Kanji Portraits mirror

This a mirror of the Kanji Portraits blog by Noriko K. Williams written between 2013 and 2018 about the etymology of kanjis. An offline copy is available as zip file kanjiportraits.zip (55 MB).

Index

使 便 姿 殿 禿 稿 稿 簿 綿 貿 退 退

2013-12-05 Japanese Kanji Radicals (漢字部首の入門)

This video was prepared to introduce the kanji radical study video clip collection called “Bushu: The Kanji Makers – From Meanings to Shapes” on the American University iTunes U.  It explains how the 90 video clips of kanji radical in the collection are organized.  Learning kanji radical is an effective way to study kanji but unfortunately it is rarely taught in a Japanese classroom for various reasons.  So I have made the entire video clip collection open to the pubic.  I am planning to discuss more about this collection later on.  This particular link was made to YouTube.  Also please read the About Kanji Video Clips on iTunes U Page. (December 2013)

2013-12-05 Keio University Old Library Plaque 慶応大学旧図書館の篆額

A group of us who just attended a meeting of the JSL Kanji Study Group (JSL漢字学習研究会) held at Keio University in Tokyo were walking toward a side gate, which Keio people would affectionately call 幻の門 Maboroshi-no-mon “Invisible Gate.”  A young Japanese lecturer who teaches at Keio stopped and said,

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Keio University Old Library

“Isn’t that also ancient Chinese writing up there?”

We turned our heads toward where he was pointing.  It was the familiar red-brick university library building.

Up on the archway of the entrance, there it was the name of the library 慶應義塾圖書館 “Keio Gijuku Library” inscribed in the ten-style (official seal style).

Earlier that afternoon I had just discussed how we could utilize the intrinsic relationship between shape and meaning seen in ancient Chinese writing to teach kanji and how the last style of ancient writing style called 篆文 ten style is still appreciated in the modern life of Japan.  I had shown some photos of the stone steles that I had taken in Kamakura as examples.

慶応義塾大学旧図書館篆額

Ten-style Plaque of keio University Old Library

Then, right at my own alma mater, there it was – – the ten style plaque – – and I did not know that. To us who are not calligraphers the ten-style is something ornamental, and we would not take the time to make out everything writing in it.  But this time I came from a totally different direction. I spent several years examining ancient Chinese writing to find a way to convert it to something useful for a student who studied Japanese outside Japan.  I felt like a mole that had just come out to see the light after burrowing a long tunnel.

This library building was completed in the last year of the Meiji era (1912) and is one of the treasured structures of the oldest private Japanese university.  To us students this old building represented something scholarly that we came here for. The hushed quiet reading room was our haven from the noises, distraction and temptation on the campus.  I spent two summer vacations on a long paper and thesis but never paid any attention to the plaque.

A little yorimichi on a red-brick building in Japan(寄り道 /yorimichi/ “wayside walk”)東京駅ドーム3

Red brick buildings (赤煉瓦-あかレンガ) were built in the Meiji and Taisho eras and we associate them as something early modern Japan, thus “old.”  Because they are old and facing demolition, recently there have been efforts to preserve them.  Tokyo Station, originally built in 1914, completed its restoration/renovation.  Inside the domes is magnificent (my photo in 2013) and my time spent waiting for my friend to show up was a well-spent enjoyable time.  In Yokohama there is an area called 赤レンガ倉庫 (/akarenga so’oko/) that is a venue for public events and a tourist attraction.

Now back to my library plaque story.

As I gazed at the tengaku (ten-style plaque), I began seeing a memory under the intense summer sun — a young female student, in a navy blue cool linen dress that her mother had made for her, intently disappearing into the building.  A few decades later she would return and re-discover what she had not seen.

Antoniomarco, a young Italian researcher from Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, who was standing next to me, said,

“Ancient writing on a modern building!  What an interesting match it is.”

That brought me back from my daydreaming.

Ah, to an Italian who is used to really old structures of hundreds years ago, this treasured building of ours doesn’t even come close to the word “old.”   We proudly say that the old library is ゴシック建築 (/goshikku-ke’nchiku/”Gothic style structure”), but to our Italian friend Antoniomarco there is nothing old or Gothic about it.

P. S. If you are interested in kanji education, I recommend joining  JSL 漢字学習研究会 (the link is in the article.)   Their bi-monthly meetings are inspiring and you meet people who share the same interest, or even passion, in kanji education as you do, which does not happen too often in the United States.

2013-12-11 Where did the kanji 集 come from?

The kanji 集, like any other kanji, has 3,300 years of history. Their ancient writings over thousand years tell us their history.

History of the kanji集The left-most one — a bird, possibly flying, over a tree — is in an oracle bone style writing (甲骨文 /kookotsubun/), the oldest style of ancient Chinese character precursors. The second one — a bird perching on a treetop– is a bronze ware style (金文 /kinbun/). The third one is also a bronze ware style, but the shape of a bird became a linear drawing. You can see the birth of writing (文字 /mo’ji/) at that point. The shape became more formalized in the fourth and the fifth images, which are in ten official seal style (篆文 /tenbun/.) The last one is the kanji as we write now.

The kanji 集 is used in words such as 集まる atsuma’ru “to gather, congregate,” 集める atsume’ru “to collect,”集い tsudo’i “gathering of people,” 集合 shuugoo “assembly,” 集中 shuuchuu “concentration” and 編集 henshuu “editing (of a book).”

A few notes that I would like to make here:

(1) A flock of birds perched on a treetop gave the meaning “to gather.” It is like the English phrase “birds of feathers flock together.” In one of the ten style images, there were even three birds together — that would be difficult to write as kanji.

(2) The shape of a bird in the top of 集 is called hurutori ふるとり in Japanese. It appears in the old style 舊 of the current kanji 旧 huru’i “old.”

(3) Hurutori is a kanji bushu (radical) that appears in many kanji. I will discuss this my later posts.

References: Kiyomi Akai 1985; Shizuka Shirakawa 2004; Noriko Kurosawa Williams 2010. (The reference information will be added on the About Pages shortly.)

2013-12-28 The History of the Kanji Radical Shinnyoo – 進迷通逆徒

History of Kanji with Radical Shinnyoo しんにょう http:/kanjiportraits.wordpress.com

In this post, I am going to discuss the development of shinnyoo (or shinnyuu, previously) しんにょう “to go forward.”  In my long years of teaching I have seen that many students find the shape and meaning of a shinnyoo difficult to understand and learn. The odd shape is the product of a long history of development.

It came from two shapes that represented two meanings: a crossroad and a footprint/foot or step. When one reaches a crossroad, he has to decide which way to go, and when he steps over across the crossroad he is going forward. In oracle bone style writing (column B) either a crossroad or a footprint was often used. In bronze ware style writing (column C) both appeared, with a footprint at the bottom of the main element. In ten style writing (column D) a crossroad became three curbs and a foot moved to the left side, forming a single component having the meaning of “to go forward.”

After ancient writing became kanji, the shape that will be eventually called shinnyoo in Japan has gone through three more shapes. First, in Reisho style, the earliest style of kanji, a crossroad became three diagonal strokes. I do not have reisho style examples for each of the kanji. For the second shape, shown in column E, I am using images that were taken from The Kangxi Dictionary, originally published in 1716, with a Japanese annotation (Watanabe 1885.)   In this publication, the shinnyoo consists of two short strokes and a hooked shape with a long extended stroke underneath (1E, 2E, 3E, 4E, and 5E.)   This shape of shinnyoo is still used in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

ThreeShapesofShinnyooThen, In Japan, particularly after the National Language Reform in 1946, we write a shinnyoo with one short stroke, a wave-like line and a long extended stroke underneath. That is the third shape. The second shape is called kyuujitai (old style) and the third shape is called shinjitai (new style).  In 2010, the Japanese government guideline revived the second shape in some kanji with a shinnyoo as “permissible.”

Now, back to the first table above, did you notice something odd about the kanji 徒 (5F) ?  The two elements in this kanji for “on foot” — crossroad and step — did not merge into a shinnyoo.  So, I got curious and looked up the Kangxi Dictionary. It noted that the shape in (5E), which had a shinnyoo, was  the older form of 徒 (5F).  This tells us that the modern kanji form 徒 went back to ten style (5D), skipping over the reisho style (5E.)  Another twist in our shinnyoo story.

In the long history of ancient writing of Chinese characters to the present-day Japanese kanji, some shapes disappeared and some did not.  When ancient creators of writing came up with the idea of combining existing shapes that had their own meanings into a new shape with a new meaning, it became possible to form an enormous number of new writing.  For that reason, a majority of the old written forms disappeared, except in dictionaries, and what survived are what we use in the modern writing.

Notes: A bushu shinnyoo is discussed further in the later posts (The kanji 進達返退迷逃近 and The Kanji 迎逆連軍運過速束込入.)  [December 28, 2015]

References: Akai (1985); Shirakawa (2003); Watanabe (1885); Williams (2010)

2013-12-28 The History of the Kanji 止, 歩, 正 and 政 from a Footprint

In this post, I am going to discuss the four kanji 止, 歩, 正 and 政 that share the same origin of a footprint or step.

A. The kanji 止”stop” and 歩 “walk” from a footprint

Image

(1) footprint/foot; (2) bronze ware style 止; (3) ten-style 止; and (4) kanji 止

Our feet are now molded into a shape that fits in a shoe like in image (1), but we can easily imagine that a big foot was skewed more outward to help with strenuous walking in the ancient times.

Image (2) is the bronze ware style writing for a footstep that became 止 “to halt one’s steps” or “to stop.”  It had a prominent big toe on the top right along with two other toes and the upper part of the sole.  Image (3) is ten-style writing, which became the kanji (4).

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(5) bronze ware style 歩; (6) ten-style 歩; and (7) kanji 歩

In walking, one puts forward the right foot and the left foot alternately.  That is what makes up the kanji 歩 for “walk” or a “step.”  Image (5) is the bronze ware style, with a left foot at the top and a right foot at the bottom.  How can we tell which is which?  Well, where the two lines cross is the big toe.  The top and the bottom in ten-style writing (6) still maintain the mirror image of each other.  Wben they became the kanji 歩 (7) the bottom took the shape of the kanji 少. (The kanji 少 “little” came from a different origin.)

B. The kanji 正 “just” and 政 “to govern”

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(8) oracle bone style 正; (9) bronze ware style 正; (10) ten-style 正; and (11) kanji 正

The kanji 正 “right/just” also contained a footprint. The oracle bone style (8) had a box shape at the top, which represented a wall surrounding a town, and a footprint at the bottom. Together they showed an army advancing into a town to conquer.  In the bronze ware style writing (9), the town wall became a big dot above a foot. In both (8) and (9), the writing meant “just” because a conqueror was always just.  Hmm… It makes one pause a little, doesn’t it.  But we need to look at ancient writing from the point of view of the people for which the writing was created.  Ancient Chinese writing started as a way for a ruler to communicate with the gods. The ten-style writing is (10) and the kanji is (11.)

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(12) oracle bone style 政; (13) bronze ware style 政; (14) ten-style 政; and (15) kanji 政.

The kanji 政 means “to govern” or “politics.”  The left side is 正 ”just” and the right side is the bushu shape 攵 called bokuzukuri. The bushu bokuzukuri came from a hand holding a stick and meant “to take an action.”  In (12) on the right side, there is a stick and a hand (it looks like a cross here).  In bronze ware style (13) the stick is placed above a hand.  On the left side the line for a town wall is thicker than the rest.  In ten-style (14) the shape assumes an aesthetically pleasing balance.  When it became a kanji, it became more compact with straight lines as in (15).

According to Shirakawa (2004), the original meaning of 政 “to govern; politics” was “act of imposing a levy” because getting levies from the conquered area was just. To govern was all about taxation… Hmmm.

When the ancient writing became kanji, writing became just a means of communication. By that time the knowledge of origins of the kanji had been lost. The kanji 正 just had the meaning of “just; right” and the kanji 政 had just the meaning of “to do the right thing.” We can hope that to govern or to engage in politics is about doing the just in our times. [December 28, 2013]

References: Akai (1985); Shirakawa (2004); and Williams (2010)

[Notes on January  8, 2016] This was one of the first postings two years ago. Since then there have been a number of postings on kanji that directly reflected the image of a footprint, including six postings entitled “One Foot at a Time” and  four postings entitled “A Hand an Leg – Bushu ninnyo.” In order to view a posting that is more than 6 months old such as those, please click the Kanji Etymology – Previous Posts link, which lists all the postings in the past with the links.  Thank you very much. Noriko

2014-01-18 2014 Year of the Horse 午年

午年のぼり東京目黒2014 is the year of the horse, umadoshi in Japanese, and 午年 in kanji. In Chinese zodiac signs, the kanji for umadoshi is not 馬, but 午 is used. The kanji 午 means “noon” and is used in words such as 正午 (sho’ogo “noon,”) 午前 (go’zen “in the morning,” literally; “before noon”) and 午後 (go’go “afternoon.”)

The photograph on the left, taken along a street near the Meguro station in Tokyo this month, is of New Year’s banners showing 迎春 (geeshun “Happy New Year,” literally: “Welcoming a new spring”) and 馬 (uma’ “horse.”)

[In my posting I use an apostrophe to indicate the location of word accent.]

Kiyomi Akai (2010: 1012)

Kiyomi Akai (2010: 1012)

On my trip to Japan this time, I also obtained a copy of Tenrei Daijiten 篆隷大辞典 (2010), a photo anthology of ancient Chinese writing compiled by Kiyomi Akai (赤井清美.) It is the revised edition of Tenrei Jiten (1985) from which I recreated the images to be used for the upcoming kanji study web site (tentatively entitled “Learn 1100 Kanji by Radicals and Origins”).  Please read my earlier posting Hand-copied Kanji Precursors for 1100 Kanji.

The page (Akai 2010: 2012) on the right shows photos of various ancient writing for the kanji 馬, including oracle bone style (甲骨文), bronze ware style (金文), and ten-style (篆文, official seal style, here 「説文解字」 more specifically.)  You can see how ancient Chinese tried to capture the image of a horse into a shape to be used for messages to their gods and among themselves.

(rev. 1/19/2014 Japan time)

2014-01-27 Kanji Radical Horse 馬 – 駐験駅驚

Ancient Writing for 馬 “Horse”

History of Kanji 馬

In my last post, I showed you a photocopy of a page from Akai (2010) that showed the ancient writing for a horse. On the left is my hand-copied version. The oracle bone style writing (a) and (b) and the two bronze ware style writings (c), and possibly (d), appear to emphasize the eye, whereas (e) in bronze ware style, the official seal style (f) and the kanji (g) seem to emphasize the four legs and mane. A horse was important to transportation and battle. The shape 馬 is also used as a bushu. In this post we look at four kanji that have a horse as a bushu.

[Notes: The images shown above have been revised on August 1, 2015. I started to differentiate different writing styles by color in April, 2014.]

駐 “to stay in a place”

Ten-style 駐 For the kanji 駐, the right side 主 was an image of a burning lamp with the flame in the middle. A lamp burns in a fixed place, thus 主 meant “to stay in a place.” (主 as in 主人 /shu’jin/ “master”: A master is someone who stays in the back of a place.) Together with 馬, the kanji 駐 means “to stay in one place.” A horse as a means of transportation has been replaced by a car in the modern times. It is used in conjunction with a automobile in the words such as 駐車する /chuusha-suru/ “to park a car” and 駐車場 /chuushajoo/ “parking lot; car park.” It is also used for a person to stay in one place in the words such as 駐在員 /chuuza’iin/ ”someone who is assigned to stay” and 駐日大使 /chuunichi-ta’ishi/ “ambassador to Japan.” There is no kun-reading for this kanji.

験 (kyujitai 驗) “to examine”

Ten-style 験 For the kanji 験, the right side of the ancient writing meant “under a roof two (or many) people standing side by side.” Together with a horse on the left, it meant that people gathered horses in a place to examine and grade them. From this, the kanji 験 means “to examine.” The words that this kanji had include 試験 /shike’n/ “examination,” 実験 /jikken/ ”experiment” and 経験 /keeken/ ”experiences.” The kun-reading /shirushi/ is rarely used.

駅 (kyujitai 驛) “railway station”

Ten-style 駅 For the kanji 駅, the right side was used phonetically but also meant “continuous.” In a long journey, a messenger changed his horse at a station. In modern times, the kanji means “railway station” and is used in words like 駅 /e’ki/ “railway station,” 東京駅 /tookyo’o-eki/ “Tokyo Station”, 駅弁/ekiben/ ”a box lunch sold at a railway station that has a local flavor,” and 駅伝 /ekiden/ “long-distance relay.” The kun-reading is normally not used.

 駅伝 “long-distance relay” in January”

One of the annual sport events over the New Year’s holidays in Japan is a long-distance relay run for university students called Hakone Ekiden 箱根駅伝 /Hakone-e’kiden/ ”Hakone long-distance relay.” (This site has a good photo: http://www.hakone-ekiden.jp/) On January 2nd and 3rd every year, relay teams of 10 runners representing their universities run a little over 100 km from Tokyo to the Hakone mountains, in the south west of Tokyo, and back to Tokyo. It is close to a half-marathon distance for each runner. When the whole country is in a relaxed holiday mood, having nothing else to do other than eat, drink toso (/to’so/: new years celebration sake seasoned with spices) and watch television, the two-day race gives the public some drama.

My hometown in Japan is located along the Sagami Bay and on the Hakone Ekiden route. My father was not a long-distance runner at university, but he did row crew. When the runners would come closer to my hometown area, my father would walk to the seashore road to watch the race, standing in a blistery cold sea breeze for a long time. When he returned home he would tell us excitedly what he had seen. This year, almost a half century later, my American family and I were in Japan when another ekiden called the Hiroshima Ekiden (prefectural competition) was held. We watched the final part of the race on television, enjoying a winter event in Japan.

Now back to our horse kanji story

 驚 “to be surprised; to be startled”

Ten-style 驚 Do you see two discreet components in this kanji? The top is the kanji 敬 ”to respect; revere” and the bottom is 馬. The top 敬 was used phonetically but its sound also had the meaning “to flinch.” A horse gets startled easily. So, the kanji 驚 means “to be surprised; to be startled.” The words include 驚く /odoro’ku/ “to be surprised” in kun-reading and 驚異的な /kyooiteki-na/ “startling; amazing” in on-reading.

There are many more Joyo kanji that have a horse as a component. Many of them reflect the characteristics of a horse, such as running fast.

The five kanji above are discussed in The Key to Kanji: 馬 (No. 850), 駐 (No.742), 駅 (no. 46), 験 (No. 283) and 驚 (No. 220).

2014-02-02 The Gold Seal of the Ancient Japanese King 漢委奴国王印

[I am reposting this slightly modified article, which I inadvertently deleted a few weeks ago.]

Gold Seal of Ancient Japanese King (57 AD)

The image on the left is a picture of the famous gold seal of the Japanese King of Na that was given by a Chinese Han emperor in 57 A.D.  It is the oldest record of kanji writing that is related to Japan.  The image on the right is an impression on wax.  It reads, from the right to the left, Kan no Wa no Na no kokuoo 漢の委の奴の国王 “(Seal of) Japanese King of Na given by Han Emperor.”

漢の委の奴の国王(の印)

The red image on the left is an impression of a rubber stamp of the replica. It is easier for us to see the writing.  I would like to draw your attention to ancient writing in the center of the bottom row. Its kanji form is 奴. The left side (女) is a woman sitting with her hands crossed in front. The right side (又) is another radical shape called yoo or mata, and it pertains to a hand or an act that one does using a hand.

Kanji Radial 又The two ancient forms for 又 are shown on the right.

Look closely at the area marked in a blue box on the imprint of the seal in red. By contrast to the two ancient writings on the right, which showed three fingers, do you see an extra line in the seal?  It is another finger!  The seal maker must have reverted to the original meaning of a hand with fingers. It was a delightful discovery when I obtained the replicas from the Fukuoka City Museum.

Later on the kanji 奴 developed two different phonetic letters in Japanese: The right side 又 became a katakana nu ヌ; and the cursive style writing of the kanji 奴 eventually became a hiragana nu ぬ.[February 2, 2014]

2014-02-16 Hand-copied Japanese Kanji Precursors

Hand-copied Kanji Precursors Screen Shot (2)

Hand-copied Kanji Precursors – Screen Shot (2)

This is sort of re-posting of my December 10, 2013, posting, which got deleted due to my clumsy handling of a new iPad this weekend.  By way of apology to our readers who have already read my earlier post, I am posting this with a different screen shot.  It covers from the kanji 次 (ジ) through 受 (ジュ) in the 50-on syllabary order.  I hope you will find some interesting shapes that get you thinking about how close the relationship between the shape and meaning of a kanji was in ancient times, and to some extent still is now too. [February 16, 2016]

This is what I wrote two months ago. . .

A couple of days ago I finally finished hand-copying in pen the various styles of kanji precursors (漢字の古代文字) for 1100 kanji and made them into over 2000 individual jpeg files. This photo is a screen shot of some of the files on my Mac desktop.

The dictionary that I used for this particular work was Tenrei Jiten (Dictionary of Official-seal Style and Rei Style Chinese Characters) compiled by Kiyomi Akai in 1985 (「篆隸字典」赤井清美.)  This book contains 1400 pages of ancient writing that Akai organized photos of various artifacts according to the order of kanji radical. It includes official seal style (篆文 /ten-bun/, from Setsumon Kaiji), oracle bone style (甲骨文 /kookotsubun/) and bronze ware style (金文 /kinbun/).

I recreated the images in pen, and they are now ready for me to use in the kanji teaching web site that I am planning to start next year, that is, in 2014. [December 10, 2013]

2014-02-24 The Kanji Radical 辰 (1)To Shake-辰震唇娠

I am going to discuss about a peculiar looking kanji radical 辰 and a few kanji that contain it (震,振、唇 and 娠.)  Even though it is used in a person’s name and in the old sordiac time, 辰 /tatsu/ as kanji is not included on the Joyo Kanji list, but it is an important component of many kanji.

辰-History

Surprisingly, the shape of the kanji 辰 came from an image of an opened bivalve or clam with its inside showing. In the oracle bone style, as in (a), and in bronze ware style, (b) & (c), the soft body and its ligaments were still attached to the two hard shells. According to Shirakawa (2004) 辰 was the original form of 蜃. The kanji 蜃 is not an every day kanji at all, but if we see it in a word like 蜃気楼 /shinki’roo/ “mirage,” a displaced image that is created by mixture of moisture and light. A clam, or other kinds of bivalve, spouting water up into the air and causing a mirage above the sea was thought to have magical power. It makes me think that the size of the shells must have been impressive to be noticed by ancient people — not like the size that we eat in spagetti vongole!  A soft fleshy body trembles and that gave 辰 the meaning of “to shake” and “something active.” The on-reading is /shi’n/.

Now we take a look at four kanji that contain it as a bushu. (The writings on the left side of each paragraph are official seal style and kanji in kyokasho style.)

震HistorySIn 震, the top 雨 by itself is the kanji /a’mr/ “rain.” When used as a bushu, it means “something falling in the sky.” Something that falls from the sky that shakes things on the ground is thunder (雷 /kamina’ri/). The kanji 震 described trembling or shaking caused by thunder.  地震 (“earthquake” /jishin/) is the shaking of the ground. 震える (”to tremble, shake” /hurueru/) and 身震い (“shudder, shiver” /mibu’rui/) are the kun-reading.

History of the kanji  振By adding a tehen, “hand,” on the left side we get the kanji 振 “to shake; wave; swing.” The kanji 振 is in words such as  手を振る (“wave a hand” /te’ o huru/), 旗を振る (“wave a flag” /hata’ o huru/), and (彼女に) 振られる (“to get jilted (by her or girlfriend)” /(ka’nojo ni) hurareru/). Those are in kun-reading. It also means “to be very active” in words such as 産業を振興させる  “to promote industry” in on-reading /shi’n/.

History of the kanji 唇By adding 口, “mouth,” we get the kanji 唇 ”lip.” By itself, it is 唇 (“lips”/kuchibiru/) in kun-reading. The on-reading is in the word 唇音 (“labial sound” /shin-on/), which is a sound that is created using a lip or lips such as /p, b, f. m/. A very specialized word for a linguist.

History of the kanji 娠By adding an onna-hen, “woman; feminine,” we get the kanji 娠 in 妊娠 (”pregnancy” /ninshin/) which describes the faint movements of a foetus. The on-reading is again /shi’n/ and it does not have any kun-reading.

形声文字 “semantic-phonetic composite writing”

All these kanji share the on-reading shin. The other components of the four kanji, such as amekanmuri, tehen, kuchihen, and onnahen gave the primary meaning. These four kanji are 形声文字 (“semantic-phonetic composite writing”/keesee-mo’ji/.)  Often times, people say,

“A majority of kanji is keisei-moji. Only the sound, not the meaning, matters in keisei-moji. So, knowing the origin does not take you too far.”

I have a very different view on this. It is true that a large number of kanji are keisei-moji, but in reality the component that represents sound was chosen for having semantic connection, not by a random choice. To me that is the secret key to understand each kanji.

