Dai Kan-Wa jiten
The is a Japanese dictionary of kanji
Kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters hanzi that are used in the modern Japanese writing system along with hiragana , katakana , Indo Arabic numerals, and the occasional use of the Latin alphabet...

(Chinese characters) compiled by Morohashi Tetsuji
Morohashi Tetsuji
was an important figure in the field of Japanese language studies and Sinology. He is best known as Chief Editor of the Dai Kan-Wa jiten, the most comprehensive dictionary of Kanji....

. Remarkable for its comprehensiveness and size, Morohashi's dictionary contains over 50,000 character entries and 530,000 compound words. Haruo Shirane (2003:15) says: "This is the definitive dictionary of the Chinese language and one of the great dictionaries of the world."


Morohashi Tetsuji was originally motivated to create a dictionary in 1917 when he went to China to study Chinese. Trying to look up words in the largest available Chinese dictionaries was frustrating; the Kangxi Zidian defines characters but not phrases, the Peiwen Yunfu
Peiwen Yunfu
The Peiwen Yunfu is a 1711 Chinese rime dictionary of literary allusions and poetic dictions. Collated by tone and rime, the dictionary serves the composition of poetry....

 lists phrases without definitions, and the Zhonghua Da Zidian
Zhonghua Da Zidian
The Zhonghua Da Zidian was an unabridged Chinese dictionary of characters published in 1915. The chief editors were Xu Yuan'gao , Lu Feikui , and Ouyang Pucun . It was based upon the 1716 Kangxi Zidian, and is internally organized using the 214 Kangxi radicals...

 had just been published. Morohashi's autobiography explains (Wilkinson 2000:74) that "he had to spend between a quarter and a third of his study time trying to find the meanings of words and phrases. This tedium he felt could be avoided if there were a dictionary that provided both citations and definitions." When Morohashi returned to Japan in 1919, he had 20 notebooks filled with Chinese vocabulary.

In 1925, Suzuki Ippei (鈴木一平), president of the Taishukan publishing house, requested Morohashi to edit a comprehensive kanji dictionary of an unprecedented scale. In order to print this giant reference work
Reference work
A reference work is a compendium of information, usually of a specific type, compiled in a book for ease of reference. That is, the information is intended to be quickly found when needed. Reference works are usually referred to for particular pieces of information, rather than read beginning to end...

, fonts for many rare characters had to be created, since none existed. The first volume was published in 1943, but the fire-bombing of Tokyo destroyed the printing plates and special fonts in 1945. After the war, Morohashi and his fellow editors reconstructed the dictionary from proofs. Due to a shortage of skilled craftsmen, Suzuki persuaded Ishii Mokichi (石井茂吉), inventor of phototypesetting
Phototypesetting was a method of setting type, rendered obsolete with the popularity of the personal computer and desktop publishing software, that uses a photographic process to generate columns of type on a scroll of photographic paper...

, to recreate the necessary fonts. The first volume was published in 1955 and the final index volume in 1960. Morohashi was awarded the Order of the Chrysanthemum
Order of the Chrysanthemum
is Japan's highest order. The Grand Cordon of the Order was established in 1876 by Emperor Meiji of Japan; the collar of the Order was added on January 4, 1888. Although technically the order has only one class, it can either be awarded with collar , or with grand cordon...

 in 1957 and the Order of Culture
Order of Culture
The is a Japanese order, established on February 11, 1937. The order has one class only, and may be awarded to men and women for contributions to Japan's art, literature or culture; recipients of the order also receive an annuity for life...

 in 1967 for his contributions to sinology
Sinology in general use is the study of China and things related to China, but, especially in the American academic context, refers more strictly to the study of classical language and literature, and the philological approach...

 and lexicography
Lexicography is divided into two related disciplines:*Practical lexicography is the art or craft of compiling, writing and editing dictionaries....

. Taishukan published a vocabulary index in 1990 and a supplemental volume in 2000.

