I know that kanji are borrowed from Chinese characters but are all of them borrowed?

As a Chinese native speaker, I am wondering the origins of modern kanjis. Most of them are exactly same as the Chinese counterpart, others are simplified versions of Chinese characters (like 聴 is a simplification of 聽 and 図 a simplification of 圖) and I know that this is due to the reform after WWII. But there are some kanji that I just can't figure out which hanzi they originate from. For example, 転 and 込. The former seems to come from 運 or 轉 but I'm not sure. Maybe I'm completely wrong.

Are 転 and 込 kanjis that native Japanese made up? Not based on a hanzi? But after seeing this post, this is not very possible. Is there a way I can find from which hanzis did these kanjis originate?

2 Answers 2


Yes, there are a few kanji that were invented purely by Japanese people. Examples are listed in 和製漢字. Some kanji were reverse-imported to Chinese (see: Japanese-coined CJKV characters used outside Japanese). But I believe there are also many Chinese-origin kanji that are in use only in Japan because they have fallen out of use elsewhere. So not all kanji that are unfamiliar to you are Japanese-coined.

Wiktionary has the information about the etymology of most kanji (although I don't know how much they are credible).

  • 込 is a 和製漢字 and is included in the above list. (Wiktionary)
  • 転 is a simplified version of 轉. (Wiktoinary)

Not all of them were borrowed from Chinese. Some were created by the Japanese following the same methods (六書【りくしょ】), and are hence called 和製漢字【わせいかんじ】 'Japanese made Kanji', also known as 国字【こくじ】.

込 is indeed a kokuji. However, 転 is not a kokuji. It is a simplification of the traditional Chinese character 轉.

Here's an online dictionary for kokuji. Hope it is useful.


  • I wonder if borrowed is a better word than imported?
    – KyloRen
    Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 10:20
  • @KyloRen Edited. Maybe you are right. 'borrow' is used for taking a word or idea from a foreign language to one's own language. But Japanese people did "import" a whole writing system, Kanji, to express their spoken language. Many kanji characters have different meanings in Japanese and in Chinese.
    – Takeshi
    Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 10:51
  • 1
    I am just thinking that the original writing system was once called , 借字 or 万葉仮名, hence the reason I choose "Borrow" in English as 借字 implies that meaning..
    – KyloRen
    Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 11:02

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