- The title given to this article is incorrect due to technical limitations. The correct title is Minchō.
fig. 1: The word Kanji
Minchō typeface (明朝楷書; minchō-kaisho) is a category of typefaces used in printing Chinese characters. In Japanese text, Hiragana, Katakana, and the Latin alphabet are also used. Possessing variable line weight and characteristic decorations, minchō-style type is comparable to Western serif typefaces, especially when opposed to the more recent Gothic styles. It is by far the most commonly used style in print, and in almost exclusive use in text (ie books, newspapers, etc.).
Minchō type is characterised, among other things, by the following:
- Thick vertical strokes contrasted with thin horizontal strokes
- Triangular ornaments at the end of single horizontal strokes
- Overall geometrical regularity
These characteristcs are visible in the example in fig. 1.
The name Minchō means Ming Dynasty, which was the era during which movable type printing (invented in the eleventh century) flourished in China, and during which Minchō-style type was first created. The creator of modern Japanese movable-type printing, Motoki Shozo, modeled his sets of type after those prevailing in China, having learned an electrolytic method of type manufacturing from the American William Gamble in 1869. Motoki then created, based on Gamble's frequency studies of characters in the Kangxi Dictionary, a full set of type with added Japanese characters.
Strictly speaking, only Kanji are thus printed in Minchō type. However, modern type sets (that is, digital fonts) almost always include glyphs for Kana script characters in a matching variable-line-width style, usually in a precise style imitating calligraphic handwriting with a brush. In its modern role comparable to that of western serif fonts, both kana and roman glyphs are usually part of a complete type set.
There is some variation between the printed and handwritten forms of many kanji, especially in the orientation of smaller strokes and the shape of certain radicals (eg the 3-stroke 'water' radical forming the left-hand part of kan, the first character in the example, differs somewhat from its handwritten form). Some of these differences are persistent and specific to printed type (or even the minchō style), but others may be no more significant than variations between individual typefaces. None of these variations usually hinder reading. However, a special style of Minchō type (kyōkashotai or textbook type) matching the recommended handwritten forms is used in primary school textbooks, in order to prevent confusion among children learning kanji.
Well-known modern-day minchō typefaces include the Morisawa foundry's "Ryūbundō Minchō" (Ryūmin) as well as Adobe's "Kozuka Mincho" family, designed by Kozuka Masahiko (also creator of the popular gothic font "ShinGo").
In Chinese, the same category of typeface has traditionally been called Songti (宋體). However, the name Mingti (明體) has relatively recently come under use, probably under the influence of the Japanese term Minchō.
- Nihongo resources: Japanese typefaces (http://www.nihongoresources.com/grammar/typefaces/typefaces.htm)
- The Book and the Computer: Series of articles on the history of Japanese type (http://www.honco.net/japanese/01/index.html)