By the way, I found a cute video clip that shows three small clams on a beach. I imagine that the ancient people had much larger shells in their minds, but even these small clams demonstrate translucent flesh trembling and spouting water. They make me smile.   蛤の潮吹きのビデオhttp://youtu.be/AjNtG1uYvm8

 [This topic was prompted by an earlier comment from a reader about the kanji 唇 and its relationship with its component 辰 a week ago.  Thank you very much for your comment, Marco from Venezuela.]. [2-26-2014]

2014-02-24 The Kanji Radical 辰 (2): Tilling Tool-農辱

This is part 2 of the kanji radical 辰 discussion.

Just a week ago or so on the Asahi Digital and Yomiuri Shinbun Online, I came across short newspaper articles that reported that an archeological excavation group had unearthed 38 pieces of bivalve shells in a 20,000 to 30,000 years old stratum in Okinawa, the southern most prefecture. Some bivalve shells had been chipped into the shape of a knife. They are called 貝器 (“shell tool” /ba’iki/.)  When I read about this finding, the origin of the kanji 農 came to my mind. This is what I wrote in The Key to Kanji:

K2K_A846農イラストThe top came from 田 ‘rice paddies,” and the bottom 辰 depicted a clam extending a fleshy foot.  Sharp pieces of shell were attached to a wood stick to make a tool to till the soil or for weeding. The kanji 農 means ”farming” or “agriculture/ (Williams The Key to Kanji 2010: 248)

HIstory農Since then other reference materials (Akai 1985 and 2010) have come to my attention. The ancient writing on the left may give us a fuller picture of how the kanji 農 came about. In oracle bone style, (a), the top had trees, suggesting a wooded area and the bottom had a shell, which is the same shape as the oracle bone style for 辰 that we have seen in part 1.  In bronze ware style, (b) and (c), the top was rice paddies, the bottom was a shell, and (b) had two hands next to the shell.  In ten-style, (d), two hands were placed around the rice paddies at the top.

Unlike the four kanji we saw in part 1, 辰 was used to mean a tool to till the field, as given by my 2010 explanation. The kanji 農 meant “to till the field using a tilling tool to which hard shells are attached.” The kanji 農 by itself is not used in Japanese, nor does it have any kun-reading. It is used in words such as 農業 (“agriculture work; farming” /no’ogyoo/), 農村 (“agrarian village,” /nooson/) and 農民 (“farmer, peasant” /noomin/.)  The on-reading is /no’o/ and does not take the sound from 辰 as other kanji in part 1 did. Instead, 辰 contributed to its new meaning directly. This way of forming a new kanji (that is, two components equally contributing to a new meaning without adding a sound) is called 会意文字 (“semantic composite writing” /ka’ii-moji or kaii-mo’ji/), which literally means “two meanings meet (to form a new meaning).”

辱HistorySBy adding the bushu 寸, “hand,” to the clam shell, 辰, we get another kanji, 辱.  It originally meant working in the field, with a hand using a tool.  The on-reading is /jo’ku/.  The two components 辰 and 寸 created a new meaning without using the sound of /shi’n/.  So, this too must be a semantic composite.  That would be our thinking.

However, as it turns out, this kanji has a totally different meaning. It means “to humiliate; insult” in words such as 侮辱する (“to insult” /bujoku-suru/) and 屈辱的な (“humiliating” /kutsujokuteki-na/.)  The kun-reading is 辱める (“to humiliate” /hazukashime’ru/.)  Very potent words!  How did it come to mean that?  The answer is, “We do not know.” Sorry. Even ancient kanji scholars scratched their heads.

For that sort of kanji, the compiler of the most important first kanji dictionary called 『説文解字』 (/setsumon-ka’iji/, Shuowen Jiezi in Chinese) made a category called 仮借文字 (“borrowed writing” /kashaku-mo’ji/.) The literal meaning of kashaku is “temporary borrowing.”  Only a few of thousands of kanji belong to this category. Among the familiar kanji, 彼, 我 and 東 come to my mind.

So, now we have seen three types of kanji formation, 形声文字 “semantic-phonetic composite writing,” 会意文字 “semantic composite writing,” and 仮借 “borrowed writing.”  In the classification of 六書 (/ri’kusho/, Liushu in Chinese) in Setsumon-kaiji, in addition to those three categories, the compiler gave three more categories. They are 象形文字 (“ideographic writing” /shookee-mo’ji/ such as 日、象 and 雨; 指事文字 (“ indicative writing“ /shiji-mo’ji/) such as 二, 上 and 下;  and 転注 (/tenchuu-mo’ji/, No one is sure what it means nor is there a specific kanji.)  For more information on Setsumon-kaiji, please refer to Chapter 2 Kanji Formation Types and Dictionary Section Headers in Williams (2010: 15-18.)

辰StrokeOrder2Before I end my two-part discussion on the bushu 辰, I am going to add the stroke order information just in case you are wondering. [2-24-2014]

2014-03-06 A Bonfire for “Prosperity” – 栄 and 営

In our life a fire (火) has many faces that are reflected in many different kanji. It can provide us warmth (熱) by burning (燃). It cooks food (焼・煮). One could send a signal to someone near or far in darkness of night by light (灯) or in day light by smoke (煙). Fire leaves soot (点・黒) and charcoal (炭). It could create a calamity (災) by burning everything down to ashes (灰). Or its flame (炎) lights up an area at night (灯・照) to make night life safe. In this post I am going to talk about the flames of a bonfire.

Kanji栄historyBrisk, intense flames of a bonfire (篝火 /kagaribi/ in Japanese) illuminating property suggests “flourishing and prospering.” A property with lots of trees guarded by such bonfires around the property line must be a prosperous house. The kanji 榮 means “prosperous; flourishing.”

The bronze ware style writing for 栄 (its kyujitai 榮), (1), had two intersecting sticks holding a bonfire. The ten-style writing, (2), added two fires around the boundary of the property tree(s). The kyujitai style, (3), had two fires on top. Japanese language reform simplified this to 栄. The kanji 栄 means ”prosperity” and is used in words such as 光栄 /kooei/ “honor,” 栄える /sakae’ru/ “to prosper,” and 栄えある日 /hae’aruhi/ “a day of glory.” We no longer use fires to signify the prosperity.

Kanji 営 HistoryBy replacing a tree with two conjoined rooms or buildings (呂), we get the kanji 営. This kanji too started with two fires −−as in (5) in ten-style and (6) in kyujitai style. 営 originally meant military barracks that had multiple buildings, and important activities were busily conducted there. Now it means “to conduct business; manage.” It is used in words such as 営業中/eegyoochuu/ “Open (for business),” 経営 /keeee/ “management” and (店を)営む /itona’mu/ “to run a store.”

Even though the tops of these kanji got simplified into the same shape as the tops of the kanji 学 “to learn” and 覚 “to memorize,” the two pairs (栄営 and 学覚) have nothing in common. The kyujitai for 学 is 學 and that for 覚 is 覺. I will discuss these kanji at a later date.     [3/6/2014]

PS.  I would like to invite our readers to visit this Tumblr site to see an artistic interpretation of the kanji 栄 (榮) by Yutaka Houlette.  [3-7-2014]

2014-03-06 Kanji as “Surreal and Poetic” Sum of Components -栄舌聞

In relation to the last short discussion on the kanji 栄 and 営, I am pleased to introduce something totally different in this post. It is an art work by a young talented artist who took his inspiration and imagination from the etymology of the kanji 榮 (栄). His name is Yutaka Houlette, and he shares his art work with viewers at his Tumblr site: http://one-piece-at-a-time.tumblr.com/post/39697880915. Please enjoy a different aspect of kanji in this artist’s conception.

聞 舌 original cartoons?Speaking of visual art, — in just the last few days, as I was preparing a new web kanji course, I came across a couple of ancient writings that I could not help smiling at. (I am working on various physical features used in bushu now.)

Please look at the ancient writings (1) and (2). Which kanji do you think they correspond to?  Writing (1) has a man, who is praying with his hands to a god. He listens to the words of the god so intently that his ear becomes big!  It meant “to listen” and it was in oracle-bone style.   The current shape 聞 consists of two closed doors over an ear. One listens to what is said behind the two closed doors.  How about the writing in (2)? It is a tongue moving in and out, showing two tongues. This is the original flip-book cartoon, or a primitive animation, isn’t it? The kanji became 舌 (/shita’/ “tongue”.)

Ancient creators of writing had to be master artists as well. Otherwise, they could not help their rulers communicate with their gods. I like what Yutaka says, that the sum of the components in some kanji are “surreal and poetic.” In my work I go back and forth between this “surreal and poetic” world and the reality of being a teacher trying to find a way to show students how they can enjoy and, at the same time, learn kanji.   [3-6-2014]

2014-03-20 Eyes Wide Open (1) 目, 相, 想 and 箱

Ancient creators used different images of each of the human physical features. For “eye,” it was not just 目, and a few other different images were created. We are going to look at different shapes of “eye” that are hidden in various kanji. In this post the kanji 目, 相, 想 and 箱 are discussed.

(1) 目 “eye; seeing”

The eyes in the two oracle bone style writings, (1) and (2), had a pupil and two areas of the white of an eye on each side. That is a side-long shape, which is closer to how an eye looks on the face. In ten style, (3), the eye was placed vertically. Being longer in height than in width is one of the characteristics of ten style writing. The kanji 目 has a number of meanings. Here are only some of them. Kun-yomi /me/ examples include 目 (“eye; ability to see” /me’/), 〜に目がない (“to like very much without reservation” /x ni me’ga na’i/), 目方(“weight” /mekata/) and 四人目 (”fourth person” /yoninme’/).   /Ma/ in 目の当たりにする (“to see in one’s own eyes” /manoa‘tari-ni-suru/) is another kun-yomi. On-yomi examples are 注目する (“to pay attention to” /chuumoku-suru/), 目的 (“purpose” /mokuteki/), and 課目 (“subject matter” /kamoku/.)

(2) 相 “(facing) each other”

Kanji 相 HistoryThe kanji 相 consists of a bushu kihen 木 “tree” and 目 “eye.” If a person faces and looks at a tree, it means the tree faces and looks at the person at the same time. From that the kanji 相 means “facing each other; mutual; government minister (from someone who watches the governmental matter); phase.” In the image on the left, the first two, (1) and (2), are in oracle bone style, and they had a tree above or below an eye. In bronze ware style, (3), a tree and an eye were placed side by side. The eye had a shape that would survive as 臣 “loyal subject” from a watchful eye in several kanji as we will discuss in our third post on eye. In ten style, (4), the two elements are more controlled shapes and closer to kanji, (5), as we use now. Its kun-yomi is /a’i/, as in words such as 相手 (“partner/opponent” /aite’/). The on-yomi words include 相談する (“to talk over with” /soodan-suru/), 首相 (“prime minister” /shushoo/) and 相思相愛 (“(two people) in love with each other” /so’oshi sooai/.)

(3) 想 “think; contemplate”

By adding a heart (心) to 相 “facing each other” we got the kanji 想 “to contemplate.” (The writing on the left is ten-style and the right one is the kanji.) When a person entertains a thought, memory, or idea in his heart, he and the object of thinking are facing other. From that, this kanji tends to have something to reflect on or visualize such as 想像する (“to imagine; visualize” /soozoo-suru/), 感想 (“impression” /kansoo/, 理想 “an ideal” /risoo/.)

(4) 箱  “box”

The top is a bushu takekanmuri “bamboo.”  Once rooted well, bamboo grows strongly and propagates quickly. It provides light-weight materials that are easy to make crafts. Bamboo was also used as the medium of writing before paper was invented. So, many kanji that have a takekanmuri are related to craft or writing. This kanji 箱 is one of them. The bottom 相 was used phonetically for /so’o/ but also gave its original meaning “facing each other.” In traveling, two bamboo boxes were hung on either side of a carriage horse.

In this blog, I am primarily discussing the kanji out of the 1,100 kanji that are included in The Key to Kanji (Williams 2010). If you look at the entire list of the new joyo-kanji, we will find other kanji that contain this common component 相. In the next post, I plan to discuss 直 and four other kanji that contain 直 (値, 植, 置 and 徳).  [3-20-2014]

2014-03-25 Eyes Wide Open (2) 直, 値, 植, 置 and 徳 

In this post, I am going to discuss the five kanji 直値植置 and 徳. They all have the common component of 直 ”straight; direct.”

(1) 直 “straight; direct”

History of 直The kanji 直 also contains an eye. In oracle bone style, (1), a side-long shape of an eye had a straight vertical line above. A writing found on a stone inscription, (2), that is believed to predate ten-style had a dot on this vertical line to indicate that the line was important.  In ten style, (3), the dot for emphasis at the top turned into a straight stroke.  Being straight is a “direct” way.  So, the kanji 直 means “straight; direct.”

(2) 値  “value”

Kanji 値By adding a bushu ninben “person; an act that one does” to 直, we get the kanji 値. When one looks at something in a straight and direct way, he is assessing its value. The kanji 値 means “value; approximation, pricing.” It is used in words such as 値段 (“price” /nedan/), 価値 (“value” /ka’chi/) in on-reading as well as 値 (“value” /atai/ ) in kun-reading.

(3) 植 “to plant”

Kanji 植By adding a bushu kihen “tree; wood,” we get the kanji 植. When one plants a tree, he places the tree straight up. This is used to construct words such as 植木 (“garden plant” /ueki/) and 植物 (“plant” as contrasted to animal /shoku’butu/) in on-reading, and 植える (“to plant” /ueru/) in kun-reading. It is also used to infer colonization, as in 植民地 (“colony” /shokumi’nchi/.)

(4) 置 “to place; leave”

Kanji 置Does the top of the kanji 置 look like “an eye” to you? Well, its ten style on the left side tells us that it was a net. In order to catch birds, a net was placed straight above the area where birds gather. From that the writing meant “to place; leave; lay (something).” The kanji 置 makes up words such as 位置 (“position” /i’chi/), 放置する (“to neglect“ /ho’ochi-suru/) in on-reading as well as 置く (“to leave; place; lay” /oku/) in kun-reading.

(5) 徳 “virtue; personal grace”

History of 徳In oracle bone style, (1), we can see that the left side was the original shape of 直, having a straight line and an eye.  The right side was a right half of a crossroad, which meant “to go,” or, when applied in a person, “to conduct oneself” or “deed; act.” Together they meant “one’s conduct with his eye looking straight.” In bronze ware style, (2), a heart 心 was added and the left side of a crossroad was used. So, this writing had a straight line of sight, true heart and straightforward act all in one. Wow! That is one heavily laden meaning. Do we think of “virtue; personal grace,” which is the English translation, in this manner? In ten style, (3), the components were more stylized and the current kanji 徳, (4), lost an angle line below an eye.

In a quick look of the English meanings of these five kanji, it is not obvious that they once had something common. But the ancient writings do reveal what had been left behind along the way as they got standardized into kanji. To me the stories give me something to reflect on how people, of ancient and present times, tried or try to put an idea into visible form so that we could communicate it to others. In the next post, I will discuss a 臣 group (臣, 臨, 覧, 緊, 蔵, 臓.)    [3-25-2014]

2014-03-31 Eyes Wide Open (3) 臣, 臨, 覧, 緊, 蔵 and 臓

How could the kanji 臣 be related to an eye? Do you wonder? I did, when I first read about it years ago. But once I realized that it was a wide open big eye in a face seen from the side, it became fun to look for kanji that contain 臣. Here are six of them.

(1) 臣 “subject; minister”

History of the Kanji 臣In oracle bone style, (1) and (2), and in bronze ware style, (3), they are all wide-open big eyes. Someone who kept a watchful eye for his master was a loyal subject. (4) is in ten-style and (5) is the kanji in kyookasho-tai “textbook style.” It meant “a subject” or “government minister” and is used in words such as 大臣 (“minister; secretary; chancellor” /da’ijin/) and 臣下 (“subject” /shi’nka/.)

The stroke order is as below. You will find it easy to write a well-balanced kanji if you follow the correct stroke order.

StrokeOrder臣

(2) 臨 “to look over from above; provisional”

History of the Kanji 臨The first two, (1) and (2), are in bronze ware style. The top of (1) showed an eye and a standing person. Underneath were three boxes that were connected to the eye. In ten style, (3), a person became taller to see things better. It meant someone viewing many things from a high position. Viewing things meant that he was present and ready to deal with the matter at hand. It makes up words such as 臨海公園 (“an ocean side park” /rinkaiko’oen/), ご臨席 (“attendance” by an important person /gorinseki/); and 臨時列車 (“special unscheduled trains” /rinjires’sha/). The kun-yomi 臨む (”to face“ /nozomu/) is in a phrase such as 試合に臨む (“to face a match” /shiai ni nozomu/.)

(3) 覧 “to view”

History覧In ten style it consisted of two writings 監 and 見. The top had a watchful eye, and a person looking at his reflection in water that was contained in a flat bowl. It meant “to observe” and eventually became the kanji 監 “to observe; to watch carefully.” The bottom 見 is a person with the eye emphasized. So many references to “seeing” in this kanji 覧 “to view”!  Just as 臨席 was an honorific form, ご覧になる is also an honorific verb “to look.” This is because seeing is done from a high position. 覧 is also used in 展覧会 (“exhibition” /tenra’nkai/) and 閲覧室 (“viewing or reading room” /etsura’nshitsu.)

(4) 緊  “tight; imminent”

History of the Kanji 緊The meaning of “hard; tight” came from the top of another kanji shares (堅 “hard; solid” /ke’n; kata’i/). The bottom was threads. To tighten threads and make a tight knot signified something “tight” and “imminent.” It is used in words such as 緊急の (“extremely urgent” /kinkyuu-no/) and 緊張する (“to feel nervous and tense” /kinchoo-suru/.)

(5) 蔵 “a vault; to store securely”

History of the Kanji 蔵The top is the buxhu kusakanmuri “grass.” Tall grasses hide a person or thing well. The bottom was used for phonetic purposes, also meant “to hide.” The shape itself consisted of a bed or table with legs (here vertically placed), a watchful eye or subject (臣), and a halberd (戈), a type of weapon. Altogether they meant that one  hid something important under the place where one slept and watched out with a weapon to protect himself. From that it meant “a vault” or “to store away.” Quite cleverly constructed, I must say. By itself is the jun-yomi 蔵 (“vault; treasure storage” /kura’/) and the on-yomi is in 冷蔵庫 (“refrigerator” /reezo’oko/.)

(6) 臓 “organ”

Kanji 臓The last kanji in this post 臓 was also very cleverly constructed. If we take the kanji 蔵 and add nikuduki 月 “flesh or part of body” (it came from the kanji 肉 “flesh; meat“), we get the kanji 臓 “organ.” A part of the body that is hidden and protected inside is an organ. We get words such as 心臓 (“heart” /shinzoo/), 肝臓 (“liver” /kanzoo/) and 内臓 (”internal organs” /naizoo/.)  An ancient writing for this kanji was not available.

For our next post, I hope to be able to look into the kanji 眠・銀・限・眼 (and other, if I can.)

[Joyo kanji beyond 1,006 Educational kanji that were mentioned in this post: 監・堅・緊]  [3-31-2014]

2014-04-07 Eyes Wide Open (4) 限, 眼, 根, 恨, 痕, 銀 and 退

In continuing our search of kanji that contain “eye,” this post is about the component 艮, which is described in dictionaries to mean “to halt,” “to go against” or “immobile.” The top of 艮 has only one line inside, instead of the two that you would expect as an “eye.” So, it is a little puzzling. Fortunately the ancient writing gives us a good clue about what it meant.

(1) 限 “to limit; restrict”

History of The Kanji  限For the kanji 限, let us look at the right side, 艮, first. In the bronze ware style writing, (1), we can unmistakably see an eye. The shape underneath the eye was a mirror image of the ancient writing for ninben or hito, 人. The ancient writing for a ninben or hito usually faced left, instead of right, signifying “backward.” So, one interpretation for the right side 艮 is that an eye and a person facing backward. An alternative interpretation that has been suggested is that a fearsome evil eye petrified a person with such fear that he became immobile or stepped back. In ten style, (2), an eye became a part of a person. In kanji, (3), two shapes became a continuous shape, with an emphasis on feet that retreat.

The left side of 限 is a bush kozato-hen, which meant a ladder on which a god descended, or a tall mound of soil that formed an earthen wall or boundary. Together the kanji 限 meant “a limit; restrict.” The kun-reading is /kagi’ru/ and it means “to limit”; and the on-reading /ge’n/ is in 制限 (“restrictions” /seege’n/) and 限定 (“limitation” /gentee/).

(2) 眼 “eye”

History of 眼While the left side 目 gave the meaning of “eye”, the right side was used for the sound /gan/ “round.” A round part of an eye is an eyeball. The kanji 眼 meant “eye; eyeball.” As we have seen in (1) 限 above, the right side 艮 contained an element of an eye or seeing but in this kanji its role was primarily phonetic. This is a semantic-phonetic composite writing, “keisei-moji (形声文字),” where one part of the kanji represented meaning and another its pronunciation. We see a good example of the fact that even if a particular component of a kanji was primarily intended to represent how it sounded, the shape was also often chosen for its original meaning as well. The kun-reading of the kanji 眼, /ma’nako/, is used as a more poetic expression than just saying /me‘/. 眼 is also used in 眼鏡 (”eye glasses” /me’gane/.) The on-reading /gan/ is in 近眼 (“near-sightedness; myopia” /kingan/).

(3) 根 “root”

Historyof根The kanji 根 had a bush kihen ‘tree.” The right side 艮 was used for the sound /kon/ but it also came with the original meaning of “immobile” or “to stay in one place.” What does not change or move with respect to a tree, regardless of the season?  The answer is Its root. So, the kanji 根 meant “root; fundamental.” By itself is the kun-reading /ne’/ and means “root.” The On-reading /ko’n/ is used in words such as 根本的な(“fundameantal” /konponteki-na.)

(4) 恨 “to resent”

History of 恨What would the combination of the shape of “a heart” (a bushu risshinben, a vertical shape of a heart, on the left side) and the shape 艮 “to stay in one place” mean? One reason why one cannot move on is because something lingers in his heart and that is “resentment” or a “grudge.” The kun-reading word 恨む (/ura’mu/) means “to resent; to have a grudge.” The on-reading /kon/ is in 悔恨 “regrettable; sorrowful.“

(5) 痕 “mark; scar”

History-of-痕In bronze ware style, (1) and (2), the left side was a bed placed vertically which became a bushu yamaidare “fatigue; ill.” A bushu yamaidade “ill” and 艮 “something that remains” together meant “a scar” or “mark.” The kun-reading 痕 /a’to/  means “scar.” The on-reading /ko’n/ is used in 血痕 (“bloodstain” /kekkon/) and 痕跡 (“trace; sign (from the past)” /konseki/).

 (6) 銀 “silver”

History of 銀In 銀, the left side a bush kanehen came from gold nuggets hidden underground. The right side was used phonetically. Together they meant “silver.” A bank, /ginkoo/, is written as 銀行, literally meaning a place to conduct business (行) in silver (銀). The name /ginza/ 銀座 was the silver foundry where the bakufu controlled the production of silver currency during the Edo period. The name Ginza was used for a lively commercial district, the most famous of which is the Ginza district in Tokyo in modern-day Tokyo.

(7) 退 “to retreat”

History of 退The last one in this post 退 had a different story. In ten style, the top of 艮 was not an eye but the sun. Below that was a foot that was facing downward or backward. With the left half of a crossroad彳, altogether they meant to go backward or to retreat. In kanji, on the right side a bushu shinnyoo, “to move on (in a forward direction),” was adopted.* It is hard for us to grasp the meaning of “to retreat” visually from the kanji shape 退. Another example where kanji shape is hiding its true meaning, and that looking into its ancient precursors is helpful to understand what the kanji really means.

Our readers may be tired of “eye” by now.  To be honest, so am I.  But there is one more important shape that we have not looked at, that is 見. I hope to discuss the kanji 見, 現, 親, 視, 規, 観 and 覚.

*Notes: The shapes for a forward footstep (止) and a backward footstep (as in the bottom of 夏) play an important role in kanji and we will certainly visit them later. In the meantime, for a discussion of a bushu shinnyoo, please refer to an earlier post entitled, The History of Kanji Radical Shinnyoo posted on December 28, 2013.   Thank you.  [April 7, 2014]

2014-04-12 Eyes Wide Open (5) 見, 現, 親, 視, 規 and 覚

Big-eyed Space Aliens Looking at Something Closely

SpaceAlien

It is almost true, isn’t it? As you have undoubtedly guessed, these are the ancient writings for 見. The left one in brown was in oracle bone style and the right one in green was in bronze ware style.

(1) 見 “to see”

History見Another sample of oracle bone style writing, in brown, is facing left.  In ten style, in red, the eye became a vertical shape and the body below the eye became the shape that we see in many kanji such as 元, 院, 光, 先, 売 and 説. This common shape at the bottom of these kanji is a bushu ninnyoo or hitoashi, and it is often interpreted as a person in motion because it looks like two legs in kanji. But judging from the ancient writings, the shapes were originally a hand and a leg. The kanji 見 means to “see.” The on-reading /ke’n/ is in words such as 発見 (“discovery” /hakken/) and 意見 (“opinion” /i’ken/) and the kun-reading is in 見方 (“how one looks at” /mika’ta; mikata’/).

