Chinese Characters
(1,456 words)

Chinese characters are the indigenous writing system of China. That writing system is among the handful of independent inventions of writing by human beings, along with Sumerian cuneiform, Egyptian hieroglyphs, and Mayan hieroglyphs. But Chinese characters are unique in being the only such writing system to have been in continuous use up to the present day. For thousands of years, they have not only functioned to write Sinitic languages, they have been borrowed and adapted to write many other languages of Asia. They remain a component of other modern writing systems, most notably (as kan…

Cite this page
Zev HANDEL, “Chinese Characters”, in: Encyclopedia of Chinese Language and Linguistics, General Editor Rint Sybesma. Consulted online on 25 June 2017 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2210-7363_ecll_COM_00000057>
First published online: 2015



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