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are a set of
logographic In a written language, a logogram or logograph is a written character that represents a word or morpheme. Chinese characters (pronounced ''hanzi'' in Mandarin, ''kanji'' in Japanese, ''hanja'' in Korean and ''Hán tự'' in Vietnamese) are gener ...
characters Character(s) may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * Character (novel), ''Character'' (novel), a 1936 Dutch novel by Ferdinand Bordewijk * Characters (Theophrastus), ''Characters'' (Theophrastus), a classical Greek set of char ...
from
Chinese script Chinese characters, also called ''Hanzi'' (), are logograms developed for the writing of Chinese. They have been adapted to write other East-Asian languages, and remain a key component of the Japanese writing system The modern Jap ...
which forms a major part of the
Japanese writing system The modern Japanese writing system uses a combination of logographic In a written language, a logogram or logograph is a written character that represents a word or morpheme. Chinese characters (pronounced ''hanzi'' in Mandarin, ''kanji'' i ...
alongside with
Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat = Imperial Seal of J ...

Japanese
syllabic scripts ''
hiragana Also , is a Japanese language, Japanese syllabary, one component of the Japanese writing system, along with ''katakana'', ''kanji'' and in some cases Latin script. It is a phonetic lettering system. The word ''hiragana'' literally means "ordina ...

hiragana
'' and ''
katakana is a Japanese syllabary, one component of the Japanese writing system along with hiragana, kanji and in some cases the Latin script (known as rōmaji). The word ''katakana'' means "fragmentary kana", as the katakana characters are derived from ...
''. The Japanese term ''kanji'' for the Chinese characters literally means "
Han Han may refer to: Ethnic groups * Han Chinese The Han Chinese,
. Huayuqiao.org. Retrieved on ...
characters". It is written with the same characters as in
traditional Chinese A tradition is a belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition about the world is truth, true. In epistemology, philosophers use the term "belief" to refer to attitudes about the wo ...

traditional Chinese
to refer to the character writing system, ''hanzi'' (). Although some kanji will have similar meaning and pronunciation as Chinese, some can have very different meanings and pronunciations as well. For example, , meaning "honest" in both Chinese and Japanese, is pronounced ''makoto'' or ''sei'' in Japanese, but pronounced ''chéng'' in
Standard Mandarin Chinese Standard Chinese, in linguistics known as Standard Northern Mandarin, Standard Beijing Mandarin or simply Mandarin, is a dialect of Mandarin that emerged as the lingua franca among the speakers of various Mandarin and other varieties of Chi ...
. Japanese Kanji or Japanese words have also influenced and been borrowed by China, Korea and Vietnam in recent times. For example, the word for telephone, ''denwa'' in Japanese, is
calque In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...
d as ''diànhuà'' in Mandarin Chinese, ''điện thoại'' in Vietnamese and ''jeonhwa'' in Korean.


History

Chinese character Chinese characters, also called ''hanzi'' (), are logogram In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language by means of a writing system. Written language is an invention in that it ...
s first came to
Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat = Imperial Seal of Japan.svg , alt_coat = Golden circle subdiv ...

Japan
on official seals, letters, swords, coins, mirrors, and other decorative items imported from
China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, with a population of around 1.4 billion. Covering approximately 9.6& ...

China
. The earliest known instance of such an import was the
King of Na gold seal The King of Na gold seal ( ja, 漢委奴国王印) is a solid gold Gold is a chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol Au (from la, aurum) and atomic number 79, making it one of the higher atomic number elements that occur natur ...

King of Na gold seal
given by
Emperor Guangwu of Han Emperor Guangwu (15 January 5 BC – 29 March AD 57), born Liu Xiu (), courtesy name Wenshu, was an emperor of China, emperor of the Chinese Han dynasty, restorer of the dynasty in AD 25 and thus founder of the Later Han or Eastern Han (the res ...
to a Wa emissary in 57 AD. Chinese coins from the first century AD have been found in
Yayoi period The , started at the beginning of the Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age, with a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen independently in several parts of the world. It is first seen abou ...
archaeological sites.Miyake (2003), 8. However, the Japanese of that era probably had no comprehension of the script, and would remain illiterate until the fifth century AD. According to the ''
Nihon Shoki The , sometimes translated as ''The Chronicles of Japan'', is the second-oldest book of classical Japanese history The first human habitation in the Japanese archipelago has been traced to prehistoric times around 30,000 BCE. The Jōmon ...
'' and ''
Kojiki , also sometimes read as ''Furukotofumi'' or ''Furukotobumi'', is an early Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat ...

Kojiki
'', a semi-legendary scholar called
Wani WANI (1400 AM, "News Talk WANI") is a news News is information Information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty; it answers the question of "What an entity is" and thus defines both its essence and the nature of its ch ...
was dispatched to Japan by the Kingdom of Baekje during the reign of
Emperor Ōjin , also known as or , was the 15th legend A legend is a genre of folklore that consists of a narrative featuring human actions perceived or believed both by teller and listeners to have taken place within human history. Narratives in this gen ...

Emperor Ōjin
in the early fifth century, bringing with him knowledge of
Confucianism , Shanxi Shanxi (; ; Chinese postal romanization, formerly romanised as Shansi) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China and is part of the North China region. The capital and largest city of th ...
and Chinese characters.Miyake (2003), 9. The earliest Japanese documents were probably written by bilingual Chinese or Korean officials employed at the
Yamato was originally the area around today's Sakurai City in Nara Prefecture of Japan, which became Yamato Province and by extension a name for the whole of Japan. Yamato is also the dynastic name of the ruling Imperial House of Japan. Japanese hist ...
court. For example, the diplomatic correspondence from King Bu of Wa to
Emperor Shun of Liu Song Emperor Shun of (Liu) Song ((劉)宋順帝) (8 August 467 – 23 June 479), personal name Liu Zhun (劉準), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name ...
in 478 has been praised for its skillful use of
allusion Allusion is a figure of speech A figure of speech or rhetorical figure is a word or phrase that entails an intentional deviation from ordinary language use in order to produce a rhetoric Rhetoric () is the Art (skill), art of persua ...
. Later, groups of people called ''fuhito'' were organized under the monarch to read and write
Classical Chinese Classical Chinese, also known as Literary Chinese (古文 ''gǔwén'' "ancient text", or 文言 ''wényán'' "text speak"; modern vernacular: 文言文 ''wényánwén'' "text speak text"), is the language of the classic literature from the end ...
. During the reign of
Empress Suiko (554 – 15 April 628) was the 33rd emperor of Japan, monarch of Japan,Imperial Household Agency (''Kunaichō'') 推古天皇 (33)/ref> according to the traditional List of Emperors of Japan, order of succession. Suiko reigned from 593 until ...

Empress Suiko
(593–628), the Yamato court began sending full-scale diplomatic missions to China, which resulted in a large increase in Chinese literacy at the Japanese court. In ancient times, paper was so rare that people stenciled kanji onto thin, rectangular strips of wood. These wooden boards were used for communication between government offices, tags for goods transported between various countries, and the practice of writing. The oldest written kanji in Japan discovered so far were written in ink on wood as a wooden strip dated to the 7th century, a record of trading for cloth and salt. 'No longer mentioned in source''/sup> The Japanese language had no written form at the time Chinese characters were introduced, and texts were written and read only in Chinese. Later, during the
Heian period The is the last division of classical History of Japan, Japanese history, running from 794 to 1185. It followed the Nara period, beginning when the 50th emperor, Emperor Kanmu, moved the capital of Japan to Heian-kyō (modern Kyoto). It is a pe ...
(794–1185), however, a system known as ''
kanbun A , is a form of Classical Chinese Classical Chinese, also known as Literary Chinese (文言文, ''wényánwén'' or 古文, ''gǔwén''), is the language of the classic literature from the end of the Spring and Autumn period through to the ...
'' emerged, which involved using Chinese text with
diacritical mark A diacritic (also diacritical mark, diacritical point, diacritical sign, or accent) is a glyph added to a letter or basic glyph. The term derives from the Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in anc ...
s to allow Japanese speakers to restructure and read Chinese sentences, by changing word order and adding particles and verb endings, in accordance with the rules of
Japanese grammar Japanese is an agglutinative, synthetic, mora-timed language with simple phonotactics Phonotactics (from Ancient Greek "voice, sound" and "having to do with arranging") is a branch of phonology that deals with restrictions in a language o ...
. Chinese characters also came to be used to write Japanese words, resulting in the modern ''
kana The are syllabaries used to write Japanese phonological units, morae A mora (plural ''morae'' or ''moras''; often symbolized μ) is a unit in phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systemat ...

kana
'' syllabaries. Around AD 650, a writing system called ''
man'yōgana is an ancient writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the act of developing Semantics, meaning among Subject (philosop ...
'' (used in the ancient poetry anthology ''
Man'yōshū Image:Manyousyu NukataOhkimi.jpg, 80px, alt=Two vertical lines of Japanese text written in calligraphy, read right to left. The first character has smaller, simpler red characters written around it., A replica of a poem  8, by Princess Nukata ...
'') evolved that used a number of Chinese characters for their sound, rather than for their meaning. Man'yōgana written in cursive style evolved into ''
hiragana Also , is a Japanese language, Japanese syllabary, one component of the Japanese writing system, along with ''katakana'', ''kanji'' and in some cases Latin script. It is a phonetic lettering system. The word ''hiragana'' literally means "ordina ...

hiragana
'', or ''onna-de'', that is, "ladies' hand", a writing system that was accessible to women (who were denied
higher education Higher education is tertiary education leading to award of an academic degree. Higher education, also called post-secondary education, third-level or tertiary education, is an optional final stage of formal learning that occurs after completion o ...
). Major works of
Heian-era The is the last division of classical Japanese history, running from 794 to 1185. It followed the Nara period, beginning when the 50th emperor, Emperor Kanmu, moved the capital of Japan to Heian-kyō Heian-kyō was one of several former na ...
literature Literature broadly is any collection of Writing, written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an art form, especially prose fiction, drama, and poetry. In recent centuries, the definition has expand ...

literature
by women were written in hiragana. ''
Katakana is a Japanese syllabary, one component of the Japanese writing system along with hiragana, kanji and in some cases the Latin script (known as rōmaji). The word ''katakana'' means "fragmentary kana", as the katakana characters are derived from ...
'' emerged via a parallel path:
monastery A monastery is a building or complex of buildings comprising the domestic quarters and workplaces of monastics, monk A monk (, from el, μοναχός, ''monachos'', "single, solitary" via Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical langua ...

