Traditional Japanese language and writing styles fall within the following categories: seikaku-kanbun (Literary Chinese, 正格漢文), hentai-kanbun (Japanized Chinese, 變體漢文), wabun (Native Japanese, 和文), and wakan-konkoubun (a combination of Chinese and Japanese, 和漢混淆文). Souroubun (候文) belongs to the group of hentai-kanbun. There are numerous examples which illustrate how souroubun comes under the heading of hentai-kanbun. Washu (a mistake in wording as a Chinese, 和習), seiji (borrowed words from Chinese, 正字), and inversion clearly shows that souroubun falls under the category of hentai-kanbun. Souroubun is a Japanese literary language which is completely different from the spoken Japanese language. The most important feature of this writing style is that the sentences end with the character “sourou”(候). With the exception of a few final particles (終助詞), formal nouns (形式名詞) and compound words (連語) “sourou” is never followed by other words and is always the final character of every sentence. From a grammatical point of view, souroubun has expressions of aspect, for instance “itashi-ori-sourou” (致居候), “makari-ari-sourou” (罷居候) and the like, however, the concept of tense in souroubun is not clear, and so special attention must be paid to the time-adverb, auxiliary verb and context, that is the conjunction of the sentence, when reading souroubun. In addition, souroubun uses gouji (合字) or odoriji (踊字) and omits punctuation. This clearly shows that souroubun pursues brevity and compactness.
Although many studies on souroubun have already been published, most of the research is written in Japanese, and is not helpful for beginners, whose native languages are not Japanese. Meanwhile, studies written in Chinese focus primarily on explanations of grammar. They tend to be limited to a very narrow and specific topic, and do not provide adequate guidance in reading the language. For these reasons, in this article, I would like to examine the origins of souroubun, the features of its basic sentence pattern, the structures of character and phraseology.