Chinese characters in ancient Japan 2018/08/12

Chinese character was the key element of Chinese culture which had strong influence among Asian nations and people in ancient time.

All Asian nations did not have their own letters for their languages and began to use Chinese letters and language as a foreign language. Therefore they had two languages, namely Chinese language just for selected class and their own languages for ordinary people.

Above framework did not work smoothly and had to struggle for long time to come.


On the other hand, Japanese did not use Chinese characters until they developed their own letter,” kana” from Chinese characters and also produced particular reading and translation of Chinese character into native Japanese word.

With such ingenuity and wisdom, they successfully have been keeping their own language and culture. More importantly they were able to adopt Chinese character and new culture not only for selected class but also for ordinary people.


Japan started Meiji Reformation from 1867 and studied hard about western style science, economy, politics, military and total society system. They started learning by western words but gradually they translated important key words into Japanese new languages by utilizing reformed Chinese characters.

Above ingenuity made it possible to learn western science and other technologies by not only limited selected few but also by whole people.

Meiji reformation went on quickly and successfully, and within 40 years Japan made herself one of great five nations in the world.


Nowadays we are surrounded by globalism, foreign languages and various new technologies. It is time for us to utilize our ability to adopt foreign new wave with ingenuity and wisdom.