Grauw’s blog

Today’s lesson: how to tell apart Japanese and Chinese. A lot of people have trouble with this, so I’ll explain the differences.

You can recognise that a text is Japanese by the amount of simple characters in it. Japanese writing is composed of both Kanji (Chinese) and Kana (Japanese) characters, while Chinese only uses Kanji (in Chinese: 中文字, pronounced ‘zhōng wén zì’). The Kana characters are much simpler than Kanji characters are, although simple Kanji characters do exist (e.g. meaning ‘one’). Also, Kanji characters don’t use round shapes very often, while Hiragana (a subset of Kana) is almost entirely made of round strokes.

E.g. this would be the Japanese word for ‘I’ using Kana: わたし
And this is the same word using Kanji:

A trademark character by which you can easily recognise Japanese is the (pronounce: ‘no’), indicating a posessive relationship between two words (私の車 = ‘My car’) which is used very frequently.

As an example, this is a fragment of Chinese. By the way, the following fragments are fairly randomly taken, and I do not really know what they’re saying :) (well, I used Babelfish to ensure it’s not something extremely weird):


As you can see, the characters are all very complex, and look very ‘pointy’. Now for some Japanese:


If you compare this with the Chinese above, you’ll notice that there is a lot more white visible, it contains simpler characters with round strokes such as の, て, つ, し, etc.. This Japanese also contains a fair amount of Katakana, a subset of Kana used to write foreign words (e.g. イメージ = ‘image’), which is more straight and pointy than Hiragana is. In other texts, you’ll regularly see even more characters with round shapes.

Well, from now on I hope you’ll be able to distinguish the two :).


4 comments [reply]


Korean by Grauw at 2006-01-09 16:22

As a bonus, some Korean:

제 생각에는 기획 전용 책 같은 것 보다는, 다양한 분야의 업무 지식이 필요하리라 생각합니다. 약간의 프로그램적인 지식이나, 그래픽(특히나 3D 제작 부분의 이해) 등은 중요한 요소 일것 같구요...

Korean has an alphabet containing 24 shapes, and each Korean character is comprised of up to three of these basic shapes. Among these shapes are circles and straight lines, and by them it is easy to recognise Korean. Occasionally, Kanji (‘Hanja’ in Korean) are also used in South Korea, but not frequently.

Not totally right by minghong at 2006-01-10 03:00

Actually “Kanji” (漢字) is a term used in Japan only. For Chinese people, we usually refer them as “Chinese characters” (中文字).

And for the block of chinese paragraph that you quoted, it means:
Randomly choose 2 of your favorite colors, then mix them to form a new color. Sometimes when you are not sure what color to pick, you can try this service! This is also very suitable for people who are not very sensitive to colors, and the generated color is pretty nice! Of course the most important thing is that it is based on the web.

And the corresponding Chinese (Traditional) characters:

Thanks by Grauw at 2006-01-10 18:02


The Japanese refer to them as ‘Chinese characters’ as well, the ‘’ (kan) means Chinese and ‘’ (ji) means character.

forms of Chinese characters by Dennis Sustare at 2007-01-05 17:15

You should also note that there are two distinct ways that the Chinese make Chinese characters: “traditional” (used in Taiwan) and “simplified” (used in mainland China). They can appear very different from each other. Also, when viewing artwork (both Chinese and Japanese) the characters may take artistic or ancient forms. So, for example, Chinese characters may not look “blocky” at all, such as in the grass style of writing. Very old forms of characters are sometimes more hieroglyphic in nature, looking more like pictures of what they represent. Finally, on signs and in comic books (manga/manhua) the characters may be very stylized and modified.

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