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 descended from kanji. In contrast with ''kana'' (, lit. "provisional character"), ''kanji'' are also called ''mana'' (, lit. "true name, true character"). In modern Japanese, kanji are used to write parts of the language (usually
content wordContent words, in linguistics, are words that possess semantic content and contribute to the meaning of the sentence in which they occur. In a traditional approach, nouns were said to name objects and other entities, lexical verb, lexical verbs to in ...
s) such as
noun A noun () is a word that functions as the name of a specific object or set of objects, such as living creatures, places, actions, qualities, states of existence, or ideas.Example nouns for: * Organism, Living creatures (including people, alive, de ...

noun
s,
adjective In linguistics, an adjective (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) is a word that grammatical modifier, modifies a noun or noun phrase or describes its referent. Its Semantics, semantic role is to change information given by the noun. ...
stems, and
verb A verb, from the Latin ''wikt:verbum#Latin, verbum'' meaning ''word'', is a word (part of speech) that in syntax conveys an action (''bring'', ''read'', ''walk'', ''run'', ''learn''), an occurrence (''happen'', ''become''), or a state of being ( ...
stems, while ''hiragana'' are used to write inflected verb and adjective endings and as
phonetic complement A phonetic complement is a phonetic symbol used to disambiguate word characters (logograms) that have multiple readings, in mixed logographic-phonetic scripts such as Egyptian hieroglyphs, cuneiform script, Akkadian cuneiform, Japanese writing sy ...
s to disambiguate readings (''
okurigana are kana The are syllabaries used to write Japanese phonological units, morae A mora (plural ''morae'' or ''moras''; often symbolized μ) is a unit in phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or diale ...

okurigana
''),
particles In the Outline of physical science, physical sciences, a particle (or corpuscule in older texts) is a small wikt:local, localized physical body, object to which can be ascribed several physical property, physical or chemical , chemical properties ...
, and miscellaneous words which have no kanji or whose kanji is considered obscure or too difficult to read or remember. ''
Katakana is a Japanese syllabary, one component of the Japanese writing system along with hiragana, kanji and in some cases the Latin script (known as rōmaji). The word ''katakana'' means "fragmentary kana", as the katakana characters are derived from ...
'' are mostly used for representing
onomatopoeia Onomatopoeia is the process of creating a word that phonetically imitates, resembles, or suggests the sound that it describes. Such a word itself is also called an onomatopoeia. Common onomatopoeias include animal noises such as " oink", "meow ...

onomatopoeia
, non-Japanese loanwords (except those borrowed from ancient Chinese), the names of plants and animals (with exceptions), and for emphasis on certain words.


Orthographic reform and lists of kanji

Since ancient times, there has been a strong opinion in Japan that kanji is the orthodox form of writing, but there were also people who argued against it.
Kamo no Mabuchi Image:Kamo no Mabuchi in Hamamatsu.JPG, 220px, Bust of Mabuchi in Hamamatsu was a Japanese people, Japanese poet and philologist of the Edo period. Mabuchi conducted research into the spirit of ancient Japan through his studies of the Man'yōshū ...

Kamo no Mabuchi
, a scholar of the
Edo period The or is the period between 1603 and 1867 in the history History (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in ...
, criticized the large number of characters in kanji. He also appreciated the small number of characters in kana characters and argued for the limitation of kanji. After the
Meiji Restoration#REDIRECT Meiji Restoration The , referred to at the time as the , and also known as the Meiji Renovation, Revolution, Reform, or Renewal, was a political event that restored practical imperial rule to Japan in 1868 under Emperor Meiji. Although t ...
and as Japan entered an era of active exchange with foreign countries, the need for script reform in Japan began to be called for. Some scholars argued for the abolition of kanji and the writing of Japanese using only kana or Latin characters. However, these views were not so widespread. However, the need to limit the number of kanji characters was understood, and in May 1923, the Japanese government announced 1,962 kanji characters for regular use. In 1940, the
Japanese Army The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF, ja, 陸上自衛隊, ''Rikujō Jieitai''), also referred to as the Japanese Army, is the land warfare branch of the Japan Self-Defense Forces. Created on July 1, 1954, it is the largest of the three se ...
decided on the which limited the number of kanji that could be used for weapons names to 1,235. In 1942, the National Language Council announced the with a total of 2,528 characters, showing the standard for kanji used by ministries and agencies and in general society. In 1946, after
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a World war, global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved World War II by country, the vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great ...
and under the
Allied Occupation of Japan The Allied occupation of Japan at the end of World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a World war, global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved World War II by country, the va ...
, the Japanese government, guided by the
Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers Supreme may refer to: * Supreme (brand), a clothing brand based in New York * Supreme (comics), a comic book superhero * Supreme (cookery), a term used in cookery * ''Supreme'' (film), a 2016 Telugu film * Supreme (producer), hip-hop record p ...
, instituted a series of orthographic reforms, to help children learn and to simplify kanji use in literature and periodicals. The number of characters in circulation was reduced, and formal lists of characters to be learned during each grade of school were established. Some characters were given simplified
glyph In typography File:metal movable type.jpg, 225px, Movable type being assembled on a composing stick using pieces that are stored in the type case shown below it Typography is the art and technique of typesetting, arranging type to make wr ...
s, called . Many variant forms of characters and obscure alternatives for common characters were officially discouraged. These are simply guidelines, so many characters outside these standards are still widely known and commonly used; these are known as .


Kyōiku kanji

The are the 1,026 first kanji characters that Japanese children learn in elementary school, from first grade to sixth grade. The grade-level breakdown is known as the , or the . This list of kanji is maintained by the
Japanese Ministry of Education The , also known as MEXT, Monka-shō, is one of the eleven Ministries of Japan that composes part of the executive branch The executive is the branch of government exercising authority in and holding Moral responsibility, responsibility for t ...
and prescribes which kanji characters and which kanji readings students should learn for each grade.


Jōyō kanji

The are 2,136 characters consisting of all the , plus 1,110 additional kanji taught in junior high and high school. In publishing, characters outside this category are often given . The were introduced in 1981, replacing an older list of 1,850 characters known as the , introduced in 1946. Originally numbering 1,945 characters, the list was expanded to 2,136 in 2010. Some of the new characters were previously ; some are used to write prefecture names: , , , , , , , , , and .


Jinmeiyō kanji

As of September 25, 2017, the consists of 863 characters. Kanji on this list are mostly used in people's names and some are traditional variants of . There were only 92 kanji in the original list published in 1952, but new additions have been made frequently. Sometimes the term refers to all 2,999 kanji from both the and lists combined.


Hyōgai kanji

are any kanji not contained in the and lists. These are generally written using traditional characters, but extended shinjitai forms exist.


Japanese Industrial Standards for kanji

The
Japanese Industrial Standards are the standards used for industrial activities in Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat = Imperial Seal of ...
for kanji and kana define character code-points for each kanji and kana, as well as other forms of writing such as the
Latin alphabet The Latin alphabet or Roman alphabet is the collection of letters originally used by the ancient Romans to write the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European lan ...

Latin alphabet
,
Cyrillic script , bg, кирилица , mk, кирилица , russian: кириллица , sr, ћирилица, uk, кирилиця , fam1 = Egyptian hieroglyphs Egyptian hieroglyphs () were the formal writing system used in Ancient Egypt, used ...
,
Greek alphabet The Greek alphabet has been used to write the Greek language since the late ninth or early eighth century BC. It is derived from the earlier Phoenician alphabet, and was the first alphabetic script in history to have distinct letters for vowels ...

Greek alphabet
,
Arabic numerals Arabic numerals are the ten numerical digit A numerical digit (often shortened to just digit) is a single symbol used alone (such as "2") or in combinations (such as "25"), to represent numbers in a Positional notation, positional numeral sy ...

Arabic numerals
, etc. for use in information processing. They have had numerous revisions. The current standards are: *
JIS X 0208 JIS X 0208 is a 2-byte character set specified as a Japanese Industrial Standard, containing 6879 graphic characters suitable for writing text, place names, personal names, and so forth in the Japanese language. The official title of the curren ...
, the most recent version of the main standard. It has 6,355 kanji. *
JIS X 0212 JIS X 0212 is a Japanese Industrial Standard defining a coded character set for encoding supplementary characters for use in Japanese. This standard is intended to supplement JIS X 0208 JIS X 0208 is a 2-byte character set specified as a Japa ...
, a supplementary standard containing a further 5,801 kanji. This standard is rarely used, mainly because the common
Shift JIS Shift JIS (Shift Japanese Industrial Standards, also SJIS, MIME name Shift_JIS) is a character encoding for the Japanese language, originally developed by a Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag ...
encoding system could not use it. This standard is effectively obsolete. *
JIS X 0213 JIS X 0213 is a Japanese Industrial Standard defining coded character sets for encoding the characters used in Japan. This standard extends JIS X 0208. The first version was published in 2000 and revised in 2004 (JIS2004) and 2012. As well as add ...
, a further revision which extended the JIS X 0208 set with 3,695 additional kanji, of which 2,743 (all but 952) were in JIS X 0212. The standard is in part designed to be compatible with Shift JIS encoding. *JIS X 0221:1995, the Japanese version of the ISO 10646/
Unicode Unicode, formally the Unicode Standard, is an information technology standard Standard may refer to: Flags * Colours, standards and guidons * Standard (flag), a type of flag used for personal identification Norm, convention or requiremen ...

Unicode
standard.


Gaiji

are kanji that are not represented in existing Japanese encoding systems. These include variant forms of common kanji that need to be represented alongside the more conventional
glyph In typography File:metal movable type.jpg, 225px, Movable type being assembled on a composing stick using pieces that are stored in the type case shown below it Typography is the art and technique of typesetting, arranging type to make wr ...
in reference works, and can include non-kanji symbols as well. can be either user-defined characters or system-specific characters. Both are a problem for information interchange, as the
code point In character encoding terminology, a code point or code position is any of the numerical values that make up the ''codespace''. Many code points represent single characters but they can also have other meanings, such as for formatting. For examp ...
used to represent an external character will not be consistent from one computer or operating system to another. were nominally prohibited in JIS X 0208-1997, and JIS X 0213-2000 used the range of code-points previously allocated to , making them completely unusable. Nevertheless, they persist today with NTT DoCoMo's "
i-mode NTT DoCoMo's i-mode is a mobile internet (distinct from wireless internet) service popular in Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , ima ...
" service, where they are used for
emoji Emoji ( ; from Japanese 絵文字 ; plural ''emoji'' or ''emojis'') are pictograms, logograms, ideogram An ideogram or ideograph (from Ancient Greek, Greek "idea" and "to write") is a graphic symbol that represents an idea or concept ...

emoji
(pictorial characters).
Unicode Unicode, formally the Unicode Standard, is an information technology standard Standard may refer to: Flags * Colours, standards and guidons * Standard (flag), a type of flag used for personal identification Norm, convention or requiremen ...

Unicode
allows for optional encoding of in
private use areas In Unicode Unicode is an information technology Technical standard, standard for the consistent character encoding, encoding, representation, and handling of Character (computing), text expressed in most of the world's writing systems. The st ...
, while Adobe's SING (Smart INdependent Glyphlets) technology allows the creation of customized gaiji. The
Text Encoding Initiative The Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) is a text-centric community of practice in the academic field of digital humanities, operating continuously since the 1980s. The community currently runs a mailing list, meetings and conference series, and main ...

