watch sounds, that is to say, matching the numbers of syllables of Japanese with the same number of Chinese characters.

Later, these Chinese characters gradually evolved to Kana, ‘Jia’ means ‘borrow’, ‘Min’ means ‘character’, hence the Kana. Those Chinese characters which were borrowed directly in the ways of sounds, forms, meanings are called real names. So if real names and Kana are used at the same time in a same article, readers will feel confused. Further, Kana need to borrow lots of Chinese characters with same pronunciation, coupled with much strokes of Chinese characters, which seems to be inconvenient. Hence, Japanese people gradually simplified Kana and created their own character, those present Kana you see today.


 chinese-culture-kana  kana-kanji

( Kana)


Japan language homes to lots of local vocabulary; meanwhile it borrowed large number of Chinese words. Those borrowed words from Chinese language are so widely used in today’s daily life in Japan that they are seemed to be their own words other than borrowed. That is the reason why so many non-Chinese feel puzzled that where Chinese characters originated. Due to the strong promotion of Japanese culture in western countries, the Chinese characters in Japanese languages makes non-Chinese feel that Chinese characters were created by Japanese.


Over centuries, Chinese culture exerted great impact on Japan and other eastern country, a lot of Japan words used in various knowledgeable and philosophical background actually originated from China. Japan often employed various Chinese characters combined together to interpret new concepts from western countries during late 19th century and early 20th century. These words consist of an integrated part of vocabulary used by modern Japanese.


Compiled by Alan and edited by Jackie from
Feel free to extend and quote this description, please note its origin in your extension / reference, thanks.


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