Japanese is a mixture of three written systems, Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. To summarize briefly, Hiragana is the phonetic system for Japanese words in which there are 48 characters; Katakana is the phonetic system for foreign words translated into Japanese in which there are another 48 characters. Kanji however is not phonetic and there are about 2,000 to 3,000 characters used in Japanese today.
The total number of kanji is anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 characters. Kanji (漢字), meaning Chinese characters, have been around for about 4,500 years. They first came to Japan in about 57 AD and led to the creation of Hiragana and Katakana, before that time Japan had no written language.
Kanji are broken down into smaller components called radicals which when combined make more complex thoughts. For example, in ancient Chinese culture, the elder brother was the spokesperson for the family. This is possibly why the character for elder brother is mouth man.
Something else interesting to note is China’s roots in Confucianism and Buddhism. As it turns out Confucianism only grew in popularity around 600 BC; Buddhism was first introduced to China at about 65 BC. But kanji have existed long before either of these beliefs became prevalent. China was first a monotheistic culture with a belief in one creator God, Shang Di, known as the creator of the universe.
This post is part one of a six part series will examine kanji characters that actually tell the story of the first eleven chapters of the book of Genesis in the bible. I hope that you enjoy it.