(2) 現 “to appear” (no ancient writing available)

The left side came from jewels strung together, as in the kanji 玉. Grinding a precious stone reveals a shine that was not visible before. What we see is what is present. The kanji 現 means “to appear” or “present.” The kun-reading is 現れる (“to become visible; appear” /araware’ru/). Its on-reading is used in words such as 現金 (“cash” /genki’n/), 現在 (“presently; now” /ge’nzai/) and 実現する (“to become realized” /jitsugen-suru/).

(3) 親 “parent; intimate”

History親In bronze ware style, in green, the left side was a tattooing needle with an ink reservoir. In ten style, in red, a tree was added. It was used phonetically for /shin/ and also to mean the closeness of a knife (or needle). Together with 見, they meant someone who looked at you closely, and thus “parent” and “intimate; close.” A kun-reading 親しい (/shitashi’i/) means close and another kun-reading is 親 (“parent” /oya’/). The on-reading is in 両親 (“parents” /ryo’oshin) and 親切な (“kind” /shi’nsetsu-na/).

(4) 視 “to see”

History視In oracle bone style, in brown, an altar table and an eye meant looking at an altar table. In ten style, in red, the two elements were placed side by side. The left side 示 by itself is the kanji 示 (“to indicate; show”) from “a place where a god demonstrates his will.” In the current kanji 視, 示 was replaced by the shape ネ, which is a bushu shimesuhen “religious matter.” In the kanji 視, however, the religious meaning was lost and the kanji just means “to see.” The kun-reading is /mi’ru/ “to see” but is rarely used. The on-reading is found in 視力 “eyesight” /shiryoku/) and 無視する (“to ignore” /mu’shi-suru/).

(5) 規 “standard”

History規The left side was a ruler or a compass to draw a line or circle, and was used to mean “standard.” The kanji 規 does not have a kun-reading. The on-reading is in 規定 (“regulation” /kitee/) and 規則 (“rule” /ki’soku/).

(6) 覚 “to be aware; memorize” and 学 “to learn”

History学In discussing the kanji 覚, it will be helpful to look at the kanji 学 first because it has a longer history. In oracle bone style, (1), with two hands and an “x” shape, it meant a place where people mingled and helped each other. In bronze ware style, (2), a child was added. A place where children mingled while protected by the caring hands of adults is a place where the children learn — the writing meant “to learn.” The kyujitai 學, (4), was replaced by a much abbreviated form 学, (5).

History覚When the shape for child is replaced with the shape 見 for the act of seeing closely, one looks closely and becomes aware of a matter. The combined shape meant “to be aware.” The kyujitai 覺 was replaced by an abbreviated form 覚. One kun-reading is in 目が覚める (“to become awake” /me’ ga sameru/) and 目覚まし時計 (“alarm clock” /mezamashido’kee/). Another kun-reading is 覚える (“to memorize” /oboe’ru/). The on-reading is in 自覚する (“to be conscious of” /jikaku-suru/).

Well, in the last five posts (including this one) we have seen quite a few shapes that originated from a human eye. We shall revisit other eye shapes later, but for now we leave this topic. Thank you very much for reading these articles. I hope that you have had some surprises that you enjoyed and some affirmations of what you already knew. In the next post, I would like to look into four kanji that essentially came from one origin but now have different meanings: 史, 吏, 使 and 事.  [April 12, 2041]

2014-04-20 A Celestial Record Keeper’s Work – 史事吏使

A Hand Holding a Tally Container

atallybox

This post is a story of the four kanji that came from the a tally container and a hand of a celestial record keeper: 史, 事, 吏 and 使.

(1) 史 “history; to chronicle”

History史It all started with the images of a container that had bamboo sticks inside used as tallies, and a hand. A calendar maker kept the records of celestial changes using these tallies. The kanji 史 meant “to chronicle; history.” Throughout the three ancient writing styles, oracle bone style, in brown, and bronze ware style, in green, and even in ten style, in red, a container and a hand were recognizable as such. In kanji, something changed. I will come back to this shortly. The kanji 史 is used in words such as 歴史 (“history” /rekishi/) and 世界史 (“world history” /sekaishi/) in on-reading. There is no kun-reading.

(2) 事 “work/job; thing; matter”

History事For the kanji 事, in oracle bone style, other than a twig shape at the top, it was the same as that of (1) 史. The twig shape was a sign where government work was done. It meant “work; job; thing; matter.” In bronze ware style, the first two writings had an additional wiggly sideway line right below the twig shape. This was a streamer to point out that it was the government office too. The third bronze ware style writing was less elaborate. In ten style, a hand that was more dominant and it intersected the vertical line that went through the bottom. In kanji, the vertical line goes up at the bottom. The kanji 事 is used in 仕事 (“work; job” /shigoto/) in kun-reading, 用事 (“errand” /yooji/) and 事件 (“incidence” /ji’ken/) in on-reading.

(3) 吏 “government worker”

History吏The kanji 吏 means “government worker.” We see that the oracle bone style writing and the bronze ware style writing were essentially identical with those of 事 in (2) — “Government work” and “a person who works” used the same writing. In ten style, however, 吏 and 事 became different in that the vertical line did not go through in 吏. Further, in kanji the vertical line became a long bent stroke, which left only a single slanted stroke. The kanji 吏 is in 官吏 (“public servant” /ka’nri/). There is no kun-reading.

吏&事DifferenceDuring the last few weeks, while I was preparing for the new kanji tutorial site videos, I was wondering how 史, 吏 and 使, our next kanji, had ended up with a bent stroke, whereas 事 had stayed with as a straight line. Here is my conjecture (the images on the left). When the vertical line in the container got connected to one of the strokes in hand, it produced the shape in 史, 吏 and 使. On the other hand, in 事 “work; job; matter” because a hand was an important aspect of doing actual work, it was made more recognizable. The vertical line in the container got extended through the hand and thus we got 事. Does it make sense to you?

(4)  使 “to use; to make someone do; send a person as a proxy”

History使In the kanji 使, a bushu ninben was added to 吏 “government worker.” A bushu ninben always added the sense of “an act that a person does.” From “to make someone do the work,” 使 meant “to use” or “to send someone as a proxy.” It is used in words such as 使う (“use” /tsukau/) in kun-reading, 使用中 (“in use; occupied” /shiyoochuu/) and 大使 (“ambassador” /ta’ishi/) in on-reading.

So, even though it started with a celestial record keeper, we do not seem to have received a visit from a space alien like we did in the posting last week. The writings were for mundane every day work and nothing fanciful. In the next post, if I can, I would like to take a break from a kanji story and touch on the topic of Japanese tonal patterns, which is very important for us to be able to speak correctly. [April 20, 2014]

2014-04-27 Tonal Contours in Japanese

1. What is an apostrophe doing in the middle of a word?

In this blog, some example words in romaji contain an apostrophe, such as /i’chi/ and /genki’n/ while other words do not, such as /shigoto/ and /shiyoochuu/. I use an apostrophe here to indicate the location of a word accent. Yes, Japanese language has an accent, an accent that is not pronounced in the same way that an English accent is pronounced: In English a single syllable gets stressed with more volume of air, longer duration, and often a raised pitch. In Japanese, you do not change the amount of air or duration, but you do have a pitch drop.

2. Two Types of Tonal Contours in Japanese

The key to good pronunciation in Japanese is to maintain the same pitch level until there is an accent where you drop a pitch, and then to maintain that new level until the next drop. Japanese has only two kinds of tones, a high tone and a low tone. Unlike other languages such as Chinese, there is no internal shift except at the end of a phrase or sentence. A tonal phrase is a phrase that begins with a low tone. A word pronounced by itself always starts with a low tone unless it has an accent. A tonal phrase that has accented words and a tonal phrase that does not have an accented word create very different tonal contour patterns.

If a tonal phrase has more than one accented word, what follows is a stepdown contour.

Example (1) [目覚まし/meza’mashi/ “alarm clock”; で /de/ an instrumental particle; 目が覚めた /me’ ga sameta/ “woke up’; 朝 /a’sa/ “morning”; and は /wa/ a topic marker]

めざましscreenshotPH

 

 

If a tonal phrase does not have any accented word, you have to maintain high tones without raising or dropping the pitch.

Example (2)  [使用中 /shiyoochuu/ “being in use”; と a quotatative particle; 言ってる/itteru/ ‘is saying”; 学生/gakusee/ “student“]

使用中screenshot

 

 

An important thing to learning good pronunciation is to resist raising or lowering the pitch where it is not required. Pronouncing a long stretch in the same flat level is a skill that an English speaking student has to consciously learn.

3. Contrast between 位置 /i’chi/ and 一 /ichi’/

Let us take as an example the contrast between two different words that would otherwise sound the same; 位置 (“position” /i’chi/) and 一 (“one’ /ichi’/). Please listen:

You see an accent mark in 一 /ichi’/. How does it work? We have to put it in a sentence. Suppose two speakers A and B are making a poster or flyer. Something does not look right, and Speaker A asks Speaker B what she thinks:

会話screenshotph

Let’s hear this again, this time only the two sentences in contrast.

The difference in pronunciation and what it conveys is clear, isn’t it?

4. JLPT Listening Comprehension

A few days ago I was listening to the sample Listening Comprehension questions for the Japanese Language Proficiency Tests of the Japan Foundation (https://www.jlpt.jp/e/samples/forlearners.html).  It struck me how important it is to learn natural pronunciation, including the tonal and intonational contours, to be able to understand. In a test, you have to understand a constructed story in an environment where there is no information that helps your understanding such as body language, facial expression, previous knowledge, etc. Not knowing the accent would hamper your listening comprehension, not to mention your speaking.

5. Sharpen Your Awareness

So, just to sharpen your awareness even while you study kanji, I would like you to listen to the recording below and think about the words you have seen in this blog, by contrast to words that have a different word accent. You will hear the words in blue.

対象語PS

I will probably not put a sound file in every word I talk about, but I would like to come back to a few pronunciation topics in the future to help you to learn to speak correctly in the first place. [April 27. 2014]

PS 1  Here I am talking about only the standard Japanese. Even if you do not care whether you speak the standard Japanese, which is based on the Tokyo dialect, or another dialect, unless you are conscious of pitch (tonal) contour, you will be prone unconsciously to apply the accent and intonational rules of your native language and to end up acquiring what is called /gaijin-a’kusento./

PS 2  If you wish to see how some textbook dialogues look in the type of the tonal contour images that I used in Examples (1) and (2), you can view the dialogue scripts of all 23 lessons in the elementary-level Japanese textbook entitled Genki I & II (Japan Times.) I first created this new visual transcription of tonal contour, which I named 目で見る音調ガイド (“Guide to visual tonal contours” /me’ de miru onchoo/), for a different textbook back in 2003. The link for the Genki versions is http://genki.japantimes.co.jp/resources/onchou.

2014-05-04 Which Hand Helps? – 又右友有左 – “hand” (1)

(1) Ancient Japanese King’s Seal

The kanji and bushu shape 又 originated from a right hand that showed three fingers and a wrist. Back in February, I talked about the oldest artifact in kanji related to Japan, the gold seal of the Japanese King of Na 漢委奴國王 given by a Chinese Han emperor, in 57 A. D. [Link to the article.]  On this one inch square solid gold seal, in 又 on the right side of the third kanji 奴, we could see four fingers, instead of three fingers. Going through reference books, I still have not come across another example like that. Very intriguing. In discussing the shapes that came from a hand, I would like to start with 又  in this post.

(2) The Kanji 又 “also; or; again”

History又This shows the development of the kanji 又: Oracle bone style is in brown; bronze ware style in green; ten-style (official seal style) in red; and the last one in textbook style kanji. The bronze ware style here even suggested a thumb at the bottom (it was shorter and bending a little at the tip.) The shapes were all a right hand and meant “right side.” When one helped someone, he lent a right hand. So, this writing came to be used to mean “to help; helping hand,” and it appears in numerous kanji as a component. In the kanji, by itself, however, it lost the meaning of “right hand” and “help.” The kanji 又 /mata/ means “also; in addition to; again,” and also used in words such as 又貸し (“sublease” /matagashi/) and  又は (/mata’wa/) “or; alternatively.”  There is no on-reading.

(3) The Kanji 右 “right side”

History右Since 又 “right hand” was taken over by the meaning “to help,” a new writing was created by adding 口 “a mouth/word (to put in a word for),” as shown in bronze ware style and ten style. From a right hand that helped, it meant “right side.’ But in the kanji, the meaning “to help” disappeared, and instead, a left hand expresses that, as we will examine in (5). Shape-wise, in the kanji the middle long stroke became a horizontal line. It is used in words such as 右の方 (“the right side /migi no ho’o/) and 右手 (“a right hand” /migite/) in kin-reading, and 右折禁止 (“no right turn” /usetsukinshi/) and 右派 (“conservative faction of a political party” /u’ha/) in on-reading.

(4) The Kanji 友 “friend”

History友Here we have two right hands. The third and fourth bronze ware style had a 口 “mouth/words” underneath. They meant two (or many) people pledge to help each other. The writing meant “amicable relationship” and “friend.” It is used in words such as 友達 (“friend” /tomodachi/) in kun-reading,and 親友 (“close friend; best friend” /shinyuu/) and 友好国 (“ally (country)” /yuuko’okoku/) in on-reading.

(5) The kanji 有 “to exist; have”

History有Another kanji that shared the same oracle bone style as the kanji 又 was the kanji 有. In this case, it meant “to have.” In bronze ware style, the left sample had two short lines and the other sample had a piece of meat (月) under a right hand. The shape 月 had a few different meanings: “moon”; “a piece of meat” (think of the kanji 肉 “meat”); and a “boat.”  A right hand holding a piece of meat meant “to have” or an indication of “existence.” It is used in words such as 有る (“to exist; to have” /a’ru/) in kun-reading and 有名な (“famous” /yuumee/) and 所有物 (“possession” /shoyu’ubutsu/) in on-reading.

(6) The kanji 左 “left side”

History左The oracle bone style was a mirror image of 又. So, it must have been a left hand. It makes sense, doesn’t it?  In bronze ware style and ten style, the shape 工 was added. The kanji 工 came from a carpenter’s tool, a work table, or a craft and it means “craft.” One holds the crafted work with his left hand to work on. So, the kanji 左 meant “left.”  The kanji 左 is in 左側 (“left side” /hidarigawa/) in kin-reading, and 左右 (“both sides” /sa’yuu/) in on-reading. Because the left hand helps what the right hand does, it also meant “to help” when used as a component in some kanji, such as  佐 “to assist,” as in 補佐 (“aid; assistant” /ho’sa/).

There are several different shapes of kanji components that originated from a hand. I would like to discuss those in the next few posts. [May 4, 2014]

2014-05-11 A Hand From Above (1) – 受授釆菜採彩 – “hand” (2)

HandfromAboveThe kanji 受 and 授 have 又 ”hand” in common, the shape that we discussed in the previous post. In addition to 又, they have another hand in common, shown on the left. There are several different shapes that originated from a hand; and for our reference I label this shape as “a hand from above.” It has three fingers and the top of the hand, possibly like the image on the right.FingersAbove

1. 受 “to receive”

History受For the kanji 受, In the oracle bone style writing, in brown, what looks like two cross shapes were two hands and between the hands was a big plate. In the bronze ware style writing, in green, we can see that they used two different shapes for two hands: one from above and one from below. The middle was a boat shape. Both a big plate and a boat transport food or stuff from one place to another. One hand handing something to another meant “to receive” or “to give.” In oracle bone style and bronze ware style times, the writing did not differentiate who gave or who received but rather pointed at the transaction itself. By Ten style, in red, however, the meaning of giving had been dropped and it only meant “to receive.” The kun-reading is in 受ける (”to receive” /uke’ru/) and 受付 (“reception” /uketsuke/) and 引き受ける (“to undertake” /hikiuke’ru/.) The on-reading is in 受験する (“to take/sit for an exam” /juken-suru/)

2. 授ける “to bestow; grant; confer”

History授Sometime before ten style a new kanji was created to describe an act by a giver, by adding a bushu tehen, which generally meant an act that one does using a hand. The new writing 授 described giving from someone in a higher position to someone in a lower position, so it meant “to bestow; grant; confer.” The kanji 授 contained three hands in which the bushu tehen signaled that the writing was about an act itself. The kun-reading is in 授ける (“to bestow; grant; confer” /sazuke’ru/) and the on-reading is in 授業 (“class instruction” /ju’gyoo/) and 教授 (“professor” /kyooju/).

An interesting thing about this pair of kanji 受 and 授 is that the transitivity of a verb affects its meaning. For instance, with a transitive verb /uke’ru/, 試験を受ける (/shike’n-o uke’ru/) means “to take a test; sit for an exam“ whereas with an intransitive verb /uka’ru/, 試験に受かる (/shike’n ni uka’ru/) means “to be accepted; to pass.” In 授, with a transitive verb /sazuke’ru/, 賞を授ける (/sho’o o sazuke’ru/) means “to bestow an award” whereas with an intransitive verb /sazuka’ru/ 才能を授かる (/sainoo o sazuka’ru/) means “to be bestowed with talent; to be gifted.”

3.采 “to pick”

History采Now, we move to another shape that contained a hand from above and 木 “tree,” that is, 采. The oracle bone style tells the story best: A hand from above was picking flowers, fruits or nuts on a tree. From that 采 meant “to pick.” This kanji does not have a kun-reading and its on-reading /sa’i/ is used in the phrase 采配をふるう (“to take command; manage in person” /saihai o furuu/.)

4. 菜 “green vegetable”

History菜Adding the bushu kusakanmuri “grass; vegetation” to 采 created the kanji 菜 “green leaves; vegetable.” One picked the leaves of vegetables by hand from above. The kun-reading /na/ is in the word 菜っ葉 (“leaf vegetable” /nap’pa/). The on-reading is in 野菜 (“vegetable” /yasai/) and 白菜 (“hakusai” /hakusa’i/). (I have seen many different English names in grocery stores for 白菜 in the U. S. and U. K., where I do or did my grocery shopping; Chinese long cabbage, nappa cabbage, or sometimes even in hakusai, the Japanese name!)

5. 採 “to pick”

History採The kanji 採 consists of the bushu tehen “an act that one does using a hand” and the kanji 采. There seems to be no ancient writing for this. The one on the left, in grey, is from a 6th century inscription on a tombstone. The kanji 採 means “to take; adapt.” The kun-reading is in 採る (“to pick” /to’ru/) and the on-reading /sai/ is used in 採用する (”to hire; adopt” /saiyoo-suru/), 採光 (“lighting” /saikoo/) and 採算のとれる (“profitable” /saisan no tore’ru/).

6. 彩 “color scheme”

History彩Flowers on a tree give us a multitude of beautiful colors. The three diagonal lines on the right side meant “beautiful shape; shape.” This bushu appears in the kanji such as 形 (“shape” /katachi/), 影 (“shadow” /ka’ge/) and 髪 (“hair” /kami’/).  The kanji 彩 means “coloring; color scheme.” The kun-reading is in 彩り (“color scheme” /irodori/) and the on-reading is in 色彩 (“color scheme” /shikisai/) and 水彩画 (“water color painting” /suisaiga/).

You have probably noticed that the on-reading of all four kanji 采, 菜, 採 and 彩 is /sai/. The first one 采 was 会意文字 (“semantic composite writing” /kaiimo’ji/) and the other three were 形声文字 (“semantic-phonetic composite writing” /keeseemo’ji/). Similarly, the kanji 受 was a semantic composite writing and the kanji 授 was a semantic-phonetic composite writing.

In the next post I would like to look at the kanji that have a hand from above shape, including 浮 and 乳, and kanji that used to have a hand from above but it was replaced by a simpler shape in shinjitai style, including 争, 静 and 為. [May 11, 2014]

2014-05-17 Stroke Order of the Kanji 右, 有, 左, 友 – “hand” (3)

Here is a quick quiz for you. Question: Please answer the stroke number of the strokes in red.筆順クイズ[右有左友]

Before I give you the correct answer, let me talk about an often overlooked aspect of kanji learning, that is, stroke order. Please look at the table below:

Stroke Orders of 右, 有, 左& 友Row A (Mincho Style): The horizontal lines in all the four kanji look identical and the slanted strokes toward the left are also identical in length and angle, except in kanji (2) 有.  Mincho style is a printer’s typeface for the maximum use of an imaginary square for each kanji. Strokes are elongated to fill every corner. The lines are straight and a thin horizontal line has serifs on the right end.  It is used in books, magazines, computer screens, etc. where available space is more import consideration than esthetics.

Row B (Kyokasho style):  The characteristics of the first two strokes in the four kanji are essentially the same as those of Row A. The Japanese government requires this style to be used for textbooks in elementary education. It is designed so that an elementary school pupil can emulate good handwriting. It is for writing purposes but it is also a type face or font that is designed to be used in print.

Row C (Kai Style): It is in brush writing from the kai style, which is the formal writing style. Now we begin to see something different among the four kanji: (1) The horizontal lines are long in 右and 有 and shorter in左and 友; and (2) The slanted strokes in右 and 有 are shorter whereas those in 左 and 友 are long, to the extent that they touch the baseline.

Row D: The stroke orders are shown. We see that the two different ways coincide with the characteristics of the length of strokes we see in Row C.  Even though the kyokasho style does not show it in its length, we can imagine that in 右 and 左, in blue, we write the short slanted stroke first and the horizontal line long and in a paced way.  On the other hand, in 左and 友, we can write a short horizontal stroke quickly, and in the slanted stroke toward left we bring our stroke down to the baseline carefully.

Row E is a grass style, which is a fast fluid movement of a brush, resulting in many strokes coalescing into one continuous stroke. In these, we can clearly see how a calligrapher carries his brush between the first and second strokes because the first and second stroke are continuous.

So, the answer to the quiz in the beginning: (1) 1; (2) 1; (3) 2; and (4) 2.  How did you do?

Row F is the ten-style writing from Akai (2010). The first strokes of these kanji are all hands.

In 2007 when I was finalizing the manuscripts for the kanji book “The Key to Kanji,” I asked my illustrator to draw the image as a left hand and a right hand for 友. Because 左 and 友 were written in the same manner and I expected that the top left of 友 had come from a left hand. Since then, the Akai books (1985 and 2010) came to my attention, and now I changed my view that both hands were right hands. Stroke order is really the product of brush writing and may have little relevance to its original meaning in some cases. After all, by the time of brush writing how writing came about mattered little. [May 16, 2014]

1) This article was prompted by the comment from Antoniomarco from Italy on my earlier post “which Han d helps?  A Right Hand or Left Hand?” and subsequent information from him.  Thank you very much, Dr. Gennaro.
2) The brush writing font in the row C and E was from s freeware attributed to Aoyagi Shozan.  http://opentype.jp/freemouhitufont.htm.武蔵システム

3) A hiragana さcame from the grass style of the kanji 左.

2014-05-24 A Hand From Above (2): 浮乳争静印 -“hand” (4)

In continuing the “hand-from-above” shape, we are going to look at the kanji that have a hand-from-above and  子 “child” together [浮 and 乳] and three other kanji [争, 静 and 印] in which a hand-from-above lost its shape.

1. The Kanji Component 孚

History孚[Note: The first three kanji are not in Joyo kanji but they tell us what the component of “educational” kanji (学習漢字 /gakushuuka’nji/) 浮 and 乳 meant. So I am going to leave them in here.]

1-1. The Kanji Component 孚 — When a hand-from-above shape took 子 “child” below, 孚 was created. by itself as a kanji It did not survive into Japanese use, but a full range of ancient writing is available to us [left]. All the ancient writing (oracle bone style in brown, bronze ware style in green and ten style in red) consisted of a hand reaching over the head of a child. Let us look at four kanji here.

1-2 The Kanji 孵 — When used with the kanji 卵 “egg,” 孵 “to hatch,” was created. In this kanji what we think to be fingers in other kanji were the claws of a bird, and the kanji meant brooding over eggs. Because this kanji is not a Joyo kanji, in the phrase 卵が孵る (“an egg hatches” /tama’go ga ka’eru/) a more commonly used kanji 返る (“to return” /ka’eru/) is often used. But for the verb 孵化する (“to hatch” /fu’ka-suru/) we still use this kanji. In this kanji 孚 meant a protective hand over a child.

1-3 The Kanji 俘 — When used with a ninben “person,” 俘 (“captive” /toriko’/) was created. The expression とりこになる (“to become a captive” /toriko’-ni-naru/) is a casual expression when you get hooked on something. The on-reading is in 俘虜 “prisoner of war.” So in this kanji, 孚 meant “a captive.”

2. The Kanji 浮  “to float”

History浮In bronze ware style, when a bushu sanzui “water” was added, 浮 was created. A child floated when an adult hand held him. It meant “to float.” The verbs 浮かぶ /ukabu/ and 浮く /uku/ both mean “to float” in the water or in the air. A state of not being attached to something permanent is used in the word 浮き世 (“transitory world; fleeting life” /uki’yo; ukiyo/) and 浮世絵 (“woodblock print” /ukiyoe; ukiyo’e/.)

