Why do some kanji have alternative forms?

Some kanji, like , have an alternative form like . There are many reasons why these variations exist, including reforms of the written language, simplifications used in handwriting, and typographic differences.

長田広告, with 廣 instead of 広

In the illustration on the right, the third kanji from left, , is the old form of in kōkoku (広告), advertisement. Kyūjitai (旧字体) refers to the older form of the kanji before the Tōyō kanji came into being. See What is the difference between and ? Some of the old forms of the kanji are still in use, particularly in people's names. See How do Japanese names work?

Other terminology regarding variant characters includes:

Honji (本字)
Literally "original character", this is another name for kyūjitai.
Itaiji (異体字)
An itaiji is a variant form of a kanji, like instead of .
Kantaiji (簡体字)
The Chinese simplified forms of characters used in the People's Republic of China and Singapore. These are different from the Shinjitai used in Japan, consisting of a much more radical restructuring of writing. For example
Kyūjitai (旧字体)
The unsimplified traditional Chinese forms. These are still used in Taiwan and Hong Kong. They were used in Japan up to 1949.
Kyūji (旧字)
Another name for kyūjitai.
Ryakuji (略字)
Common simplified forms.
Seiji (正字)
Literally "true character", this is another name for kyūjitai.
Shinjitai (新字体)
The Japanese simplified forms of characters. See Writing reforms in modern Japan. The Japanese changes are much less radical changes than the ones done in the People's Republic of China, the kantaiji.
Shinji (新字)
Another name for shinjitai.
Zokuji (俗字)
"Folk" characters, abbreviated or otherwise non-standard characters which have no historical basis but are still used.

Chinese characters have a long history and there are many different ways to write each of them. See Handwritten styles.

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