Why is it that in the past it was possible to understand a lot of Japanese characters, but now it is impossible to understand a lot of Japanese characters
Chinese characters are something of a miracle in East Asia: the same character may be pronounced differently in China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam, but there are no great barriers to written communication.In history, the characters of Korea, Japan, Vietnam and other countries were closely related to Chinese characters in the process of their formation. Therefore, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and other countries were generally regarded as members of the East Asian Chinese character culture circle.There was a unique phenomenon in the ancient Chinese character culture circle — pen talk: people from different countries in the Chinese character culture circle used different spoken languages, so they used Chinese characters that they could all understand to have written conversations.Zhu Shunshui, a survivor of the late Ming Dynasty, failed in the anti-Ming movement and went east to Japan.At that time, The second generation of Japanese Mito vassal Lord Tokugawa kod often visited him.Two people who do not speak the same language communicate more often through the written word.Confucianists in the Edo Period of Japan also used Chinese characters to discuss Confucianism in correspondence with Joseon.Sun Yat-sen and Liang Qichao, who fled to Japan in the late Qing Dynasty, also communicated with local people through written words.During the Vietnam War, a Korean platoon leader who accompanied the U.S. army to Fight in Vietnam used Chinese characters to communicate effectively with a Vietnamese village leader.All of this suggests that at least at that time, people from China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam and other places could communicate with each other in Chinese characters, but if you expect to communicate directly with Koreans, Japanese, and Vietnamese in Chinese characters today, you might be disappointed.Antithetical couplets and peace plaques written in Chinese can be seen on many ancient buildings in Vietnam.Many Chinese tourists in Vietnam can’t help but stop to look at the Chinese characters on these ancient buildings while surrounded by bewildered Vietnamese people.In fact, today’s Vietnamese cannot read these Chinese couplets and plaques written by their ancestors.The writing system of today’s Vietnam is based on the Latin alphabet popularized by the French during the colonial period.Similarly, North and South Korea have replaced Chinese characters with Hunminjeongeum (Korean hangul) as their main language.The vast majority of Koreans, Koreans and Vietnamese today do not know Chinese characters, while Japan’s writing system retains more cultural elements of Chinese characters.In ancient Japan, there were only spoken languages but no written characters for quite a long time. Later, Japan began to borrow phonetic characters in the process of learning Chinese civilization.The earliest introduction of Chinese characters to Japan can be traced back to the Taikang reign of Emperor Wu of jin Dynasty. However, Chinese characters were really popularized in Japan around the Sui and Tang Dynasties.At first, The Japanese used Chinese characters imported from China directly, and then gradually invented Japanese kana based on Chinese characters.A Chinese student studying in the Tang Dynasty invented katakana based on a part of a regular script.Later, the Japanese invented hiragana based on the cursive radicals of Chinese characters.The modern Japanese writing system developed up to now is partly the Chinese characters that the Japanese directly introduced from China, partly the kana based on the Chinese characters, and partly the Roman characters.In ancient Japan, the cultural class generally knew Chinese characters.In “Hojo Shizong,” a river drama produced by NHK in Japan in 2001, Japanese rulers can read the Chinese characters of Kublai Khan, the emperor of The Yuan Dynasty, without any difficulty.In ancient Japan, Chinese characters had been regarded as a privilege of identity and gender for a long time: in early Japanese upper society, men would disdain to use kana, so the use of Chinese characters or kana became a symbol of distinguishing status between nobility and commoners, but even in the noble class, women could not use Chinese characters casually.For example, Murasaki Shikibu’s The Tale of Genji was written entirely in hiragana. However, it was with the popularity of The Tale of Genji that Japanese noblemen gradually put down their dignity and began to accept and use kana.Since the 10th century, Japan’s so-called “national style culture” has gradually replaced the “Tang style culture” introduced from the Tang Dynasty by Japanese envoys.The so-called “guo-feng culture”, as the name suggests, is to emphasize local cultural characteristics, so in this context, the use of kana in Japan began to gradually spread, but the Upper class of Japan generally learn Chinese characters and kana, so until the Ming and Qing dynasties, Zhu Shunshui and D Tokugawa kod can still use Chinese characters to communicate without hindrage,Even as late as 1853, when the American Black ship arrived, Chinese characters were still widely known among Japan’s upper classes.In 1853 commodore Matthew Perry sailed into the waters off Uraga in Edo Bay.Japan had been locked up for more than 200 years before that, so few Japanese could be found in the Us-Japan negotiations who knew English, and none of the American fleet that visited Japan at that time knew Japanese.It so happened that wei Sanwei, a missionary who went to Japan with the American fleet, was a Sinologist who had studied Chinese culture for many years.Mr. Wei, who is fluent in Chinese characters, invited Mr. Rosen, a Chinese national he knew in Hong Kong, to join him.The negotiation process of the first international treaty in modern Japanese history actually went like this: The American negotiator spoke English, wei sanwei translated it into Chinese, and Rosen wrote it down for Japanese officials to read. After reading it, Japanese officials asked Rosen and Wei sanwei to convey their opinions to the American side.Chinese characters actually became a means of communication between Japan and the United States, who did not speak the same language.In fact, the so-called “kana” address is opposite to the “real” Chinese characters.The implication is that only Chinese characters are considered real characters.Sinology has long