Text Encoding Initiative
uses a element to encode any non-standard character or glyph, including gaiji. (The ''g'' stands for .)


Total number of kanji

There is no definitive count of kanji characters, just as there is none of Chinese characters generally. The ''
Dai Kan-Wa Jiten The is a Japanese dictionary of ''kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters that are used in the Japanese writing system. They are used alongside the Japanese language, Japanese syllabic scripts ''hiragana'' and ''katakana''. The ...
'', which is considered to be comprehensive in Japan, contains about 50,000 characters. The '' Zhonghua Zihai'', published in 1994 in China, contains about 85,000 characters, but the majority of them are not in common use in any country, and many are obscure variants or archaic forms.Kuang-Hui Chiu, Chi-Ching Hsu (2006)
Chinese Dilemmas : How Many Ideographs are Needed
, National Taipei University
A list of 2,136 ''
jōyō kanji The is the guide to kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters that are used in the Japanese writing system. They are used alongside the Japanese language, Japanese syllabic scripts ''hiragana'' and ''katakana''. The Japanese term ...
'' (常用漢字) is regarded as necessary for functional literacy in Japanese. Approximately a thousand more characters are commonly used and readily understood by the majority in Japan and a few thousand more find occasional use, especially in specialized fields of study but those may be obscure to most out of context. A total of 13,108 characters can be encoded in various Japanese Industrial Standards for kanji.


Readings

Because of the way they have been adopted into Japanese, a single kanji may be used to write one or more different words—or, in some cases,
morphemes A morpheme is the smallest meaningful lexical itemIn lexicography, a lexical item (or lexical unit / LU, lexical entry) is a single word, a part of a word, or a chain of words ( catena) that forms the basic elements of a language's lexicon A l ...
—and thus the same character may be pronounced in different ways. From the reader's point of view, kanji are said to have one or more different "readings". Although more than one reading may become activated in the brain, deciding which reading is appropriate depends on recognizing which word it represents, which can usually be determined from context, intended meaning, whether the character occurs as part of a compound word or an independent word, and sometimes location within the sentence. For example, is usually read ''kyō'', meaning "today", but in formal writing is instead read ''konnichi'', meaning "nowadays"; this is understood from context. Nevertheless, some cases are ambiguous and require a ''
furigana is a Japanese language, Japanese reading aid, consisting of smaller kana or syllabic characters, printed next to kanji (Ideogram, ideographic characters) or other characters to indicate their pronunciation. It is one type of ruby character, ruby ...
'' gloss, which are used to simplify difficult readings or to specify a non-standard reading. Kanji readings are categorized as either ''on'yomi'' (, literally "sound reading", from Chinese) or ''kun'yomi'' (, literally "meaning reading", native Japanese), and most characters have at least two readings, at least one of each. However, some characters have only a single reading, such as or ; ''kun''-only are common for Japanese-coined kanji (''kokuji''). Some common kanji have ten or more possible readings; the most complex common example is , which is read as ''sei, shō, nama, ki, o-u, i-kiru, i-kasu, i-keru, u-mu, u-mareru, ha-eru'', and ''ha-yasu'', totaling eight basic readings (the first two are ''on'', while the rest are ''kun''), or 12 if related verbs are counted as distinct; see okurigana § 生 for details. Most often, a character will be used for both sound and meaning, and it is simply a matter of choosing the correct reading based on which word it represents.


''On'yomi'' (Sino-Japanese reading)

The , the Sino-Japanese reading, is the modern descendant of the Japanese approximation of the base Chinese pronunciation of the character at the time it was introduced. It was often previously referred to as translation reading, as it was recreated readings of the Chinese pronunciation but was not the Chinese pronunciation or reading itself, similar to the English pronunciation of Latin loanwords. Old Japanese scripts often stated that ''on'yomi'' readings were also created by the Japanese during their arrival and re-borrowed by the Chinese as their own. There also exist kanji created by the Japanese and given an ''on'yomi'' reading despite not being a Chinese-derived or a Chinese-originating character. Some kanji were introduced from different parts of China at different times, and so have multiple ''on'yomi'', and often multiple meanings. ''Kanji'' invented in Japan (
kokuji are the adopted logographic In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language by means of a writing system. Written language is an invention in that it must be taught to children, who will p ...
) would not normally be expected to have ''on'yomi'', but there are exceptions, such as the character "to work", which has the ''kun'yomi'' "''hataraku''" and the ''on'yomi'' "''dō''", and "gland", which has only the ''on'yomi'' "''sen''"—in both cases these come from the ''on'yomi'' of the phonetic component, respectively "''dō''" and "''sen''". Generally, ''on'yomi'' are classified into four types according to their region and time of origin: * readings are from the pronunciation during the
Northern and Southern dynasties The Northern and Southern dynasties () was a period in the history of China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC), during the king Wu Ding ...
of China during the 5th and 6th centuries. ''Go'' refers to the Wu region (in the vicinity of modern
Shanghai Shanghai (, , Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin pronunciation: ) is one of the four Direct-administered municipalities of China, direct-administered municipalities of the China, People's Republic of China. The city is located on the sout ...

Shanghai
), which still maintains linguistic similarities with modern Sino-Japanese vocabulary. See also:
Wu Chinese Wu (Chinese character: , , Mandarin: ) is a group of linguistically similar and historically related Sinitic languages spoken primarily in Shanghai Shanghai (, , Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin pronunciation: ) is one of the four ...
and Shanghainese language. * readings are from the pronunciation during the
Tang dynasty The Tang dynasty (, ; ), or Tang Empire, was an imperial dynasty of China that ruled from 618 to 907, with an interregnum between 690 and 705. It was preceded by the Sui dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. H ...
of China in the 7th to 9th centuries, primarily from the standard speech of the capital,
Chang'an Chang'an (; ) was an ancient capital of more than ten dynasties in Chinese history, today known as Xi'an in Shaanxi Shaanxi (, ; Chinese postal romanization, alternately Shensi) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the Ch ...
(modern
Xi'an Xi'an ( , ; Chinese: ), also known as Sian, is the list of capitals in China, capital of Shaanxi, Shaanxi Province. A Sub-provincial division#Sub-provincial municipalities, sub-provincial city on the Guanzhong, Guanzhong Plain in Northwest ...
). Here, ''Kan'' refers to
Han Chinese people The Han Chinese,
. Huayuqiao.org. Retrieved on 2013-04-26.
Hanzu, or Han peopleChina proper China proper, Inner China or the Eighteen Provinces was a term used by Western writers on the Manchu people, Manchu-led Qing dynasty to express a distinction between the core and frontier regions of China. There is no fixed extent for China pr ...

China proper
. * readings are from the pronunciations of later dynasties of China, such as the
Song A song is a musical composition intended to be performed by the human voice. This is often done at melody, distinct and fixed pitches (melodies) using patterns of sound and silence. Songs contain various song form, forms, such as those includi ...
and
Ming#REDIRECT Ming dynasty#REDIRECT Ming dynasty {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from move {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from move {{R from other capitalisation ...

Ming
. They cover all readings adopted from the
Heian era The is the last division of classical Japanese history, running from 794 to 1185. It followed the Nara period, beginning when the 50th emperor, Emperor Kanmu, moved the capital of Japan to Heian-kyō Heian-kyō was one of several former na ...
to the
Edo period The or is the period between 1603 and 1867 in the history History (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in ...
. This is also known as . * readings, which are mistaken or changed readings of the kanji that have become accepted into the Japanese language. In some cases, they are the actual readings that accompanied the character's introduction to Japan, but do not match how the character "should" (is prescribed to) be read according to the rules of character construction and pronunciation. The most common form of readings is the ''kan-on'' one, and use of a non-''kan-on'' reading in a word where the ''kan-on'' reading is well known is a common cause of reading mistakes or difficulty, such as in (''go-on''), where is usually instead read as ''kai''. The ''go-on'' readings are especially common in
Buddhist Buddhism (, ) is the world's fourth-largest religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behaviors and practices, morality, morals, beliefs, worldviews, religious text, texts, shrine, ...
terminology such as , as well as in some of the earliest loans, such as the Sino-Japanese numbers. The ''tō-on'' readings occur in some later words, such as , , and . The go-on, kan-on, and tō-on readings are generally
cognate In linguistics, cognates, also called lexical cognates, are words that have a common etymology, etymological origin. Cognates are often inherited from a proto-language, shared parent language, but they may also involve loanword, borrowings from ...
(with rare exceptions of homographs; see below), having a common origin in
Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese, and the ancestor of all modern varieties of Chinese. The earliest examples of Chinese are divinatory inscriptions on oracle bones from around 125 ...
, and hence form linguistic doublets or triplets, but they can differ significantly from each other and from modern Chinese pronunciation. In Chinese, most characters are associated with a single Chinese sound, though there are distinct literary and colloquial readings. However, some homographs ( ) such as (' or ') (Japanese: ''an, gō, gyō'') have more than one reading in Chinese representing different meanings, which is reflected in the carryover to Japanese as well. Additionally, many Chinese syllables, especially those with an
entering tone A checked tone, commonly known by the Chinese calque In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. ...
, did not fit the largely consonant-vowel (CV)
phonotactics Phonotactics (from Ancient Greek "voice, sound" and "having to do with arranging") is a branch of phonology that deals with restrictions in a language on the permissible combinations of phonemes. Phonotactics defines permissible syllable structu ...
of classical Japanese. Thus most ''on'yomi'' are composed of two
morae A mora (plural ''morae'' or ''moras''; often symbolized μ) is a unit in phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or signs, in sign languages). The term also ref ...
(beats), the second of which is either a lengthening of the vowel in the first mora (to ''ei'', ''ō'', or ''ū''), the vowel ''i'', or one of the syllables ''ku'', ''ki'', ''tsu'', ''chi'', ''fu'' (historically, later merged into ''ō'' and ''ū''), or moraic ''n'', chosen for their approximation to the final consonants of Middle Chinese. It may be that palatalized consonants before vowels other than ''i'' developed in Japanese as a result of Chinese borrowings, as they are virtually unknown in words of native Japanese origin, but are common in Chinese. ''On'yomi'' primarily occur in , many of which are the result of the adoption, along with the kanji themselves, of Chinese words for concepts that either did not exist in Japanese or could not be articulated as elegantly using native words. This borrowing process is often compared to the English borrowings from Latin, Greek, and Norman French, since Chinese-borrowed terms are often more specialized, or considered to sound more erudite or formal, than their native counterparts (occupying a higher linguistic register). The major exception to this rule is
family name In some cultures, a surname, family name, or last name is the portion of one's personal name that indicates their family, tribe or community. Practices vary by culture. The family name may be placed at either the start of a person's full name ...
s, in which the native ''kun'yomi'' are usually used (though ''on'yomi'' are found in many personal names, especially men's names).


