(Chinese characters). Ideographs of ancient Chinese origin that are still used in China, Korea, and Japan and were formerly used in other areas influenced by Chinese culture such as Vietnam. Chinese characters are ideographs in that essentially each character or graph symbolizes a single idea and, by extension, the sound associated with that idea. In Japan, Chinese characters are used in combination with the Japanese phonetic script known as kana. Although any word can be written in the phonetic script, words of Chinese origin are normally written in kanji. In Japanese, however, a number of pronunciations are possible for most characters, the choice being dicated by context. (adapted from Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1993)
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