sci.lang.japan FAQ / 1. Writing / 1.3. Other questions on writing / 1.3.9. What are the different styles of Japanese lettering?

1.3.9.1. Ancient Chinese styles

Kōkotsushotai

Kōkotsushotai (甲骨文字)

The oldest surviving Chinese characters were written on turtle shells and bones, and perhaps used for divination.

Image: ../images/kanji-fonts/kinbun.jpeg

Kinbuntai

Kinbuntai (金文体) is the second oldest type of Chinese characters. These were found engraved on bronze vessels, hence the name kin (metal) bun (word).

Image: ../images/kanji-fonts/tenshotai_small.jpg

Tenshotai

Tenshotai (篆書体・てん書体) is still used for making seals (hanko, inkan) (see 9.8. How do the Japanese sign their names?). There are two variations, daitenshotai (大篆書体), created in the Zhou (Japanese shū, 周) era, and shōtenshotai (小篆書体), created in the Song (Japanese Shin, 秦) era.

Image: ../images/kanji-fonts/reishotai_small.jpg

Reisho

Reisho (隷書体)

This style is square and simple in form. It is a simplified version of shōtenshotai. The rei (隷) in reisho means a minor official, hence this style is sometimes called "clerk style" in English.


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