Koreans indeed invented and developed Hanja (Chinese character)

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Sukgeun Jung

2002/09/02 11:07:592002/09/02
I update my short article on Hanja (Chinese character) invention by
Koreans based on feedbacks during the past week. As nobody has yet
brought a serious challenge to my original message, I posted again
after a few refinements and addenda.

I insist that the so-called Chinese character (Hanja in Korean) was
probably invented and developed by Korean, although the populous
Chinese also have used it as their basic writing systems. I believe
the number of population of any ethnic group should not be a factor
that obscures the origin. I explain some evidences.

1. The original pictographs called 'gab-gol' (bone and shell) or
'bok-sa' in Korean were certainly invented during the Yin dynasty (or
Shang state, BC 1600~BC 1046), although it is uncertain who was the
inventor. There is no dispute regarding this matter between Korean and
Chinese historians. There are ample recent evidences that the dominant
people of the Yin dynasty was Korean, which some Chinese historians
also acknowledge. Moreover, prototypes of Hanja (chinese character)
were found to the east of the Shang (Ta wen k'ou and Lungshan
culture), not the west (Yangshao culture). The culture of Lungshan was
far advanced than Yangshao culture. If Yangshao can be called Chinese
as modern Chinese historians do, Lungshan should be called Korean.

Archaeological evidences imply that bronze culture was imported from
Lungshan to the Shan dynasyty. With respect to historical records,
Shiji by Sima Qian, which most scholars on east Asian history cherish,
described 'Chiwoo' (an Korean emperor recorded in Handangogi, See
footnote 4) as the following:

"He had 81 brothers. They were with beast body, spoke in human
language, had bronze head and iron forehead, and ate sands everyday."

Shiji implies that Chiwoo was from a tribe that used bronze to make
weapons and spoke in different language. Usually, responses to Koreans
described in chinese history books are bipolar (disparaging while
being scared). The description on Chiwoo is a typical one. But Chinese
historians themselves wrote implications that bronze was introduced
from Koreans.

People who developed Ta wen k'ou and Lungshan culture in Shantung
province were called "East Yi". Koreans had called "East Yi" by
Chinese, and "Yi" means a big arrow, a feature of the Shang dynasty
[See footnote 1].

Based on archaeological evidences from Ta wen k'ou and Shiji's mention
on bronze weapon of a Korean ancestor, it seems certain that Shang
dynasty succeeded Hanja and bronze culture in the East (Shantung
province) where some Korean ancestors resided.

2. Among countries that adopted Hanja, only Koreans use exactly one
syllable for one character. Although Chinese are technically
monosyllabic, Chinese or Japanese used one or more syllables de facto
for one character. A good example is the sounds denoting the numbers.
Only Koreans use just one syllable for one number. So, it is very easy
for Koreans to say any complex numbers quickly.

For another example, the sound for 'white' in Hanja in 'baek' (one
syllable) in Korean but 'bai' (two syllable) in Chinese. Regarding the
character denoting 'head', it is 'doo' in Korean but 'tou' in Chinese.
On the other hand, it is the same for the character denoting
'mountain' - 'shan' in both Korean and Chinese.

Why have Koreans used only one syllable for one character, but Chinese
one or more syllables de facto? It certainly shows that Chinese
pronunciation system is a variant from Korean counterpart.

Koreans seemed to try use Hanja as phonogram before the 7-th century.
Hyangchal and Idoo were Korean phonetic systems based on Hanja before
the hangul nvention by King Sejong in 1443. Ancient Korean poems
'Seodongyo' and 'Hyeseongga' were written based on Idoo between AD
579-632 (King Jinpyung), indicating that not only pronunciation system
for Hanja, but Idoo itself had already been established in Silla
before AD 600. Considering the fact that Silla should have been the
last country to use Hanja, the pronunciation system might have been
established earlier in Paekche and Koguryo.

3. Some basic pictographs reflect Korean life-style and customs.

For example, the character denoting 'house' (ga in Korean) contains a
character denoting a pig (hog) in the lower part. In the house, people
live, not a pig live. Why did they adopt a pig to denote a house? Only
Koreans raised pigs within their house.

Another example is the character denoting 'sun'. The character
contains a dot within a rectangle. Why did they contain the dot,
seemingly unnecessarily? The dot denotes a golden crow. Only Koreans
had the legend linking the sun to the golden crow [See Footnote 2].

