The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the koreanized form of literary Chinese and the official literary language of medieval Korea. Hanmun is distinguished from literary Chinese by a number of new characters and combinations of characters, changes in the meanings of certain symbols, the adaptation of the Chinese readings of the characters to the phonetic system of Korean, violations of word order in a number of instances, and special rules for the reading of texts, to which Korean grammatical particles were sometimes added.

From the first centuries of the Common Era until 1894, hanmun served as the official written language for affairs of state, education, and culture. It remained in use despite the development of the idu system (official writing, also based on Chinese characters) in the sixth and seventh centuries and the creation of a Korean phonetic alphabet in the mid–15th century.

All medieval Korean scholarly and literary works (hanmunhak) were written in hanmun. Many of the genres, themes, traditional images, and literary devices of classical Chinese literature were reworked by Korean writers who used hanmun. Korean writers were obliged to follow the canons of Chinese poetics. However, works written in hanmun were original in content and were greatly influenced by Korean-language literature. Words taken from hanmun constitute a significant proportion of the vocabulary of Korean. The mastery of hanmun is essential for the study of the Korean classics.


Kim Tae Jun. Choson hanmunhak sa. Seoul, 1938.
Li Ga Wong. Hanguk hanmunhak sa. Seoul, 1961.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.