3. The Kanji 乳 “milk; breast”

HIstory乳When a single bent line (乚) was added, 乳 “milk; breast” was created. This single stroke shape has two different interpretations. One is a hand to caress a baby and the other is a swallow. There was a folktale that a swallow was the messenger of a god and would bring a baby, much like the Western folktale of a stork carrying a new baby to you. In either case, from “caring for a child” it meant milk and the mother’s breast that produces with. The kanji 乳 is used in words such as 牛乳 (“cow’s milk” /gyuunyuu/), 母乳 (“mother’s milk” /bonyuu/) and 乳歯 (”baby tooth” /nyu’ushi/) in on-reading, and 乳 (“milk; breast” /chichi’/) in kun-reading.

4. The Kanji 争 “to fight”

History争Next, I am going to discuss three kanji that lost their hand-from-above shape. For the kanji 争, a hand-from-above was visible through the kyujitai style, in blue on the left, before the Japanese language reform in 1946. The lower part was what I call a sideways hand, because the three fingers stay horizontal in kanji. We see this “sideways hand” in many kanji, and I will discuss them in my future posts. In addition to two hands there was a stick. Together they meant two hands fighting over a stick, or control. In the new style the top was simplified. It is in the words such as 争う (“to fight” /araso’u/) and 争い (“a fight” /arasoi/) in kin-reading, and 戦争 (“war” /sensoo/) and 競争 (“competition” /kyoosoo/) in on-reading.

5. The Kanji 静 “quiet; still”

History静When 争 was combined with 青 “blue,” it made 静 (kyujitai 靜) ”quiet.” Fighting and serenity are opposites. Where did the meaning come from, we wonder. There are two different interpretations. The left side 青 is agreed upon: In the bronze ware style, the upper left was what would become the kanji 生 “live; new life” and the middle was a well 井 with clean water (the dot pointed). Together they made the kanji 青 (kyuujitai靑) and it meant “fresh clean water,” or its color, ”blue,” by itself.

For the right side, one interpretation is that in the bronze ware style, in green, the right side was a plough to till the field that was held by a hand at the bottom. With 青, it meant a “peaceful, quiet” time after a bountiful harvest. Another interpretation is in ten style, in red, “fighting” and “quiet” together meant tranquility after a ceasefire. In the current kanji, the shapes on both sides changed. The kun-reading is in 静けさ (“tranquility” /shizuke’sa/) and the on-reading /se’e/ is in 冷静に (“calmly; cool-heartedly” /reesee-ni/) and 静止する (“to stand still” /seeshi-suru/). Another on-reading じょう is in 静脈 (“vein” /joomyaku/), which is a go-on, an older reading.

6. The kanji 印 “seal”

History印The oracle bone style of the kanji 印 showed a hand-from-above in front of a person who knelt down. In ten style, a hand came above the person who was bowing deeply as if a hand is pushing him down. In kanji, a hand and a person were placed side by side. Pushing a person down was used to mean pressing a seal down. The kanji 印 /i’n/ means ”seal; sign.” 印鑑 (“seal” /inka’n/) is an important thing in Japanese life because it functions as a signature. The kun-yomi 印 (“sign” /shirushi/) is in 目印 (“landmark; sign“ /meji’rushi/).

So, a hand-from-above shape is visible in some kanji such as 受, 授, 釆, 菜, 採, 彩, 孵, 俘, 浮 and 乳, and it has changed its shape in some kanji such as 争, 静 and 印. [May 24, 2014]

[I would like to postpone the kanji 為 to a future post when I talk about an elephant. Yes, it had an elephant in it!]

2014-05-31 Two Hands from Below (1) 共供異興兵具 -“hand” (5)

In this post, I am going to discuss the kanji that have “two hands from below”: 共, 供, 異, 興, 具 and 兵. We immediately spot that they all have a shape that is like the kanji 八 squashed flat a little. They are hands trying to lift something.

1. 共 “together”

Two hands from belowIn the kanji共, in oracle bone style, in brown, and bronze ware style, in green, a hand from the right side and another hand from the left side were holding up something in the middle. The use of both hands and raising something above suggested he was handling with care because it was something important to him. In ten style hands the thing got separated and in kanji they became two components. The meaning focuses on the point that “two” hands were used, rather than on the point of “raising.” It means “to share; do something together.” The kun-yomi makes a phrase “~と共に“ (“together with〜” /〜to tomo ni/) and the on-yomi makes the words such as 共有する (”to share” /kyooyuu-suru/), 共著 (“co-authoring” /kyo’ocho/), 共演者 (“co-stars” /kyooe’nsha/) and 共同で (“collectively; sharing” /kyoodo-de/.)

2. 供  “to keep company; make offering to”

History供In bronze ware style, the components were same as that of 共, and in ten style, by adding a ninben, it indicated the act that a person does with both hands, which was “to make an offering to” or “to keep someone company; accompany someone.” There are two kun-yomi for 供. They are in お供え (“an offering (that one leaves on an altar table)” /osonae/) and お供する (“to accompany a person” [humble style] /oto’mo-suru/). There are also two on-yomi for 供. /Kyo’o/ is in 提供する (“to sponsor; supply; furnish” /teekyoo-suru/)  and /ku/ is in 供物 (“offering at alter” /ku’motsu/). If you guessed that this must be a go-on because it appeared to have a bearing on Buddhist practice, you are right. Naturally the reading /mo’tsu/ for 物 is a go-on too, as seen in 荷物 (“luggage” /ni’motsu/).

You probably have seen the word /kodomo/ written in both 子供 and 子ども and wondered why in hiragana. Because the kanji 供 means “accompanying,” some people consider it to be pejorative. Even in this age of children’s rights, I am quite puzzled by this logic. Now that we have a chance to see the origin of the kanji 供, I still do not see what the fuss is about.

3. 異 “odd; peculiar; different”

History異大盂蘭鼎ー異写真I once showed to the students of my second-year Japanese class the photo of bronze ware style inscriptions in the famous huge bronze ware pot called Daiutei (大盂鼎 Dà Yú Dĭng), and asked them to decipher the writing. The writings were in bronze ware style.  One by one they guessed and enjoyed this new game. And someone said, “There is a guy doing rap!” [The photo on the right (Ishikawa 1996)] Indeed he looked like that. Looking at a photo of ancient artifacts in that way makes the kanji alive. The kanji historians’ interpretation is that he was putting on a fearsome mask over his face to turn himself to another character. From that it meant “peculiar; different.” The kun-reading is in the adjective 異なった (“different” /kotona’tta/) and in the verb (~と) 異にする (“to differ from~” /to koto’-ni-suru/.) The on-reading is in 異説 (“conflicting view” /isetsu/) and 異常な (“unusual; extraordinary  /ijoo-na/).

Notes:  After some exchanges of the comments with a reader on the interpretation of the ancient writings of the kanji 異, I have written its follow-up article entitled “Kanji 異 Revisited and 典其選殿臀” posted on September 26, 2014. Thank you.

4. 興 “to raise; resurrect; start”

History興In oracle bone style, a pair of hands at the top and another pair of hands from below were holding something in the middle. In bronze ware style and ten style, the top and the bottom separated. Shirakawa (2004) says that what was in the middle was a vase which contained sake that a priest sprinkled around to wake up the spirit of the earth. From people trying to raise something together at once it means “to raise; start; to resuscitate.” The kun-reading is in 興す (“to start something new; revive; resuscitate”/oko’su/). The on-reading /kyo’o/ is in 興味 (“interest” /kyo’omi/), 即興で (”extemporaneously” /sokkyoo de/).  Another on-reading /ko’o/ is in 新興の (”newly-risen” /shinkoo-no/). Lately, you see the word 町おこし (“revitalization of a locality” /machi-o’koshi/) quite a lot in the news. Even though the media tend to use the hiragana, it is in this meaning, that people do something to revive the locality by creating an event or project.  Because it is a Japanese word, it is not that necessary to use this kanji, however.

5. 具 “filling; to be equipped”

History具In oracle bone style and bronze ware style what two hands were holding above was a tripod (鼎 /kanae/) or cowry (貝 /ka’i/). A tripod was used to cook sacrificial animals for a religious ceremony, and cowry was used as currency in ancient times. So both are things that had important substance. From placing something important with both hands, it meant “filling; to be equipped.” The kun-reading is in 具わる (“to be equipped with” /sonawa’ru/) and the on-reading is in 具 (“topping/filling on food” /gu/), 具体的に (“concretely” /gutaiteki-ni/), because you would give the details, and 金具 (“hardware/metal fittings” /kanagu/).

6. 兵 “soldier”

History兵Just as I was about to write that “the top of the oracle bone style (the first one) was an axe,” I thought “I do not think I can convince my readers.” So, I went back to my source (Akai 2010) and found the second one, which showed the blade of an axe better. An axe was a weapon, and someone who held a weapon is a soldier. So it meant “soldier.” In writing the kanji 兵, the third stroke starts a little below the beginning of the second stroke, much like the kanji in the upper right of the kanji 近 (“near”), in which 斤 was used phonetically. The old Japanese word for solider was /tsuwamono/, and this kanji is sometimes read as /tsuwamono/. The on-reading is in 兵士 (“soldier” /he’eshi/), 兵器 (“weapons” /he’eki/) and 派兵 (“sending military” /hahee/).

There are a couple of more shapes taken from a hand that I have not touched yet. I will discuss them in the next post, to wrap up the discussion on various shapes that originated from a hand. [May 31, 2014]

2014-06-07 Hand and Bushu Tehen: 手挙拳摩打持推 – “hand” (6)

We have been looking at various shapes that originated from a hand. In this post we look at the kanji that contain the shape 手 itself (手, 挙, 拳 and 摩) and the bushu tehen (打, 持 and 推.)

1. The kanji 手 “hand; person with hand skill; method”

History of the Kanji 手 "hand"This is an open hand with five fingers and a wrist area, which seems to me the most obvious shape for a hand. However, I found only bronze ware style, in green, and ten style, in red. I had to go back to the sources a few times to make sure that I did not miss any oracle bone style. It puzzles me.

It is not surprising how many meanings a hand has: 1) a hand as a physical feature, as in 手 (“hand” /te’/) and 手でする(“to do by hand” /te’de suru/) ; 2) a person who has skill using a hand, such as 運転手 (“driver” /unte’nshu/), 選手 (“participating athelete” /se’nshu/) and やり手 (“an enterprising man” /yarite/); 3) skills in the use of a hand, as in 上手 (“skillful” /joozu’/) and 下手 (“unskillful” /heta’/); 4) a way or method as in 手法 (“method” /shuhoo/) and 奥の手 (“the last resort” /o’kunote/); and 5) something on one’s hand to own, such as 手に入れる(“to obtain” /te’ ni-ireru/) and 手にする (“to obtain; hold in one’s hand” /te’ ni suru/.

2. The kanji 挙 “to raise a hand; carry out”

History of Kanji 挙 ”to raise; carry out"The kanji 挙 looks to have a single hand in kanji, but if you look at its ten style, it had as many as five hands! At the top were two hands from either side and an interlocking shape in the middle. At the bottom were two hands from either side and another hand inside. In the last post we saw the kanji 興 having four hands that gave the meaning “to raise,” but this topped that in terms of the number of hands. How did it get reduced to a single hand? The kyujitai 擧, in blue, serves as the middle step: The two hands at the bottom were replaced by two strokes (ハ) left and right. In shinjitai, the top was replaced by a truncated katakana tsu (ツ). The history of kanji is a history of simplification of shape to make writing easier, to write and to read. We have seen this process in the top of the kanji 覚 “to be conscious of” and 学 “to learn”: In kyuujitai 覺 and 學 got replaced with the katakana tsu shape at the top, as discussed in an earlier post [link.] With five hands in its ancestor, the kanji 挙 means “to do something together at once, and is used in words such as 一挙に (“at a stroke” /i’kkyo ni/,) 挙手 (“raising a hand” /kyo’shu/) and 結婚式を挙げる (“to carry out a wedding ceremony” /kekko’nshiki o ageru/.)

3. The kanji 拳 “fist”

History of Kanji 拳 "fist"Similar to 挙 is 拳. In ten style the top was used phonetically for /ke’n/, and was the same as the kanji 券 (“ticket” /ke’n/), which had 刀 “knife; sword” instead of 手. The kun-reading is /kobushi’/ “fist” and it makes the word 拳銃 (“pistol” /kenjuu/.) After simplification of 擧 to 挙, the kanji 挙 and 拳 look so much alike. In trying to find either kanji in isolation in a dictionary or on the computer, I often pick the wrong kanji first.

4. The kanji 摩 “to rub; knead and soften by hand”

History of Kanji 摩 "rub; knead"The top 麻 was hemp or flax whose fibers needed to be pounded by hand to soften. There is another kanji that uses 麻, which is 磨 (“to polish; hone” /migaku/.) It has a stone 石 underneath instead of a hand 手. In 摩, adding a hand below emphasizes kneading- or rubbing-like work that one does by hand. The kun-reading is not used often and the on-reading /ma/ is in 按摩 (“massage” /anma/) and 摩擦 (“friction” /masatsu/.)

So the three kanji we have just looked at have direct use of a hand. Next we look at three kanji that have a bushu tehen. In the past I have touched on a few kanji that contained a tehen: 振 “to shake” from 辰 “clam” [link]; 採 “to adopt” from 采 “picking from above” and 授 “to bestow” from the original meaning of 受 “to receive” [link]. Let us look at a few more.

5. The kanji 打 “to hit” (and 丁 “block”)

History of Kanji 打 and 丁

Only ten style is available for 打, so let us look at the kanji 丁 “block.” In oracle bone style, in brown, and bronze ware style, in green, 丁 was a “nail”, or something oblong. With a tehen added, the kanji 打 got the meaning of hitting a nail by hand to pound it in. So it meant “to hit.” In a baseball game 打者 (“hitter; slugger” /da’sha/) uses his arms and the kun-reading is in 打つ (“to hit” /u’tsu/.) In Japanese there is a prefix うち- “emphatic” that makes up many words such as 打ち明ける “to confide,” 打ち合わせ “staff meeting; informal meeting,” うち興じる ”to make merry” and 打ち消す “to deny.” This prefix must be of Japanese origin. Shirakawa (2004) mentions that there was a use of the kanji 打 as an emphatic prefix in Chinese. I do not have knowledge of how these two facts were related, and I am curious.

6. The kanji 持 “to have” (and 寺 “temple”)

History of Kanji 持 and 寺Only ten style is available for 持, but we can get some insight from 寺 on the right. For 寺, the bronze ware style writing had a footprint or foot (the precursor of 止) and a hand. In ten style an extra line was added, making the shape 寸. Together they meant that one used feet and hands to work in a place, specifically in a government office. Later on Buddhist monks stayed in the government building and it came to mean a “temple.”  Now back to the kanji 持 –寺 was used phonetically for /ji/ and probably for its meaning of a hand. Adding a tehen emphasized that one had something in hand. The kun-reading  持つ  /mo’tsu/ means “to hold in hand; own,” and is in 持ち物 (“one’s property” /mochi’mono/.) The on-reading is in 持参する (“to bring something with one” /jisan-suru/.)

7. The kanji 推 “to push forward; guess”

History of Kanji 推The right side is 隹, a bushu hurutori “bird,” which I discussed earlier  [link], but here it was used phonetically for /sui/ to mean “to push forward.” By adding a tehen, it meant to push by hand. A bird was also used in fortune-telling or divination and had the meaning “to guess.” A hurutori was also used for guessing, as in 誰 (“who” /da’re/) even though in current writing hiragana is usually used. The kun-reading 推す /osu/ means “to thrust forward; to recommend,” and the on-reading /sui/ is in 推薦状 (“a letter of recommendation” /suisenjoo/), 推進する (“to propel” /suishin-suru/) and 推測 (”guess; conjecture” /suisoku/.)

In writing this post, I was not able to find any oracle bone style or bronze ware style that had a tehan. That leads me to conclude that the kanji that have a tehen were created after bronze ware style, most likely as 形声文字 semantic-phonetic composite writing. I was going to wrap up my “hand”stories in this post, but it looks like I need more posts to do so. [June 7, 2014]

2014-06-15 Two hands from below (2): 算戒械弁and 葬鼻升昇 -“hand” (7)

We have seen previously that two hands from below created a two-stroke ハ shape that was present in 共供興兵具 (and 異.)  In this post we are going to see another shape that came from two hands from below: it is a three-stroke shape at the bottom of 算戒械弁. The shape is called /niju’uashi/ “two-ten bottom” in a kanji dictionary. Japanese people rarely use bushu names, except a handful of common names such as ninben, shinnyuu (nowadays shinnyoo), kihen, etc. We just say “the bottom of the kanji san,” hoping that the hearer knows which kanji /sa’n/ being referred to. For convenience, I am going to use the name nijuuashi.

1. 算 “to calculate; count”

History算In ten style, the top was a takekanmuri “bamboo.” The middle and the bottom were the same as that of the ten style shape of the kanji 具 “contents; filling.” In the development of the kanji 具 what looks like 目 in fact came from a pot for cooking a sacrificial animal and other food. The bottom was two hands holding it up. [Link to 具]  Bamboo sticks were used for counting. From “counting the contents” the kanji 算 meant “to count.” Two hands from below became a ハ shape in 具 whereas they became a nijuuashi in 算. The kanji 算 does not have a kun-reading. The on-reading /san/ is in 計算 (“calculation” /keesan/), 算数 (“reckoning; arithmetics” /sansu’u/), 予算 (“budget” /yosan/) and 打算的 (”calculating; prudent” /dasanteki/.)

2. 戒 “to admonish”

History戒In the kanji 戒 ”to admonish” the oracle bone style had a halberd in the middle and a hand on both sides. In bronze ware style, a halberd was raised by two hands and pushed to the right, and in ten style the halberd was placed on top of the two hands. (A halberd is a weapon that has two functions, for thrusting and cutting. [The Oxford dictionary: a combined spear and battle-ax].)History戈(金文)  The bronze ware style of the kanji 戈 /ho’ko/ “halberd” is shown on the right side.

Shirakawa (2004) notes that: (1) Two hands raising an axe made the kanji 兵 “weapon; soldier” and; (2) two hands raising a halberd made the kanji 戒 “to admonish.” It is interesting to see a parallel here, that two hands from below ended up with two different shapes ハ in 具 and nijuuashi in 算, and the same thing happened in 兵 and 戒 [Link to 具 and 兵.] The kun-reading is 戒める (“to admonish” /imashime’ru/) and 戒め (“admonition; caution” /imashime/.) The on-reading /kai/ is in 戒律 (“commandments; religious precepts,” /kairitsu/), 十戒 (“the Ten Commandments” /jikkai/) and 懲戒処分 (“disciplinary measure“ /chookai-sho’bun/.)

3. 械 “machine; gadget”

History械By adding a kihen “tree; wood” to 戒, we get the kanji 械 as in 機械 (“machine; machinery” /kika’i/) and 器械 (“instrument; apparatus” /kika’i/). From “wooden apparatus that admonishes” the original meaning was “wooden shackle.” In kanji, the meaning of “admonishing” dropped and it means “gadget; machine.” There is no kun-reading in joyo kanji.

4. 弁 “flower petal; to defend; speak; dialect”

History弁The shape of the kanji 弁 came from two hands trying to put on a hat, which came from the left side of the ten style writing. According to Shirakawa, a black hat was worn by a civilian officer and a white hat by a military officer. In shinjitai the kanji 弁 has assumed various meanings from different kanji in the kyujitai – 瓣, 辨 and 辯.

弁の旧字体In order to understand different meanings of 弁, it may be useful to look at these three kanji in an enlarged view on the right side. If we compare the first three shapes, we notice that only the middle component is different. The outer shape had two 辛, which were tattooing needles. They meant two people pledging something with understanding that they would get tattooed as a punishment if they broke the pledge. From that it meant “to pledge.” The shape (a) 瓣 had 瓜 “gourd” in the center. Inside the gourd seeds are packed neatly in rows. It came to mean “flower petal.” The shape (b) 辯 had 言 “word; language” in the center, and it meant two people argue side by side. The shape (c) 辨 had a bushu shape called /rittoo/ “knife,” which divided something equally. It meant separating the two sides in court and making balanced judgment. In shinjitai, all three kanji uses the kanji 弁.

The on-reading /be’n/ is in the expressions such as 花弁 (“flower petal” /kaben/), 弁が立つ (“to speak eloquently” /be’n-ga ta’tsu/,) 答弁 (“answer; account” /to’oben,) 弁護士 (“legal attorney”/bengo’shi/) and 関西弁 (“Kansai dialect” /kansaiben/.)  弁当 (“boxed lunch” /bento’o/) appears not to be related (The Kojien dictionary suggests that it may be phonetic or for the meaning of convenience /ben/.) The kun-yomi 弁える /wakimae’ru/ means “to discern; have good knowledge of” and and is used in the phrase 場所を弁えない (“not bear in mind of the occasion” /basho-o wakimae’nai/.)

Now, not all the bushu nijuuashi shapes came from two hands from below. Here are a few kanji that I have found that do not share its meaning in our brief exposition of “hand” in kanji.

5. The kanji 葬 ”to bury; entomb”; and (2) 鼻 ”nose”

History葬In 葬 “to bury; entomb,” the ten style had two pairs of grasses or plants, the top for the bush kusakanmuri and the bottom in the same shape, and the precursor of 死 in the middle. A body hidden in tall grasses is a burial. From the kanji shape I had thought that the deceased being buried with tender care made sense. After I copied the ten style, I still thought they were hands. But I seem to be wrong.

In the kanji 鼻” nose,” the top 自 was “self” from a nose. The middle and the bottom together were used phonetically from kanji that was not used in Japanese. In the kyujitai 鼻 the two vertical strokes did not go above the long horizontal line in suggesting a table.

6. The kanji 升 “ladle; unit of measuring mass” and 昇 “to rise”

History升I became curious about the kanji 升 and 昇, because they contained the shape nijuuashi right in the middle. I had never paid attention to these kanji before.  (They are not among the “first half” of the Joyo kanji, so I did not include them in The Key to Kanji.) The development of 升 is shown on the left. When we think about its meaning, the shapes on the left make sense to me. It was a ladle to measure grains and liquid. It even points to the fact that the ladle has something inside. The kanji 升  /sho’o/ was an old unit of measuring grains and liquid before Japan switched to the metric system. Even after that the words 米一升 (“one sho of rice” /kome-i’sshoo/) or 一升瓶 (“a bottle of one sho; 1.8 liter” /issho’obin/) were words that were used in daily life.

History昇The kanji 昇 means “the sun rising.” It had the sun 日 and the bottom 升 was used phonetically. The kun-reading is 昇る (“to rise” /noboru/) and the on-reading /sho’o/ is found in 上昇 (“rising” /jooshoo/) and 昇進する (“to get promoted to a higher position” /shooshin-suru.)

So in this post, we have seen that not all the kanji that contain the bushu shape called nijuuashii came from the same origin. In the next post I am planning to discuss one more shape 寸 that came from a hand (or two hands, depending on the interpretation.) [June 15, 2014]

2014-06-22 A Hand with a Finger of Another Hand-寸付府守対討 -“hand” (8)

In this final post regarding “hand,” we are going to look at 寸, 付, 府, 守, 対 and 討.

1. The kanji 寸 “a little”

History寸The origin of the kanji 寸 has puzzled me for a long time, particularly the origin of the third stroke. Following a view that was based on the first century explanation in Setsumon-kaiji, I wrote that it was “a finger pointing at a wrist where one’s pulse was taken. The distance between a hand and that point is small, so this portion signified a little…” (Williams 2010: 183) This time I searched for earlier ancient writing, hoping that it might give us better evidence for that explanation. Strangely enough, there was no sample for 寸 earlier than the ten style on the left. Let us look at a few kanji that may contain earlier styles.

2. 付 “to attach; issue”

History付The three bronze ware styles for the kanji 付 (1), (2) and (3), have a person and a hand from behind. In (1) the hand was touching the person, and in (1) and (2) there is no short line that would become a third stroke in kanji. From handing something to another person, 付 meant “to hand out; attach.” Giving out documents was what a government office did, so it also meant “to issue.” The kun-reading /tsu/ is used in 付ける (“to attach” tr. v. /tsuke’ru/) and 付く (“to attach itself to; adhere; touch” intr. v. /tsu’ku/), 受け付ける (“to accept“(application, etc.) /uketsukeru/)  The on-reading /hu/ is in the words such as 交付する (”to issue; to grant” /koohu-suru/), 送付する (”to serve (someone) with~” /soohu-suru/) and 添付ファイル (“file attached” /tenpufa’iru/.)

3. 府 ”government ”

history府The kanji 府 looks like the kanji 付 inside a bushu called madare 广, which means a house that had one side open for people walking in and out. That would explain the meaning “government” that 府 has. However the two bronze ware style samples on the left add a little more story to it. They had a cowry at the bottom, representing important documents. Thus it originally meant a vault for important documents and money. In Ten-style there was no cowry. The kanji 府 means “government office.” In Japan it is a jurisdiction smaller than 都 (“metropolitan government” /to’/) but larger than 県 (“prefecture” /ke’n/). Only 大阪府 (“Osaka prefecture” /oosaka’hu/) and 京都府 (“Kyoto prefecture” /kyooto’hu/) have this designation. There is no kun-reading. The on-reading /hu/ is in 政府 (“government” /se’ehu/), 幕府 (“military government” /ba’kuhu/.)

