Chinese vs. Japanese vs. Korean: Asian Origins

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Difference between Chinese, Japanese and Korean

When traveling to Asia you need to be prepared to experience some of the world’s most captivating cultures. Whether we are speaking of language, writing, religion, arts, lifestyle everything has that local touch which will determine to come back and do some more exploring. It’s like Asians have invented a whole new way of doing each thing. Discovering never ends and pleasant surprises await you everywhere. To better understand what you are about the see it’s good to know a few facts. These will function like guidelines to be able to fully appreciate what Asia has to give to the world. Although you might think you have things sorted out, you will learn that nothing is exactly what it seems.



Chinese language is a part of Sino-Tibetan language family. There are varieties of spoken languages most common being Mandarin (850 million speakers), Wu (90 million speakers), Cantonese and Min – both having 70 million speakers each. The official language of the People’s Republic of China is Mandarin. It is also one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Aside from Mandarin, many Chinese and Taiwanese can speak up to 3 varieties of dialects. Japanese language derives from the Altaic group of languages comprising also Turkish and Mongol. In Japanese society honorifics are very important. This leads to a specific vocabulary to be used as to reflect social status. Linguists have different theories on Korean language origins. While some see it as an isolated language, others believe it has Altaic roots.


The Japanese writing system is based on 2 native types of alphabet: hiragana and katakana and borrowed Chinese letters which Japanese call kanji. They also use roman letters called romaji mostly for company names or in advertising slogans. For numerals, Japanese use Sino-Japanese style. They don’t write the numeral, but a symbol for it. Chinese use hanzi intricate characters also known as sinographs. Some are monosyllabic, while others are polysyllabic. The Korean writing is called Hangul divided in syllabic blocks each containing at least 2 letters called jamo of the 24 letters of the Hangul alphabet. Hangul uses many circles and straight lines as a distinctive feature.


Chinese most practiced religions are Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity and Islam. Japan religion is affiliated to the Shinto and Buddhism branches. Many temples are scattered around the country perfectly preserved from ancient times. They are one of the main attractions especially in the Kyoto area. Main religions in Korea are Buddhism and Christianity. There are a few who practice Confucianism, Korean shamanism and Islam.


  • Chinese language is a Sino-Tibetan language, while Japanese has Altaic roots. Korean could share Altaic roots with the Japanese language.
  • Chinese writing is based on monosyllable and polysyllable hanzi characters. Japanese has 2 native writing styles: hiragana and katakana and borrowed kanji letters from China. Korean have the Hangul alphabet made up of syllabic blocks.
  • The major religion in China, Japan and Korea is Buddhism.

Which language came first?
  • Chinese
  • Japanese
  • Korean

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