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If you ask someone how to say "peace" the likely answer you'll get is 平和, which is the common option, but occasionally you'll see the word 和平, which has a very similar meaning, and is indeed just a reversal of the kanji. Can 和平 always be used in place of 平和, or does one have a certain nuance that prevents them from being true synonyms?

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What have you tried so far? For example, the first four hits seem to address this question quite adequately to me: nhk.or.jp/bunken/summary/kotoba/term/086.html , detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp/qa/question_detail/q1323095533 , detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp/qa/question_detail/q148524344 , detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp/qa/question_detail/q1412012194 . –  Dono Jan 17 '13 at 7:17
    
I'm a little confused about what the proper practice for this kind of thing is, but basically I often have questions that I know I can easily solve myself but that I think would be a good addition to this site, so I just went ahead and added the question with the answer I found. If this isn't appropriate then go ahead and vote for a close. –  ssb Jan 17 '13 at 8:38
    
And note that though I say I'm confused I did in fact check and find that it's OK to do this kind of thing, but I'm not sure how I should phrase the question since I either know the answer before I ask it or I ask it before I've done the research. –  ssb Jan 17 '13 at 8:48
    
Your question is appropriate; no need to close it. The reason I asked is: notice the up / down arrows next to the question. If you hover your mouse over the up arrow, it says "This question shows research effort". Stack Exchange works best when someone has a question and has tried to answer it themselves--whether dictionaries, web searches etc--but something is eluding or missing from understanding it. Knowing what one has done so far helps others in presenting you with a valuable answer. –  Dono Jan 17 '13 at 8:50
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@Dono Meta discussion is at meta.japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/993/… –  Troyen Jan 18 '13 at 1:10

1 Answer 1

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Both of these words do mean "peace" in the sense of a lack of conflict, but 平和{へいわ} allows for a more metaphorical view of peace whereas 和平{わへい} describes a lack of a more violent type of conflict, like war.

First let's look at the dictionary entry for 平和:

(1)戦争もなく世の中が穏やかである・こと(さま)。 「―な時代」「―を守る」

(2)争いや心配事もなく穏やかである・こと(さま)。 「―な家庭」「―に暮らす」

It refers to a calmness (穏やか) and an absence of conflict, either armed or personal, and invokes a general idea of peacefulness.

The dictionary entry for 和平:

(1)争いがなく穏やかなこと。平和。 「百年もの間―が続く」

(2)戦いをやめ、仲直りすること。 「―を申し入れる」

(3)気候が穏やかなこと。

The first definition overlaps completely with 平和 and is defined in those terms. The second definition, however, refers specifically to warfare, a very specific state where fighting has stopped and conflicted parties are trying to mend the situation. This is what we refer to when we refer to two parties "hoping for peace," so for example while we hope for 平和 in the Middle East, a general lack of conflict, we also hope for 和平, or the formal end of conflict and the start of a peace process. This meaning cannot be replaced entirely by 平和.

The third definition is about the climate, take it for what you want.

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I've always thought of 和平 in terms of the tongue-in-cheek comment "Peace broke out in XYZ today, as the two sides couldn't remember what they were fighting over", which has been spoofed repeatedly in comedic TheOnion/SNL news broadcasts. –  jkerian Jan 17 '13 at 15:57

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