Kanji, Hanmoon, and Hanzi( 感じ(かんじ) (kanji), 한문 (hanmoon), and Chinese Characters in Chinese), Part 1

A friend of mine when to a yard sale and bought several books she thought I might be interested in and brought them to me. One book that she brought is called “Let’s Learn Kanji.” As I was looking at her book, it not only has the Japanese pronunciation of the kanji, but also the traditional Chinese pronunciation of the kanji. One thing that my Korean son in law told me is that The Koreans use the original characters, but the Chinese and Japanese went through a time of simplification of the characters that the Koreans didn’t go through. Most of the basic characters are the same. However, I don’t know hanmoon well enough to know which ones are different from the Chinese and Japanese characters. If you know the basic characters, you could go to all three countries and see the basic characters and understand them, but you would only know how that country pronounces them if you spoke the language there. I met a Chinese girl in Japan who told me that she understood all the signs because of the kanji being the same as the Hanzi, the name the Chinese give to these characters. I can make sentences for you in Japanese and Korean with these characters, but I can’t make the Chinese sentences because I don’t speak Chinese. However, I know this about the Chinese language: They use the same word order as English and they also use the post position particles like Japanese and Korean use. Perhaps I can use google translate or something like that to figure out how to say a sentence in Chinese. However, I have discovered that Google Translate is good, but not always, so if there is a mistake in the Chinese, I will not know. However, I will go through the characters in this book with you and talk about them for you to understand them. Probably several of them are ones we did when I did the series only on kanji and hanmoon, so it will be a good review.

With the Japanese, if there is only one kanji, you pronounce it with the Japanese pronunciation. If there is more than one kanji, you pronounce it with the traditional Chinese pronunciation. In Korea, they also have two pronunciations for several words, one the Korean word, and the other the traditional Chinese pronunciation. When my daughter was attending her father-in-law’s hanmoon classes, she learned the meaning and pronouncation of the different hanmoon and learned that she could pull the compound hanmoon apart and couple the single hanmoon with another Korean word make a new word. Often, in Korea, if you know the Chinese pronunciation of a word, then you can recognize words that you have never seen before because one of the syllables is a Chinese syllable. This is one of the ways my daughter made her Korean vocabulary much larger than mine, but sitting in the hanmoon classes.

Here is an extremely basic kanji that I learned when I was in my very first class of Japanese: 山. In Japanese, it is pronounced: やま (yama). In Korean, it is pronounced: 산 (san). In Chinese, it is pronounced: san, the same as Korean. In the beginning, when they were inventing these characters, they actually drew some mountains, and then later, the mountains were replaced merely by three lines going up for expediency.

Japanese: 山 = mountain. In Japanese hiragana, this is やま (yama). In Japan, they also use さん(san)。

Korean: 山 = mountain. In Korean hangul, this is 산 (san).

Chinese: 山 = mountain. In the traditional Chinese pronunciation that comes from Japan, what they call the “on” reading, this is “san.” In the Chinese pronunciation in China, this is “shan.”

山に のります. (yama ni norimasu) = I climb the mountain or I climb the mountain.

山に のりました. (yama ni norimashita) = I climbed the mountain.

山을 오라가요. (san ul olagahyo) + I climb the mountain.

山을 오라갈거예요. (san ul olagalgheoyeyo) = I will climb the mountain.

山을 오라갔어요. (san ul olagasseoyo) = I climbed the mountain.
我爬山 (so pa shan) = I climb the mountain. 

我會爬山 (wo hui pa shan) = I will climb the mountain.

我爬上了山 (wo pa shangle shan) = I climbed the mountain.


The next character is: 川. This means “river.” In Japanese, it is said: かわ (kawa) in the Japanese pronunciation and “sen” in the traditional Chinese pronunciation used in Japan. In Korean, 川 is pronounced: 강 (kang). In Chinese, 川 must no longer be used because Google Translate doesn’t give 川 as the translation in Chinese of “river.” The translation it gives in both the traditional Chinese and the modern Chinese is: 河 which is pronounced (he) or 江 which is pronounced (yangtze).

