I was looking for the definitions of which appears in several languages (4 languages at least apparently) and there is an entry with definitions for it as "Han character" (where one of its meanings it's fork, for example) and another entry with definitions for it as "Chinese" (where one of its meanings it's resolute, for example). I thought han characters and chinese characters were the same thing.

What's the difference between a han character and a chinese character?

  • No difference. In Chinese conversation you may hear "中文, 漢字" (Chinese language, Han characters/letters) rather than "漢文, 中字" (Han language, Chinese characters/letters).
    – r13
    Commented Mar 31, 2021 at 18:39
  • 2
    The "Chinese" entry does not mean Chinese character 夬, it means Chinese-language use of the spelling given by the Wiktionary page titled 夬. Chinese-language use of a character does not necessarily carry over across to other languages.
    – dROOOze
    Commented Mar 31, 2021 at 22:40

2 Answers 2


Han here refers to 漢(or 汉 in simplified Chinese).

The concept of the country "China" was formed through gradual integration. Qin(秦) Dynasty unified the six kingdoms, but it was too short and only existed for ~15 years. After that, Han Dynasty was established and inherited many traditions of the Qin dynasty and carried it forward. Han Dynasty became a famous Dynasty in Chinese history and China's territory was determined at this time.
Han(漢) and Tang(唐) are often referred together as the most powerful and influential dynasties in Chinese history.

Due to the strong influence of Han and Tang at that time, their culture and characters were exported to Japan and Korea, therefore they just started calling these characters as (han character)漢字 since then.

Chinese languages ​​have not been truly unified since ancient times. There are still various dialects. But overall we all call the modern Han language(現代漢語) as Chinese(中文/中國語). There is still difference between Han and Chinese. For instance, the Han(漢) culture had integrated into Japanese/Korean culture a long time ago, but the "China" nowadays to them is a different nation. So you wouldn't hear Japanese people calling the Chinese characters in their language 中國字 but only Kanji(漢字), because they are totally different now. Japanese also still refers the Classical Chinese(文言文) as 漢文

Taiwan and Hong Kong still use traditional Chinese characters, but you can still see some differences in characters when comparing with the Japanese Kanji(漢字) because most of the Japanese Kanji have retained the same writing since they were exported from Tang Dynasty to Japan, or perhaps evolved locally in their own ways.

Some of the details above I took the information from here and translated to English, but feel free to have a read if interested.

  • Very good explanation, I forgot the "simplified" Chinese characters developed by the Communist China. The confusion over the so called "simplified" is that, some characters are truly a simplification of the traditional 漢字, but quite a few of the simplified were completely different from the traditional characters.
    – r13
    Commented Mar 31, 2021 at 19:41

Chinese is a collection of languages which people who has chinese culture use.

Han language(汉语) is one language of this collection. Han characters are characters which be used by Han language.

As we know that Japanese and Korean have mixed chinese culture with their owns. So they may use Han characters in their languages.

Mandarin(普通话) which is a standardized version of Han language is the official language of China. So that Han characters are also characters which be used by Mandarin.

We don't call "Chinese character" but "Han character" in daly life.

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