Time period
4th century-present
Parent systems
Sister systems
Kanji, Zhuyin, Traditional Chinese, chữ nôm, Khitan script, Jurchen script
Korean name
Revised RomanizationHanja

Hanja (HangulHangul: Hanja漢字; Korean pronunciation: [ha(ː)nt͈ɕa]) is the Korean name for Chinese characters (Chinese: 漢字; pinyin: hànzì).[1] More specifically, it refers to those Chinese characters borrowed from Chinese and incorporated into the Korean language with Korean pronunciation. Hanja-mal or Hanja-eo (the latter is more used) refers to words that can be written with Hanja, and hanmun (한문, 漢文) refers to Classical Chinese writing, although "Hanja" is sometimes used loosely to encompass these other concepts. Because Hanja never underwent major reform, they are almost entirely identical to traditional Chinese and kyūjitai characters, though the stroke orders for some characters are slightly different. For example, the characters and are written as and .[2] Only a small number of Hanja characters are modified or unique to Korean. By contrast, many of the Chinese characters currently in use in Japan and Mainland China have been simplified, and contain fewer strokes than the corresponding Hanja characters.

Although a phonetic Korean alphabet, now known as Chosŏn'gŭl or Hangul, had been created by Sejong the Great,[3] it did not come into widespread official use until the late 19th and early 20th century.[4] Thus, until that time it was necessary to be fluent in reading and writing Hanja in order to be literate in Korean, as the vast majority of Korean literature and most other Korean documents were written in Literary Chinese, using Hanja as its primary script. Today, a good working knowledge of Chinese characters is still important for anyone who wishes to study older texts (up to about the 1990s), or anyone who wishes to read scholarly texts in the humanities. Learning a certain number of Hanja is very helpful for understanding the etymology of Sino-Korean words, and for enlarging one's Korean vocabulary. Today, Hanja are not used to write native Korean words, which are always rendered in the new Korean alphabet, and even words of Chinese origin—Hanja-eo (한자어, 漢字語)—are written with the new Korean alphabet most of the time, with the corresponding Chinese character often written next to it in order to prevent confusion with other characters or words with the same phonetics.[citation needed]


A major motivation for the introduction of Chinese characters into Korea was the spread of Buddhism. The major Chinese text that introduced Hanja to Koreans, however, was not a religious text but the Chinese text Cheonjamun (천자문; 千字文; Thousand Character Classic).[citation needed]

Although Koreans had to learn Classical Chinese to be properly literate for the most part, some additional systems were developed which used simplified forms of Chinese characters that phonetically transcribe Korean, including hyangchal (향찰; 鄕札), gugyeol (구결; 口訣), and idu (이두; 吏讀).[citation needed]

One way of adapting Hanja to write Korean in such systems (such as Gugyeol) was to represent native Korean grammatical particles and other words solely according to their pronunciation. For example, Gugyeol uses the characters 爲尼 to transcribe the Korean word "hăni", which in modern Korean means "does, and so". In Chinese, however, the same characters are read as the expression "wéi ní", meaning "becoming a nun". This is a typical example of Gugyeol words where the radical () is read in Korean for its meaning (hă—"to do"), whereas the suffix , ni (meaning "nun"), is used phonetically.[citation needed]

Hanja were the sole means of writing Korean until King Sejong the Great promoted the invention of Hangul in the 15th century. Even after the invention of Hangul, however, most Korean scholars continued to write in hanmun.[citation needed]

Hangul effectively replaced Hanja only in the 20th century. Since June 1949, Hanja have not officially been used in North Korea, and, in addition, all texts are now written horizontally instead of vertically.[citation needed] Many words borrowed from Chinese have also been replaced in the North with native Korean words. Nevertheless, a large number of Chinese-borrowed words are still widely used in the North (although written in Hangul), and Hanja still appear in special contexts, such as recent North Korean dictionaries.[5][original research?][dubious ] The replacement has been less total in South Korea where, although usage has declined over time, some Hanja remain in common usage in some contexts.[citation needed]

Other Languages
العربية: هانجا
asturianu: Hanja
বাংলা: হাঞ্জা
Bahasa Banjar: Hanja
башҡортса: Ханча
български: Ханча
brezhoneg: Hanja
català: Hanja
čeština: Hanča
dansk: Hanja
Deutsch: Hanja
español: Hanja
euskara: Hanja
فارسی: هانجا
føroyskt: Hanja
français: Hanja
Հայերեն: Հանջա
हिन्दी: हानजा
Ido: Hanja
Bahasa Indonesia: Hanja
italiano: Hanja
עברית: הנג'ה
Basa Jawa: Hanja
ქართული: ჰანჯა
kaszëbsczi: Hanja
қазақша: Ханча
Latina: Hania
latviešu: Handža
lietuvių: Handža
magyar: Handzsa
მარგალური: ჰანჯა
Bahasa Melayu: Hanja
Nederlands: Hanja
norsk nynorsk: Hanja
occitan: Hanja
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Hanja
polski: Hancha
português: Hanja
русский: Ханча
Scots: Hanja
සිංහල: හන්ජා
Simple English: Hanja
slovenčina: Hanča
کوردی: هانجا
Basa Sunda: Hanja
suomi: Hanja
svenska: Hanja
Tagalog: Hanja
татарча/tatarça: Һанча
Türkçe: Hanja
українська: Ханча
اردو: ہانجا
Tiếng Việt: Hanja
文言: 朝鮮漢字
中文: 朝鮮漢字