There are several theories as to how Kanji were developed, and no established
theory exists. One of such theories tells us, some 5,000 to 6,000 years
back, a Chinese historiographer Ts'ang Chieh came across an idea of the
Kanji as a symbol of expressing things in writing, getting hint from foot
prints of birds on a snow field. Another theory says it started when Fu
Hsi, one of the three emperors of those days, changed official recording
from "rope knots" method to "letter" method.
Both of these theories are, more or less, rather legendary opinions than
trustworthy historical facts.
However, the reliable fact is that the oldest kanji letter is the inscriptions
on animal bones and tortoise carapaces that were introduced during the
days of 22nd emperor of Shang (Yin) Dynasty( about 1700BC-about 1100BC).
categories of Kanji formation
Kanji take their origin in pictographs. However they had to go through
various changes till they have reached the present-day shapes, such as
combination or consolidation of different letters, matching of meaning
and pronunciation, which are classified into 6 categories called "rikusho"
- Pictographs, Simple Ideographs, Compound Ideographs,
Phonetic-Ideographic Characters, Derivative Characters and
1. Pictographs - "Shokei moji"
Description of the impression of the things as they are or in simplified
structure, like ""
for 'wood' and ""
2. Simple Ideographs
These are letters to indicate some abstract objects like figures and
directions that cannot be indicated by the shapes. Examples: ""
for 'over or above', ""for
'under or beneath', ""
3. Compound Ideographs - "Kaii moji"
This is the category of compounds of existing letters, like ""
(meaning closed or rest) which is a combined structure of " "(man)
having a rest beside a ""
(tree). When there are two trees side by side - "",
it means 'forest'. ""
(Combination of ""
(the sun) and ""
(the moon) means bright or clear.
4. Phoenetic-Ideographic Characters - "Keisei moji"
These are compounds of an element representing a certain object and another
element used purely phonetically or for pronunciation and meaning together.
( a big river ) is a compound of ""
to be pronounced " Ko" and letter ""
for water. ""
(stem of stalk ) is a combination of ""
to mean plant and ""
which means straight.
5.Derivative characters - " Tenchu moji"
They are derivatives of the original meaning to indicate a similar
originally is the sketch of a music instrument. But, as music pleases
people, it means, " to enjoy".
6.Phonetic loans - "Kashaku moji"
This is the category of those in which pronunciation is given priority,
rather than meaning. So, it is a kind of phonetic equivalent like ""(America),
Commonly used for imported words.
of handwriting style
1. Tortoise-shell writing
The oldest Chinese letter material in existence is the Tortoise-shell
writing dating from the Shang (Yin) dynasty (1500BC-1066 BC). It is a
primitive non-standardized letter inscribed in straight lines on animal
bones or tortoise shell.
2. Bronze inscription
The civilization during the Yin, Shou dynasty is named the Bronze civilization
as various bronze objects were produced in those days. Letters inscribed
on bronze-made ritual utensils, ritual saucers, including inscriptions
or cast letters visible on the back of the lids and/or inner part of such
objects. It is better shaped than the Tortoise shell inscriptions, and
of heavier and more decorative impressions.
3. Seal style
Towards the end of the Chou dynasty, it was the age of war lords and in
the national confusion, different letter shapes were used by each of the
independent states. But, when the emperor Shih-Huang-ti (259BC - 210BC)
of Qin dynasty took control of the whole country, due to the need for
unification of letters for enabling nation-wide rules, the Prime Minister
Li Ssu was ordered to devise new letter shapes for application all over
the country. This is called "Seal style". Due to its stability
and well-balanced appearances; this style is utilized even now for a specific
purpose: the inscription on a seal.
4. Ancient square style
Although the letterform determined by the emperor Shih-huang-ti of Qin
dynasty was an epoch-making event, due to the complications and decorations
of the letter, it was revised to more simplified styles during Han dynasty
(206BC - 220BC). This is the style called "Ancient square style",
which features flatness and horizontal line drawing.
5. Square style
This is said to be the reformed type of the Ancient square style, created
in the Later (Eastern) Han dynasty. Simplicity and balance are the characteristics
of this style and it is the model type of the modern Kanji character.
6. Semi-cursive style ( This style is
the standard style utilized on this web site)
This style is for faster writing and is most popularly used
in today's writing. It is positioned in between time-consuming "Square
style" and elegant "Cursive style".
7. Cursive style ( Grass style )
This is the type derived from one of those invented in Han dynasty
for fast writing by the omission and/or abbreviation of certain lines.
Running elegance is its uniqueness.
Not until the Age of the Three Kingdoms (220AD - 589AD) three major writing
forms -"square style", "semi-cursive style" and "cursive
style" were invented to enable faster and more elegant writing
which becomes available to more people at the same time.
Here follows the illustration of seven handwriting
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