Declan Software - Japanese
What is Kanji?
1. What is kanji?
2. What are kanji radicals?
3. What are ON pronunciations?
4. What are KUN pronunciations?
5. More about kanji
6. The 214 bushu radicals
1. What is Kanji?
Kanji means Chinese letter or character. The script was invented by the Chinese and adopted by the Japanese around the middle of the 6th century AD. Kanji are ideographs meaning that the whole character conveys a meaning rather than just a sound (as in the case of hiragana and katakana letters). Kanji were originally drawn as pictures from nature but gradually transformed to more generalized representations. By the end of year nine Japanese students will have learned 1945 kanji as prescribed by the Japanese Ministry of Education (the Jouyou Kanji). There are many many more less commonly used kanji totaling over 5000.ReadWrite Kanji teaches the 1945 prescribed kanji in the order in which that are taught to Japanese students. More on kanji can be found at the bottom of the page.
◊ Learn about the Japanese phonetic hiragana script here.
◊ Learn about the Japanese phonetic katakana script here.
2. What are Kanji Radicals?
All kanji contain a classifying radical that is a component of the kanji. Often the radical imparts meaning to the kanji - for example the radical for hand 扌 appears in both of the kanji that combine to form the word "grasp" (把持) and the individual kanji for "throw" (投). Recognizing a kanji's radical often helps in memorising or deciphering the meaning of the kanji.
Most kanji dictionaries classify kanji according to their radicals. Therefore recognising the radial of an unknown kanji helps with looking it up in a dictionary.
Japanese kanji has 214 different radicals (the Bushu index).
Radicals can appear almost
anywhere in a kanji - at the top, on the left, on the right, at the bottom and
See below for the complete list of the 214 busho radicals.
The onyomi: zi-dou-sha
combine to mean car or automobile
自- zi meaning
4. What are KUN Pronunciations?
In Japanese there is generally more than one pronunciation of a kanji. The ON pronunciation (onyomi) is taken from the Chinese pronunciation and the KUN pronunciation (kunyomi) which is derived from the indigenous Japanese pronunciation of the same word/meaning. When the kunyomi pronunciation is used the kanji usually stands alone and is not part of a compound. For example:
|人 - hito meaning person|
|鳥 - tori meaning bird|
|夢 - yumi meaning dream|
5. More about Kanji?
Kanji are characters that were
developed as part of the writing system used among the Asian countries,
especially China. It is generally said that those people using Kanji are the
largest race on earth. It is not certain when and where Kanji first appeared.
However, the oldest pattern like characters resembling some sort of symbols were
carved on fragments of earthenware and have been excavated from the ruins of
ancient China (4500 BC). The symbols on these ruins, classified into 22
patterns, have still not been deciphered, but it is widely believed that these
symbols were a form of notification, that is, a prototype of a character.
In the time of the Chinese ancient state of IN, which rose in approximately 1600 BC, the king or ruler used the custom of fortune telling to make political predictions by burning tortoise shells or animal bones and observing the cracks that formed in the shells or bones. Then, in order to record the results of the fortune telling, a character called, KOUKOTUMOJI ("inscription on bones and tortoise carapaces"), was inscribed on the shells and bones. This is the prototype of the present Kanji character. Thus, was created, the manner in which the precious data in assuming the politics and social state of the Chinese ancient state of IN was recorded and kept.
Later, in 1300 BC, when the ancient Chinese state of IN reached its golden period, known as the Bronze Age, KINBUN ("a gold letter"), having a softer impression than the character, KOUKOTUMOJI, appeared. KOUKOTUMOJI was initially created as pictograph, that is, as an ideogram. Yet, in the later period, the expression for more abstract phenomenon was systemized.
It is interesting to note that our present-day phonetic alphabet has its origins in the ideography of ancient Mesopotamia (an ancient country in West Asia between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers; now part of Iraq)--known as another birthplace of civilization. The ancient Mesopotamians made adaptations to their ideographic notations in order to transcribe into a written form the spoken languages of neighboring nations and races. During the process of this transcription, it is believed that the ideogram was converted to phonetic symbols. In addition, it has been suggested that the KOUKOTUMOJI character, which was initially in the form of an ideogram, was actually derived from the Sumerian cuneiform drawings. This is an interesting theory, because it is believed that the concept of writing existed in the Middle East's fertile crescent (present day Southern Iraq) long before China started its own method of writing. History records that that the Sumerian civilization mysteriously vanished. However, it is possible that the Sumerians ended up in China because recent objects resembling Sumerian objects have been found in Northern China.
After centuries of individually ruled kingdoms, China was unified into a single territory with the start of the SHIN dynasty in 221 BC. The first emperor of China, referred to as SHIKOUTEI, appeared and united all of China for the first time. The emperor aimed to create a standard of weights and measurements (units such as length and capacity), as well as, unify a written character for the reign. The style of writing enacted during this reign is called SYOUTEN and was carried out long after as a formal character in China. This style of writing was primarily used to inscribe nationwide important archives on a stone, as well as, for political documents. It would thus, be reasonable to think that this writing style is a principal vestige for today's seal engraving.
