Hanja (Korean: 한자; Hanja: 漢字, Korean pronunciation: [ha(ː)nt͈ɕa], or Hancha[1]) is the Korean name for a traditional writing system consisting mainly of Chinese characters (Chinese: 漢字; pinyin: hànzì)[2] that was incorporated and used since the Gojoseon period (400 BC). More specifically, it refers to the Chinese characters incorporated into the Korean language with Korean pronunciation.

Script type
Time period
4th century BCE – present
Related scripts
Parent systems
Sister systems
Kanji, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Khitan script, Jurchen script, Tangut script
ISO 15924
ISO 15924Hani, , Han (Hanzi, Kanji, Hanja)
Unicode alias
 This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and  , see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.
Korean name
Revised RomanizationHanja

Hanja-eo refers to words that can be written with Hanja, and hanmun (한문, 漢文) refers to Classical Chinese writing, although "Hanja" is sometimes also used loosely to encompass these concepts. Because Hanja never underwent major reform, they are similar to kyūjitai characters, though the stroke orders for some characters are slightly different. For example, the characters and are written as and .[3] Only a small number of Hanja characters are modified or unique to Korean. By contrast, many of the Chinese characters currently in use in Japan and Mainland China have been simplified, and contain fewer strokes than the corresponding Hanja characters.

According to the Standard Korean Language Dictionary (표준국어대사전/標準國語大辭典), published by the National Institute of Korean Language (국립국어원/國立國語院, NIKL), out of the approximately 510,000 words in the Korean Language, 290,000 words (57%) were Hanja-eo.

Although a phonetic Hangul, now known as Chosŏn'gŭl or Hangul, had been created by Sejong the Great,[4] it did not come into widespread official use until the late 19th and early 20th century.[5] Thus, until that time it was necessary to be fluent in reading and writing Hanja to be literate in Korean, as the vast majority of Korean literature and most documents were written in Literary Chinese using Hanja as its primary script. A good working knowledge of Chinese characters is still important for anyone who wishes to study older texts (up to about the 1890s), or anyone who wishes to read scholarly texts in the humanities. Learning a certain number of Hanja is very helpful for understanding the etymology of Sino-Korean words and for enlarging one's Korean vocabulary. Today, Hanja is not used to write native Korean words, which are always rendered in Hangul and even words of Chinese origin—Hanja-eo (한자어, 漢字語)—are written with the Hangul alphabet most of the time, with the corresponding Chinese character often written next to it to prevent confusion with other characters or words with the same phonetics.[citation needed]