Samurai Baby  

Japanese kanji history

In Asian cultures like China and Japan, the meanings of names are more obvious as the names are not only phonetic, but also represented by characters with easily recognizable meanings (if you know Chinese or Japanese that is). Dating back to 1200 BC, Chinese pictograph-like characters spread to Korea, Vietnam and Japan. They are still used in Chinese and Japanese and their meaning as well as sound is an important factor when choosing a name.

While it is thought that somewhere near fifty thousand kanji exist, only between five and ten thousand are used in writing and Japanese students finishing high school are only expected to know about two thousand. Even knowing one thousand you can cover about ninety percent of typically used words. Not only is the appearance of the kanji important, but also the order and direction in which each stroke is written are always taught the same.

The writing of kanji is taken to its highest artistic form in Shodo, or Japanese calligraphy. Shodo in Japanese means "Way of writing." In Shodo, a person uses ink and a brush to write kanji and it takes much practice to do it well. The basics of shodo are learned by all Japanese, though mastery of it takes a long time, as is the case with all forms of art. Shodo is still a widely practiced in Japan and masters of this art are held in high regard.

Back to kanji names

Home | Kanji Names | Zen Art | Store | Way of the Baby | Resources | About | TOS