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  • P-ISSN0023-3900
  • E-ISSN2733-9343

The Introduction of Chinese Characters into Korea: The Role of the Lelang Commandery

Korea Journal, (P)0023-3900; (E)2733-9343
2010, v.50 no.2, pp.8-34
https://doi.org/10.25024/kj.2010.50.2.8

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Abstract

This paper discusses the role of the Lelang commandery in the process of introducing Chinese characters into Korea. In the Lelang commandery, native populations of non-Han origin would have been put into the “documentary administration,” under situations similar to such frontier regions as Juyan and Dunhuang, in the process of which Chinese characters were most likely accepted on an extensive scale. The use of Chinese characters in the Lelang commandery was not limited to a group of Han people, as has been traditionally understood. Those Chinese characters introduced at that time would not necessarily have to be so-called genuine Chinese characters. Particular examples of Chinese characters that developed later into Korean idu are confirmed in official Qin and Han documents. The population native to the Lelang commandery maintained contact with various usages in the document-based administrative system for over 400 years and the usages suited to the linguistic behavior of the population on the Korean peninsula was naturally selected. It is to be noted that the process of introducing Chinese characters into Korea is best explained by the long-lasting linguistic contact and the resultant transformation.

keywords
Lelang commandery Chinese characters Gojoseon Wiman Joseon Goguryeo literacy documentary administration vernacular Chinese idu dialect

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