Kanji Database
Thursday, May 28, 2009

I've been working on a kanji database for some time now, and I decided to make it available online.  It's not by any means complete, but I figured I'd put it up anyway.

Since I started learning Japanese a couple years ago, I've been fascinated with the kanji characters and the ideographic writing system.  On occasions when I've seen signs in Chinese or (less frequently) Japanese, I've found myself studying the characters to see how many I can recognize.  I especially enjoy painting the characters, or simply writing in Japanese — I find it to be a very peaceful and relaxing activity.

After I lost contact with my primary Japanese pen pal, I discontinued classes in the Japanese language.  I've studied Spanish and German, and although I worked my way through all 3 levels of the Pimsleur Language Course in both languages, and comfortably survived a trip to Germany, I couldn't say that I am even remotely fluent in either language.  And so, realistically, I don't have any high hopes of becoming fluent in Japanese, either.  However, I do still very much enjoy the kanji for its own sake.  Perhaps you could consider it more of an artistic attraction than a linguistic one, though it is partly that as well.  Maybe I'm attracted to the kanji for that very reason — because they incorporate both elements.  In any case, at some point I decided that, even if I never become fluent in Japanese, I still would like to learn the kanji characters.

Hence, the database.  You can search for characters by core meaning, which could be useful if I wanted to use the kanji to paint runestones or something.   Also, there is a flashcard utility to help memorize the characters.  I've provided brush-stroke diagrams for some of the characters (currently only Grade 1 is complete); this comes with a printable list to facilitate calligraphy practice.  In addition, you can search for characters by Skip Code.  This can help you to locate and identify a character if you don't know the name of it — there's a page explaining how to determine the Skip Code of a character.  Kanji are grouped into grade levels, so you can learn them in batches.  In addition, there is a number associated with each character indicating its frequency of use.  This can also help you divide up the nearly 2,000 characters into digestible chunks.  Some of the characters include sample vocabulary words.

Incomplete at this time are the readings for each character.  The readings are the various ways a character can be pronounced.  Usually a character has at least 2 readings — one Chinese and one Japanese, and many of the characters have several.  Also, I intend to provide brush-stroke diagrams for the remaining characters; that's a very time-consuming activity.  Finally, I would like to provide at least 3 sample vocabulary words for each kanji.

I did discover something cool in this process.  Since I'd started the kanji database on my laptop, I wanted to continue to maintain the data locally and just post it to the website.  I learned how to do this with mysqldumpmysqldump creates a SQL script of the entire database.  My web host uses phpMyAdmin, which provides an import utility.  I simply import the SQL file, and it updates all the data.  So, I'll be updating the database periodically as I add stuff.

The Kanji Database is located under Miscellany.

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