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classical Chinese script

Chinese characters are symbols used in writing Chinese and Japanese. In the past, Korean and Vietnamese also used them. The beginning of these characters was at least 3000 years ago, they are the oldest continuously-used system of writing in the world.

In Chinese they are called Hanzi (Chinese: 汉字/漢字), literally meaning "Han character". In the Japanese they are called Kanji).

There are tens of thousands of Chinese characters, though most of them are only slightly different from each other and only seen in historical texts. Studies in China show that normally three to four thousand characters are used on a daily basis.

There are still many Chinese characters that are used in Japanese and Korean. Generally the education level of a Japanese person is evaluated by the amount of Chinese characters understood by this person. In Korean, when people found some meanings cannot be expressed clearly by Korean, people need to use Chinese characters as a note with a bracket. Before 1446, Korean people only used Chinese characters.

Chinese characters are logograms; they mainly represent words instead of sounds. Most earlier Chinese characters were pictographs - simple pictures used to mean words, but few modern Chinese characters are pictographs. Many modern Chinese characters are a combination of two or more simple characters.

Chinese characters are an important part of East Asian culture. Chinese characters may be considered to be abstract art, because of how the characters are made up of lines and points. The art of writing Chinese characters writing (or characters of any language) is called calligraphy.


Characters are a kind of graphic language, much different from English. The correct way is to remember the structure and meaning of every character, not pronunciation because there is very close relationship between meaning and structure of characters. Example: 房(house)=户+方. 房 is a shape-pronunciation character. 户 is for shape and 方 is for pronunciation. 户 means 'door'. 房 means 'A person lives behind a door'. 方 pronunciation is Fang and tone is 1. 房 pronunciation is also Fang, but tone is 2.

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