Additional example is the character denoting 'surname' (ssi in
Korean). In Chinese, the character denotes only 'surname' while it
denotes both 'surname' and 'seed' in Korean. 'Ssi' is a most common
word in Korean and compares the pedigree with the tree (i.e., the seed
is a common symbol for the original ancestor whose trace has been
handed down by his surname).

4. Korean history book describes the origin of written systems, which
is inscribed in dolmens in Korea.

A Korean history book called Chun-bu-gyung records the origin of both
current Hanja and Korean alphabet (hangul). Hanja is a kind of
pictograph + ideograph, while hangul is the most advanced of phonogram
+ ideogram in the world. Bone and shell inscriptions were a
pictograph, while hexagrams of I-ching invented by Fu Xi (Bokhwi in
Korean) are a kind of ideogram. The original character for both Hanja
and hangul was 'Nok-doo-mun' (the most ancient writing system),
according to the Chun-bu-gyung. Currently, only Koreans still play a
game called 'Yout', which is believed to be very similar to the
'Nok-doo-mun'. The principles of Yout game are essentially the same as
I-Ching [See Footnote 3]. Moreover, in Korea and Manchuria, currently
there are many ancient rocks (dolmen) in which various kinds of
primitive writings are inscribed (see some pictures at

Based on these four facts, I strongly argue that the Hanja was
originated and developed by Koreans. The differences in pronunciation
system for numbers between Chinese and Korean clearly indicates it's
Korean origin.

Footnote 1

I do not deny the influence of Chinese Hanja culture on Koryo and
Chosun. Depending on the period, the direction of cultural transfer
could change. And, Koreans were segregated from Cantonese area and
confined to the Korean peninsula since the 7-th C AD.

During the Shang period, all three types of Hanja (Chinese character)
already had been developed (pictography, logography and lexigraphy).
Moreover, semantic and phonetic determinative were developed in this
period. It will not be surprising that phonetic determinative
continued to be developed in Korea to establish Idoo before 600 A.D.,
finally inventing Hangul in 1446 A.D.

William Boltz (1986) concluded that the Ta wen k'ou graphs (1900 B.C.
) are indeed the predecessors of the Shang pictography (B.C. 1200). He
differed "Origins of civilization in China" from "Origins of Chinese

He noted distinct two kinds of inscription of the Shang dynasty: 1)
oracle bone inscription (OBI), and 2) bronze inscription. Shang OBI
had rough and angular, with a strong dominance of straight lines,
whereas the characters of "bronze inscriptions" are replete with
circles, ovals and curved strokes of a kind nearly impossible to
incise on bone or turtle shell. Shang bronze inscriptions are
generally limited to simple statements of who made the vessel for
whom. The OBI, on the other hand, consist of considerably more
complex, often ritually formulaic, divinatory texts.

Pictographs found in the Shantung province show evolutionary process
of writing system according to Boltz (1986).

(1) Insignia or emblem-type graphs found on pottery fragments from a
neolithic site at Ling yang ho, near Chu hsien, souther part of modern
Shantung province (4300-1900 BC)

(2) Emblem-type character painted on a hu vase found at Pao t'ou
village, Shantung province (Middle Ta wen k'ou period)

(3) Partial insigne found on pottery fragment from Ch'ien chai, north
of Ling yang ho (Late Ta wen k'ou culture)

The feature of the Ta wen k'ou pictographs (1900 B.C.) is matched by
the 'clan name' emblems on Shang bronzes of a few centuries later.

Let's summarize the propagation sequence of Hanja system and
technology among the four cultures with respect to Chinese writing
system (Hanja): Ta wen k'ou (4300-1900 BC), Yangshao (West) vs.
Lung-shan (East) (3000-1000BC) and Shang (1700-1027 BC).

<Propagation of Hanja system>
Ta wen k'ou (pictograph) -> Shang dynasty

<Propagation of technology>
Ta wen k'ou (Neolithic) -> Lung-shan (Neolithic + bronze weapon) ->
Shang dynasty (bronze)

Now, it seems certain that Hanja (Chinese writing) did not come from
Yangshao culture, but Hanja might have came from Ta wen k'ou through
Lung-shan (Youngsan). The Lungshan people were far advanced at pottery
than the concurrent Yangshao people. Undoubtedly, the Lungshan was the
predecessor of the Bronze Age (Shang) kingdom.