4. 守 “to protect”

History守The kanji 守 has 寸 under a bushu ukanmuri. A bushu ukanmuri was originally a house or complete cover that securely protects something inside. It meant “to work inside a house or to protect what is inside a house.” The two bronze styles differ in that one has the extra dot and one does not. The kun-reading is in 守る (“to protect” /mamo’ru/), 見守る (“to watch over” /mimamoru/) and the on-reading is in 守衛 (“watch guard” /shuee/), 保守的な (“conservative” /hoshuteki-na/.)

5. 対 (對) “opposing; pair”

History対The kyujitai for the kanji 対 is 對. As I laid the three styles side by side like this, I realize that the shinjitai is closer to the oracle bone style. I do not have time right now to look into this, and at the moment we are interested in the right side 寸.The story of the left side varies. Whether it was “a notched stand to hang musical instrument,” as I wrote in 2010, or a building foundation made between boards by pounding dirt and gravel (Shirakawa), the right side is clearly a hand. Neither of the bronze ware style samples shows an extra stroke, but both ten style samples do. The kanji 対 means “opposing; pair.” There is no kun-reading. /Tsui/ is go-on on-reading and is used in words by itself as in 対になっている (”They are in a pair.” /tsui ni na’tteiru/) and 一対 (“one pair” /ittsui/.) /Ta’i/ is a kan-on on-reading and is used in 反対する (“to oppose” /hantai-suru/), 対立 (“confrontation” /tairitsu/) and 対象 (”target; aim” /taishoo/.)

6. 討 “to inquire thoroughly; attack”

History討The left side is a bushu gonben 言 “language; to say.” (言 itself deserves a post so we will look into the origin of 言 at later time.) Phonetically 寸 was close to 誅 /chuu/ “to kill” and 肘 /chuu/ ”elbow,” a body part that controls use of the hand. The kanji 討 means to inquire thoroughly; attack.” The kun-reading is in 討つ (“to attack” /u’tsu/.) The on-reading is in 討論する (“to debate; contend”/to’oron-suru/), 検討する (”to investigate; examine thoroughly” /kentoo-suru/) and in the sense of attack, 討伐する (“to put down”/toobatsu-suru/.)

Returning to the question of where the little stroke in 寸 come from, we do not seem to be getting anywhere other than that in bronze ware style both shapes appear, possibly with the extra stroke in a later one. So, I just take the explanation of two thousand year ago that it is a finger, or the width of a finger, and meant “a little.” I am going to leave the topic of hand for now with another post today that shows in a table the shapes from hand that we looked. Thank you very much for reading those posts about hands. [June 22, 2014]

P. S. For a madare, I used a symbol (广) that I had used in my book. (I had thought this would come out in mojibake on this site before. If browsers can take this, it will make it easier to see and write.) I hope your browser shows it correctly.

2014-06-22 The Table of the Shapes in Kanji That Came from “Hand”- “hand” (9)

This is the table of the shapes that originally came from a hand and that we have looked at on this blog.

Microsoft Word - 手から来る部首形の表.docx

I remember that a former student of mine would lament my comments on the kanji and say, ‘Oh, everything in kanji is about a hand!”  Now I can see why she was struck by that impression.  [June 22, 2014]

2014-07-05 One Foot at a Time (1) 後夏降麦来

 

In the next few posts, we will be looking at the various shapes in kanji that came from a footprint or footmark.  Kanji differentiate two directions of walking, forward and backward/downward. We have seen a few kanji that had a forward facing footprint earlier in the kanji 止歩正 and 政. In this post we will look at a backward or downward footprint.

forwardbackwardfeetDirection of footprints:  How did ancient creators of writing in China differentiate the two directions of walking? In the table on the left, the top row shows the development of forward footprint shapes, and in the bottom row for a backward or downward footprint. I am assuming that where two lines crossed was where the toe was. Based on that assumption we can say that the kanji 止 was a left foot and the bushu chi 夂 was a right foot.

(1) The kanji 後 “behind; back; later”

History後rFor the kanji 後, the top of the first bronze ware style on the left had a crossroad (彳) and short threads (幺) and the bottom had a forward footprint (止) and a backward footprint (夂). But the forward footprint was not in the second sample nor in ten style. Short threads meant smallness. By waking in small steps one became behind and arrived later. From that the kanji 後 meant “behind; back; later; late.” In ten style, 夂 “backward foot” became 夊 “dragging foot,” but in kanji it became 夂. It seems that even though夂 “backward foot” and夊 “dragging foot” had different meanings, sometimes they were used interchangeably.

There are three different kun-readings , /ushi(ro)/, /a’to/ and /nochi’/.  They appear in words such as 後ろ (“behind” /ushi(ro)/), 後ろ前 (“with front side back” /ushiro’mae/), 後ろめたい (“to feel a guilty conscience” /ushirometa’i/);  for /a’to/, 後で  (“later; at later time” /a’to de/), 後になって (“after it happened” /a’to ni natte/), 後ずさりする (“to move backward” /atozu’sari-suru/); and for /nochi’/, 後ほど (“sometime later” [polite] /nochihodo/) and その後 (“after that” [polite/writing] /sononochi/). There are two on-readings: /go/ is in 食後 (“after meal” /shokugo), 十年後 (“ten years later” /juunengo/) and /koo/ is in 後半 (“second half” /koohan/ and 後輩 (“a junior in seniority” /koohai/).

(2) The kanji 夏 “summer”

History夏In the kanji 夏, in bronze ware style the top was the head of an official with a headdress on, which appears in many kanji related to a head, including 頭 “head” and 顔 “face.”  Below that he had some adornments in his hands and a downward foot at the bottom. He was dancing in a festival showing off fancy step work and hand movements. From a festival in summer it meant “summer.” In kanji, the two hands were dropped and fancy footwork remained. The kun-reading is in 真夏 (“midsummer” /manatsu/), 夏場 (“during summer” /natsuba/).  The on-reading /ka/ is in 立夏 (“beginning of summer on calendar”/ri’kka/).

(3) The kanji 降 “to fall in the sky; come down.”

History降rFor the kanji 降, in all of the ancient writing, the left side had a pile of dirt raised high, indicating a high place. A dirt wall served as a boundary. This bushu is called kozatohen, and it meant “ladder, boundary, high land.” The right side, in both oracle bone style and bronze ware style were two footsteps facing downward-  a right footprint (the top) and a left footprint (the bottom). In ten style, the bottom footprint was placed more sideways. This shape appears in 韋, a component of the kanji 偉, 違 and 圍 (囲), which we will look at in the next post.  So, with a kozatohen and two downward footprints coming down from the high place, the kanji 降 meant “to fall (from the sky)” and “to descend.”

There are three different kun-readings: /hu’(ru)/, /o(ri’ru)/ and /kuda(ru)./  They are in words such as 雨が降る (“it rains” /a’me ga huru/), 雪が降って来た (“It has started to snow ” /yuki’ ga hutte-kita/); 電車を降りる (“to get off a train” /densha o oriru/), 階段を降りる (“to walk down the stairs” /kaidan o ori’ru/); and ライバルチームを降す (“to win over the rival team” /raibaru-chi’imu o kudasu/). Quite often for /oriru/ and /kudasu/, a simpler kanji 下 is used. The on-reading /koo/ is in 下降する (“to decline” /kakoo-suru/), それ以降 (“since then” /sorei’koo/), 降参する (“to surrender” /koosan-suru/) and 降雨量 (“amount of rainfall” /koou’ryoo/).

Shirakawa (2004) says that a kozatohen was a ladder from which a god descended to the earth. A couple of words do contain the meaning that 降originated from the god descending from heaven. Some of our readers may be familiar with the word /amakudari/ 天降り, which meant a retiring high-ranking government official landing a lucrative job in a private industry that relies on his strong ties to the government. Just like the phrase “a revolving door” in the U. S. it is not used in a complementary context. Another word, by no means a daily word, but nonetheless in the media in the last few years, is 降嫁 (“a royal princess marrying a subject” /ko’oka/.)

(4) 麦 “barley”

History麦In the oracle bone style of the kanji 麦, the top was a barley plant, and the bottom was a downward footprint. In all the styles through the time of kyujitai before the post-war language reform, a barley plant and a downward footprint in the shape of a katakana /ta/ were recognizable. Barley plants grow early and in early spring a farmer treads on the seedlings that pushed up from the ground. In Japanese it is called 麦踏み (treading on barley) and in haiku tradition, it signifies early spring. A downward/backward walk signified that a farmer walked back and forth.

The kun-reading /mu’gi/ is also in 麦茶 (“roasted barley tea” /mugi’cha/). It is a summer drink with no caffeine (if it is pure barley.) In my childhood memory of summer every morning when I walked into the kitchen there was a huge kettle with mugicha in a cloth bag that my grandmother had set up, giving sweet, roasted smell in the air. When I drank freshly made mugicha, there was always a hint of sweetness without sugar. As the day wore on, the sweetness strangely disappeared. Nowadays in a life of convenience, mugicha comes in a prepackaged tea bag that you even do not have to boil, but the price is that it does not have the aroma from my childhood memory. The on-reading /ba’ku/ is in 麦芽 (“malt” /bakuga/).

(5) 来 “to come; upcoming”

History来Speaking of a barley plant, all three styles of ancient writing for the kanji 来 were a barley plant. If you compare with those for 麦, you would think that having downward footprints makes more sense for the meaning “to come,” because someone is coming toward you. Apparently very early on in ancient time, those two writings got mixed up and switched the use of!

The kun-reading is tricky, as any beginning Japanese student knows. The verb inflections  in Japanese are quite regular and are not difficult to learn, except 来る “to come” and する“to do.” So, there are four different kun-readings: 来る (“to come” /ku’ru/), 来ない (“not come” /ko’nai /), 来て(“come!” /ki’te/), and 来る (“upcoming” /kita’ru/) when used as adjective.  The on-reading is in 未来 (“distant future” /mi’rai/) and 将来 (“near future” /sho’orai/).

In the next post, I am continuing with a story of two footsteps in one kanji. [July 5, 2014; partially revised on December 5, 2016.]

 

2014-07-13 One Foot at a Time (2) 韋衛圍(囲)違偉

The shapes that came from two footprints appear in various kanji. In this post we are going to look at the kanji that had two sideways feet facing in opposite directions and a square in the middle: 韋衛圍(囲)違偉.

1. 韋

History韋The shape 韋 is the topic of this post. In oracle bone style, it had a sideways footprint facing in the left direction (top) and another facing in the right direction (bottom) across a square (middle). It meant a wall of a town or fort being patrolled. Walking opposite directions gave the meaning “to be different.” This kanji is not Joyo kanji and the only word that I can think of is 韋駄天 (”great runner” /idaten/), which is usually used, with admiration, for a very fast runner. The Kenkyusha’s New Japanese English Dictionary (1974) gives the meaning “a swift-running heavenly runner,” a colorful translation. I would imagine that having two feet may be something to do with this use.

2. 衛 “to guard”

History衞The kanji 衛 seems to have two different streams of history, and that may explain why the current kanji shinjitai (g) is different from its immediate predecessor kyujitai (f) at the bottom of the middle. Throughout history, the outer shapes were a crossroad, which by itself became the kanji 行 “to go; conduct.” Let us focus on the middle. In oracle bone style, (a) and (b), it was a footprint or two footprints in opposite directions, and a plough in the middle. A plough became the kanji 方, and had the meaning of four directions. Footprints going in all directions meant to patrol the area. In bronze ware style, in addition to (c), which was same as (a) and (b), there was (d), having a box in the middle. They meant soldiers patrolling around the wall of a town or fort to guard it. In ten style, yet another shape appeared at the bottom of the middle, which apparently phonetically meant “to circle around.” Kyujitai generally took the shape of its ten style, and in this kanji it was also the case. Then, in kanji, the shape took the shape 韋, two feet in opposing directions. This had the predecessor (d).

The kanji 衛 does not have a kun-reading. The on-reading /ee/ is in words such as 自衛隊 (“Self-defense Forces” /jieetai/), 防衛 (“defense” /booee/), and 護衛する (“to guard” /goee-suru/), which are security related, and 衛生 (“hygiene; sanitation” /eesee/), related to guarding a life. Among the words that mean “going around” are 人工衛星 (“satellite” /jinkoo-e’esee/), which literally means “a man-made star that orbits,” and 衛星放送 (“satellite broadcasting” /eesee-ho’osoo/).

3. 囲(圍)”to surround; enclosure”

History囲圍The kanji 囲 came from the kyujitai 圍. In bronze ware style and ten style, two feet patrolling around a circle was placed in an enclosure. It meant “to surround; enclose.” It is interesting to think about how the two kanji 衛 and 圍 were related. While the kanji 衛 meant “defense” or “protect”, the kanji 圍 meant more an attack: By placing 韋 inside a closed box, which is the bushu くにがまえ, it meant to envelop what was guarded inside. The kun-reading is 囲む (/kakomu/ “to surround; enclose”), 囲う (”to enclose; fence in” /kakoo/).  The on-reading is in 包囲する (“to envelop” /ho’oi-suru/), 周囲 (“the circumference” /shu’ui/), 範囲 (“scope; sphere” /ha’n-i/ はんい), and 雰囲気 (“atmosphere; ambience” /hun-i’ki/ ふんいき.) To write a complex 10 stroke shape 韋 inside a kunigamae (囗) is not easy. I would think that that was the reason why people used 井 for its sound /i/ (kin-reading) and the meaning of a square.

4. 違 “different; to differ”

History違rFor the kanji 違, in bronze ware style in addition to 韋, the two opposing feet around a box, it had a left side of a crossroad and a footprint at the bottom. In ten style the crossroad and a footprint were placed vertically. In kanji, those two items became a bushu, shinnyoo “to go forward.” Together two feet going in different directions meant “to be different.” The kun-reading /chiga(u)/ is in words such as 間違える (“to make a mistake” /machiga’eru; machigae’ru/), すれ違う (“to pass by each other” /surechigau/), 勘違いする (“to guess wrong; make a wrong conjecture” /kanchi’gai-suru/.) The on-reading is in 交通違反 (“traffic violation” /kootsuu-i’han/), 相違ない (“certain; no doubt about it” /sooina’i/.)

5. 偉 “grand; eminent”

History偉For the kanji 偉 in ten style, a person was added to 韋. A person who is different and stands out among the ordinary people commands respect. The kanji 偉 means “great; eminent.” The kun-reading is in 偉そうに (“with a grand air” /eraso’o ni/). The word 偉い (“great; eminent” /era’i/) is also used as an expression, meaning “Good job!; Well done!” to praise an act that someone did, particularly someone junior to you. The on-reading /i/ is in 偉大な (“illustrious” /idaina/), 偉人伝 (“biography of a great figure” /iji’nden/).

In the next post, I am continuing with the shapes that came from two footsteps, 舛 in particular: 傑無舞隣燐. [July 13, 2014]

2014-07-15 The online kanji tutorial site VISUAL KANJI open

L1_S1_Video1漢字表rI am pleased to let you know that the Visual Kanji video tutorial course is now available at its own web site.  It is http://www.visualkanji.com.

I hope that you and/or someone whom you know who is interested in studying kanji will visit the site and see how it works.  It is free and you can set your own pace to study. Thank you very much.   – Noriko Williams

[Revised on January 30, 2015] I am adding the table of the 200 kanji in the Part 1.

Visual Kanji Part 1 Kanji Table

2014-07-20 One Foot at a Time (3) 無舞乗

In this post and the next two posts we are going to look at the shape 舛, which came from two downward-facing feet of the same person. If we break down the shape 舛, we get two shapes (タand ヰ) that are vertically placed in kanji such as降 that we looked at in the earlier post.

1. 無 “nothing”

History無rHave you ever wondered how strange the kanji 無 looks? You may be surprised to know that it has a pretty origin. In oracle bone style it was a person carrying a branch of a tree or feathers in each of his or her two hands, dancing. Dancing usually means vocative dancing that was meant for the god to see, possibly praying for rain during a dry spell. As the writing progressed it became more elaborate. In earlier time the writing was borrowed to mean “nothing” for its sound /bu/. In ten style, we can recognize the origin of 亡 “to disappear” in the center. The kanji 無 means “nothing; not.” The kun-reading is 無い (“not exist”/na’i/). The on-reading /mu/ is in 無理な (“unreasonable” /mu’ri-na/), 無味乾燥な (“dry as chip; uninteresting” /mu’mi kansoo-na/), 皆無 (“absolutely none,” /ka’imu/). Another on-reading /bu/ is in 無事な (“safe” /buji-na/) and 無難な (“safe; flawless” /bunan-na/).

997st無70mmI must confess that I had been writing this kanji in the wrong stroke order for some time. One day I realized that the third stroke was the long horizontal line, then it became easier for me to write a better-shaped kanji. This is the stroke order for 無 on the left.

2. 舞 “to dance”

History舞rrrBecause the original writing for dancing had been taken away to mean “nothing,” a new writing for dancing was created by adding two downward feet. In bronze ware style, there was writing that had two feet underneath. In ten style, it was a person with a branch in either hand and two downward feet at the bottom. In kanji the right foot became the shape of a katakana タ/ta/ and the left foot became an old katakana ヰ/i/, which we no longer use. The kanji 舞 means “to dance.”

There is another kanji for “to dance” 踊る. How do we use the two kanji differently in Japanese? My instinct was that 舞 was used for more traditional art forms of dancing that had a formal choreography and that 踊る was more general. But I was not sure enough to leave it like that for our readers. So, I looked up the good old Kojien dictionary, which is like looking up the Oxford Dictionary for English. For 舞, it says, …even though the distinction between 舞 and 踊 is not clear, in 舞 (/mai/), [a dancer primarily makes] movements across a stage in ways such as suriashi “shuffling feet,” whereas in 踊り (/odori/) [he] uses rhythmic and energetic movements of hands and legs…(Kojien 1969.) The kun-reading /ma’(u)/ is in 舞いを舞う (“to dance a choreographed dance gracefully” /mai o ma’u/). The phrase repeats the words of same meaning like 歌を歌う (“to sing a song” /uta’o utau/) and 踊りを踊る (“to dance” /odori o odoru/). The on-reading /bu/ is in 舞台 (“stage” /bu’tai/), 歌舞伎 (“kabuki play” /kabuki/) and 舞踊 (“dancing” /buyoo/).

3. 乗 (乘) “to ride on”

History乗rrThe kanji 乗 does not appear to have two feet, but the history shows us that it did come from two feet too. In oracle bone style, it was a person standing on top of a tree. So it meant to climb onto the top of a tree. In bronze ware style, his two downward feet got focused and became symmetrical shapes facing two opposing directions. In ten style, the more stylized two feet were placed on top of a tree and a person 人 got separated at the top. That was how I had interpreted the three styles of ancient writing for the shinjitai 乗 and was in line with what I had written in my 2010 book.

This time the explanation by Shirakawa (2004), that the origin of 乗 was “two people climbing a tall tree,” caught my attention.  Where did “two people” come from? I was puzzled. Then, when I looked at the kyujitai, in blue, I recognized the elements of the kanji 北 “north,” which had originated from two people sitting or standing back to back. Other sources such as Kanjigen says it was “a person climbing a tree with his two feet (the right foot and the left foot).” Whichever interpretation we take, in kanji it got simplified and it is hard to see any shape of feet from those straight lines. The kun-reading 乗る “to ride” is in words such as 乗り物 (“vehicle; public transportation” /norimono/), 乗り気 (“eagerness; enthusiasm” /noriki/). The on-reading /jo’o/ is in 乗車する (“to get on a car” /joosha-suru/), 乗客 (“passenger” /jookyaku/), 便乗する(“to take advantage of” /binjoo-suru/).
549st乗70mmThe stroke order of 乗 is similar to that of 無, in which the long horizontal line is the third stroke.

The schedule for next few postings may be irregular due to lack of Internet access. I wish you a good summer. [July 20, 2014]

P.S. If your browser does not show ヰ,it is the old katakana /i/ that we do not use any longer in Japanese.

2014-07-28 One Foot at a Time (4) 傑燐憐隣-Two feet off the ground

1. 傑 “to stand out”

History傑In the last post, we have seen that one of the two interpretations of the origin of the kanji 乗 is that it was a man standing on a tree with each of his two feet facing outwards. Taking that interpretation, we can see that the ten style of the kanji 傑 consisted of a person on the left and two feet placed on top of a tree. A person who stood on top of a tree would stand out. So the kanji 傑 meant “to stand out.” There is no kun-reading. The on-reading /ketsu/ is in 傑作 (“masterpiece” /kessaku/), 豪傑 (“strong man; bold man” /gooketsu/) and 傑出した (“outstanding” /kesshutsu-shita/).

2. 燐 “phosphoric; onibi; will-o’-the-wisp”

History燐The common component of the next three kanji (燐・憐・隣) consists of 米 and 舛. In the oracle bone style, 燐 had a person (大) with two feet who was surrounded by four small fires or flickering lights. The kun-reading for the kanji 燐 are /oni’bi or onibi/ and /kitsunebi/. Onibi or kitsunebi is a small mysterious fireball or a flickering light that people saw (or thought to have seen) in the darkness of night. A scientific explanation of that is that a decayed body in the ground may emit a gas that causes a small fireball or flickering light at night. In English it is sometimes called will-o’-the-wisp. Summer is the season in Japan in which people enjoy an evening by watching a horror film or having a scary experience in a haunted house. The word onibi or kitsunebi comes with the season or in folktale.

This component appears in a number of kanji, so 火 was added to differentiate this from other kanji. The on-reading /rin/ is in 燐酸 “phosphoric acid.” Even though the kin-reading is onibi or kitsunebi, I would write those words as 鬼火 (“lit. demon’s fire”) or 狐火 (“fox fire”), that are more scary to me. A kun-reading touches our hearts more closely than an on-reading because it is an original Japanese word.

3. 憐 “pity”

History憐For the kanji 憐 in bronze ware style it had a heart at the bottom.  In ten-style, the heart moved to the left side and became a bushu risshinben (a vertical heart). The right side was used phonetically. It meant “to pity; feel sorrow.”The kun-reading is 憐れむ (“to pity” /aware’mu/), and the on-reading /ren/ is in 憐憫 (“pity” /renbin/.)

4. 隣 “neighbor”

History隣rrOf the four kanji we are looking at in this post, the kanji 隣 is the most useful kanji for us. In a bronze ware style, the left one,(a), was the same as the bronze ware style of the kanji 燐, as we saw in 2. Another bronze ware style, (b), had a high mound of soil or steps. In ten style, (c), however, two changes happened: one is that the top of the left side became two fires; another is that the left side moved to the right and became a bushu ozato. In shinjitai, (e), the bushu ozato moved back to the left, and became a kozato-hen.

In many of our previous posts we have seen that sometimes a component shifted position and appeared somewhere else in another style or even in the same style. So we would think that appearing in a different position does not change its meaning. But not in the case of a bushu kozato-hen こざとへん(on the left) and a bushu ozato  おおざと(on the right.) A high mound of soil that formed a ladder or a boundary became a bushu kozat-hen whereas the shape that had a box and a person meant an area where people lived, that was a village, became a bush ozato. In this case, the ten style reflected the meaning of “neighbor.” Since the time of ten-style, a bushu ozato on the right 鄰 was treated as the correct form. In shinjitai, we use 隣 with a bushu kozatohen.

In this post we talked about the ancient shape that had two feet of a person pointing to right and left. That became 舛 in 舞傑燐憐隣, but not in the kanji 乗. There is another kanji that I did not discuss here, that is 磔 (“crucifixion” /haritsuke/), with the meaning of two feet on a tree and a rock (石) thrown at it. The precursors of kanji can be so descriptive that sometimes I wish I had not known the origins.

In leaving this topic, from the examples we have seen we can make a working hypothesis that 舛 meant two feet off the ground, whether they are dancing feet, feet on a tree top, or mysterious flickering light. If we come across other kanji we will revisit this hypotheses. [July 28, 2014]

2014-08-03 One Foot at a Time (5) 足促捉・路踊距跳躍

In an earlier post we saw that a bushu shinnyo (shinnyu) came from a combination of a crossroad and a footprint.  There are other shapes that came from a combination with a footprint, one of which is 足 /ashi’/. Ashi has two different bottom shapes from the footprint 止, depending on its position in the kanji: (1) 足, as shown with a blue background, if it is by itself or on the right side, such as 足促捉; and (2), as shown in a green background, if it is on the left side as a bushu ashi-hen, such as 路踊距跳躍. The term /he’n/ means a bushu that comes on the left side.ashi&ashihen

(1) The Kanji 足 “leg”

History足2The kanji 足, in oracle bone style, bronze ware style and ten style, had a square and a (forward facing) footprint. Our readers may recall that this shape is the same as the oracle bone style of the kanji 正. For 正, the square shape represented a town wall (together with a footprint, they meant conquering a town.)  Here the top was a kneecap. 足 was a part of the body from the knee to the foot, and meant “leg.” It also meant “to suffice” and “to add,” and its use goes back to ancient times. I have not been able to find how “leg; foot” and “to suffice; add” are connected in any reference.