First edition

The original (1955–1960) Dai Kan-Wa jiten has 13 volumes totaling 13,757 pages, and includes 49,964 head entries for characters, with over 370,000 words and phrases. This unabridged dictionary, often called the "Morohashi" in English, focuses upon Classical Chinese
Classical Chinese
Classical Chinese or Literary Chinese is a traditional style of written Chinese based on the grammar and vocabulary of ancient Chinese, making it different from any modern spoken form of Chinese...

 and Literary Chinese vocabulary. It provides encyclopedic information about poetry, book titles, historical figures, place names, Buddhist terms, and even modern expressions. The Dai Kan-Wa jiten is intended for reading Chinese and does not cover Japanese words created since the Meiji era.

This is the format for main character entries:
  • Pronunciations, in Sino-Japanese borrowings, Middle Chinese
    Middle Chinese
    Middle Chinese , also called Ancient Chinese by the linguist Bernhard Karlgren, refers to the Chinese language spoken during Southern and Northern Dynasties and the Sui, Tang, and Song dynasties...

     with every fanqie
    In Chinese phonology, fanqie is a method to indicate the pronunciation of a character by using two other characters.-The Origin:...

     spelling and rime dictionary
    Rime dictionary
    thumb|upright=1.0|A page from Shiyun Hebi , a rime dictionary of the [[Qing Dynasty]]A rime dictionary, rhyme dictionary, or rime book is an ancient type of Chinese dictionary used for writing poetry or other genres requiring rhymes. A rime dictionary focuses on pronunciation and collates...

     category listed in the Jiyun
    The Jiyun is a Chinese rime dictionary published in 1037 during the Song Dynasty. The chief editor Ding Du and others expanded and revised the Guangyun. It is possible, according to Teng and Biggerstaff , that Sima Guang completed the text in 1067...

    , and Modern Standard Chinese in the semi-phonetic Zhuyin (or Bopomofo) system and in Wade-Giles
    Wade–Giles , sometimes abbreviated Wade, is a romanization system for the Mandarin Chinese language. It developed from a system produced by Thomas Wade during the mid-19th century , and was given completed form with Herbert Giles' Chinese–English dictionary of 1892.Wade–Giles was the most...

     romanization. Volume 1 contains Hanrei (凡例, "Introductory Remarks") and a comprehensive chart comparing the Zhuyin, Wade-Giles, and Pinyin
    Pinyin is the official system to transcribe Chinese characters into the Roman alphabet in China, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan. It is also often used to teach Mandarin Chinese and spell Chinese names in foreign publications and used as an input method to enter Chinese characters into...

     systems for every phoneme used in modern Chinese.
  • 10,000 Seal script
    Seal script
    Seal script is an ancient style of Chinese calligraphy. It evolved organically out of the Zhōu dynasty script , arising in the Warring State of Qin...

     characters, plus other variant written forms.
  • Meanings, diachronically arranged by earliest citations. Usage examples are given from numerous classical texts and Chinese dictionaries.
  • Character etymologies are occasionally included. These are not instances of word etymology
    Etymology is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time.For languages with a long written history, etymologists make use of texts in these languages and texts about the languages to gather knowledge about how words were used during...

     as the term is understood in comparative linguistics
    Comparative linguistics
    Comparative linguistics is a branch of historical linguistics that is concerned with comparing languages to establish their historical relatedness....

    , but character analysis, as originated by the Shuowen Jiezi
    Shuowen Jiezi
    The Shuōwén Jiězì was an early 2nd century CE Chinese dictionary from the Han Dynasty. Although not the first comprehensive Chinese character dictionary , it was still the first to analyze the structure of the characters and to give the rationale behind them , as well as the first to use the...

  • 2,300 Illustrations are included where useful, often copied from sources like the 1609 Sancai Tuhui
    Sancai Tuhui
    The Sancai Tuhui, compiled by Shanghai natives Wang Qi and Wang Siyi , is a Chinese encyclopedia known at the time as a type of Book by category , completed in 1607 and published in 1609 during the Ming dynasty, featuring illustrations of subjects in the three worlds of heaven, earth, and...