Few people would deny the fact that "East I" or "East Yi" was the
dominant people of Lung-shan culture. And, Koreans had been called
East Yi, as Yi indeed denotes a 礎ig bow', which still symbolize why
Koreans are undefeatable champions in Olympic archery. Moreover, it
would not be coincident that the Shang people firstly used a new
composite bow and that the Hanja (Chinese character) denoting Yi is
the shape of the composite bow. A picture of composite bow can be seen
at http://www.rom.on.ca/pub/shang/shangd.html.

Footnote 2

In various mural paintings drawn during Koguryo (B.C. 37 ~ A.D. 668),
we can see the gold crow. The gold crow has three legs. See a picture
of the gold crow at:


It was the symbol of the sun to Koreans, whereas a toad was the symbol
of the moon. The legend says that the crow eats fire of the sun. Why
did the crow have three legs? Two legs implies imperfection, so
Koreans added another leg. Koreans cherished the number 3. The most
ancient Korean history book called Chun-bu-kyung also started with the
number 3 (1 + 2 = 3). Three denotes perfection or maturation.

This seemingly forgotten three-leg crow became a news during the 2002
worldcup in Korea. The three-leg crow has been used as the logo of JFA
(Japan Football Association), probably since 1950, which most Koreans
had not noticed. Look at the log at:


Of course, Japan has a record on the three-leg crow according the book
(Nihon Shogi dated in AD 720), apparently influenced by Koguryo. But
Japan do not have any ancient paintings on the three-leg crow or the
related legend. Why do Japanese try to copy even this kind of ancient
logo of Koreans?

Of course, it is true that China has more records on the three-legged
crow than Korea, as Chinese, Mongolians and Japanese consistently
tried to burn and destroy Korean history books during the past 2,000
years and Korea lacks of ancient text books.

I cite a record from the 8-th Dangun (Woo-seo-han, or Oh-Sah-Hahm,
B.C. 1993 ~ B.C. 1985). Han-dan-go-gi records that the three-legged
crow flied into the royal palace in B.C. 1987 and it's wing was about
1 meter width.

There is no disputes that the three-legged crow is the symbol of
Koguryo among historians. Koguryo has the richest mural paintings on
the three-legged crow compared to any other country. Based on this,
we can infer that the three-legged crow found in other country had
been originated from Koreans, as only people of Koguryo loved the bird
so much. Koreans admired the sun and the light. 'Dan' in Dangun and
'Han' (also Khan) originally meant the light. In China, three-legged
crow was gradually changed to the Chinese phoenix.

Unlike impressions from records, paintings clearly show that the
three-legged crow was Korean. People could destroy as the Qin dynasty
did, or modify/exaggerate history in text as Sima Qian did, but they
could not completely remove relics.

Footnote 3

The hexagrams of the I Ching were said to have been created by the
legendary emperor 'Fu Xi' after he had contemplated on a diagram
called Ha Do that was bestowed from the Heaven. Han scholars rewrote
many myths as fact to fill gaps in early Chinese history. Fu Xi was
declared to have been the very first emperor, ruling from 2852 to 2737
BC. He was said to have been the inventor of musical instruments and
Chinese handwriting [1].

Chinese legend says that Fu Xi is the most senior one among the three
ancestors. Together with N-Wa, the women who he married with, they
started the civilization of human being. The current Fu Xi's Temple in
Shandong was built on a 6-meter high terrace. In the main hall, Fu
Xi's state was placed and sacrifices are given. And in the back of the
hall, N-Wa's statue was placed [2].

It is said that the upper body of Fu Xi is that of a human being while
his lower body is in the form of a snake. Inferring from the
scientific nature of the I Ching, it may just be possible that Fu Xi
was an extraterrestrial. If Fu Xi was indeed the first ancestor of
Chinese, then how could the descendents describe their first ancestor
as a monster? Why did ancient Chinese historians initially consider Fu
Xi as just a legend? Ancient Chinese call their neighboring people as
"bugs" or"barbarians". The monster portrait suggests that Fu Xi might
have been from a neighboring country, not Chinese countries. What was
that country?