The kanji 足 has two kun-readings; /ashi’/ leg; foot” and /ta(riru)/ “to suffice; adequate.” The on-reading is /so’ku/.  In addition to words describing the body parts such as 手足 (”hands and legs” /te’ashi/), 足首 (“ankle” /ashiku’bi/), and 足跡 (“footprint; footmark” /ashia’to/), the kanji 足 makes up a number of useful expressions: 足手まといになる  (“to become a drag or burden” /ashidema’toi ni naru), 一足毎に(“at every step” /hitoashigo’to ni), 足が出る (“to overrun the budget” /ashi’ga desu/), 人の足元を見る (“to take mean advantage of” /hito no ashimoto’ o mi’ru/), 土足で上がる (“to go inside a house without taking shoes off” /dosoku de agaru/).  For the meaning “to suffice,” 足りない (“not enough” /tarinai/),  満足する (“to be satisfied” /ma’nzoku-suru/), 不足する (”not enough” /fusoku-suru/). For the meaning “to add,”;  〜を足す(“to add~” /~o tasu/) and 足し算 (“addition” /tashi’zan/.)

(2) The Kanji 促 “to urge; prompt”

History促Adding a bushu ninben “person” to 足 makes up the meaning of prompting or urging someone (from behind) to do something. The kanji 促 means “to urge; prompt; inspire.” The kun-reading is 促す (“to prompt” /unaga’su/). The on-reading /so’ku/ is in 催促する (“to press; urge” /sa’isoku-suru/ ), and 促進する (“to promote” /sokushin-suru/.)

(3) The Kanji 捉 “to grab; catch”

History捉Adding a bushu tehen “an act one does using a hand” to 足 makes up another kanji 捉. From “someone from behind trying to catch up by hand” it meant “to grab; catch.”  Its kun-reading /torae’ru/ is used in an expression such as 意味を正しく捉える  (“to understand the meaning correctly” (/i’mi o tadashi’ku torae’ru/.) The on-reading is /soku/ but it is not used very commonly.

In the second group (a bushu ashihen in green background), the footprint looks more like that of the kanji 止, except that the last stroke goes up.

(4) The Kanji 路 “road”

History路For the kanji 路, in bronze ware style, the right side 各consisted of a backward/downward foot and a rock, and was used phonetically to mean a road. In ten style the shape showed an elongated shape that was typical of ten style.   Interestingly the kanji shape returned to bronze ware style, except that the last stroke of the footprint went up.  The kun-reading is /michi./ The on-reading /ro/ is used in 道路 (“road” /do’oro/) and 路面  (“road surface” /romen/).

(5) The Kanji 踊 “to dance”

History踊In ten style, the right side meant water welling up, or something going through from bottom to top. It was used phonetically for /yoo/. With a bushu ashihen added, the kanji 踊 meant “to dance.” The kun-reading is 踊る/odoru/.  In last post we just saw the kanji 舞, a graceful dance that involves a shuffling feet movement in traditional dance form. The kanji 踊 is a more energetic dance. The two kanji 舞 and 踊 make up a word 舞踊 (“dance” /buyout/) in general.

(6) The Kanji 距 “distance”

History距For the kanji 距, in bronze ware style the footprint extended toward the bottom right.  In ten style the right side was a large carpenter’s tool. It was used phonetically to mean jumping a long distance. From that the kanji 距 means “distance.”  There is no kun-reading. The on-reading /kyo/ is in 距離 (“distance” /kyo’ri/).

(7) The Kanji 跳 “to jump around; hop”

History跳In ten style, the right side 兆 was a cracked tortoise shell used for divination.  The underside of the tortoise shell was heated, and the lines that appeared were read. Once the heat was applied lines ran quickly on the surface. It was used phonetically. With ashihen added, they meant to “jump around; hop.” By itself the right side 兆 means “sign; omen; trillion.” The kun-reading is 跳ぶ (“to jump” /tobu/)  and the on-reading is /cho’o./

(8) The Kanji躍 “to leap”

History躍In ten style, the top was two wings and the bottom was a bird.  It signified a bird about to take off, and was used phonetically for /ya’ku/. We know this component very well in the kanji 曜 “day of the week.” With a bushu ashihen added, the kanji 躍 meant “ to leap.”  There is no kun-reading. The on-reading /yaku/ is in 活躍する (“to play an important role” /katsuyaku-suru/), 飛躍する (“to take a large step; jump (logic)/ hi yaku-suru/), and together with the kanji 跳 in (7), 跳躍 (“jump; leap” /chooyaku-suru/).

Going through the developments of 足 and ashihen, we have noticed that:  (1) When used on the left side it takes a shape closer to the kanji 止, and when used on the right the last stroke is extended; and (2) in the first group, 足 was used phonetically for the sound /so’ku/, and in the second group a bushu ashihen provided the meaning.

In the next post, I would like to look at the kanji 走 and the kanji that has a bushu /soonyoo/. [August 3, 2014]

2014-08-11 One Foot at a Time (6) 走起越超趣赴

In this post, we are going to take a look at another shape that contains an extended footprint:  走起越超趣 and 赴. They all have 走, and when it is used as a component, the last stroke is extended to the bottom right of the kanji.  The top appears to be the kanji 土, which may fit with the meaning of “to run,” but the ancient writings tell us that is not the case. Let us look at them.

(1) 走 “to run”

History走For the kanji 走, a couple of writings in bronze ware style  and one in ten style had a person (大) running with his hands moving vigorously — one upward and one downward. This became 土. Underneath was a footprint, indicating that the writing was about the use of foot. The shape of the footprint went through the same development as that of the bottom of 足, in which the last stroke extended to the bottom right. It meant “to run.”

The kun-reading /hashi’ru/ is in 走って来る (“run toward (speaker)” /hashit’tekuru/), 走り書き (“hasty script; scribble” /hashirigaki/), 小走りに (“tripping down” /koba’shiri ni/).  The on-reading is in 脱走 (“escape” /dassoo/),  二百メートル走 (“200-meter run” /nihyakumeetoru’soo/).

(2) 起 “to rise”

History起rIn ten style for 起, the left side was identical to the ten style for the kanji 走; the right side 己 was a serpent raising its head, which added the sense of a sudden rising motion. Together they meant “to get up; arise; begin.” In kyujitai, shown in blue in this blog, the shape 己 was 巳 “serpent.”   The kun-reading /o/ is in a pair of verbs 起きる(“to get up; occur”) [intr. v.] and 起こす (“to wake (a person) up: raise; start” /oko’su/) [tr.v.]. The on-reading キ is in  起立する (“to rise (from one’s seat) /kiritsu-suru/), 起因する(“to originate from” /kiin-suru/), and 起業家 (“entrepreneur” /kigyooka/.)

(3) 越 “to cross over”

History越In the oracle bone style for 越, the left side was a person and a footprint, and the right side was a halberd that was used phonetically for /etsu/ to mean “to cross over.”  In ten style, the left side was that of 走, and the right side was /etsu./  In kanji the last stroke of the footprint was extended to make a bushu soonyoo. The on-reading is in 越える (”to cross over” /koeru/), 引っ越す (“to move” /hikkosu/), 繰り越し (“transfer; carry-over” /kurikoshi/) and 年越しそば (“New Years eve buckwheat noodle“ /toshikoshiso’ba/.) The on-reading エツ is in a very polite expression 僭越ながら (“with your permission; it would be presumptuous of me, but…,” /senetsu-na’gara/), that you use when you make a suggestion to someone senior or in a self-deprecating or humorous way. The kanji 僭 /sen/ is not a Joyo Kanji but as a verbal phrase it is not an unusual one.  (In writing, you can always use the kanji conversion on your computer.)

(4) 超 “to exceed”

History超The ten style of the kanji 超 had a bushu soonyoo, and the right side was used phonetically. It meant “to exceed” in a way that does not ordinarily happen. The kun-reading is 超える “to exceed.” The on-reading is in 超過する (”to exceed” /chooka-suru/), 超越する (“to rise above; transcend” /chooetsu-suru/), 超然として (”detachedly; aloofly” /choozen-to-shite/).

(5) 趣 “flavor; effect; appearance”

History趣In ten style, the kanji 趣 also had a bushu soonyoo “to run,” and its right side 取 was used phonetically to mean “grab by hand.” From “to go swiftly to obtain,” it meant “what one likes.” The kun-reading is in 趣 (”flavor; effect; appearance” /omomuki/), and 趣のある (“quaint; aesthetic” /omomuki-no-aru/). The on-reading /shu/ is in 趣味 (“hobby; pastime; interest.”/shu’mi/). So, one’s hobby or pastime is something one’s mind tends to rush to.

(6) 赴 “to proceed; head for”

History赴In ten style, the kanji 赴 also had a bushu shinnyoo “to run.’ The right side meant “to fall; collapse”  Together they meant “to head for.” The kun-reading 赴く/omomu’ku/ means “to leave for (a particular place).” The on-reading is in 赴任 (”to leave for one’s new assignment/post” /hunin-suru/).

In the last six posts, we have looked at the kanji that contain a component from a footprint. There were many different types: a backward or downward facing foot (a bushu suinyoo); patrolling feet; dancing feet; feet on a tree or off the ground; legs; running feet, etc. In the next post, I would like to take a look at a shape that contains both a hand and a foot such as 元兄先説, etc.

Next week we will be in transit again (North America is a big continent to travel across!) and it is likely that the posting will be delayed. I appreciate your understanding. Many of the topics that I have been discussing are in the new VISUAL KANJI tutorial course.  The process of writing these posts has been helpful for me to finalize my scripts for each lesson.  This week’s topic will be discussed in Lesson 8 in Part 2, which will be released beginning of September, if not earlier.   – 憲子 [August 11, 2014]

2014-08-20 Hands and Legs – Ninnyo 儿 (1) 元完院兄光児

We have been looking at the kanji component shapes that originated with a hand or a foot.  In this and probably next few posts I would like to discuss the shapes that came from a hand and foot that signify “a person.”  This bushu [儿] is called /ninnyoo/にんにょう(literally, “a person” that extends from left to the right bottom) or /hitoashi/ ひとあし  (literally, “a person” at the bottom).

1. The kanji 元 “head; to begin; origin; formerly”

History元For the kanji 元, in oracle bone style (in brown), the short line at the top was the head; the line below that was a neck, emphasized; and a body that had a hand put forward in the middle. He was facing right. In bronze ware style (green), the person faces to the left. In ten style (in red), because the hand touched the ground it looked like another leg. But from the point of view of the historical progress, as we see in the earlier two shapes, we are going to treat them as a hand and a leg kneeling down. It meant “the neck or the head.” As a body part, a neck 首 /kubi/ and a head 頭 /atama’/ are used.

A head is where one’s thought originates or begins. So, it meant “head; origin; source; to begin.” It also meant “formerly.” There are two different on-readings: /gan/ is a go-on 呉音 and /gen/ is a kan-on 漢音. The go-on /gan/ is in words such 元日 (“the first day of a year” /ganjitsu), 元来 (“originally” /ga’nrai/); and the kan-on /gen/ is in 元気 (“healthy; energetic” /ge’nki/), 元首 (“head of a country” /ge’nshu/).  The kun-reading /ne/ is in 根元(”root” /nemoto’/) and 元社長 (“former company president” /mo’to shachoo/). A frequently used wordもともと (“originally” /motomoto/) comes from 元々, but it is usually written in hiragana because it is an adverb.

2. The kanji 完  “complete” and 院 “institution”

Hisstory完&院By placing the kanji 元 under a bushu ukanmuri “house”, we get the kanji 完. 元was used phonetically for /kan/. A bushu ukanmuri in ten style completely surrounded a person, and it gave the meaning of “complete.”  The on-reading /kan/ is in 完全 (”perfect; complete” /kanzen/), 完了(“completely finished” /kanryoo/.)  There is no on-reading in Joyo kanji.

Further, by adding a bushu kozato-hen “a high stack of soil” on the left side to 完, we get the kanji 院. The right side 完 was used phonetically, which later on changed to /in/. It meant a large house that was surrounded by a tall fence.  It means an institution such as 病院 (“hospital” /byooin/), 衆議院 (the Lower House in the Japanese Diet, /shuugi’in/) and 大学院 (“graduate school” /daigaku’in/).

3. The kanji 兄 “older brother”

History兄For the kanji 兄, we have an example that, within the same oracle bone style, one faced right and the other faced left.  In later examples of bronze ware style on, if a person faced right it usually meant “backward.”  But in oracle bone style, the direction that a person faced did not seem to make a difference. In the second oracle bone style here, a person was kneeling down. In bronze ware style, a person was standing with some ritual ornaments in his hand. Both suggested that a person with a large head sat or stood to say a prayer. In ten style, a person was kneeling down again. The person who said a prayer at the ancestral altar was an older brother or senior male member. From that it means “elder brother” or someone elder who is in the position to protect a young child.

This kanji had two on-readings: the go-on /kyoo/ is in 兄弟; and the kan-on /kei/ is in 父兄 (“parent of a student” /hu’kee/). The kun-reading is in 兄 (“older brother” /a’ni/), 兄貴 (“older brother” used by a male speaker /a’niki/)  It is also customarily used in お兄さん (“older brother” /oni’isan/).

4. The kanji 光 “light; to shine” (revised)

History光

In the oracle bone style of 光, the top was the flames of a fire and the bottom was a person kneeling. In bronze ware style, the top was less representational but still showed the flames. In ten style, the top was taking the shape that would become the kanji 火 “fire” and the bottom “a person” was simplified. Burning flames emit intense light. A person who kept a fire was important. The kanji 光 meant “light”. The on-reading is in 日光 (“sunlight” /nik’koo/), 月光 (“moonlight” /gekkoo/) and 光沢のある (“glossy; sheeny” /kootaku-no-a‘ru/). The kun-reading is in 光 (“light” /hikari’/), 稲光 (“flash of lightning” /inabikari/) and 親の七光り (“capitalizing having a famous parent” /oya-no nanahi’kari/).

Notes: The discussion of the kanji 光 was revised after I realized that I had missed some wonderfully “illuminating” (no pun intended) samples in oracle bone style and bronze ware style. Thank you very much. (8/28/2014))

5. The kanji 児 “young child”

History児Among the writings shown on the left, all but the shinjitai kanji showed that the top had a gap. There are two different explanations for this gap. One is that the top was a baby’s head with its fontanel not closed yet, and from that it meant a young child. Another explanation is that the top showed a particular hair style of a girl in which hair was bound into two tufts, and it meant “young child.” I have not been able to find the explanation of the small round shape on the back of the child in bronze ware style.  In kyujitai (in blue), the top was also the same as the part of the kyujitai 舊 for the kanji 旧 “old.” Both the kyujitai kanji 舊 and 兒 were replaced with 旧 in shinjitai. This kanji also has two on-readings. The kan-on /ji/ is in 児童 (“elementary school pupil” /ji’doo/), 乳児 (“infant” /nyu’uji/); and the go-on /ni/ is in 小児科医 (“pediatrician” /shoonika’i/)

We will continue to see the kanji that have a bushu ninnyoo, probably 先洗充統育. A bushu ninnyoo (儿) will appear in Lesson 7 in the Visual Kanji video tutorials.  [8/20/2014]

2014-08-30 Hands and Legs – Ninnyoo 儿 (2) 先洗育充統

In this post we continue looking at the kanji that had a bushu ninnyoo: 先洗育充 and 統.

1. The kanji 先 “ahead; to precede; past”

Etymology of the kanji 先The oracle bone style (in brown) of the kanji 先 had a footprint at the top and a person at the bottom. When you walk, your feet go before your body, thus “ahead; first” or “to proceed.” In bronze ware style (in green) we can recognize in the top a kanji 止 ”to halt a step; stop”: Its right top was a toe of a left foot. Then in ten style (in red) the footprint became a symmetrical shape 土, instead of 止. A footprint sometimes developed into a symmetrical shape 士, instead of 止, as in the kanji such as 志,  売 (Also notice that it is not 土  but 士).  So, this is not surprising.  However, in kanji an extra stroke (the first stroke in the stroke order) appeared. Many samples of writing after ten style suggest that it was a mere emphasis to signify “the tip of something.”  If so, at one point of this kanji development, it added an element of an indicative formation type (指事) to a semantic composite type (会意), in this case, a combination of a footprint and a person, of the Rikusho 六書 formation types.

The kin-reading 先 /saki/ is in 先にやる (“to do it first” /sakini yaru/) 先程 (“while ago” [formal] /sakihodo/).  Another kun-reading is 先ず (“first of all” /ma’zu/). The commonly used expressions ひとまず (“for the time being” /hito’mazu/) and まずまずの (“passable; tolerably” /ma’zumazu no/) are usually written in hiragana but came from  先ず先ず “lit. as a starter, it is passable.”  The on-reading /se’n/ is in 先人 (“predecessor; pioneer” /senjin/), 先方 (“the other party” /senpoo/) and 先日 (“some days ago” /senjitu/).

2. The kanji 洗 “to wash”

Etymology of the kanji 洗洗の右上のみThe sample of the kanji 洗 in ten style here shows a slight remnant of the footprint, if you try to look for it in the enlargement of a photo in ten style on the right (Akai 2010: 542).  The left side was a bushu sanzui “water.” From “to wash feet,” it meant “to wash.”

The kun-reading /arau/ “to wash” is in 手洗い (“washroom; bathroom” /tea’rai/).  A female speaker would put the prefix /o/, pronouncing it as /otea’rai/. The on-reading is in 洗濯 (“laundry” /sentaku/) and 水洗便所 (“flush toilet” /suisenbe’njo/).

3. The kanji 育 “to raise; bring up; grow”

Etymology of the kanji 育In oracle bone style (a. and b.) and bronze ware style (c. and d.) of the kanji 育, they all had a mother and a child. In c (and another one that is not shown here), between the two arms it had dots to indicate breasts, being a nursing mother. In b, c, and d, a child was upside down, which signified a baby being born. In ten style, a woman disappeared and a bushu nikuduki 月 “flesh” was placed under a child. Together they meant a newborn baby grew as he put on flesh gradually. I could not find the explanation for the three lines under the baby’s head in references, but I am wondering it if added the meaning of a newborn baby putting on hair gradually to emphasize his growth. A kanji took the ten style shape, “a newborn baby” and “flesh.”

The kun-reading is in 育つ (“to grow” /soda’tsu/) and 育てる (“to raise; rear” /sodate’ru/), an intransitive and transitive pair of verbs. Another kun-reading 育む (“to nurture; foster” /haguku’mu/) is also used in more formal expressions such as 子供の想像力を育む (”to foster imagination in children) and 新しい産業を育む (“to foster a new industry.) The on-reading is in 教育 (“education” /kyooiku/), 育児 (“child-rearing” /i’kuji/) and 体育 (“physical education” /ta’iiku./)

[P. S.  The kanji 育 does not contain a bush ninnyoo. But in order to understand the next two kanji 充 and 統, it would be useful to include. This kanji has also prompted a couple of interesting comments below.  10-3-14]

4. The kanji 充 “to fill; full”

History充The top of the ten style for 充 was identical with that of the kanji 育, which we have just seen. The bottom had a ninnyoo, “person” instead of “flesh.” Together they meant changes a newborn baby goes through to become an adult, to fill out of its body. It meant “to fill; full.“ There is another view by Shirakawa (2004), however, which takes the writing as a pictographic type 象形 of a large bellied person, thus “full.” In this view the bottom would be viewed as two legs.

The two kun-readings are 充ちる (“to become filled” /michi’ru/)  and 充てる (“to appropriate; set aside” /ateru/). The on-reading is in 充分な (“plenty; ample” /juubu’n-na/) and 補充する (“to replenish” /hojuu-suru/).

5. The kanji 統 “to unify”

History統The kanji 統 has the kanji 充 on the right side, which was used phonetically and to mean “to fill.”  In ten style, the left had a bushu itohen which came from silkworm cocoons with three (many) filaments being pulled out. A bushu itohen meant “thread; continuity.” Together the kanji 統 means “to unify.”

The kun-reading /sube’ru/ means “to unify”. The on-reading is in 統一する  (”to unify” /tooitsu-suru/), 系統 (“line” /keetoo/), 統計 (“numerical statistics” /tookee/), 正統な (“legitimate; orthodox” /seetoo-na/) and 大統領 (“the president of a country” /daito’oryoo/).

In the next post, we will continue with a bush ninny00 (儿), including the kanji 説税脱.

2014-09-10 Hands and Legs – Ninnyoo 儿 (3) 説税脱

History説RightSideIn this post, we are going to look at three kanji 説税 and 脱, which have a common shape on the right side; it consists of a kanji 兄 and an upside down shape of a katakana ハ, or a short katakana ソon the top. In ten style, in red in this blog, the top was two lines that curved back away from each other, and in kyujitai, in blue, it became  a ハ or a kanji 八.  (For kyujitai, only a Mincho style was available to me.)  The two strokes signified an act in which one divided something into two groups — what the matter is and what it is not. Together with the shape 兄, an elder brother or a person divides something.

History分The development of the kanji 分 “to divide” shown on the right side gives us a good example of two short lines.  In all the three ancient styles, oracle bone style (brown), bronze ware style (green) and ten style (red), a knife or sword was cutting something into two parts and meant “to divide.”  The shape 八 has been kept through to the kanji.  (Incidentally, that explains why the first two strokes of the kanji 分 have a gap whereas in kanji such as 会 “to meet” there is no gap.)

1. The kanji 説 “to explain; preach”

History説In ten style, the left side of the kanji 説 was a bushu gonben, “language; word; to say.” The right side was the dividing shape. Together they meant an older brother explained a matter using words by showing what the matter was about and what it was not.  It means “to explain; talk.”

The kun-reading /to/ is in 説く (“to explain; preach” /to’ku/) and 口説く (”to persuade; seduce” /kudo’ku/).  The on-reading /se’tsu/ is in 説明 (“explanation” /setsumee/), 解説 (“commentary” /kaisetsu/) and 説教する (“to preach” /sek’kyoo-suru/).  There is another on-reading /ze’e/ in the word such as 遊説 (“canvassing” /yuuzee/).

2. The kanji 税 “tax”

History税The left side of the ten style 税 was a bushu nogihen, “rice plant; harvest.” The bending top was rice that drooped in its own weight.  The name nogihen came from a grass family such as rice, wheat, etc., which was called /nogi/ “awn.”  The New American Oxford dictionary describes “awn” as “a stiff bristle, esp. one of those growing from the ear or flower of barley, rye, and many grasses.”  To Japanese school children, it looks like a katakana /no/ and 木, thus no-gi-hen.  Together with the right side, the kanji 税 meant that a part of crop was divided and taken away from an elder brother, which was a “levy or tax.”

It does not have a kun-reading. Does this mean there was no tax in Japanese history?  No, it does not mean that.  Tax was paid in the form of labor or payment in kind using local products (cloth, silk, charcoal, etc.) and rice crop yield. These had different names depending on the periods.

The on-reading /ze’e/ is in 税金 (“tax” /zeekin/), ガソリン税 (“gasoline tax” /gasori’nzee/), 消費税 (“consumption tax” /shoohi’zee/) and 納税者 (“tax payer” /nooze’esha/).  The consumption tax, which was introduced in 1989 at 3%, was raised to 5% in 1997, then to 8% in April, 2014, in Japan.  It is to be raised to 10% in October, 2015!

3. The kanji 脱 “to take off; slip off; free oneself from”

History脱The left side of the ten style 脱 was a bushu nikuduki “flesh,” which meant a part of a body.  If the shape 月being “flesh” is hard to imagine, just think of the kanji 肉 (“flesh; meat” /niku’/): They had the same origin. Together they meant one’s flesh leaving the body.  It meant “to rid; take off; leave; free oneself from.”  Looking at the components, we can also interpret that something that was inside the body is leaving.

The kun-reading is in 脱ぐ (“to take off clothes” /nu’gu/) and 脱げる (“(cloths) slip off” /nuge’ru/). The on-reading /da’tsu/ is in 脱する (“to escape from; free oneself from” /dassuru/), 脱力感 (“feeling lethargic” /datsuryoku’kan/), 脱出する (”to escape” /dasshutsu-suru), and 脱税 (“tax evasion” /datsuzee/).

All the three kanji here are classified as 形声文字 semantic-phonetic composites.  The right side provided the sound. The kanji 説 and 税 shared the on-reading /zee/ in Japanese and the right side also had the sound /datsu/.  It was the left side bushu that carried the primary meaning but, as we have just seen, the shape on the right side also contributed greatly to its meaning.

In the next post, we will conclude our discussion on bushu ninnyoo (儿) with three more kanji 売読続, which in fact did not contain a ninnyoo even in its kyujitai.   [September 9, 2014]

2014-09-22 Part 2 of the Online Video Kanji Tutorials is Ready [Revised]

Video Kanji TutorialsPart 2 of the Visual Kanji kanji course — the etymology-based online video tutorials — is uploaded at the site http://www.visualkanji.com.

where you learn 1100 kanji and 7000 words at your own pace through the study of kanji bushu (character radicals) and other common components — is now ready on its own site.  We have added 200 kanji in Lesson 6 through Lesson 10, totaling 400 kanji so far. The link is http://www.visualkanji.com. –  Noriko Williams

[Revised on January 30, 2015] The table of the 200 kanji in the Part 2 is added here.