Japanese: 川 = river. In Japanese, this is: かわ (kawa). In the traditional Chinese pronunciation used in Japan, this is: せん (sen).

Korean: 川 = river. In Korean, this is 강 (kang).

Chinese: 河 or 江 = river. In Chinese, the first hanzi is pronounced: “he,” and the second hanzi is pronounced: “yangtze.” (If you haven’t figured it out, the Chinese use English letters to tell people how to pronounce the hanzi.

私 は かわ へ およぎます。 (watashiwa kawa e oyogimasu) = I swim in the river, I will swim in the river.

私 は 川 へ およぎました。(watashi wa kawa e oyogimashita.) = I swam in the river.

내가 강에 수영해요. (ne gah kang eh sooyong heyo) = I swim in the river.

내가 강에 수영 할거예요. (ne gah kang eh sooyong halgheoyeyo) = I will swim in the river.

내가 강에 수영 했어요. (ne gah kang eh sooyong hesseoyo) = I swam in the river.

我在河里游泳 (wo zai he li youyong) = I swim in the river. (Can you recognize the character for “water” as well as “river” in this sentence? If you don’t remember, 水 means “water.”
游泳 (youyong) is the set of characters that translate as “swim” in Chinese. If you look close, you can also see the character for “child” in this set of characters: 子.)

我会在河里游泳 (wo hui zai he li youyong) = I will swim in the river.

我在河里游泳 (wo zai he li youyoung) = I swam in the river. 


In both Japan and Korea, the sea is extremely important because Japan is several islands and Korea is a peninsula. This makes the next character an important one to know in Korea and Japan: 海. I can’t completely explain this character, but I see the kanji or hanmoon for “mother”: 母 in it. In Japanese, 母 is pronounced: はは (haha) or おかあさん (oka-asan), in Korean, it is pronounced: 어머니 (eomeonee) or 어마 (eomah), and in Chinese, it is pronounced “Muqin” and needs an extra character with it: 母親. You can remember the character for “sea” because we studied the character for “mother” before. The character for sea is: 海. In Japanese, this is pronounced: うみ (umi), and the traditional Chinese pronunciation used in Japan is かい (kai) In Korean, this is pronounced: 바다 (bahdah). In Chinese, 海 is pronounced “hai.”

Japanese: 海 = sea. In Japanese, the pronunciation of this is: うみ(umi). The traditional Chinese pronunciation used in Japan of this is かい (kai).

Korean: 海 = sea. In Korean, the pronunciation of this is 바다 (bahdah).

Chinese: 海 = sea. The Chinese pronunciation of this is “hai.”

海 は とても きれい です。 (umi wa totemo kirei desu.) = The sea is very beautiful, or the sea will be very beautiful.

海はとてもきれいでした. (umi wa totemo kirei deshita.) = The sea was very beautiful.

바다는 노무 아름다워요. (bahdah nun nomoo ahrumdahwayo) = The sea is very beautiful.

바다는 노무 아름다울거예요. (bahdah nun nomoo ahrumdahoolgeoyeyo) = The sea will be very beautiful.

바다 는 노무 아름다웠어요. (bahdah nun nomoo ahrumdahwosseoyo) = The sea was very beautiful.

大海很美 (Dahai hen mei) = The sea is very beautiful. (If you look close, you can see the character for “big”:大 at the beginning of this sentence. In Japanese, often, if they want to make something superlative or the best, they will say “dai” which is similar to the pronunciation of 大 Chinese which is “da” meaning “big.” 海 (hen) is the word for “sea,” and美麗 (meili) or (mei) is the word for “beautiful.”)

海將很美麗 (hai jiang hen meili) = The sea will be very beautiful.

海很美麗 (hai hen meili) = The sea was very beautiful.


If you also know the Chinese pronunciations, you will increase your vocabulary in both Japanese and Korean. I hope you can see how the kanji, the hanmoon, and the hanzi can increase your understanding in the orient a lot.

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