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"Chinese characters" (漢字 in Traditional Chinese, Kanji, Hanja and Chữ Nôm) (汉字 in Simplified Chinese) refers to a writing system that is used in a group of Asian Languages. Unlike most writing systems used today, Chinese characters represent words or phrases, but the pronunciation is (obviously) very different depending on the language. There are believed to be 106,230 characters, but the vast majority are obsolete and are often very hard to find outside of ancient textbooks and dictionaries. 𣡿 and 𦆱 are 2 examples.
History[edit | edit source]
Chinese characters have been in use for at least 3000 years, so it is one of the oldest writing systems still in use. According to Chinese legend, Chinese characters were invented by a man named Cangjie, who had 4 eyes.
Usage[edit | edit source]
Chinese characters are used to write:
Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese)[edit | edit source]
Chinese characters are the only writing system used in China Mainland, Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong. Kids in these places will often start off by learning Pinyin, which is a form of the Latin alphabet, and will then go on to learn Chinese characters. The reason Chinese characters are used instead of pinyin is because too many words in Chinese are pronounced similarly. There are 2 forms of Chinese Characters used here, Simplified and Traditional. In 1949 dictator Mao Zedong made attempts to make Chinese characters easier to write so more people could read. China prefers to use Simplified characters, but Traditional is used elsewhere. Typical Chinese speakers know around 8,000.
Japanese[edit | edit source]
In Japan, Chinese characters, which are referred to as "Kanji" are not the only writing system however, as it is used along two other writing systems, Hiragana and Katakana, which represent syllables.
Vietnam andd Korea[edit | edit source]
Although Chinese characters were used in Korea and Vietnam, they no longer see very much use. In Korea, Chinese characters, which were referred to as Hanja, were largely replaced by Hangul in the 20th Century, but Hangul had previously existed since 1446. However, many argue that the Korean language should be written with both Hanja and Hangul. The use of Hanja is a very divisive issue in Korea, especially South Korea. Hanja today is mainly used for abbreviations.
In Vietnam, Chinese Characters, referred to as Chữ Nôm, were replaced with Latin script in the 1920's, and Chữ Nôm is mainly taught in college or used for decorations.