Visual Kanji Part 2 Kanji Table

2014-09-26 Kanji 異 Revisited and 典其選殿臀 

The kanji 異 in oracle bone style, bronze ware style and official seal styleBack in May in one of the posts about “a hand” [link: “Two Hands from Below (1) 共, 供, 異, 興,兵 and 具”] I had originally written that the bottom two strokes ハ in the component 共 in kanji such as 共供異興兵 and 具 had come from “two hands from below.” On the kanji 異, however, it was pointed out by an observant reader that judging from the ancient writings the bottom of 異 could have come from two legs rather than two hands of the person who was holding a mask over his face. [The history of the kanji 異 is shown on the right side.] In my response to his comment, I agreed with his view. Having said that, the horizontal line in ten style remained unsolved in my mind. Since then, I have had a chance to think about a few more kanji that contained 共. In this post, we are going to look at other kanji with 共 for the purpose of revisiting the kanji 異.

(1) The kanji 典 “law; code”

History of the kanji 典In the kanji 典 “law; code,” the top of the oracle bone style (brown), bronze ware style (green) and ten style (red) had an image of wooden or bamboo long writing tablets that were strung together to make a book. This method of making a book predated the invention of paper. Treated bamboo or wooden tablets were used to keep the records of important decrees or chronicles written down. The bottom shapes in oracle bone style had either two hands holding up a book, or one hand possibly turning the writing tablets as he read. In bronze ware style and ten style, the book was placed on a table with legs. The writing 典 meant “code; law.” Those samples allow us to come up with two different interpretations of the origins of the bottom ハ in 典: (1) If we go back to the earliest oracle bone style we can say that it came from two hands; and (2) if we go back to the bronze ware style we can say that it came from the legs of a table.

The kanji 典 has no kun-reading in Joyo kanji and its on-reading /ten/ is in 法典 (“law; code” /hooten/), 辞典 (“dictionary” /jiten/), 典雅な (“elegant” /te’ngana/), and etc.

(2) The kanji 其 “that; it” (a demonstrative word)

History of the kanji 其Another example of table legs is seen in the kanji 其. This kanji is often used in 其の他 (“others” /sono’ta/), even though it is not included in Joyo Kanji. It is also found in more frequently used kanji such as 期, 基, 旗 that are read as /ki/ for phonetic use. For our discussion I use the history of the kanji 其, because it has a fuller inventory of ancient writing in the references.

In the image above, in oracle bone, bronze ware and ten styles, the top was a basket or sieve to remove rice hulls. In one of the bronze ware styles (on the right) and ten style, a table with legs was added. The kanji 其 came to be used for a demonstrative word and by adding a bush takekanmuri, “bamboo,” the new kanji 箕 /mi’n0/ was created to be used for the original meaning of “winnow” [winnow: (to) blow a current of air through (grain) in order to remove the chaff – New Oxford American Dictionary]. So the bottom shape ハ in 其 was an example of table legs.

(3) The kanji 選 “to choose; select”

History of the kanji 選The kanji 選 in bronze ware style had two people side by side at the top. The bottom had a footstep (止) on the left and a crossroad (彳) on the right, which became the shape 辵 in ten style. In ten style, on the right side, the two people were placed on a raised platform. Select people were offering votive dances, thus it meant “to choose; select.” The left side 辵 became a bushu shinnyoo in shinjitai. In this kanji, 共, the lower part of the 巽, was a stage with legs too.

The kun-reading of the kanji 選 “to choose; select” is /era’bu/ and in 選りすぐる (“to choose from good ones” /erisugu’ru/ or /yorisugu’ru/). The on-reading is in 選挙 (“election” /se’nkyo/).

(4) The kanji 殿 “feudal lord; official form of address” and 臀 “buttock”

History of the kanji 殿 and 臀 Kanji in 殿 in ten style; the left side had a person sitting on a stool, signifying a buttock; and the right side was a bushu rumata (ル and 又) “to hit; attack,” from a spear-like object held in a hand (又). The buttock of someone sitting getting slapped from behind meant “buttock.”  Strange as it may sound, Shirakawa (2004) wrote that there was an ancient custom that a bridegroom was slapped on the buttock on his wedding day. So, 殿 originally meant “buttock.” But it came to be used to mean “feudal lord” and its large house, “palace.” The new kanji 臀 was created by adding a bushu nikuduki (月) “flesh” at the bottom to mean “buttock.”  What he was sitting on was a bench or chair. There seemed to be two chairs here.

The kun-reading /to’no/ is a form of address to one’s feudal lord. It is also used as an honorific suffix in official correspondence, as in 鈴木一郎殿 (Mr. Ichiro Suzuki.) The on-reading /den/ is in 本殿 (“main palace” /honden/) and 宮殿 (“palace” /kyuuden/).  The kanji 臀 is used for 臀部 (“buttock” /de’nbu/).

(5) The kanji 異 “different” revisited

Now, finally, we get back to the kanji 異. [reminder: The image is shown at the top.] Our original view on oracle bone style and bronze ware style remain unchanged: it was a pictograph, and had the image of a person with a mask on his face. But in ten style, we need to modify that the man with a mask offers his votive play on a raised platform where the god could see the play well. In that the bottom was the legs of a stage, instead of two hands. This allows us to conclude that the two bottom strokes in 共 had two different origins: (1) two hands holding something up and (2) legs of a table.

(I would like to thank Antoniomarco for this opportunity for us to revisit the kanji 異 and put it in a different light. -Noriko) [September 26, 2014]

2014-10-03 Hands and Legs – Ninnyoo 儿 (4) 売読続出買

We have been looking at the kanji that contain a bushu ninnyoo (儿), “a person.” The kanji we have looked at were: 先洗充統 (August 30, 2014) and 説税脱(September 10, 2014), some kanji that contain 見 in relation to the “eye” 現親視規覚 (April 12, 2014) and 元完院見光児 (August 20, 2014). The ancient writing for most of the kanji here suggested that the shape 儿 had come from the image of a person kneeling down with his hand in front, and it meant a “person.” In this post, we are going to look at three kanji 売読続 that have a bushu ninnyoo but their origins were unrelated to the original meaning of a bushu ninnyoo. We will see that the shape ninnyoo in shinjitai was what replaced the bottom of a kanji 貝 used in kyujitai.

1. The Kanji 売 “to sell”

History of Kanji 売For the kanji 売, the ten style writing (in red) shown on the left consisted of three components: a footprint with an outline underneath, a fishing net in the middle and a cowry at the bottom. Let us look at these components one by one. [Top] The shape was the same as the ten style writing of the kanji 出. History of Kanji 出The history of the kanji 出 is shown on the right side: in the two oracle bone style writings, a right foot or a left foot had a receptacle-shaped line around the heel. This receptacle-like shape signified a deeper footprint impression made by the first step when one walked out. 出 meant “to go out.” [Middle] The crisscross shape was a fishing net. [Bottom] It was a 貝 “cowry.” History of kanji貝.jpgThe history of the kanji 貝 is shown on the right. A cowry is a type of mollusk that has a glossy dome-like shell. Beautiful and rare cowries from the southern sea were treasured in ancient times and were sometimes used for money. In the archaeological excavations, a number of ornamental bronze ware containers that kept those precious cowries were found.  They were called 貯貝器 (“cowrie keeper” /choba’iki/.)

History of Kanji 買The kanji 買 —  The bottom two elements in the kyujitai 賣 for 売 were also the same as the kanji 買. The history of the kanji 買 is shown on the right. The top was a fishing net and the bottom was a cowry. Together a netful cowries signified a lot of money with which you can purchase something, thus the kanji 買 means “to buy.”

Now, back to the kanji 売 or its kyujitai 賣. With 士 “footprint; to go out” and 買 “a bagful of cowries” together, they meant goods, a person with goods, going out in exchange for money, that is, “to sell to make profit.” In shinjitai, the net and a shell 貝 lost their shapes completely, and the bottom was replaced by 儿 a bushu ninnyoo with the remnant of a fishing net above.

The kun-reading /uru/ “to sell” is in 安売り(“a sale” /yasuuri/), 押し売り (“aggressive selling or a person who does a pushy sale” /oshiuri/). The on-reading /ba’i/ is in 売店 (“concession; booth” /baiten/) and 販売員 (“sales person” /hanba’iin/).

2. The Kanji 読 “to read”

History of Kanji 読The next two kanji 読 and 続 both contain 賣 In kyujitai (讀 and 續 in blue) on the right side, which is the same shape as the kyujitai for 売.  So, the transition from the kyujitai to shinjitai seems to be consistent among the three kanji. However, when our eyes move to the left to see its ten style, we notice that the right sides were different. What the right side of the ten style originally was is not known. It was used phonetically for /toku/ to mean “to read.” Its left side 言 was a bushu gonben “word; language.” Together they meant “to read a book.” In shinjitai the right was changed to 売.

The kun-reading is /yo’mu/ “to read.” The on-reading /do’ku/ is in 音読 (“reading aloud” /ondoku/), 難読な (“difficult to read” /nandokuna/). Another on-reading /to’o/ is in 句読点 (“punctuation” /kuto’oten/).

3. The kanji 続 “to continue”

History of Kanji 続In ten style of the kanji 続, the left side had silk cocoons strung together with their long filaments coming out, which signified “thread” or “continuity.” This shape became a bush itohen (糸). The right side was used phonetically for /zoku/ to mean “to continue.” Together they meant “to continue.” What is common between the two kanji 読 “to read (book)” and 続 “continue”?  Both have an activity that requires continuation. In shinjitai, the right side changed to 売 (糸).

In other words, both 売 (賣) and 買 contained the contained the original meaning of a cowry (money), whereas the shape 売 in the kanji 読 and 続 had little to do with a cowry and was probably used in the process of shape reduction in kanji.

The kun-reading is in 続く (つづく) (“(it) continues” /tsuzuku/) – an intransitive verb, and 続ける (“to continue” /tsuzukeru/) – a transitive verb. With a verb stem つづ /tsuzu/, it makes a verb “to continue doing something,” such as しゃべり続ける (“to keep on chatting/talking” /shaberitsuzuke’ru/), 守り続ける (“to continue to protect” /mamoritsuzuke’ru/). The on-yomi /zo’ku/ is in 継続する (“to continue” /keezoku-suru/), 相続する (“to inherite” /soozoku-suru/).  An adverb ぞくぞくと (“one after another” /zokuzokuto/) comes from this kanji.

Kanji貝_草書体“Why a ninnyoo?”  We have just seen that the three kanji 売読続 that contain a ninnyoo in fact were not related to the original meaning “person.” Then, how did the shape of a ninnyoo come to be used in those kanji?  I could not find any plausible explanation in references. This is just my guess but it might have come from a fast informal writing style called grass style writing 草書 (“fast fluid writing style” /soosho/) in calligraphy. The samples on the left are in grass style 草書. In the grass style samples of the kanji 貝, 買 and the kyujitai 賣, the bottom was reduced to two strokes a ハ-shape. When 賣 was further reduced in shinjitai by losing 目, the ハ-shape might have stretched out to a ninnyoo shape.  [October 3, 2014]

2014-10-10 Bushu rumata 殳 and kanji 役投段殺

In this post, we are going to look at the kanji that have a bushu commonly called rumata 殳.  This bushu has many names including hokodukuri (/hoko/ is a pike or spear.)  The name rumata is easier to remember because it is a katakana ル/ru/ and a kanji 又 /mata/.

1. The Kanji 役 “battle; war; role”

HistoryofKanji役In the two oracle bone style samples of 役,  it consisted of a person on the left and a hand holding a long object that had an emphasis at the top.  This is believed to be a spear-like weapon.  In ten style, the left side became the left side of a crossroad and meant going to a battle to guard the boundary as communal duty. It meant a “battle; soldier.”

There is no kun-reading. The goon, an older on-reading, was /e’ki/ and is mostly used for something that one is forced to do, including 兵役 (“military service” /heeeki/), 服役 (“doing time in prison” /hukueki/). The kan-on on-reading is /yaku/. In Japanese, the use of this kanji was extended to mean “role; someone who has a particular role” in general, such as 役員 (“officer of an organization” /yaku’in/), 役人 (“government official” /yakunin/), 主役 (“leading role” in play /shuyaku/), 役に立つ (“to be useful” /yaku’ni tatsu/) and 役目 (“role; obligation” /yakume’/).

2.The kanji 投 “to throw”

HistoryofKanji投In the ten style writing of the kanji 投, the left side was a hand, signifying an act that one does using a hand; and the right side was a hand holding a spear-like weapon, signifying an action that one does with the weapon.  Together they meant “to throw.”

I had originally found it very difficult to understand from the ancient writing that the top of the ten style was a spear-like weapon. It looks nothing like a long object, unlike the oracle bone style of 役 in 1. But when you think about a weapon in a ceremonial use, it is very likely to have decorative stuff at the top.  The kanji 我 did have a lot of decoration on a halberd.  So, I feel less puzzled about it now.

In kun-yomi /nage’ru/ is in 投げつける (“to fling; hurl” /nagetsukeru/),  放り投げる (“to toss” /hoorinage’ru/).  The on-yomi /too/ is in 投手 (“pitcher” /to’oshu/), 投資 (“investment,” from you put in capital, /tooshi/).

3. The kanji 段 “step; grade; paragraph”

HistoryofKanji段In the bronze ware style writing of the kanji 段, the left side was the stacks of stones, and the right side was a hand holding a pounding tool. It was a scene of a blacksmith forging metal to make weapon by a stone hearth.  It meant “step; grade” and it was also used for “paragraph.”

There is no kun-reading. The on-reading is in 階段 (“stairs” /kaidan/), 段階 (“dankai” /stage; step/). For martial art, and other competitive games, 段 /da’n/ shows the level of achievement.

4. The Kanji 殺 “to kill”

There are various different views on the origin of the kanji 殺.  The right side seems to be agreed by many scholars that it was a hand and a weapon that meant “to hit with a weapon.” But the views on the left side differ. One view is that on the left side メ was “scissors” and 木 (ホ) was “millet stalk”; together they signified “to harvest and strip millet” or further, “to kill.” This view is found in the kanji book called Kanjigen.

HistoryofKanji殺Another view I would like to discuss in this blog using the ancient writing samples on the left is a modified view from Shirakawa’s explanation.  In oracle bone style and bronze ware style, it was an animal that harmed people (with an evil curse, according to Shirakawa.)  The third shape, in purple here, was an earlier style that the Setsumon in the 2nd century included along with the ten style, in red. Being an earlier writing it presumably was closer to its origin.  In that the left side was an animal and the right side was a hand with a weapon. Together they meant “to kill an animal that harms people.”  From that it meant “to kill.”  It also meant “to reduce.”

The kun-reading 殺す (“to kill” /korosu/) is in 見殺しにする (“to leave in the lurch” /migoroshi-ni suru/), 殺し文句 (“clincher; killing expression” /koroshimo’nku/).  The on-reading /sa’tsu/ is in 殺人 (“murder” /satsujin/).  Another on-yomi /sa’i/ is in 相殺する (“to compensate; to balance” /soosai-suru/).  The word 殺風景 (“desolate; bleak” /sappu’ukee/) literally meant “a scenery whose beauty is reduced.”

Well, for a kanji for which we learn four little components, メ, 木, 几 and 又, it leaves us in a maze.  The important thing for us is just to know that the kanji 殺 has a bushu rumata 殳 that means “to hit.”

There are a number of other kanji that have a bushu rumata, including 設 “to set up”; 殻 “shell: hull” (after threshing, which is hitting the grain) and 穀 “grain” (threshing required.  Do you see a bushu nigihen “rice plant” at the left bottom?); 殿 “feudal lord,” originally “buttock” (we touched this story in the previous post on September 26, 2014); and 殴 “to hit; knock; beat.”

In the next two posts, I would like to talk about kanji that have a bush bokuzukuri “to cause an action,” including the kanji 改攻枚教.  [October 10, 2014]

2014-10-18 Kanji Bushu 攵・攴 ぼくづくり (1) 枚散故教

In this post, we are going to look at a few kanji that contain a bushu bokudukuri 攵 that means “to cause an action” or “an action” in general. We will begin this post by examining the development of the shapes and then look at four kanji 枚散故 and 教 that contain this radical.

(1) The kanji radical bokudukuri 攵・攴

History of Kanji Radical 攵攴The shape never seems to have been a writing by itself but was always used as a component. The five shapes shown on the left were taken from various kanji. In oracle bone style (in light brown, 1), it had a single line and a hand. In bronze ware style (in green, 2) and ten style (in red, 3) the top had another line added, probably for emphasis. The shapes meant an act of hitting or pounding something with a stick and causing something to happen. The old kanji (in sepia background, 4) reflected the ten style. In the current kanji style (in black, 5), the first stroke became a katakana shape /no/; the short second stroke got lengthened; and the kanji 又 became a cross shape, resulting in 攵. I have intentionally avoided calling the old kanji (in sepia) kyujitai, which in this blog would have been in blue. In the Kangxi kanji dictionary of the 18th century in China, most kanji already used the style 攵 (5), even though as a radical category (部首 bushu) 攴 (4) was used. Following that, in Japanese kyujitai too, most kanji used the shape 攵 (5). Even now, if you look up a kanji dictionary, both shapes are listed as bush. Currently the only kanji that still contains 攴 (4) that I can think of is 敲 in 推敲 (“polishing sentences” /suikoo/).

(2) The kanji 枚(counter for thin flat objects)

History of Kanji 枚For the kanji 枚 in bronze ware style, the left side was a standing tree and the right side was a hand holding an axe. Together they signified that someone was cutting a tree making thin flat pieces of wood. In ten style the shape was more stylized.

There is no kun-reading. The on-reading /mai/ is used as a counter for thin flat objects such as paper and is in 紙何枚 (“how many pieces of paper” /kami na’nmai/) and 切符三枚 (“three tickets” /kippu sanmai/).

(3) The Kanji 散 “to disperse; useless”

History of Kanji 散In bronze ware style, the top was pieces of hemp plant, which were pounded to make fibers for clothes. The bottom left was a piece of meat; and the bottom right side was a hand with a stick. Tough pieces of meat were pounded to tenderize them. Pounding to reduce to pieces meant “to disperse.” Tough meat that needed to be pounded did not taste good, so it also meant “useless.”

The kun-reading is /chiru/ as in 花が散る (“flower pedals fall” /hana’ ga chiru/),  散り散りになる (“to disperse; break up” /chirijiri-ni-na’ru/), 散々な目に遭う (“to have a terrible experience” /sanzan-na me’ ni a’u/).  The word 散歩する (“to take a stroll; take a walk” /sanpo-suru/) must have come from “walking without a particular purpose.”

(4) The kanji 故 “reason; cause; of the past”

History of Kanji 故In bronze ware style and ten style, 故 had 古 “old” on the left side and a hand holding a stick on the right side. Together they meant “of the past.” Old customs or precedents were what were to be followed as norms, so they were the cause of or reason for doing something. From that it meant “reason; cause.”

The kun-reading /yue’/ is in それ故 (“therefore” /soreyue/). The on-reading /ko/ is in 故人 (“deceased” /ko’jin/), 故意に (“intentionally” /ko’ini/) and 故障 (“breakdown” of a machine /koshoo/). The kanji 故 meant “on purpose.” I first thought that the word 事故 (“accident” /ji’ko/) would contradict the meaning of the kanji because an accident is an event that happens without one’s intention. But now I realize that 事故 may mean “an incidence that happened in the past,” even though it is often used to mean “happening without intention.”

(5) The Kanji 教 “to teach”

History of Kanji 教History of Kanji 学In the oracle bone style of the kanji 教, the left side had a hand holding a stick, and the right side had two crosses, meaning “to mingle,” and a child. “Two crosses above a child”— It sounds familiar, doesn’t it? That combination was in the kyujitai of kanji 學 and 覺.  In 學 [shown on the right from our earlier post], in addition to the crosses and a child, it had two caring hands and a house, whereas 教 on the left had a hand holding a stick. “A hand holding a stick to teach?” No, I do not think it meant that children were made to learn with the threat of a stick. Even in oracle bone style time, the writing was sophisticated enough that the combination of a hand and a stick was used to signify a more general sense of causation of an event or action. Teaching is “to cause children to learn.” In kyujitai the two crosses were present, but in shinjitai it took the shape of the kanji 孝 “filial duty” having a bushu oigashira “long time.” It had very little if anything to do with the kanji 孝.

The kun-reading is in 教える (“to teach” /oshieru/) and 教え (“teaching; lesson” /oshie/). The on-reading /kyo’o/ is in 教育 (“education” /kyooiku/), 教師 (“teacher” /kyo’oshi/) and 宗教 (“religion” /shu’ukyoo/).

Stroke Order

Stroke Order

The stroke order of a bushu bokudukuri is shown on the left. As is always the case when two strokes cross, you write the one that starts from the right first so that the second stroke ends at the right bottom.

We will continue to look at a few more kanji that contain this bushu in the next post. I have taken a chance in typing in 攴 and 攵 without converting them into images. I hope your browser shows them correctly. [10-18-2014]

2014-10-24 Kanji Bushu 攵・攴 ぼくづくり (2) 攻改数敬警

In the last post, we looked at four kanji 枚散故教 that contained a bushu 攵 bokuzukuri. We began by tracing the current shape 攵 to 攴 and all the way to oracle bone style. It consisted of a stick in hand and an act of hitting or pounding something with a stick, and it signified “causing something to happen.” It was also used to mean “performing an act” in general. We continue to look at five more examples 攻改数敬警 in this post.

(1) Kanji 攻 “to attack; master”

History of Kanji 攻 "attack; master"For the kanji 攻, in bronze ware style (in green) and ten style (in red), the left side came from a large carpenter’s tool. The right side had a hand holding a stick. Moving a hand with a stick up and down signified “to hit.” Together they meant making a craft. The writing 攻 included people who were skilled in work with wood, metal, hide, bronze ware work, etc, and it meant “to master.” The skills also included military tactics, and from that it came to mean “to attack.”

The kun-reading 攻める /seme’ru/ means “to attack.” The on-reading /ko’o/ is in 攻撃する “to attack” /koogeki-suru/), 正攻法 (“a direct and fair attack” /seeko’ohoo/). It is also in 専攻 (“major; specialty in study” /senkoo/), an important word for a student.  It makes more sense that 専攻 means one “mastering” in the subject, rather than “attacking,” doesn’t it?

(2)  Kanji 改 “to renew; change”

History of kanji 改In two samples of oracle bone style (1 and 2 in brown) of 改, one side was something coiled, possibly a snake, that was about to straighten itself, and the other side was a hand holding a stick that caused something to happen.  Together they meant “to change; renew.” Two ten style samples (in red) are shown here.  Setsumon Kaiji gave the shape (3) as its ten style, but the accounts in the three references I used seem to refer to the shape (4), which originated from something coiled.

The kun-reading is 改める (“to renew; change” /aratame’ru/).  The on-reading is in 改正 (“revision” /kaisee/), 改良する (“to improve” /kairyoo-suru/) and 改札口 (“ticket checkpoint” /kaisatsu’guchi/).

(3) Kanji 数 “to count; number; many”

History of kanji 数For the kanji 数, the ten style of the kanji 数  had the shape攴. The left side of the kyujitai 婁 (in blue) reflected ten style. 婁 has different accounts among the references that I use.  View (1) –It was a woman’s hairstyle that was raised high, and during an interrogation her hairstyle collapsed, and hairs were numerous and hard to count. From that it meant “to find blame,” “to count” and “many.” [Jito- Shirakawa]  The meaning of “to find blame” is not used in kanji.  View (2) –The left side 婁:  Women caught (for presumably something bad) were tied in a string. Counting them tied on a string one by one meant “to count.” [Kanjigen]  View (3) –The left side 婁 was phonetically used and meant “to pull out.” The right side was a counting stick held in hand. Together they meant “to count.” [Kadokawa dictionary]  In Shinjitai (in black) the upper left was replaced with the kanji 米 “rice” from grains scattered, along with 女 “woman” and a bushu 攵.  The kanji 数 means “number; to count; numerous; a few.”

The kun-reading is in 数 (“number” /ka’zu/), 数える (“to count” /kazoe’ru/) and 数々の (“many” /ka’zukazu-no/).  The on-reading is in 数学 (“mathematics” /suugaku/), 数人 (“a few people” /suunin/) and 数字 (”numerals” /suuji/).

(4) Kanji 敬 “to respect

History of kanji 敬The kanji 敬 has an interesting turn in its history. In oracle bone style it was a person with a sheep’s head kneeling.  A sheep was used as a sacrificial animal for a religious rite, and a sheep is a meek animal. The bronze ware style sample on the left was the same image except it was flipped over. In the second bronze ware style sample, the left side was a person with a sheep’s head and a mouth underneath signifying saying a prayer. The right meant “to hit.”  An act of hitting someone to make him kneel down is admonishing him. Originally the writing meant “to admonish,” then its meek kneeling posture was construed as a posture of showing respect.  So the meaning changed to “to respect.”

The kun-yomi 敬う /uyama’u/ means “to respect.” The on-yomi /ke’e/ is in 尊敬する (“to respect” /sonkee-suru/), 敬礼する (“to salute” /keeree-suru/). The word 失敬する (“to say good bye” or “to steal” /shikke’e-suru/ ) is an expression of saying good by used by a male speaker, but it is also used to mean “to steal” in a light friendly way.