been regarded as a standard to evaluate one’s accomplishment and social status in ancient Japan, so being able to master Chinese characters was regarded as a sign of learning in ancient Japan.However, during the Meiji Restoration period of “leaving Asia and entering Europe” and “civilized” reform, Japan began to regard complex Chinese characters as one of the reasons for its backwardness while massively introducing Western learning.At that time, many people in Japan proposed to “Latinize” Japanese writing on the basis of abolishing Chinese characters.But Chinese characters are so central to Japanese culture that the idea of abolishing them was ultimately scrapped.Although Japan failed to completely abolish Chinese characters after the Meiji Restoration, reducing the use of Chinese characters became the general consensus of Japanese society at that time.Fukuzawa Yukichi, an enlightenment thinker during the Meiji Restoration, proposed to limit the number of Chinese characters to 3,000.Fukuzawa Yukichi himself, as a Sinologist familiar with Chinese culture, had read the original version of Zuo Zhuan in pure Chinese characters for 11 times, but he insisted that Japan should learn from the West in order to become strong.At Fukuzawa’s insistence, the Lunar New Year, which Japan imported from China, was changed to New Year’s Day on the Western Gregorian calendar.The Lunar New Year, which had lasted for thousands of years in Japan, was thus abolished.Chinese characters have also been rejected along with the Spring Festival.This is the first time in Japanese history that the frequency of Chinese characters has been drastically reduced.Led by the idea of “leaving Asia and entering Europe”, Japan began to use backward things with Asian characteristics such as Chinese characters.As Japan’s ties with the West deepened, many foreign words began to appear in Japanese.In this context, Japanese began to introduce the Latin alphabet to translate and write foreign words.The Japanese alphabet, which evolved from the Latin alphabet, is known as the “Roman character”.At present, the Roman character system commonly used in Japanese is divided into plain Roman character and injunction Roman character.Western nouns such as Polydimethylsiloxane, Aminocaproic Acid and maximum power are now written in Kana or Roman characters, while traditional Japanese nouns such as names of people and places are written in Chinese characters.By the end of world War II, the proportion of Chinese characters in Japanese writing had become smaller and smaller.With the development of science and technology and globalization, there are more and more loanwords in Japanese, and most of them are written in kana or Roman characters.Some of us, for example, buy cosmetics, medical products or electronics from Japan with instructions that are dominated by kana and Roman characters.The decline in the number of Chinese characters in Japanese was also related to the policies of the American occupation authorities.It is well known that much of Japan’s postwar policy was dictated by the American occupation authorities, who once saw Chinese characters as a product of militarism.How did Chinese characters become the product of militarism?In fact, Chinese characters were stigmatized because of the use of Japanese militarism before the war.In the Meiji Restoration period, In order to achieve the goal of leaving Asia and entering Europe, Japan once regarded Chinese characters as a backward thing, but in 1930s and 1940s, the Japanese militarism with the West deteriorated and began to advocate the use of Chinese characters in large numbers.During this period, Japan regarded the promotion and application of Chinese characters as an important symbol of the so-called “Asian liberation of Asia” and “common prosperity of Greater East Asia”. Therefore, the US-led command of the occupying forces after the war also regarded the restriction of the use of Chinese characters as part of the “de-militarization”.In November 1946, the Japanese government issued a list of 1,850 characters to limit the use of Chinese characters.Under various restrictive legal norms, the frequency of the use of Japanese Kanji is getting lower and lower.Japan began to regain its cultural confidence with its post-war economic revival.Since the 1960s, Japanese society has begun to reflect on the huge negative impact of restricting the use of Kanji on social and cultural heritage: the excessive number of homophones represented by pure Japanese kana has caused a lot of inconvenience, as well as the loss of beauty and flavor of writing.In 1981, the Japanese Ministry of Education changed the Table of When Used Chinese Characters into the Table of Commonly used Chinese Characters based on actual needs.The List of Commonly used Chinese Characters increased the number of Chinese characters in daily use from 1850 to 1,945 compared with the List of When Used Chinese Characters.At that time, the Japanese Ministry of Education once gave an explanation: “The kanji and kana mixed style, which has been used in China for a long time, is the most effective and suitable notation for Our social culture.In the future, we need to enrich ourselves.In 2010, another 196 characters were added to the list.As a result of the influx of foreign words, the frequency of kana and Roman characters became more and more frequent. In addition, the use of Chinese characters was restricted by the post-war militarization reform, so the frequency of Chinese characters used in Japanese generally showed a declining trend in the decades after the war.In addition, Chinese characters in Japanese are sometimes completely different from Chinese in word order structure, and even impossible to understand according to Chinese thinking, which is also the reason why many Japanese characters have different literal meanings from Chinese characters.For example, the Chinese character “niang” refers to mother, while the Japanese character “niang” refers to daughter or girl.Or “da husband,” which in Chinese means a man, in Japanese means it doesn’t matter.In addition, when Chinese characters were introduced to Japan, the Chinese people still used traditional characters, but the Chinese mainland has simplified the traditional characters.However, the evolution of Japanese characters has not been simplified by referring to Chinese characters. Therefore, there have been certain differences between the Chinese characters in Japanese nowadays and the original Chinese characters introduced by Japanese ambassadors in the Tang Dynasty.