"Fu Xi came from the nationality called East Yi dwelling in the
Neolithic Age, along the coastal area of the present-day Shandong
Province and, therefore, Fu Xi turned out to have come from Shandong
Province" (quoted from a Chinese site [4])

What was "East Yi"? Of course, "Yi" means "barbarians" in Chinese.
Most Koreans know what is "Dong (east) Yi". People in 'East Yi' are
known to have been very good at archery, as Korean Olympic archery
teams are today. The Hanja "Yi" indeed symbolize the shape of a big
bow. Surprisingly. the recently discovered Korean history text titled
"Han Dan Go Gi" describes the life of "Fu Xi" (Bokhwi in Korean) [3,
see Footnote 4].

It writes that he was the son of the 5-th emperor of the Baedal
(B.C.3898- BC 2333) and his surname was "Pung" as he lived in
"Pung-san". Although the surname "Pung" no longer exists in Korean
names, some related words survived to today such as "Pung-chae"
"Pung-gol" and"Pung-shin", all of which are terms for describing human
body shape. Another daughter name was "Yeo-wa" (N-Wa in Chinese) [3].

It writes that she was known to have a magical talent to make a human
being from mud and to be extremely jealous (these two points, together
with the sound, might may remind you of Jehovah) [5].

Unfortunately only a few Korean scholars in universities accept "Han
Dan Go Gi" as a history book, insisting that the book was fabricated
in some points. Some Koreans, while acknowledging that a few points
might have been fabricated while copying, decry the university
historians as too much contaminated by Japanese colonial view of
history that tried to disparage Korean history in the 1910-1945
period, as they deny whole text book. Anyway, East Yi was located in
Shandong Province...... What does this mean? I would rather stop here
for today. But the point is that it will not be awkward that I link "I
Ching" to Han.

Some References on this footnote

[1] Microsoft Encarta "Fu Xi"
[2] http://www.china-sd.net/eng/sdtravel/scenery/30.asp
[5] http://www.hankooki.com/culture/200205/h2002051415292516030.htm
[6] http://www.chinaknowledge.de/History/Zhou/springautumn.htm
"Yi is known by a variety of names: The East Barbarian, Yi the Good,
Lord Yi, and Yi Lord of the Hsia. As a result of this ambiguity, Yi is
seen both as a hero who is favored by the Gods as well as a villain,
murderer, usurper and adulterer. In this myth Yi is the hero as he
shoots the Ten Suns to avert disaster."

Footnote 4

Handangogi records anstromical events that are not recorded in any
other history text books.

Just two examples:

1. The oldest record for a solar eclipse in Chinese history books is
B.C. 776 (Zhou dynasty). The oldest one in Handangogi is B.C. 2183,
which was about 1,400 year earlier. Of course, the calculated date was
near the same.

2. Dangunsegi and Dangungosa record that, in B.C. 1733, five stars
approached each other and became a cluster. The calculated year by the
professor and his colleague was B.C. 1734, July 13.

As a solar eclipse can be seen only in a specific area on the earth,
they could track down the position of observers based on records of
samguksai or other texts from the three kingdoms. The results
indicated that the Silla observer should have been near the Yangtze
River before AD 201 and southern Korea after AD 787. It is quite
interesting that the observers for Paekche should have been near Bohai
bay, as all events recorded from Paekche could have been observed only

With respect to solar eclipse events, the hitting ratio of samguksai
was 80%, 63-78% for some Chinese records at the similar period, and
only 45% for Nihon shogi. The ratio was 70% for all recorded solar
eclipse in handangogi when allowing +/-4 years error.
http://www.eurasiad.com/handan_astro.html (hangul)

It seems to be true that a few sentences in Handangogi were modified
while copying around 1911. Koreans, including me, acknowledge it.
However, the few modified sentences can not justify denying all of the
history text book. In the world, which text book was not modified at
all while copying? Comparing with Handangogi, Nihon Shogi is indeed an
imaginary novel. Comparing hitting ratio of solar eclipse, Handangogi
is 70% while Nihon Shogi is just 45%. Still, historians, especially
westerners, cite Nihon Shogi while acknowledging some parts were
exaggerated or modified. Look at the whole context of Handangogi at
first. This is what so-called nationalist historians in Korea ask for.

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