One archaism of the first edition is giving Japanese pronunciations of characters in historical kana usage
Historical kana usage
The , or , refers to the in general use until orthographic reforms after World War II; the current orthography was adopted by Cabinet order in 1946. By that point the historical orthography was no longer in accord with Japanese pronunciation...

 rather than modern, retaining for instance now-obsolete ゐ i and ゑ e.

Each individual volume has a radical-and-stroke sorting index arranged by Chinese radical or signific (following the 214 Kangxi radicals), and subdivided by the total number of remaining strokes
Stroke order
Stroke order refers to the order in which the strokes of a Chinese character are written. A stroke is a movement of a writing instrument on a writing surface. Chinese characters are used in various forms in Chinese, Japanese, and in Korean...

 in the character. For Dai Kan-Wa jiten users unfamiliar with this traditional system of dictionary collation
Collation is the assembly of written information into a standard order. One common type of collation is called alphabetization, though collation is not limited to ordering letters of the alphabet...

, the final index volume is an essential tool.

Volume 13 contains four indices to the dictionary, which cite volume and page numbers for each character.
  • The Sōkaku sakuin (総画索引, "Total Stroke Count Index") divides characters by overall stroke count (1-64), subdivided by radicals.
  • The Jion sakuin (字音索引, "Sino-Japanese Reading Index") arranges characters by their borrowed Chinese pronunciations (on'yomi), then by stroke count.
  • The Jikun sakuin (字訓索引, "Japanese Reading Index") arranges characters by their native Japanese pronunciations (kun'yomi), and further by stroke count.
  • The Shikaku gōma sakuin (四角號碼索引, "Four corner method
    Four corner method
    The Four Corner Method is a character input method used for encoding Chinese characters into either a computer or a manual typewriter, using four or five numerical digits per character. The Four Corner Method is also known as the Four Corner System.The four digits encode the shapes found in the...

     Index") organizes characters using a complex Chinese system of four-digit numbers (0000-9999), plus an optional extra number, then subdivided by the number of strokes.

Volume 13 also contains a Hoi (補遺, "Appendix") listing 1,062 Chinese characters that the dictionary uses in definitions but does not include as main entries, plus the official 1850 Japanese tōyō kanji
Toyo kanji
The tōyō kanji, also known as the Tōyō kanjihyō are the result of a reform of the Kanji characters of Chinese origin in the Japanese written language. They were the kanji declared "official" by the Japanese on November 16, 1946...

 for general use, and 517 simplified Chinese character
Simplified Chinese character
Simplified Chinese characters are standardized Chinese characters prescribed in the Xiandai Hanyu Tongyong Zibiao for use in Mainland China. Along with traditional Chinese characters, it is one of many standard character sets of the contemporary Chinese written language...


Supplemental volumes

Since the death of Morohashi Tetsuji in 1982 at the age of 99, Taishukan has published two Dai Kan-Wa jiten augmentations that amount to Volumes 14 and 15.

The handy 1990 Goi sakuin (語彙索引, "Vocabulary Index") allows searching for words in Morohashi by their pronunciation in modern kana spelling, instead of the historical system used in Volumes 1-13. This index comprehensively lists every compound word listed in the main dictionary, including terms, phrases, four-character idioms, etc. Vocabulary is arranged in the standard gojūon
The is a Japanese ordering of kana.It is named for the 5×10 grid in which the characters are displayed, but the grid is not completely filled, and, further, there is an extra character added outside the grid at the end: with 5 gaps and 1 extra character, the current number of distinct kana in a...

(五十音, "fifty sound") ordering of kana
Kana are the syllabic Japanese scripts, as opposed to the logographic Chinese characters known in Japan as kanji and the Roman alphabet known as rōmaji...

, and is cited by volume and page numbers.

The 2000 Hokan (補巻, "Supplemental Volume") adds some 800 main character entries, approximately 33,000 new vocabulary terms, novel readings of characters, variant characters, etc. This last volume includes four types of character indexes. Like the Vocabulary Index, this supplement uses standard modern kana but also provides the historical equivalents.

