In Chinese 'black' is 黑 and in Japanese it's 黒, but the kanji are not the same. In traditional Chinese it's exactly the same as in simplified so both are 黑 but Japanese is different. Was 黒 simplified?

2 Answers 2


Yes, 黒 is the 新字体{しんじたい} (simplified) form of 黑, which took the two dots at the top and turned them into a straight line. The same simplification can be seen in 曾 -> 曽. This was all part of the 1945 simplification scheme in Japanese.

黑 is still used in chinese though, both simplified and traditional, and has the exact same meaning of "black", as you pointed out.

Without going too much into it for fear of being off-topic, Japan underwent its simplification of characters in 1945 -- earlier than Chinese. Because of this, it has a few different forms. Simplified chinese has a lot of the same simplifications, but equally there are a few divergences every now and again. 黒 is an example where Japan changed the character from 黑, and Chinese never did.

  • 1
    The most radically different character between the different forms in my opinion is 龍, which is 竜 in Japanese, and 龙 in 简体. And for all of this, I think people in all countries tend to be able to read the traditional 龍 without much of a hitch.
    – sqrtbottle
    Jun 2, 2015 at 23:38

「黒」 came from a clerical script shape which was adopted as official in Japan. Both 「黒」 and 「黑」 co-existed in various locations, with 「黒」 being made obsolete in Chinese-language regions in recent times.

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「黑」 originally depicted a person 「大」 drawn with an emphasised head and facial tattoos as punishment for crimes. Dots 「丶」 were added around the person later, and the dots were eventually corrupted into 「火・灬」.

As is common across characters when not the bottom-most component, 「大」 was eventually corrupted into 「土」.

  • Did the same simplification happen to characters like 噌 and 曾? Are the simplified versions considered standard in Japanese? Or are the simplified ones treated as 異体字?
    – kandyman
    Feb 17, 2020 at 15:20
  • @kandyman depends on what you mean. 曽 is standard in Japanese while 曾 is kyujitai, for sure. Was 曽 simplified from 曾? From the POV of regular script and its variants, I guess you can say so (at least in the popular perception). From the POV of paleography, that's a definite no. See glyph evolution table. 曾 is a Shuowen small seal corruption, where 𡆧 was corrupted from a 田-like shape.
    – dROOOze
    Feb 17, 2020 at 20:41

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