''Kun'yomi'' (native reading)

The , the native reading, is a reading based on the pronunciation of a native
Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat = Imperial Seal of J ...

Japanese
word, or ''
yamato kotoba are native Japanese words, meaning those words in Japanese that have been inherited from Old Japanese is the oldest attested stage of the Japanese language, recorded in documents from the Nara period The of the history of Japan covers the ...
'', that closely approximated the meaning of the
Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, with a populat ...
character when it was introduced. As with ''on'yomi'', there can be multiple ''kun'yomi'' for the same kanji, and some kanji have no ''kun'yomi'' at all. For instance, the character for
east East or Orient is one of the four cardinal direction The four cardinal directions, or cardinal points, are the directions north, east, south, and west, commonly denoted by their initials N, E, S, and W. East and west are perpendicular (at rig ...
, , has the ''on'yomi'' ''tō'', from
Middle Chinese Middle Chinese (formerly known as Ancient Chinese) or the Qieyun system (QYS) is the historical variety of Chinese language, Chinese recorded in the ''Qieyun'', a rime dictionary first published in 601 and followed by several revised and expanded ...
'. However,
Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat = Imperial Seal of J ...

Japanese
already had two words for "east": ''higashi'' and ''azuma''. Thus the kanji had the latter readings added as ''kun'yomi''. In contrast, the kanji , denoting a Chinese unit of measurement (about 30 mm or 1.2 inch), has no native
Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat = Imperial Seal of J ...

Japanese
equivalent; it only has an ''on'yomi'', ''
sun The Sun is the star A star is an astronomical object consisting of a luminous spheroid of plasma (physics), plasma held together by its own gravity. The List of nearest stars and brown dwarfs, nearest star to Earth is the Sun. Many othe ...
'', with no native ''kun'yomi''. Most ''
kokuji are the adopted logographic In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language by means of a writing system. Written language is an invention in that it must be taught to children, who will p ...
'', Japanese-created Chinese characters, only have ''kun'yomi'', although some have back-formed a pseudo-''on'yomi'' by analogy with similar characters, such as ''dō'', from ''dō'', and there are even some, such as ''sen'' "gland", that have only an ''on'yomi''. ''Kun'yomi'' are characterized by the strict (C)V syllable structure of ''yamato kotoba''. Most noun or adjective ''kun'yomi'' are two to three syllables long, while verb ''kun'yomi'' are usually between one and three syllables in length, not counting trailing
hiragana Also , is a Japanese language, Japanese syllabary, one component of the Japanese writing system, along with ''katakana'', ''kanji'' and in some cases Latin script. It is a phonetic lettering system. The word ''hiragana'' literally means "ordina ...

hiragana
called ''
okurigana are kana The are syllabaries used to write Japanese phonological units, morae A mora (plural ''morae'' or ''moras''; often symbolized μ) is a unit in phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or diale ...

okurigana
''. ''Okurigana'' are not considered to be part of the internal reading of the character, although they are part of the reading of the word. A beginner in the language will rarely come across characters with long readings, but readings of three or even four syllables are not uncommon. This contrasts with ''on'yomi'', which are monosyllabic, and is unusual in the
Chinese family of scripts The Chinese family of scripts are writing systems descended from the Chinese Oracle Bone Script Oracle bone script () was an ancestor of modern Chinese characters engraved on oracle bonesanimal bones or turtle plastrons used in pyromancy, pyro ...
, which generally use one character per syllable—not only in Chinese, but also in Korean, Vietnamese, and Zhuang;
polysyllabic Chinese character Chinese characters, also called ''Hanzi'' (), are logograms developed for the Written Chinese, writing of Chinese. They have been adapted to write other East-Asian languages, and remain a key component of the Japanese writing system wher ...
s are rare and considered non-standard. ''uketamawaru'', ''kokorozashi'', and ''mikotonori'' have five syllables represented by a single kanji, the longest readings in the ''jōyō'' character set. These unusually long readings are due to a single character representing a compound word: * is a single character for a compound verb, one component of which has a long reading. ** It has an alternative spelling as ''u(ke)-tamawa(ru)'', hence (1+1)+3=5. ** Compare common ''u(ke)-tsu(keru)''. * is a nominalization of the verb which has a long reading ''kokoroza(su)''. ** This is due to its being derived from a noun-verb compound, ''kokoro-za(su)''. ** The nominalization removes the okurigana, hence increasing the reading by one mora, yielding 4+1=5. ** Compare common ''hanashi'' 2+1=3, from ''hana(su)''. * is a triple compound. ** It has an alternative spelling ''mi-koto-nori'', hence 1+2+2=5. Further, some Jōyō characters have long non-Jōyō readings (students learn the character, but not the reading), such as ''omonpakaru'' for . In a number of cases, multiple kanji were assigned to cover a single
Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat = Imperial Seal of J ...

Japanese
word. Typically when this occurs, the different kanji refer to specific shades of meaning. For instance, the word , ''naosu'', when written , means "to heal an illness or sickness". When written it means "to fix or correct something". Sometimes the distinction is very clear, although not always. Differences of opinion among reference works is not uncommon; one dictionary may say the kanji are equivalent, while another dictionary may draw distinctions of use. As a result, native speakers of the language may have trouble knowing which kanji to use and resort to personal preference or by writing the word in
hiragana Also , is a Japanese language, Japanese syllabary, one component of the Japanese writing system, along with ''katakana'', ''kanji'' and in some cases Latin script. It is a phonetic lettering system. The word ''hiragana'' literally means "ordina ...

hiragana
. This latter strategy is frequently employed with more complex cases such as もと ''moto'', which has at least five different kanji: , and , the first three of which have only very subtle differences. Another notable example is ''sakazuki'' "sake cup", which may be spelt as at least five different kanji: , and ; of these, the first two are common—formally is a small cup and a large cup. Local dialectical readings of kanji are also classified under ''kun'yomi'', most notably readings for words in
Ryukyuan languages The , also Lewchewan languages, are the indigenous languages of the Ryukyu Islands, the southernmost part of the Japanese archipelago. Along with the Japanese language, they make up the Japonic language family. The languages are not mutually i ...
. Further, in rare cases gairaigo (borrowed words) have a single character associated with them, in which case this reading is formally classified as a ''kun'yomi'', because the character is being used for meaning, not sound.


Ateji

''
Ateji In modern Japanese, principally refers to kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters that are used in the Japanese writing system. They are used alongside the Japanese language, Japanese syllabic scripts ''hiragana'' and ''kataka ...
'' (当て字, 宛字 or あてじ) are characters used only for their sounds. In this case, pronunciation is still based on a standard reading, or used only for meaning (broadly a form of ''ateji'', narrowly ''jukujikun''). Therefore, only the full compound—not the individual character—has a reading. There are also
special cases "Special Cases" is a song by English trip hop group Massive Attack featuring vocals from Irish singer-songwriter Sinéad O'Connor, who also co-wrote the track. It appears on Massive Attack's fourth full-length album, ''100th Window'', and was rele ...
where the reading is completely different, often based on a historical or traditional reading. The analogous phenomenon occurs to a much lesser degree in
Chinese varieties Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China * Chinese people, people of Chinese nationality, citizenship, or ethnicity **''Zhonghua minzu'', the supra-ethnic Chinese nationality ** Han Chinese, the majority ethnic group in Mainland China, ...
, where there are
literary and colloquial readings of Chinese characters Differing literary and colloquial readings for certain Chinese character Chinese characters, also called ''Hanzi'' (), are logograms developed for the writing of Chinese. They have been adapted to write other East-Asian languages, a ...
—borrowed readings and native readings. In Chinese these borrowed readings and native readings are etymologically related, since they are between Chinese varieties (which are related), not from Chinese to Japanese (which are not related). They thus form doublets and are generally similar, analogous to different on'yomi, reflecting different stages of Chinese borrowings into Japanese.


Gairaigo

Longer readings exist for non-Jōyō characters and non-kanji symbols, where a long
gairaigo is Japanese language, Japanese for "Loanword, loan word", and indicates a transcription into Japanese. In particular, the word usually refers to a Japanese word of foreign origin that was not borrowed in ancient times from Old Chinese, Old or Midd ...
word may be the reading (this is classed as ''kun'yomi''—see single character gairaigo, below)—the character has the seven kana reading ''senchimētoru'' "centimeter", though it is generally written as "cm" (with two half-width characters, so occupying one space); another common example is '%' (the percent sign), which has the five kana reading ''pāsento''.


Mixed readings

There are many kanji compounds that use a mixture of ''on'yomi'' and ''kun'yomi'', known as or words (depending on the order), which are themselves examples of this kind of compound (they are
autological word An autological word (also called homological word) is a word that expresses a property that it also possesses (e.g., "word" is a word, "noun" is a noun, "English" is English, " pentasyllabic" has five syllables). The opposite is a heterological w ...
s): the first character of ''jūbako'' is read using ''on'yomi'', the second ''kun'yomi'' (''on-kun'', 重箱読み). It is the other way around with ''yu-tō'' (''kun-on'', 湯桶読み). Formally, these are referred to as and . Note that in both these words, the ''on'yomi'' has a long vowel; long vowels in Japanese generally are derived from sound changes common to loans from Chinese, hence distinctive of ''on'yomi''. These are the Japanese form of
hybrid word A hybrid word or hybridism is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meanin ...
s. Other examples include , and . ''
Ateji In modern Japanese, principally refers to kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters that are used in the Japanese writing system. They are used alongside the Japanese language, Japanese syllabic scripts ''hiragana'' and ''kataka ...
'' often use mixed readings. For instance the city of
Sapporo is the largest Cities of Japan, Japanese city north of Tokyo and the largest city on Hokkaido, which is Japan's northernmost main island. It is the capital city of Hokkaido, Hokkaido Prefecture and Ishikari Subprefecture. Sapporo lies in the sou ...

Sapporo
(サッポロ), whose name derives from the
Ainu language Ainu ( ''Ainu-itak'') or more precisely Hokkaido Ainu, is a language spoken by a few elderly members of the Ainu people on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido is the Japanese archipelago, second largest island of Japan and comprises th ...
and has no meaning in Japanese, is written with the ''on-kun'' compound (which includes ''
sokuon The is a Japanese symbol in the form of a small hiragana Also , is a Japanese language, Japanese syllabary, one component of the Japanese writing system, along with ''katakana'', ''kanji'' and in some cases Latin script. It is a phonetic ...
'' as if it were a purely ''on'' compound).