Other editions

Despite the competition from the CD-ROM version of the Hanyu Da Cidian
Hanyu Da Cidian
The Hanyu Da Cidian is the most inclusive available Chinese dictionary. Lexicographically comparable to the OED, it has diachronic coverage of the Chinese language, and traces usage over three millennia from Chinese classic texts to modern slang...

, Taishukan has not released an electronic Dai Kan-Wa jiten edition. This owes not only to the dictionary's huge scale but also to the fact many of its 50,000 characters could not be encoded
Character encoding
A character encoding system consists of a code that pairs each character from a given repertoire with something else, such as a sequence of natural numbers, octets or electrical pulses, in order to facilitate the transmission of data through telecommunication networks or storage of text in...

 until recently.

The (1962–1968) Zhongwen Da Cidian
Zhongwen Da Cidian
The Zhongwen Da Cidian is an unabridged Chinese dictionary, edited by Zhang Qiyun and others. The first edition had 40 volumes, which were published from 1962 through 1968....

, sometimes called the "Chinese Morohashi", is very similar in structure to Dai Kan-Wa jiten and was one of the most comprehensive Chinese dictionaries available until 1993.

In 1982, Taishukan published an abridged "family edition" of the Dai Kan-Wa jiten. Their four-volume Kō Kan-Wa jiten 広漢和辞典 ("Extensive Chinese–Japanese Dictionary") enters 20,769 characters and some 120,000 words. It adds early oracle bone script
Oracle bone script
Oracle bone script refers to incised ancient Chinese characters found on oracle bones, which are animal bones or turtle shells used in divination in Bronze Age China...

 and bronzeware script
Bronzeware script
Chinese Bronze inscriptions are writing in a variety of Chinese scripts on Chinese bronze artifacts such as zhōng bells and dǐng tripodal cauldrons from the Shāng dynasty to the Zhōu dynasty and even later...

 examples, and proposes hypothetical Old Chinese
Old Chinese
The earliest known written records of the Chinese language were found at a site near modern Anyang identified as Yin, the last capital of the Shang dynasty, and date from about 1200 BC....

 etymologies and word families.

Kida Jun'ichirō wrote a Japanese book (1986) about the Dai Kan-Wa jiten, and edited another (1994) about lexicographers that discusses Morohashi's contributions (chap. 4) and Ishii's creation of characters (chap. 11).

See also

  • Han-Han Dae Sajeon
    Han-Han Dae Sajeon
    Han-Han Dae Sajeon is the generic term for Korean hanja-to-hangul dictionaries. There are several such dictionaries from different publishers. The most comprehensive one, published by Dankook University Publishing, contains 53,667 Chinese characters and 420,269 compound words...

  • Hanyu Da Cidian
    Hanyu Da Cidian
    The Hanyu Da Cidian is the most inclusive available Chinese dictionary. Lexicographically comparable to the OED, it has diachronic coverage of the Chinese language, and traces usage over three millennia from Chinese classic texts to modern slang...

  • Hanyu Da Zidian
    Hanyu Da Zidian
    The Hanyu Da Zidian is one of the best available reference works on Chinese characters. A group of more than 400 editors and lexicographers began compilation in 1979, and it was published in eight volumes from 1986 to 1989. A separate volume of essays documents the lexicographical complexities...

  • Kangxi Zidian
  • Zhonghua Da Zidian
    Zhonghua Da Zidian
    The Zhonghua Da Zidian was an unabridged Chinese dictionary of characters published in 1915. The chief editors were Xu Yuan'gao , Lu Feikui , and Ouyang Pucun . It was based upon the 1716 Kangxi Zidian, and is internally organized using the 214 Kangxi radicals...

  • Zhongwen Da Cidian
    Zhongwen Da Cidian
    The Zhongwen Da Cidian is an unabridged Chinese dictionary, edited by Zhang Qiyun and others. The first edition had 40 volumes, which were published from 1962 through 1968....

External links

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