Similarities between Japanese and Chinese characters?

I know the Japanese Kanji characters are derived from the Chinese (Hanzi?) characters, but how many look the same and have the same meaning in both languages? If I speak one language, how many of the other language’s characters would I understand (not taking Kana characters or grammar into account)?

And which language is better to start with if I want to learn both?

And just to clarify: I’m talking about Mandarin Chinese.

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