Special readings

and are readings of kanji combinations that have no direct correspondence to the characters' individual ''on'yomi'' or ''kun'yomi''. From the point of view of the character, rather than the word, this is known as a , and these are listed in kanji dictionaries under the entry for the character. ''Gikun'' are when kanji are assigned to a word based on meaning rather than reading, such as using (meaning "cold") with the reading ''fuyu'' ("winter") rather than the standard character , or using 煙草 (lit. "smoke grass") with the reading ''tabako'' ("tobacco"). These usages are typically non-standard and employed in specific contexts by individual writers, with few exceptions, such as the spelling of '' Asuka'', 飛鳥. Aided with
furigana is a Japanese language, Japanese reading aid, consisting of smaller kana or syllabic characters, printed next to kanji (Ideogram, ideographic characters) or other characters to indicate their pronunciation. It is one type of ruby character, ruby ...
, ''gikun'' could be used to convey complex literary or poetic effect (especially if the readings contradict the kanji), or clarification if the referent may not be obvious. ''Jukujikun'' are when the standard kanji for a word are related to the meaning, but not the sound. The word is pronounced as a whole, not corresponding to sounds of individual kanji. For example, ("this morning") is jukujikun, and read neither as *''ima'asa'', the ''kun'yomi'' of the characters, infrequently as ''konchō'', the ''on'yomi'' of the characters, and not as any combination thereof. Instead it is read as ''kesa'', a native bisyllabic Japanese word that may be seen as a single
morpheme A morpheme is the smallest meaningful lexical item in a language. A morpheme is not a word. The difference between a morpheme and a word is that a morpheme bound and free morphemes, sometimes does not stand alone, but a word on this definition alw ...
, or as a fusion of ''kyō'' (previously ''kefu''), "today", and ''asa'', "morning". Likewise, ("today") is also jukujikun, usually read with the native reading ''kyō''; its on'yomi, ''konnichi'', does occur in certain words and expressions, especially in the broader sense "nowadays" or "current", such as ("present-day"), although in the phrase ''konnichi wa'' ("good day"), ''konnichi'' is typically spelled wholly with hiragana rather than with the kanji . Jukujikun are primarily used for some native Japanese words, such as
Yamato was originally the area around today's Sakurai City in Nara Prefecture of Japan, which became Yamato Province and by extension a name for the whole of Japan. Yamato is also the dynastic name of the ruling Imperial House of Japan. Japanese hist ...
( or , the name of the dominant ethnic group of Japan, a former Japanese province as well as ancient name for Japan), and for some old borrowings, such as from Ainu, from Portuguese, or ''bīru'' (, wheat alcohol) from Dutch, especially if the word was borrowed before the
Meiji Period The is an era of Japanese history which extended from October 23, 1868 to July 30, 1912. This era represents the first half of the Empire of Japan The was a historical nation-state that existed from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 un ...
. Words whose kanji are jukujikun are often usually written as hiragana (if native), or katakana (if borrowed); some old borrowed words are also written as hiragana, especially Portuguese loanwords such as ''karuta'' () from Portuguese "carta" (Eng: card), ''tempura'' () from Portuguese "tempora", and ''pan'' () from Portuguese "pão" (Eng: bread), as well as ''tabako'' (). Sometimes, jukujikun can even have more kanji than there are syllables, examples being ''kera'' (, woodpecker), ''gumi'' (, silver berry/oleaster), and ''Hozumi'' (, a surname). This phenomenon is observed in animal names that are shortened and used as suffixes for zoological compound names, for example when , normally read as ''koganemushi'', is shortened to ''kogane'' in ''kurokogane'', although zoological names are commonly spelled with katakana rather than with kanji anyway. Outside zoology, this type of shortening only occurs on a handful of words, for example ''daigen(sui)'', or the historical male name suffix ''-emon'' which was shortened from the word ''uemon''. Jukujikun are quite varied. Often the kanji compound for jukujikun is idiosyncratic and created for the word, and where the corresponding Chinese word does not exist; in other cases a kanji compound for an existing Chinese word is reused, where the Chinese word and ''on'yomi'' may or may not be used in Japanese; for example, is jukujikun for ''tonakai'', from Ainu, but the ''on'yomi'' reading of ''junroku'' is also used. In some cases Japanese coinages have subsequently been borrowed back into Chinese, such as . The underlying word for jukujikun is a native Japanese word or foreign borrowing, which either does not have an existing kanji spelling (either ''kun'yomi'' or ''ateji'') or for which a new kanji spelling is produced. Most often the word is a noun, which may be a simple noun (not a compound or derived from a verb), or may be a verb form or a fusional pronunciation; for example is originally from the verb , while is fusional. In rare cases jukujikun is also applied to inflectional words (verbs and adjectives), in which case there is frequently a corresponding Chinese word. Examples of jukujikun for inflectional words follow. The most common example of a jukujikun adjective is , originally ''kawayu-i;'' the word is used in
Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, with a populat ...
, but the corresponding ''on'yomi'' is not used in Japanese. By contrast, "appropriate" can be either or are both used; the ''-shii'' ending is because these were formerly a different class of adjectives. A common example of a verb with jukujikun is , corresponding to ''on'yomi'' . A sample jukujikun deverbal (noun derived from a verb form) is , from , spelling from . See 義訓 and 熟字訓 for many more examples. Note that there are also compound verbs and, less commonly, compound adjectives, and while these may have multiple kanji without intervening characters, they are read using usual ''kun'yomi;'' examples include and . Typographically, the
furigana is a Japanese language, Japanese reading aid, consisting of smaller kana or syllabic characters, printed next to kanji (Ideogram, ideographic characters) or other characters to indicate their pronunciation. It is one type of ruby character, ruby ...
for jukujikun are often written so they are centered across the entire word, or for inflectional words over the entire root—corresponding to the reading being related to the entire word—rather than each part of the word being centered over its corresponding character, as is often done for the usual phono-semantic readings. Broadly speaking, jukujikun can be considered a form of ''
ateji In modern Japanese, principally refers to kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters that are used in the Japanese writing system. They are used alongside the Japanese language, Japanese syllabic scripts ''hiragana'' and ''kataka ...
'', though in narrow usage "ateji" refers specifically to using characters for sound and not meaning (sound-spelling), rather than meaning and not sound (meaning-spelling), as in jukujikun. Many jukujikun (established meaning-spellings) began life as gikun (improvised meaning-spellings). Occasionally a single word will have many such kanji spellings; an extreme example is , which may be spelt in a great many ways, including , , , , , , , ,, , and —many of these variant spellings are particular to
haiku is a type of short form poetry originally from Japan. Traditional Japanese haiku consist of three phrases that contain a ''kireji'', or "cutting word", 17 ''On (Japanese prosody), on'' (phonetic units similar to syllables) in a 5, 7, 5 pattern, ...

haiku
poems.


Single character gairaigo

In some rare cases, an individual kanji has a reading that is borrowed from a modern foreign language (
gairaigo is Japanese language, Japanese for "Loanword, loan word", and indicates a transcription into Japanese. In particular, the word usually refers to a Japanese word of foreign origin that was not borrowed in ancient times from Old Chinese, Old or Midd ...
), though most often these words are written in katakana. Notable examples include , , , and . See list of single character gairaigo for more. These are classed as ''kun'yomi'' of a single character, because the character is being used for meaning only (without the Chinese pronunciation), rather than as
ateji In modern Japanese, principally refers to kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters that are used in the Japanese writing system. They are used alongside the Japanese language, Japanese syllabic scripts ''hiragana'' and ''kataka ...
, which is the classification used when a gairaigo term is written as a compound (2 or more characters). However, unlike the vast majority of other ''kun'yomi'', these readings are not native Japanese, but rather borrowed, so the "kun'yomi" label can be misleading. The readings are also written in katakana, unlike the usual hiragana for native ''kun'yomi''. Note that most of these characters are for units, particularly SI units, in many cases using new characters (
kokuji are the adopted logographic In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language by means of a writing system. Written language is an invention in that it must be taught to children, who will p ...
) coined during the
Meiji period The is an era of Japanese history which extended from October 23, 1868 to July 30, 1912. This era represents the first half of the Empire of Japan The was a historical nation-state that existed from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 un ...
, such as .


Other readings

Some kanji also have lesser-known readings called '' nanori'' (), which are mostly used for names (often
given name Image:FML names-2.png, Diagram of naming conventions, using John F. Kennedy as an example. "First names" can also be called given names; "last names" can also be called surnames or family names. This shows a structure typical for English-speaking ...
s) and in general, are closely related to the ''kun'yomi''. Place names sometimes also use ''nanori'' or, occasionally, unique readings not found elsewhere. For example, there is the surname (literally, "little birds at play") that implies there are no predators, such as hawks, present. Pronounced, "''kotori asobu''". The name then can also mean (''taka ga inai'', literally, "no hawks around") and it can be shortened to be pronounced as ''Takanashi''.


When to use which reading

Although there are general rules for when to use ''on'yomi'' and when to use ''kun'yomi'', the language is littered with exceptions, and it is not always possible for even a native speaker to know how to read a character without prior knowledge (this is especially true for names, both of people and places); further, a given character may have multiple ''kun'yomi'' or ''on'yomi''. When reading Japanese, one primarily recognizes ''words'' (multiple characters and okurigana) and their readings, rather than individual characters, and only guess readings of characters when trying to "sound out" an unrecognized word. Homographs exist, however, which can sometimes be deduced from context, and sometimes cannot, requiring a glossary. For example, may be read either as ''kyō'' "today (informal)" (special fused reading for native word) or as ''konnichi'' "these days (formal)" (''on'yomi''); in formal writing this will generally be read as ''konnichi''. In some cases multiple readings are common, as in "pork soup", which is commonly pronounced both as ''ton-jiru'' (mixed ''on-kun'') and ''buta-jiru'' (''kun-kun''), with ''ton'' somewhat more common nationally. Inconsistencies abound—for example ''gyū-niku'' "beef" and ''yō-niku'' "mutton" have ''on-on'' readings, but ''buta-niku'' "pork" and ''tori-niku'' "poultry" have ''kun-on'' readings. The main guideline is that a single kanji followed by ''okurigana'' (hiragana characters that are part of the word)—as used in native verbs and adjectives—''always'' indicates ''kun'yomi'', while kanji compounds (kango) usually use ''on'yomi'', which is usually ''kan-on;'' however, other ''on'yomi'' are also common, and ''kun'yomi'' are also commonly used in kango. For a kanji in isolation without okurigana, it is typically read using their ''kun'yomi'', though there are numerous exceptions. For example, "iron" is usually read with the ''on'yomi'' ''tetsu'' rather than the ''kun'yomi'' ''kurogane''. Chinese ''on'yomi'' which are not the common ''kan-on'' reading are a frequent cause of difficulty or mistakes when encountering unfamiliar words or for inexperienced readers, though skilled natives will recognize the word; a good example is (''go-on''), where is usually instead read as ''kai''.
Okurigana are kana The are syllabaries used to write Japanese phonological units, morae A mora (plural ''morae'' or ''moras''; often symbolized μ) is a unit in phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or diale ...

