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The Origin of Japanese Kanji

Conversation topic submitted by Hiromasa, Japanese tutor, Tutorful

When we learn Japanese, one of the hard things is to learn is how to write the “KANJI” form which is the most complex form of symbols amongst 2 other forms “HIRAGANA” and “KATAKANA.”

“KANJI” originated in Chinese Characters and is often used for body Tattoos or Chirography Art due to its artistic appearance that many people find fascinating.

If we trace back the origin of those characters for (ref chart) a mountain, a wood, a river, or sun, it is not hard to comprehend the way how these symbols have developed from original drawing form to current writing form.

However, there are many symbols that Japanese people do not know where they derived from. One of the extreme example is the “KANJI” form for “Happiness”. The original symbol was “Handcuffs”.

But why? I hear you ask.

Well... in ancient China, handcuffs were the lightest punishment for criminals of all other horrific torturing methods. So people regarded “Handcuff” as “Happiness” comparing to things such as decapitation or water torture.

Conversation Starter: What's your favourite idiom or slang word (in any language)?

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