However, the formal character was not easy to hand down from generation to generation as Kanji had a complicated typeface. It was thus destined for the character to develop into a character that could be written faster and memorized easier. Gradually, SYOUTEN turned into a form that was more straight-lined and easier to write, called REISYO. Around the second century, the writing style evolved further into KAISYO. The writing materials of the REISYO period were changed from stone to thin bars of bamboo or wood called CHIKKAN or MOKKAN. Then, when paper was finally invented, a style was developed that could supply the demand for much more and faster writing.
Thus, through this history, Kanji was developed as a form of artwork because the writing could bear the penmanship of many clerics. Soon, the period of wood engraving printings, such as those found in the Buddhist scripture came to being. A period of mud printing type also emerged and the writing style became even simpler and more linear. In the eleventh century, known as SOU era, a writing style called MINCCYOUTAI originated. Later this writing style was regulated in the MIN era. This fixed form is almost the same as the present style. To accommodate an easier writing style in China today, a mainstream for common documents was developed in the simple style script known as KANTAIJI. However, in the case of Kanji, the writing style from the ancient or modern times has not disappeared at all and it can be said that it is still alive in the world of art.
6. The Bushu Classification of the Radicals?
|1||一||one; a horizontal stroke||108||皿||plate|
|2||丨||a vertical stroke||109||目||eye|
|4||丿||a stroke curved to the left||111||矢||arrow|
|5||乙||a bend stroke; the second of celestial stems||112||石||stone, rock|
|6||亏||a hook||113||示礻||spiritual, ancestor|
|7||亖||two; two horizontal strokes||114||禸||animal stamping the earth|
|8||亠||head, above||115||禾||grain ear|
|9||人亻||man, a person||116||穴||hollow, hole, hidden|
|10||儿||man, a person (at the bottom of a character)||117||立||stand, erect|
|12||八||eight; to part, to divide||119||米||rice|
|15||冫||two dots; ice, cold||122||网罒||net|
|16||几||small table||123||羊||sheep, goat|
|17||凵||wide opened mouth||124||羽||wings|
|18||刀刂||knife, sword, cutting, separating||125||老||old|
|19||力||strength, force||126||而||moustache; but, and|
|20||勹||embracing||127||耒||handle of a plough|
|23||匸||round box||130||肉||meat, organs of the body|
|24||十||ten; two crossed strokes||131||臣||servant, subject|
|29||又||grasping, further, again||136||舛||lying side by side|
|30||口||mouth, opening, sounding||137||舟||boat, ship|
|31||囗||enclosure||138||艮||simple, honest, straight|
|32||土||earth, soil||139||色||color, outlook|
|33||士||official, scholar||140||艸艹||grass, herb, plant|
|35||夊||overtaking||142||虫||insect, creeping animal|
|37||大||big, large||144||行||walk, row, line, journey|
|39||子孑||child, son; the first of terrestrial branches||146||西覀||cover|
|41||寸||inch||148||角||horn; a kind of volume measure|
|43||尢尣||broken or curved leg||150||谷||valley|
|44||尸||corpse, body||151||豆||bean; a kind of vessel|
|46||山||mountain, cliff||153||豸||small hairy animals|
|47||巛巜川||river, stream||154||貝||cowry snail|
|49||己||self, own; the sixth of celestial stems||156||走||walking|
|50||巾||towel, napkin||157||足||foot, leg, walking|
|53||广||house built at a slope||160||辛||bitter; the eighth of celectial stems|
|54||廴||walking a long distance||161||辰||morning; the fifth of terrestrial branches|
|55||廿||two hands (at bottom of character)||162||辵辶||stamping on the earth, going|
|57||弓||crossbow||164||酉||wine, jar; the tenth of terrestrial branches|
|58||彐彑||pig head||165||釆||distiguishing, separating|
|59||彡||hair, feather||166||里||mile, hamlet|
|60||彳||walking slowly||167||金||metal, gold|
|61||心忄||heart, feeling||168||長||long, hair|
|63||戶户||house, door||170||阜阝||hill, dam|
|64||手扌||hand, actions||171||隶||reaching, catching|
|68||斗||a kind of volume measure||175||非||wings; not|
|69||斤||a kind of weight measure; axe||176||面||face|
|70||方||square, direction, locality||177||革||skin, leather, changing|
|71||无旡||do not, no||178||韋||tanned leather|
|72||日||sun, clear||179||韭||chives, scallion|
|74||月||moon, month||181||頁||page, face|
|81||比||side by side, comparing||188||骨||bone|
|82||毛||hair, feather||189||高||high, aloft|
|86||火灬||fire||193||鬲||a kind of vessel|
|87||爪爫||claw, hand||194||鬼||ghost, spirit|
|89||爻||crossing two times||196||鳥||bird|
|94||犬犭||dog, dog-like animals||201||黃||yellow|
|98||瓦||tile, earthenware||205||黽||frog, amphibium|
|100||生||giving birth, living||207||鼓||drum|
|103||疋||roll, bolt||210||齊||equal, all|
|105||癶||two hands above||212||龍||dragon|