Okurigana
(送り仮名) are used with ''kun'yomi'' to mark the inflected ending of a native verb or adjective, or by convention. Note that Japanese verbs and adjectives are
closed class In traditional grammar Traditional grammar is a framework for the description of the structure of a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sig ...
, and do not generally admit new words (borrowed Chinese vocabulary, which are nouns, can form verbs by adding at the end, and adjectives via ''-no'' or ''-na'', but cannot become native Japanese vocabulary, which inflect). For example: ''aka-i'' "red", ''atara-shii'' "new", ''mi-ru'' "(to) see". Okurigana can be used to indicate which ''kun'yomi'' to use, as in ''ta-beru'' versus ''ku-u'' (casual), both meaning "(to) eat", but this is not always sufficient, as in , which may be read as ''a-ku'' or ''hira-ku'', both meaning "(to) open". is a particularly complicated example, with multiple ''kun'' and ''on'yomi''—see okurigana: 生 for details. Okurigana is also used for some nouns and adverbs, as in ''nasake'' "sympathy", ''kanarazu'' "invariably", but not for ''kane'' "money", for instance.
Okurigana are kana The are syllabaries used to write Japanese phonological units, morae A mora (plural ''morae'' or ''moras''; often symbolized μ) is a unit in phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or diale ...

Okurigana
is an important aspect of kanji usage in Japanese; see that article for more information on ''kun'yomi'' orthography Kanji occurring in are generally read using ''on'yomi'', especially for four-character compounds (''
yojijukugo is a Japanese language, Japanese lexeme consisting of four kanji (Chinese characters). English translations of ''yojijukugo'' include "four-character compound", "four-character idiom", "four-character idiomatic phrase", and "four-character idioma ...
''). Though again, exceptions abound, for example, ''jōhō'' "information", ''gakkō'' "school", and ''shinkansen'' "bullet train" all follow this pattern. This isolated kanji versus compound distinction gives words for similar concepts completely different pronunciations. "north" and "east" use the ''kun'yomi'' ''kita'' and ''higashi'', being stand-alone characters, but "northeast", as a compound, uses the ''on'yomi'' ''hokutō''. This is further complicated by the fact that many kanji have more than one ''on'yomi'': is read as ''sei'' in ''sensei'' "teacher" but as ''shō'' in ''isshō'' "one's whole life". Meaning can also be an important indicator of reading; is read ''i'' when it means "simple", but as ''eki'' when it means "divination", both being ''on'yomi'' for this character. These rules of thumb have many exceptions. ''Kun'yomi'' compound words are not as numerous as those with ''on'yomi'', but neither are they rare. Examples include ''tegami'' "letter", ''higasa'' "parasol", and the famous ''
kamikaze Ensign Kiyoshi Ogawa, one of the pilots who flew his aircraft into ''Bunker Hill'' on 11 May 1945 , officially , were a part of the Japanese Special Attack Units of military aviation, military aviators who flew suicide attacks for the Empire ...

kamikaze
'' "divine wind". Such compounds may also have okurigana, such as (also written ) ''karaage'' "Chinese-style fried chicken" and ''
origami ) is the art of paper folding, which is often associated with Japanese culture. In modern usage, the word "origami" is used as an inclusive term for all folding practices, regardless of their culture of origin. The goal is to transform a fl ...

origami
'', although many of these can also be written with the okurigana omitted (for example, or ). In general, compounds coined in Japan using japanese roots will be read in kun'yomi while those imported from China will be read in on'yomi. Similarly, some ''on'yomi'' characters can also be used as words in isolation: ''ai'' "love", ''
Zen Zen ( zh, t=禪, p=Chán; ja, text= 禅, translit=zen; ko, text=선, translit=Seon; vi, text=Thiền) is a school of Mahayana Buddhism that originated in China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country i ...

Zen
'', ''ten'' "mark, dot". Most of these cases involve kanji that have no ''kun'yomi'', so there can be no confusion, although exceptions do occur. Alone may be read as ''kin'' "gold" or as ''kane'' "money, metal"; only context can determine the writer's intended reading and meaning. Multiple readings have given rise to a number of
homograph A homograph (from the el, ὁμός, ''homós'', "same" and γράφω, ''gráphō'', "write") is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with se ...
s, in some cases having different meanings depending on how they are read. One example is , which can be read in three different ways: ''jōzu'' (skilled), ''uwate'' (upper part), or ''kamite'' ( stage left/house right). In addition, has the reading ''umai'' (skilled). More subtly, has three different readings, all meaning "tomorrow": ''ashita'' (casual), ''asu'' (polite), and ''myōnichi'' (formal).
Furigana is a Japanese language, Japanese reading aid, consisting of smaller kana or syllabic characters, printed next to kanji (Ideogram, ideographic characters) or other characters to indicate their pronunciation. It is one type of ruby character, ruby ...
(reading glosses) is often used to clarify any potential ambiguities. Conversely, in some cases homophonous terms may be distinguished in writing by different characters, but not so distinguished in speech, and hence potentially confusing. In some cases when it is important to distinguish these in speech, the reading of a relevant character may be changed. For example, (privately established, esp. school) and (city established) are both normally pronounced ''shi-ritsu;'' in speech these may be distinguished by the alternative pronunciations ''watakushi-ritsu'' and ''ichi-ritsu''. More informally, in legal jargon "preamble" and "full text" are both pronounced ''zen-bun'', so may be pronounced ''mae-bun'' for clarity, as in "Have you memorized the preamble ot 'whole text'of the constitution?". As in these examples, this is primarily using a ''kun'yomi'' for one character in a normally ''on'yomi'' term. As stated above, ''jūbako'' and ''yutō'' readings are also not uncommon. Indeed, all four combinations of reading are possible: ''on-on'', ''kun-kun'', ''kun-on'' and ''on-kun''.


Legalese

Certain words take different readings depending on whether the context concerns legal matters or not. For example: For legal contexts where distinction must be made for homophonous words such as ''baishun'' and ''karyō'', see Ambiguous readings below.


Ambiguous readings

In some instances where even context cannot easily provide clarity for
homophone A homophone () is a word that is pronouncedPronunciation is the way in which a word or a language is spoken. This may refer to generally agreed-upon sequences of sounds used in speaking a given word or language in a specific dialect ("correct p ...
s, alternative readings or mixed readings can be used instead of regular readings to avoid ambiguity. For example:


Place names

Several famous place names, including those of Japan itself ( ''Nihon'' or sometimes ''Nippon''), those of some cities such as
Tokyo Tokyo (Japanese language, Japanese: , ''Tōkyō'' ), historically known in the west as Tokio and officially the Tokyo Metropolis (, ''Tōkyō-to''), is capital of Japan, the capital and most populous Prefectures of Japan, prefecture of Japan. ...

Tokyo
( ''Tōkyō'') and
Kyoto Kyoto (; Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat ...

Kyoto
( ''Kyōto''), and those of the main islands
Honshu , historically called , is the largest and most populous main island of Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat = ...
( ''Honshū''),
Kyushu is the third largest island of Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat = Imperial Seal of Japan.svg , alt_coat ...

Kyushu
( ''Kyūshū''),
Shikoku is one of the five main islands of Japan. Shikoku is the second-smallest main island after Okinawa. It is long and between wide. It has a population of 3.8 million (, 3.1%). It is south of Honshu and northeast of Kyushu. Shikoku's anc ...

Shikoku
( ''Shikoku''), and
Hokkaido is the Japanese archipelago, second largest island of Japan and comprises the largest and northernmost Prefectures of Japan, prefecture. The Tsugaru Strait separates Hokkaido from Honshu; the two islands are connected by the undersea railway Sei ...

Hokkaido
( ''Hokkaidō'') are read with ''on'yomi''; however, the majority of Japanese place names are read with ''kun'yomi'': ''Ōsaka'', ''
Aomori is the capital Cities of Japan, city of Aomori Prefecture, in the Tōhoku region of Japan. , the city had an estimated population of 278,964 in 136,457 households, and a population density of 340 people per square kilometer spread over the city' ...
'', ''
Hakone is a List of towns in Japan, town in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. As of June 2012, the town had an estimated population of 13,492, and a population density of 145 persons per km². The total area is . Hakone has been designated as a Japanese Nat ...

Hakone
''. Names often use characters and readings that are not in common use outside of names. When characters are used as abbreviations of place names, their reading may not match that in the original. The
Osaka is a Cities designated by government ordinance of Japan, designated city in the Kansai region of Honshu in Japan. It is the capital and the most populous city in Osaka Prefecture, and the List of cities in Japan, third most populous city in Ja ...

Osaka
() and
Kobe Kobe ( ; ; officially , ) is the List of Japanese cities by population, seventh-largest city, the third-largest port city in Japan after Yokohama and Fukuoka, and the capital city of Hyōgo Prefecture. It is located on the southern side of the ma ...

Kobe
() baseball team, the Hanshin () Tigers, take their name from the ''on'yomi'' of the second kanji of ''Ōsaka'' and the first of ''Kōbe''. The name of the Keisei () railway line—linking Tokyo () and Narita, Chiba, Narita ()—is formed similarly, although the reading of from is ''kei'', despite ''kyō'' already being an ''on'yomi'' in the word ''Tōkyō''. Japanese family names are also usually read with ''kun'yomi'': ''Yamada'', ''Tanaka'', ''Suzuki''. Japanese
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s often have very irregular readings. Although they are not typically considered ''jūbako'' or ''yutō'', they often contain mixtures of ''kun'yomi'', ''on'yomi'' and ''nanori'', such as ''Daisuke'' [''on-kun''], ''Natsumi'' [''kun-on'']. Being chosen at the discretion of the parents, the readings of given names do not follow any set rules, and it is impossible to know with certainty how to read a person's name without independent verification. Parents can be quite creative, and rumours abound of children called ''Āsu'' ("Earth") and ''Enjeru'' ("Angel"); neither are common names, and have normal readings ''chikyū'' and ''tenshi'' respectively. Some common Japanese names can be written in multiple ways, e.g. Akira can be written as , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and many other characters and kanji combinations not listed, Satoshi can be written as , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , etc., and Haruka can be written as , , , , , , , , and several other possibilities. Common patterns do exist, however, allowing experienced readers to make a good guess for most names. To alleviate any confusion on how to pronounce the names of other Japanese people, most official Japanese documents require Japanese to write their names in both kana and kanji. Chinese place names and Chinese personal names appearing in Japanese texts, if spelled in kanji, are almost invariably read with ''on'yomi''. Especially for older and well-known names, the resulting Japanese pronunciation may differ widely from that used by modern Chinese speakers. For example, Mao Zedong's name is pronounced as in Japanese, and the name of the legendary Monkey King, Sun Wukong, is pronounced ''Son Goku (Journey to the West), Son Gokū'' () in Japanese. Today, Chinese names that are not well known in Japan are often spelled in
katakana is a Japanese syllabary, one component of the Japanese writing system along with hiragana, kanji and in some cases the Latin script (known as rōmaji). The word ''katakana'' means "fragmentary kana", as the katakana characters are derived from ...
instead, in a form much more closely approximating the native Chinese pronunciation. Alternatively, they may be written in kanji with katakana furigana. Many such cities have names that come from non-Chinese languages like Mongolian language, Mongolian or Manchu language, Manchu. Examples of such not-well-known Chinese names include: Internationally renowned Chinese-named cities tend to imitate the older English pronunciations of their names, regardless of the kanji's ''on'yomi'' or the Mandarin or Cantonese pronunciation, and can be written in either katakana or kanji. Examples include: Notes: *Guangzhou, the city, is pronounced ''Kōshū'', while Guangdong, its province, is pronounced ''Kanton'', not ''Kōtō'' (in this case, opting for a Tō-on reading rather than the usual Kan-on reading). *Kaohsiung was originally pronounced ''Takao'' (or similar) in Taiwanese Hokkien, Hokkien and Japanese. It received this written Kaohsiung#Etymology and names, name (kanji/Chinese) from Japanese, and later its spoken Mandarin name from the corresponding characters. The English name "Kaohsiung" derived from its Mandarin pronunciation. Today it is pronounced either カオシュン or タカオ in Japanese. *Taipei is generally pronounced たいほく in Japanese. In some cases the same kanji can appear in a given word with different readings. Normally this occurs when a character is duplicated and the reading of the second character has voicing (''rendaku''), as in ''hito-bito'' "people" (more often written with the iteration mark as ), but in rare cases the readings can be unrelated, as in .


