Alex Adler's The World of Kanji

Hello Wanikani people.

Just wanted to ask if anyone have tried the “The World of Kanji” book? The whole learn kanji through “etymologies” thingy sounds kinda interesting to me, feel like I could add a whole new level to my kanji knowledge but I don’t know if it’s worth it. I know Tofugu did a review on it but wanted any other feedback I could get before throwing 20 dollars to my screen for a digital book.

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I read it and didn’t regret it. The ordering is interesting (human, natural, material, and territorial realm), and the kanji radicals and kanji that are hieroglyphs are nicely visualized. Some of them could probably be contested and are explained differently somewhere else, but they give interesting ideas on how to interpret the roots of a kanji.

But for the compound kanji it seems to me like WK’s approach with different radical names. There is no real explanation why components are combined, or the book just explains the current form although the kanji form was altered. For example, the book can give the impression that some kanji created 70–80 years ago during the script reforms have some etymological significance.

If you want some real etymologies beyond the hieroglyphs you have to look somewhere else, but this one is in English and 20 dollars for 650 pages are an OK price.

One thing with the PDF is that it doesn’t have hyperlinks inside, so the physical book is superior if you actually want to reference something instead of going through it from front to back.


Hey! Thanks for your reply ^^ Well what I really want is to learn about the roots of Kanji, I feel like doing that would help me understand Kanji better as a whole.

I might as well just buy the book, the price is good. But if you have any recommendations on other resources that might help with my “goal” that would be appreciated :smiley:

Thanks again!

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I was mainly searching the web and going from there, I haven’t come across a “perfect” resource yet.

If you are not interested in a specific kanji you can have a look at the kanji portraits. Her book is not that useful, but the portraits web site talks about groups of kanji and gives you a good idea where the kanji are coming from.

For a specific kanji there is always something on the JP Wiktionary or NicoNico about the character form.

I’m currently trying to look at 常用字解 by Shirakawa, but as you would expect from a kanji scholar the explanations are full of really obscure kanji and words. I recently found that are is an English translation for this (The Keys To The Chinese Characters by Christoph Schmitz) but it is quite costly and (I think) I can make out 50%+ of what Shirakawa is saying in Japanese, so it’s good practice.

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Thanks for your reply! I will look into those resources :smiley:

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