Posted by: rbbadger | January 14, 2009

Teaching Chinese characters

Older Koreans who’ve I’ve talked to about the Korean language all tell me that if I want to learn the language really well, I should study Chinese characters.  Chinese characters were used for much of Korea’s history.  To this day, Buddhist monks in Korea chant Buddhist scriptures in Sino-Korean, basically classical Chinese, but with Korean pronunciations.  And if you want to study things seriously such as history, you’ve got to learn them.  When the Ancestral Rites are performed at the Jongmyo Ancestral Shrine, the language used is Sino-Korean.  Thus it doesn’t make much sense to those attending unless, of course, they are schooled in classical Chinese.  Classical Chinese is a difficult beast, even for Chinese people.   

The Dong A Ilbo (東亞日報) has released yet another editorial calling for the education of the young in reading and writing Chinese characters.  Other newspapers, such as the Choson Ilbo (朝鮮日報) also have made similar calls over the years stating that “ignorance of Chinese is ignorance of Korean”.  The government, which has great mood swings on this topic, at one time banned them, them brought them back, and now has made the study of them optional.  Of course, Korean parents are always on the lookout for the best means of educating their children, so there are a number of private academies which teach Korean children the characters and calligraphy as well, the sure mark of a refined person in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean society.  There is a museum in Seoul devoted solely to calligraphy.



  1. i missed a lot of your recent entries and i’ve been enjoying catching up! your photos are fantastic! i got your postcard yesterday, by the way. thanks!! 🙂 i need to send some pictures your way.

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