Pronunciation assistance

Because of the ambiguities involved, kanji sometimes have their pronunciation for the given context spelled out in ruby characters known as ''
furigana is a Japanese language, Japanese reading aid, consisting of smaller kana or syllabic characters, printed next to kanji (Ideogram, ideographic characters) or other characters to indicate their pronunciation. It is one type of ruby character, ruby ...
'', (small ''
kana The are syllabaries used to write Japanese phonological units, morae A mora (plural ''morae'' or ''moras''; often symbolized μ) is a unit in phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systemat ...

kana
'' written above or to the right of the character) or ''kumimoji'' (small ''kana'' written in-line after the character). This is especially true in texts for children or foreign learners. It is also used in newspapers and ''manga'' (comics) for rare or unusual readings, or for situations like the first time a character's name is given, and for characters not included in the officially recognized set of jōyō kanji, essential kanji. Works of fiction sometimes use ''furigana'' to create new "words" by giving normal kanji non-standard readings, or to attach a foreign word rendered in katakana as the reading for a kanji or kanji compound of the same or similar meaning.


Spelling words

Conversely, specifying a given kanji, or spelling out a kanji word—whether the pronunciation is known or not—can be complicated, due to the fact that there is not a commonly used standard way to refer to individual kanji (one does not refer to "kanji #237"), and that a given reading does not map to a single kanji—indeed there are many homophonous ''words'', not simply individual characters, particularly for ''kango'' (with ''on'yomi''). Easiest is to write the word out—either on paper or tracing it in the air—or look it up (given the pronunciation) in a dictionary, particularly an electronic dictionary; when this is not possible, such as when speaking over the phone or writing implements are not available (and tracing in air is too complicated), various techniques can be used. These include giving ''kun'yomi'' for characters—these are often unique—using a well-known word with the same character (and preferably the same pronunciation and meaning), and describing the character via its components. For example, one may explain how to spell the word via the words , , and —the first two use the ''kun'yomi'', the third is a well-known compound—saying "''kaori'', ''karai'', ''ryō'' as in ''inryō''."


Dictionaries

In dictionaries, both words and individual characters have readings glossed, via various conventions. Native words and Sino-Japanese vocabulary are glossed in hiragana (for both ''kun'' and ''on'' readings), while borrowings (''gairaigo'')—including modern borrowings from Chinese—are glossed in katakana; this is the standard writing convention also used in furigana. By contrast, readings for individual characters are conventionally written in katakana for ''on'' readings, and hiragana for ''kun'' readings. Kun readings may further have a separator to indicate which characters are okurigana, and which are considered readings of the character itself. For example, in the entry for , the reading corresponding to the basic verb may be written as (''ta.beru''), to indicate that ''ta'' is the reading of the character itself. Further, kanji dictionary, kanji dictionaries often list compounds including irregular readings of a kanji.


Local developments and divergences from Chinese

Since kanji are essentially Chinese ''hanzi'' used to write Japanese, the majority of characters used in modern Japanese still retain their Chinese meaning, physical resemblance with some of their modern traditional Chinese characters counterparts, and a degree of similarity with
Classical Chinese Classical Chinese, also known as Literary Chinese (古文 ''gǔwén'' "ancient text", or 文言 ''wényán'' "text speak"; modern vernacular: 文言文 ''wényánwén'' "text speak text"), is the language of the classic literature from the end ...
pronunciation imported to Japan from 5th to 9th century. Nevertheless, after centuries of development, there is a notable number of kanji used in modern Japanese which have different meaning from ''hanzi'' used in modern Chinese. Such differences are the result of: * the use of characters created in Japan, * characters that have been given different meanings in Japanese, and * post-
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a World war, global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved World War II by country, the vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great ...
simplifications (''shinjitai'') of the character. Likewise, the process of simplified characters, character simplification in mainland China since the 1950s has resulted in the fact that Japanese speakers who have not studied Chinese may not recognize some simplified characters.


Kokuji

In Japanese, refers to Chinese characters made outside of China. Specifically, kanji made in Japan are referred to as . They are primarily formed in the usual way of Chinese characters, namely by combining existing components, though using a combination that is not used in China. The corresponding phenomenon in Korea is called ''gukja'' (), a cognate name; there are however far fewer Korean-coined characters than Japanese-coined ones. Chinese family of scripts#Adaptations for other languages, Other languages using the
Chinese family of scripts The Chinese family of scripts are writing systems descended from the Chinese Oracle Bone Script Oracle bone script () was an ancestor of modern Chinese characters engraved on oracle bonesanimal bones or turtle plastrons used in pyromancy, pyro ...
sometimes have far more extensive systems of native characters, most significantly Vietnamese chữ Nôm, which comprises over 20,000 characters used throughout traditional Vietnamese writing, and Zhuang languages, Zhuang sawndip, which comprises over 10,000 characters, which are still in use. Since kokuji are generally devised for existing native words, these usually only have native Kun reading#Kun'yomi (Japanese reading), ''kun'' readings. However, they occasionally have a Chinese On reading#On'yomi (Sino-Japanese reading), ''on'' reading, derived from a phonetic, as in , ''dō'', and in rare cases only have an ''on'' reading, as in , ''sen'', from , which was derived for use in technical compounds ( means "gland", hence used in medical terminology). The majority of kokuji are Chinese character classification#Ideogrammatic compounds, ideogrammatic compounds (), meaning that they are composed of two (or more) characters, with the meaning associated with the combination. For example, is composed of (person radical) plus (action), hence "action of a person, work". This is in contrast to kanji generally, which are overwhelmingly phono-semantic compounds. This difference is because kokuji were coined to express Japanese words, so borrowing existing (Chinese) readings could not express these—combining existing characters to logically express the meaning was the simplest way to achieve this. Other illustrative examples (below) include ''sakaki'' tree, formed as "tree" and "god", literally "divine tree", and ''tsuji'' "crossroads, street" formed as () "road" and "cross", hence "cross-road". In terms of meanings, these are especially for natural phenomena (esp. flora and fauna species), including a very large number of fish, such as (sardine), (codfish), (Perch (disambiguation), seaperch), and (sillago), and trees, such as (evergreen oak), (Japanese cedar), (birch, maple) and (spindle tree). In other cases they refer to specifically Japanese abstract concepts, everyday words (like , "crossroads", see above), or later technical coinages (such as , "gland", see above). There are hundreds of ''kokuji'' in existence. Many are rarely used, but a number have become commonly used components of the written Japanese language. These include the following: Jōyō kanji has about nine kokuji; there is some dispute over classification, but generally includes these: * ''dō'', ''hatara(ku)'' "work", the most commonly used kokuji, used in the fundamental verb , included in elementary texts and on the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, Proficiency Test N5. * ''ko(mu)'', used in the fundamental verb * ''nio(u)'', used in common verb * ''hatake'' "field of crops" * ''sen'', "gland" * ''tōge'' "mountain pass" * ''waku'', "frame" * ''hei'', "wall" * ''shibo(ru)'', "to squeeze" (disputed; see below); a ''jinmeiyō kanji'' * ''sakaki'' "tree, genus ''Sakaki, Cleyera''" * ''tsuji'' "crossroads, street" * ''monme'' (unit of weight) Hyōgaiji: * ''shitsuke'' "training, rearing (an animal, a child)" Some of these characters (for example, , "gland") have been introduced to China. In some cases the Chinese reading is the inferred Chinese reading, interpreting the character as a phono-semantic compound (as in how ''on'' readings are sometimes assigned to these characters in Chinese), while in other cases (such as ), the Japanese ''on'' reading is borrowed (in general this differs from the modern Chinese pronunciation of this phonetic). Similar coinages occurred to a more limited extent in Korea and Vietnam. Historically, some kokuji date back to very early Japanese writing, being found in the ''
Man'yōshū Image:Manyousyu NukataOhkimi.jpg, 80px, alt=Two vertical lines of Japanese text written in calligraphy, read right to left. The first character has smaller, simpler red characters written around it., A replica of a poem  8, by Princess Nukata ...
'', for example— ''iwashi'' "sardine" dates to the Nara period (8th century)—while they have continued to be created as late as the late 19th century, when a number of characters were coined in the Meiji era for new scientific concepts. For example, some characters were produced as regular compounds for some (but not all) SI units, such as ( "meter" + "thousand, kilo-") for kilometer, ( "liter" + "thousand, kilo-") for kiloliter, and ( "gram" + "thousand, kilo-") for kilogram. However, SI units in Japanese today are almost exclusively written using rōmaji or katakana such as or for km, for kl, and or for kg. In Japan the kokuji category is strictly defined as characters whose ''earliest'' appearance is in Japan. If a character appears earlier in the Chinese literature, it is not considered a kokuji even if the character was independently coined in Japan and unrelated to the Chinese character (meaning "not borrowed from Chinese"). In other words, kokuji are not simply characters that were made in Japan, but characters that were ''first'' made in Japan. An illustrative example is . This spelling was created in Edo period Japan from the
ateji In modern Japanese, principally refers to kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters that are used in the Japanese writing system. They are used alongside the Japanese language, Japanese syllabic scripts ''hiragana'' and ''kataka ...
(phonetic kanji spelling) for the existing word ''ankō'' by adding the radical to each character—the characters were "made in Japan". However, is not considered kokuji, as it is found in ancient Chinese texts as a corruption of (魚匽). is considered kokuji, as it has not been found in any earlier Chinese text. Casual listings may be more inclusive, including characters such as . Another example is , which is sometimes not considered kokuji due to its earlier presence as a corruption of Chinese .


