Influence of China on Korean culture

There are so many connections between Chinese culture and Korean culture that it can sometimes be hard to truly separate the two. Their histories are closely linked over centuries and you can see many remnants of Chinese culture in Korea today.

Korean Language

One of the biggest areas where you see the influence of China on Korean culture is in the Korean language. Though the Korean language itself is different from Chinese, it is written with very similar characters. That is due to the close relationship between the countries and the strong political and trade influence of China. From the 4th century, the Korean language was completely written in Chinese script, known as hanja.

King Sejong changed that in the 1400s by ordering the creation of a new script that would be uniquely Korean. Known as hangul, it didn’t really replace the Chinese hanja until the 20th century. Today, Korean is written exclusively in hangul in both North and South Korea.

You can also see some Chinese culture in traditional Korean names. During the early history of Korea, the influence of Chinese language led to names being based on Chinese characters. Typical Korean names follow the Chinese style with the family name first, and the individual’s given name second though some have adopted more Western styles of names instead (with the family name coming second).

Other Areas of Influence

The links between Chinese and Korean languages are not the only place where you can see the influence of China in Korea.

Traditional Korean clothing is called “hanbok” and is made up of several different articles of clothing for both men and women. Most of the pieces (long skirts for women, baggy pants for men for example) were based on the Chinese styles of the time, typically the clothing of the Song dynasty. Similar Chinese influences are seen in the kimono of Japanese culture.

If you’re going to look at language and clothing, you can’t leave out a look at Korean music either. Modern pop music is more influenced by Western sound these days, but traditional Korean music definitely had a lot of Chinese impact. Religions like Buddhism and Confucianism spread to Korea from China over many centuries, bringing their chants, songs and temple music with them.

These are just a few examples of how Chinese culture has had influence in Korea over the past several centuries. While modern-day Korea has a style and culture all its own, you can still find many traces of its diverse past.


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