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 How writing came to Japan

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tufsoft



Posts : 65
Join date : 2011-06-03

PostSubject: How writing came to Japan   Wed Apr 04, 2018 2:21 pm

There's an interesting course on FutureLearn delivered by Keio University which might interest some people on this forum

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/japanese-rare-books-sino

the courses are free but you can pay if you want extended access to them

Japanese is a quite different language from Chinese, but the Japanese never developed a writing system. So when texts of Mahayana Buddhism started to appear in the 8th century they created a huge sensation and scholars and aristocrats and monks all started to learn Chinese and study the sutras and Chinese poetry. Aside from the Chinese characters which are now known as "kanji" there were a few characters which were used merely for their sound and could this be used as an alphabet to record Japanese pronunciations, these are the furigana (now hiragana and later katakana). There were also special marks that could be used to show how to read Chinese in Japanese word order, and many Chinese characters acquired a Japanese pronunciation as well as a Chinese one.

It's interesting to me particularly because a lot of modern Zen students seem rather anti-intellectual but it seems that the early Zen monasteries in Japan were actually the places where written culture was developed, and not just the study of the Sutras but also the study and writing of Chinese poetry (a lot of Zen monks learned to write poetry in Chinese).
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