Kokkun

In addition to ''kokuji'', there are kanji that have been given meanings in Japanese that are different from their original Chinese meanings. These are not considered ''kokuji'' but are instead called ''kok#kunyomi, kun'' () and include characters such as the following:


Types of kanji by category

Han-dynasty scholar Xu Shen in his 2nd-century dictionary ''Shuowen Jiezi'' classified Chinese characters into six categories ( ''liùshū'', Japanese: ''rikusho''). The traditional classification is still taught but is problematic and no longer the focus of modern lexicographic practice, as some categories are not clearly defined, nor are they mutually exclusive: the first four refer to structural composition, while the last two refer to usage.


''Shōkei moji'' ()

''Shōkei'' (Mandarin: ''xiàngxíng'') characters are pictographic sketches of the object they represent. For example, is an eye, while is a tree. The current forms of the characters are very different from the originals, though their representations are more clear in oracle bone script and seal script. These pictographic characters make up only a small fraction of modern characters.


''Shiji moji'' ()

''Shiji'' (Mandarin: ''zhǐshì'') characters are ideographs, often called "simple ideographs" or "simple indicatives" to distinguish them and tell the difference from compound ideographs (below). They are usually simple graphically and represent an abstract concept such as "up" or "above" and "down" or "below". These make up a tiny fraction of modern characters.


''Kaii moji'' ()

''Kaii'' (Mandarin: ''huìyì'') characters are compound ideographs, often called "compound indicatives", "associative compounds", or just "ideographs". These are usually a combination of pictographs that combine semantically to present an overall meaning. An example of this type is (rest) from (person radical) and (tree). Another is the ''kokuji'' (mountain pass) made from (mountain), (up) and (down). These make up a tiny fraction of modern characters.


''Keisei moji'' ()

''Keisei'' (Mandarin: ''xíngshēng'') characters are phono-semantic or Radical (Chinese character), radical-phonetic compounds, sometimes called "semantic-phonetic", "semasio-phonetic", or "phonetic-ideographic" characters, are by far the largest category, making up about 90% of the characters in the standard lists; however, some of the most frequently used kanji belong to one of the three groups mentioned above, so ''keisei moji'' will usually make up less than 90% of the characters in a text. Typically they are made up of two components, one of which (most commonly, but by no means always, the left or top element) suggests the general category of the meaning or semantic context, and the other (most commonly the right or bottom element) approximates the pronunciation. The pronunciation relates to the original Chinese, and may now only be distantly detectable in the modern Japanese ''on'yomi'' of the kanji; it generally has no relation at all to ''kun'yomi''. The same is true of the semantic context, which may have changed over the centuries or in the transition from Chinese to Japanese. As a result, it is a common error in folk etymology to fail to recognize a phono-semantic compound, typically instead inventing a compound-indicative explanation.


''Tenchū moji'' ()

''Tenchū'' (Mandarin: ''zhuǎnzhù'') characters have variously been called "derivative characters", "derivative
cognate In linguistics, cognates, also called lexical cognates, are words that have a common etymology, etymological origin. Cognates are often inherited from a proto-language, shared parent language, but they may also involve loanword, borrowings from ...
s", or translated as "mutually explanatory" or "mutually synonymous" characters; this is the most problematic of the six categories, as it is vaguely defined. It may refer to kanji where the meaning or application has become extended. For example, is used for 'music' and 'comfort, ease', with different pronunciations in Chinese reflected in the two different ''on'yomi'', ''gaku'' 'music' and ''raku'' 'pleasure'.


''Kasha moji'' ()

''Kasha'' (Mandarin: ''jiǎjiè'') are rebuses, sometimes called "phonetic loans". The etymology of the characters follows one of the patterns above, but the present-day meaning is completely unrelated to this. A character was appropriated to represent a similar-sounding word. For example, in ancient Chinese was originally a pictograph for "wheat". Its syllable was homophonous with the verb meaning "to come", and the character is used for that verb as a result, without any embellishing "meaning" element attached. The character for wheat , originally meant "to come", being a ''keisei moji'' having 'foot' at the bottom for its meaning part and "wheat" at the top for sound. The two characters swapped meaning, so today the more common word has the simpler character. This borrowing of sounds has a very long history.


Related symbols

The iteration mark () is used to indicate that the preceding kanji is to be repeated, functioning similarly to a ditto mark in English. It is pronounced as though the kanji were written twice in a row, for example and . This mark also appears in personal and place names, as in the Japanese name, surname Sasaki (). This symbol is a simplified version of the kanji , a variant of . Another abbreviated symbol is , in appearance a small
katakana is a Japanese syllabary, one component of the Japanese writing system along with hiragana, kanji and in some cases the Latin script (known as rōmaji). The word ''katakana'' means "fragmentary kana", as the katakana characters are derived from ...
"ke", but actually a simplified version of the kanji , a general counter. It is pronounced "ka" when used to indicate quantity (such as , ''rokkagetsu'' "six months") or "ga" if used as a genitive (as in 関ヶ原 ''sekigahara'' "Sekigahara"). The way how these symbols may be produced on a computer depends on the operating system. In macOS, typing will reveal the symbol as well as , and . To produce , type . Under Windows, typing will reveal some of these symbols, while in Google IME, may be used.


Collation

Kanji, whose thousands of symbols defy ordering by conventions such as those used for the Latin script, are often collation, collated using the traditional Chinese radical-and-stroke sorting method. In this system, common components of characters are identified; these are called radical (Chinese character), radicals. Characters are grouped by their primary radical, then ordered by number of pen strokes within radicals. For example, the kanji character , meaning "cherry", is sorted as a ten-stroke character under the four-stroke primary radical meaning "tree". When there is no obvious radical or more than one radical, convention governs which is used for collation. Other kanji sorting methods, such as the Kodansha Kanji Learner's Dictionary#SKIP, SKIP system, have been devised by various authors. Modern general-purpose Japanese dictionaries (as opposed to specifically character dictionaries) generally collate all entries, including words written using kanji, according to their
kana The are syllabaries used to write Japanese phonological units, morae A mora (plural ''morae'' or ''moras''; often symbolized μ) is a unit in phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systemat ...

kana
representations (reflecting the way they are pronounced). The gojūon ordering of kana is normally used for this purpose.


Kanji education

Japanese schoolchildren are expected to learn 1,026 basic kanji characters, the ''kyōiku kanji'', before finishing the sixth grade. The order in which these characters are learned is fixed. The ''kyōiku kanji'' list is a subset of a larger list, originally of 1,945 kanji characters and extended to 2,136 in 2010, known as the ''
jōyō kanji The is the guide to kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters that are used in the Japanese writing system. They are used alongside the Japanese language, Japanese syllabic scripts ''hiragana'' and ''katakana''. The Japanese term ...
''—characters required for the level of fluency necessary to read newspapers and literature in Japanese. This larger list of characters is to be mastered by the end of the ninth grade. Schoolchildren learn the characters by repetition and Radical (Chinese character), radical. Students studying Japanese as a foreign language are often required by a curriculum to acquire kanji without having first learned the vocabulary associated with them. Strategies for these learners vary from copying-based methods to mnemonic-based methods such as those used in James Heisig's series ''Remembering the Kanji''. Other textbooks use methods based on the etymology of the characters, such as Mathias and Habein's ''The Complete Guide to Everyday Kanji'' and Henshall's ''A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters''. Pictorial mnemonics, as in the text ''Kanji Pict-o-graphix'', are also seen. The Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation provides the ''Kanji kentei'' ( ''Nihon kanji nōryoku kentei shiken''; "Test of Japanese Kanji Aptitude"), which tests the ability to read and write kanji. The highest level of the ''Kanji kentei'' tests about six thousand kanji.


See also

* Braille kanji * Chinese influence on Japanese culture * Han unification * Han-Nom (Vietnamese equivalent) * Hanja (Korean equivalent) *
Chinese family of scripts The Chinese family of scripts are writing systems descended from the Chinese Oracle Bone Script Oracle bone script () was an ancestor of modern Chinese characters engraved on oracle bonesanimal bones or turtle plastrons used in pyromancy, pyro ...
* Japanese script reform * Japanese typefaces (''shotai'') *
Japanese writing system The modern Japanese writing system uses a combination of logographic In a written language, a logogram or logograph is a written character that represents a word or morpheme. Chinese characters (pronounced ''hanzi'' in Mandarin, ''kanji'' i ...
* Kanji of the year * List of kanji by concept * List of kanji by stroke count * Radical (Chinese character) * Stroke order * Table of Japanese kanji radicals, Table of kanji radicals


Notes


References


Citations


Sources

* DeFrancis, John (1990). ''The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy''. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. . * Hadamitzky, W., and Spahn, M., (1981) ''Kanji and Kana'', Boston: Tuttle. * Hannas, William. C. (1997). ''Asia's Orthographic Dilemma''. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. (paperback); (hardcover). * Kaiser, Stephen (1991). "Introduction to the Japanese Writing System". In ''Kodansha's Compact Kanji Guide''. Tokyo: Kondansha International. . * Marc Hideo Miyake, Miyake, Marc Hideo (2003). ''Old Japanese: A Phonetic Reconstruction''. New York, NY; London, England: RoutledgeCurzon. * Morohashi, Tetsuji. ''
Dai Kan-Wa Jiten The is a Japanese dictionary of ''kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters that are used in the Japanese writing system. They are used alongside the Japanese language, Japanese syllabic scripts ''hiragana'' and ''katakana''. The ...
'' (Comprehensive Chinese–Japanese Dictionary) 1984–1986. Tokyo: Taishukan. * Mitamura, Joyce Yumi and Mitamura, Yasuko Kosaka (1997). ''Let's Learn Kanji''. Tokyo: Kondansha International. . * Unger, J. Marshall (1996). ''Literacy and Script Reform in Occupation Japan: Reading Between the Lines''. .


External links


Jim Breen's WWWJDIC server
used to find Kanji from English or romanized Japanese

discussion paper by Takako Tomoda in the [http://www.japanesestudies.org.uk/ ''Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies''], August 19, 2005.
Jisho
Online Japanese dictionary


Glyph conversion


A simple Shinjitai—Kyūjitai converter


* [https://web.archive.org/web/20090204033300/http://homepage3.nifty.com/jgrammar/ja/tools/tradkan0.htm A complex Shinjitai—Kyūjitai converter]
A downloadable Shinjitai—Kyūjitai—Simplified Chinese character converter
{{Authority control Kanji, Japanese writing system terms Logographic writing systems Japanese writing system