(5) The kanji 警  “to warn”

History of kanji 警After the kanji 敬 that had originally meant “to admonish” was taken to mean “to respect,” new kanji had to be created for “to warn.”  In a case like that usually another element is added to the original kanji.  (We have seen a good example of this in 右 from 又 a few months ago.)  That was what happened here too.  Adding the kanji, or bush, 言 “word; to say” resulted in a 19 stroke kanji. Together they meant “to admonish; warn.”  It was also used to mean witty remarks. There is no kun-reading.  The on-reading /ke’e/ is in 警告 (“warning” /keekoku/), 警察 (“police” /keesatsu/), 警報 (“alarm” /keehoo/), 警世の書 (“a book that rebukes society” /keesee no sho/) and 警句 (“witty remarks” /ke’eku/).

– – – – – – – –

On the kanji 数 in this post, rather than choosing one, I listed the different accounts from three references.  The Kadokawa dictionary, the view (3), gives you a very abbreviated account.  I find that their explanations by and large follow the accounts in Setsumon Kaiji.  It is a dictionary and it has a small space to discuss the origin. On the other hand, Shirakawa’s work, the view (1), pursued the origin of each kanji relentlessly, making references to all kinds of historical records including some ancient writings that had come to light only during the last century. He took the trouble of verifying the accounts in Setsumon.

The goal of my writing in this blog, and in the Visual Kanji site, is to find a way for a Japanese language learner to make sense of the kanji shape and its meaning in such a way that induces learning. In reality, one can learn a large number of kanji just by memorizing them. But sometimes we crave an explanation.  If the etymological account on a particular kanji does not help us to learn that kanji, we can leave it as it is. That is our prerogative not being a kanji scholar.  Personally, though, I enjoy thinking about what it might have been as I gaze at the ancient writing and read kanji scholar’s accounts.  When they come together, I feel satisfied.  [10-24-2014]

2014-11-01 Kanji Radical 言 ごんべん – 言信訓誤

In this post we are going to look at four kanji 言信訓誤 that contain the meaning “word; to say; language,” that is, a bushu gonben 言.

(1) The kanji 言 “to say”

History of Kanji 言In order to connect the origin of the kanji 言 to the meaning “word; to say; language,” we need to work a little because it has little visual connection. In all of the ancient writings — in bronze ware style (in light brown), bronze ware style (in green) and ten style (in red) — the top was a tattooing needle (辛) and the bottom was a mouth (口). A tattooing needle had an ink reservoir at the top and a large handle in the middle. Even though I did not have a problem with this interpretation that the shape was an image of a tattoo needle with a reservoir and a handle, I was still not fully convinced about the connection between the tattooing needle and the meaning “word; to say.” In references there are various different accounts. The sharpness of a needle signified the clarity of what one said is one of them. Re-reading Shirakawa’s account helped me understand it in another way. Together with 口 as a container where a prayer or pledge was kept, they meant making a pledge with the understanding that if one reneged he would be tattooed (Note*). So, the origin of the kanji 言 having a tattooing needle suggested the seriousness of one’s word. It meant “word; to say; language.”  When 言 is used as a component on the left it is called a bushu gonben, and has the same meaning as the kanji 言.

The kun-reading 言う /i(u)/ has a spoken form /yu(u)/ in words such as 田中さんて言う人 (“a person called Tanaka” /takanasan te-yuu hito; te-iu hito/). Another kun-reading /koto/ is in 言葉 (“word; language” /kotoba’/), 泣き言を言う(“to complain; cry over; whimper” /nakigoto o iu (yuu)/), 言伝を頼む (“to ask to give a verbal message” /kotozute-o tano’mu/). The on-reading /ge’n/ is in 発言する (“to speak (at a meeting)” /hatsugen-suru/), 言動 (“one’s speech and behavior” /gendoo/). Another on-reading /go’n/ is a go-on and is in the phrase 言語道断 (“unspeakably; outrageous” /go’ngo doodan/), 武士に二言は無し (“Samurai’s words are sacred; A promise is a promise”  /bu’shi-ni nigon-wa-na’shi/), 他言無用 (“Not a word to anyone” /tagonmuyoo/).

Tattoo in ancient China — In ancient times a tattoo was given to a war captive, who became a slave, and to a criminal. Sometimes, temporary tattoo was used in a religious rite. It appeared in the origin of other kanji as well. A couple of kanji that come to my mind now are 僕 (“servant; I [by a male speaker]”  /bo’ku/) and 童 (“child” /wa’rawa/). No doubt I will encounter more kanji as my work moves along. [If you are curious about a few interesting ancient shapes for the kanji 僕, it is discussed in Lesson 10 Section 1 in the Visual Kanji video course.]

The interpretation of 口 in ancient writing: There was a dispute among the kanji scholars in Japan on Shirakawa’s treatment of 口. Whether 口 is a “mouth” (as in a mouth on the face) that relates to “speaking” or a “container that contains a prayer or pledge” does not make any difference here because both relate to word or speaking.)

(2) The kanji 信 “to trust; correspondence”

History of Kanji 信For the kanji 信, the left one ( in purple) was given in Setsumon as 古文 (“old writing” /kobun/).  I am going to call this style shown in purple “pre-ten style” in this blog, based on the fact that the style in Setsumon is basically ten-style and that 古文 predated ten style.  In pre-ten style the left side was a person and the right side was a tattooing needle. In ten style, the right side took the shape of 言 with a mouth at the bottom added to the tattoo needle. Together they meant a person and his words being the same, or one’s words being true to himself. From that later on it came to mean “trust.” In kanji it is a bushu ninben and a kanji 言 together. It means “to trust; letter.” Here technically 言 is not a bushu gonben because it is not on the left side.  (-Hen or -ben means a recurring component that is on the left side of kanji.) But in our study, the position does not matter because the same origin retained the same meaning wherever it appeared.

There is no kun-reading in Joyo Kanji. The on-reading /shi’n/ is in 信じる (“to believe” /shinji’ru/), 信用する (“to believe; accept someone’s story as true” /shin-yoo-suru/), 信者 (“believer” /shi’nja/), 私信 (“private letter” /shishin/), 通信 (“telecommunication; correspondence” /tsuushin/).

(3) The kanji 訓 “lesson; Japanese reading of kanji”

History of Kanji 訓History of Kanji 順The kanji 訓 and 順 were closely related–川 appears in both kanji, and they shared the sample of bronze ware style writing. In the bronze ware writing for the kanji 訓 the top of the left side had a river (川), signifying following in one direction, and the bottom had “word”(言). These two elements were placed side by side in ten style, and the person on the right side was dropped and became 訓. From “teaching the correct way of following words,” it meant “a lesson.” In Japan, this also came to mean the way that one read Chinese characters in Japanese, which is the kun-reading.

For the kanji 順 (shown on the right), in the first sample of the bronze ware style, the right side had a person with a tattoo needle at the top, but in another sample, the tattoo needle was replaced by a person with big eyes bending the knees facing the river. Someone watching the flow of a river carefully meant observing the order. In ten style, the right side was replaced by the bush 頁 “head,” which originally depicted an official with a ceremonial hat on his head. The kanji 順 means “order; turn; obedient.”

There is no kun-reading for 訓 in the Joyo kanji. The on-reading /kun/ is in 教訓 (“lesson” /kyookun/), 訓練 (“training” /ku’nren/) and 訓読み (“Japanese pronunciation of Chinese character” /kun-yomi/.)

4) The kanji 誤 “mistake; error”

History of Kanji 誤For the kanji 誤, in ten style the left side was 言 and the right side was 呉. Because 誤 did not have an earlier writing than ten style, we bring in a couple of earlier writings of 呉 (in bronze ware style, in green). They are mirror images of each other — Each had a person with his head tilted and a mouth next to his head. In the ten style of the kanji 誤, 言 “word; language”was added. Together with the meaning of 呉 described above signified that the words that were spoken were different from what the person meant. It meant “mistake; error.” The kun-reading is in 誤る (“to make a mistake” /ayama’ru/) and 誤り (“mistake; error” /ayama’ri/). The on-reading /go/ is in 誤解 (“misunderstanding” /gokai/), 誤字 (“wrong letter or character; typo” /goji/) and 誤差 (“error” /go’sa/).

Additional note on the kanji 呉:  呉 was the name of the Wu dynasty. 呉音 /go-on/ of on-reading is a word that is related to this kanji. Also in Japanese it is used in the kun-reading 呉れる (“someone gives to me” /kureru/). The on-reading /go/ is also used in 呉服屋 (“kimono fabric store” /gohukuya/)(which came from the fabric that was woven in Wu style –the Koojien dictionary)

There are many many kanji that take a bushu gonben and all carry a meaning related to speaking or words. In the next post I would like to show you the kanji that you would never have suspected were related to the kanji 言 until you see the ancient writing. [11-1-2014]

2014-11-09 Kanji Radical 音 おと 暗闇意億憶臆 – “unclear”

History of Kanji 言(Frame)In the last post we saw that the kanji 言 and a bushu gonben originated from a tattooing needle with an ink reservoir and a large handle at the top, and a mouth at the bottom. To refresh our memory, its development is shown on the right. In all of the ancient styles each part was discernable if we looked for it. By the time it became a kanji, the needle was simplified into four straight lines. In this post, we are going to see that there is a kanji that retained its ten style shape – the kanji 音 and several kanji that contain 音 as its components 暗闇意億憶臆.

1. The kanji 音 “sound”

History of Kanji 音Shown on the left is the development of the kanji 音, in bronze ware style (green) and ten style (in red). (There is no oracle bone style available.) If we compare this with the development of 言, above right, we see that, in bronze ware style and ten style, the only difference was one short line inside the mouth in 音. This extra line in 音 signified that the mouth was not empty. Because there was something inside the mouth what was articulated did not become words, but became just “sound.” From that 音 meant “sound.”

Now we are going to look at the kanji that use 音 as a component. I have observed that a shape used as a bushu in general tended to keep the original meaning, often more closely than when it was used alone as kanji. We need to examine what 音 means beyond what it means as a kanji, that is “sound.” We will look at kanji with two meanings: 1) from something inside preventing clear words, it signified “unclear; dark”; and 2) from something confined inside a mouth, it signified “containment; something not going out.”

2. The kanji 暗 “dark; unclear”

History of Kanji 暗In ten style the left side of the kanji 暗 was 日, “the sun.” When the sun is not clearly out and not being seen, it is dark. So the kanji 暗 means “dark; not visible.” The meaning also extended to knowledge, thus “ignorant of.” The kun-yomi 暗い (/kurai/) means “dark” and 薄暗い (/usugurai/) means “dimly lit.” The expression that 道理に暗い (/doori’ni kura’i/) means “being ignorant of reasoning.” The on-yomi /an/ is in 暗示する (“to imply; suggest” /anji-suru/), 暗黙の了解 (“understanding without saying; tacit understanding” /anmoku no ryookai/) and 暗号 (“code” /angoo/).

History of Kanji 諳[暗 and 諳] In the current writing system the kanji 暗 is also used in place of the kanji 諳 (/a’n/) with a bushu gonben, “to recite words by heart,” because 諳 is not included in the Joyo kanji.  On the right the ten style of 諳 is shown. It is very interesting to see 言 and 音 next to each other in ten style of the kanji 諳 and then in kanji. In ten style there was only one short line difference and yet in kanji the two components do not look similar at all.

The word 暗記する (“to memorize by heart” /anki-suru/) and 暗譜で弾く (“to play without sheet music” /anpu de hiku/) would be written as 諳記 and 諳譜, with a bushu gonben, had the real kanji been included in the Joyo kanji.

3. The kanji 闇 “darkness”

History of Kanji 闇rThere is another kanji that uses 音 and means darkness. That is the kanji 闇 (“darkness” /yami’/).  Words such as 暗闇 (“darkness” /kurayami/) or the more emphatic version 真っ暗闇 (“total darkness; pitch dark” /makkurayami/) are not unusual words at all, but this kanji was just included among the Joyo kanji in the 2010 revision. In ten style, there were two closed doors with a latch above, 門, and the component 音 inside.  The closed doors hid things. The kanji 門 means a gate, but when used as a bushu mongamae in many kanji, 門 does not mean “a gate” but rather “something hidden; unclear.”

4. The kanji 意 “intent”

History of Kanji 意Now we are going to look at the kanji that are related to something confined within one’s heart, such as feeling, intent or reluctance. They all have the kanji 意, with a heart, 心, at the bottom.

In the ten style of the kanji 意, the top was 音 and the bottom was 心 “heart.” Together they meant what was confined within a heart, “intent.” There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /i/ is in 意見 (“opinion” /i’ken/), 意味 (“meaning” /i’mi/), 同意する (“to agree” /dooi-suru/), 意地悪な (“spiteful; malicious” /iji’waruna/) and 注意する (“to pay attention to; to warn” /chu’ui-suru/.)

5. The kanji 億 “100 million”

History of Kanji 億There are three kanji in the 2010 revision of the Joyo kanji that use 意 on the right side — 億 “hundred million,” 憶 “to recollect; inside one’s heart” and 臆 “timid; reluctant.” None has a kun-yomi and the on-yomi is all /o’ku./

For the kanji 億, with a bush ninben, two bronze ware style samples are available to us. In them, there was no person or a heart, 心. But something else was there – a circle or a circle with a dot in the middle, below the needle and above a mouth. The circle must have signified that something got confined within and the dot emphasized that it was not empty.* In ten style, it had a person on the left, and a heart was added at the bottom. Together they meant “thought contained inside the heart.” 億 was used to mean “hundred million,” a number so big that it existed only in the mind of a person. 億 is also used in 億劫な (“bothersome; annoying” /okku’una/) to mean reluctance, but in informal communication hiragana is perfectly acceptable.

6. The Kanji 憶 “to recollect; inside one’s heart” and 臆 “timid; reluctant”

History of Kanji 憶With a bushu risshinben “heart” added to 音, we get the kanji 憶. It is used in 記憶 (“memory” /kioku/), 憶測する (“to make a random guess” /okusoku-suru/).

History of Kanji 臆When a bushu nikuduki, 月, “body part,” that was used to mean “bosom; heart,” is added to 音, we get the kanji 臆 “timid; reluctant.” The verb 臆する/oku-su’ru/ means “to be hesitant; to feel timid.”  The use of this kanji in the words 臆病な (“timid” /okubyo’ona/) and 臆面無く (“shamelessly” /okumenna’ku/) are found only in Japanese, according to Shirakawa.

Sometimes what is a precursor to a particular kanji is not agreed upon among kanji scholars. Having laid out all the available ancient writings that I think are relevant to this week’s topic, I now notice that the ten style of 意 and of 億, 憶 and 臆 are different. I am using Shirakawa [2004] as primary reference (for his accounts, and Akai (2010) for ancient writing images.)  But the Kadokawa kanji dictionary lists the ten style of 億 to be the ten style of 意.  Those four kanji are closely related, and at one point in history some kanji were used interchangeably. During the time when the kanji 臆, with a bushu nikuzuki, had been excluded from the Joyo Kanji list (until the 2010 revision), the kanji 憶, with a bushu risshinben, was used instead in some words, just as we are now using the kanji 暗, with a bushu hihen, to make up for the absence of a non-Joyo kanji 諳, with a gonben.

A week ago I thought writing about 音 would be an easy job because the ancient writings themselves tell us a clear story of the difference and similarity to 言. But I bumped into a couple of snags once I started digging a little deeper. Well, that is the fun of sharing with you what I have discovered by writing a blog! Thank you for your interest in reading the Kanji Portraits blog. [11-9-2014]

2014-11-15 Kanji Radical 頁 おおがい-順顔頭願

In the four posts previously, we looked at different uses of a bushu ninnyoo にんにょう (儿) “a person kneeling with a hand in front.” The kanji with this shape we discussed were 元完院兄光児 (posted on 8/20/2014), 先洗育充統 (8/30/2014), 説税脱 (9/10/2014) and 売読続p (10/3/2014). In today’s post we are going to look at the kanji in which what would have been a ninnyoo got trimmed back to a katakana ハ shape because the top carried a more prominent meaning. I am talking about the bushu おおがい (頁). It means “head” and had nothing to do with 貝 (“shell” /ka’i/) in its origin.

The shape by itself, 頁 /ke’tsu/, is not in the Joyo kanji but it is commonly used to mean “page,” as in a page of a book. In fact in the Microsoft Word that I am using on a Mac, typing p-e-e-j-i will change to 頁. Typing in /ketsu/ will do the same, but for us Japanese, because it is not a kanji, it is hard to remember how it is pronounced in on-yomi. I always find this hidden conversion a little puzzling. But come to think of it, the same thing happens if you type /yajirushi/, which brings up an arrow such as ↓ and →. Even though it is not used as a kanji in Japanese, I have found a few ancient writings for 頁 in Akai (2010) that give us rather vivid images of the original meaning. So we start with 頁.

(1) The kanji 頁 “head”

History of Kanji 頁In the two oracle bone style samples (in brown), the top was the same as the oracle bone style of the kanji 首 “head; neck.” The history of the kanji 首 is shown on the right in a blue box. History of Kanji 首(f)In oracle bone style (in brown) it was an outline of a face with an eye inside and the hair at the top. (It also looks like an eye with an eyebrow.) In bronze ware style (in green) the hair got separated and in ten style (in red) the hair became three wiggly lines, which became the first two strokes in the kanji.

Now back to the kanji 頁 on the left side. We see that the top of 頁 in both oracle bone style and bronze ware style closely correspond with the top of 首. The bottom was the body, with one continuous line depicting the torso and a kneeling leg, and a short stroke for a hand in front. With this oversized head, the writing meant “head.” In bronze ware style the head became central and the body shrunk at the bottom. Ten style writings generally had more regulated shapes and became stylized in set ways. In 頁, the top became the same as that of 首, except the three wiggly lines. The bottom was the shape that was common in the ten style of the kanji that later on contain a bushu ninnyoo. In other words up to the ten style time, the bushu頁 shared the exactly same shape as the kanji with a bushu ninnyoo that we looked at in the four posts before.

In kanji, however, the shape got reduced to a mere ハ to give space for a head.  The long horizontal line at the top was a ceremonial hat that a man of position wore. What did the head or headdress look like? We wonder. An image search of, say, the first emperor 始皇帝, /shikootee/ “Shi Huangdi,” on the Internet gives us plenty of different images of him with different hats or headdress on his head. Of course these were drawn much much later with artistic license, but it does give some hint. I imagine that the hat that has a big square top and cloth or long braids hanging down in front is close to this kanji.

(2) the kanji 順 “order; orderly”

History of Kanji 順We already touched on the kanji 順 when we looked at the kanji 訓 (11-1-2014). The kanji 順 provides us with a few earlier shapes than ten style, so let us start with 順. We have three samples of the bronze ware style here. In the left-most one, a person with a big eye was bending his knees and looking at water flowing. In the middle one the head became closer to the kanji 自, which came from the nose in the center of one’s face. In the right one, on the left was “the stream of water” (川) and “word” (言), and on the right was a man with a tattooing needle at the top (a slave) kneeling. They all meant “to follow something in an orderly manner like the flow of a river.” In ten style it had water running into one direction and the shape for 頁. In kanji, the left side became the kanji 川 “river” and the right side was a bushu oogai. The kanji 順 means “order; orderly.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /jun/ is in 順番 (“order” /junban/), 順々に (“in turn” /junju’n-ni/), 順調に (“smoothly; without a snag” /junchoo-ni/.)

(3) The Kanji 顔 “face”

History of Kanji 顔In the bronze ware style of the kanji 顔, the top was a pattern (the origin of the kanji 文); the angle with a wiggly line below that meant a well-defined forehead of a handsome man; the right bottom was a face. Together they meant a handsome face of a man. In ten style the left bottom had three diagonal lines, which meant pretty patterns. The right side was a person kneeling with his head emphasized. In kyujitai kanji, the top kept the original shape of 文 but in shinjitai kanji it got somewhat simplified. The kanji 顔 means “face.”

The kun-yomi 顔 means “face” and in 笑い顔 (“smiling face” /waraigao/), 顔色 (“facial color” /kaoiro/), 顔が利く (“to have a lot of influence” /kao-ga-kiku/) and 顔を出す (“to put in an appearance” /kao-o-da’su/). The on-yomi ガン is in 顔面 (“face” /ganmen/). Incidentally the left side of 顔, 彦, is not a Joyo kanji but is used in a male name that parents intends to “good; capable man.” ひこ [possibly 日子] for a male name coming from yamatokotoba, old Japanese words before kanji were introduced, as contrasted to ひめ [possibly 日女] for a female name (姫).

(4) The kanji 頭 “head; chief”

History of Kanji 頭In the ten style of the kanji 頭, the left side was used phonetically, but it was originally an image of a tall bowl. It may have been chosen because the shape looks like a head above a long neck. The right side was the head. Together they meant “head.”

The kanji 頭 has a number of pronunciations. The kun-yomi /atama’/ 頭 “head” is in 頭がいい (“to have a good mind; smart” /atama’ ga i’i/), 頭に入らない (“cannot understand” /atama’ ni haira’nai/), 頭ごなしに (“mercilessly; without listening well” /atamago’nashi-ni/), 頭でっかち (“top-heavy” /atamadek’kachi/ [colloquial]). Another kun-yomi is /kashira’/ (“head; chief.”) The third kun-yomi /koobe’/ is in 頭を垂れる /koobe’ o tare’ru/ and it means “to hang down one’s head.”

The on-yomi /to’o/ is in 頭角を現す (“to distinguish oneself; stand out” /tookaku o arawa’su/). Another on-yomi /zu/ is a go-on and in 頭痛 (“headache” /zutsuu/). It is also used as the counter for a large animal such as 馬二頭 (“two horses” /uma ni’too/).

(5) The kanji 願 “wish; pray”

History of Kanji 願The left side of the kanji 願 is 原. The history of the kanji 原 is shown on the right. We make a small detour here too. History of Kanji 原 (f)In bronze ware style the left top was a mountain cliff. Underneath was water dripping out from the cracks in rocks where water originated in the ground. It originally meant “fountain; the source of water.” The inside by itself became the kanji 泉 (“spring fountain” /izumi/). Then it came to be used to mean “field; wild field.” (For the original meaning of “spring water; fountain” a new kanji with a bushu sanzui, 源, was created.) In ten style, it became a bushu gandare “mountain cliff” and the water became a straight line. In kanji it took the shape close to 泉, except the water became 小.

Now back to our kanji 願. The left side signified something that came from inside, and the right side was a head. Together they meant “wish; prayer” because one makes a wish in his head. The kun-yomi is in 願う/nega’u/ “to wish; pray” and お願いする “to make a request for a favor.” The expression よろしくお願いします /yoroshiku onegai shima’su/ that you say any time when you ask someone to do some sort of favor literaly means “I pray your favorable treatment of my request.” That is very flowery and stale, isn’t it. In real communication it would be “Thank you very much for helping me.” The on-yomi /ga’n/ is in 願書 (“application documents” /ga’nsho/), 願をかける (“to make a wish” /gan o kake’ru/)

There are a surprisingly large number of kanji that have a bushu 頁 including 頑 (/ga’n/ “stubborn” as in 頑固な (“stubborn” /ga’n kona/), 頬 (/ho’ho/ “cheeks”), 傾ける (/katamuke’ru/ “to tilt”(one’s head)), 頸 (/ke’i; kubi/) “neck”), 頂 (/cho’o; itadaki/ “the top; summit; to hold it above one’s head”), 領 (/ryo’o/ “to control” as in 大統領 “president” of a country) and 類 (/ru’i/ “kind,” which comes from samples of grains 米 and animals 犬).

In the next post, I am thinking about taking up kanji that contain 女. [November 15, 2014]

2014-11-23 Kanji Radical 女 おんなへん-女好妹要妻安 – “woman”

Kanji 女 Stroke Order

Kanji 女 Stroke Order

In this post we are going to look at the kanji that contain a bushu onnahen 女 “woman; female; feminine.” The stroke order is shown on the right: The long horizontal line is the last stroke. Some readers may find this stroke order “counter-intuitive,” as many of my former students lamented in their kanji quizzes. It is a hiragana /ku/ く, a katakana /no/ ノ and a kanji 一. The slang /kuno’ichi/ (くノ一) means “female ninja.” Well, at least that is what you hear in ninja movies and anime stories. (I wouldn’t know about the world of ninja.) But for us, it is useful to remind us of the correct stroke order of the kanji 女.

(1) The kanji 女 “woman; female; feminine”

History of the Kanji 女It is not surprising to find an abundance of ancient writings for the kanji 女. In oracle bone style (in light brown), (1) and (2), it was a person kneeling with arms crossed in front. The pliant posture of the person meant “a woman.” The direction in which a woman faced was the flip side of each other. As noted in earlier posts, in oracle bone style the direction that a figure faced did not seem to carry any particular meaning, whereas in later writing facing right meant looking back or a backward movement. In bronze ware style (in green), in the right one, (4), the line that signified the body and the legs lost a sharp bend that showed kneeling that (3) had. And yet in ten style (in red) the bent knee returned. Her left hand got elongated to reach the floor.

A few posts ago, I treated the left side of the bushu ninnyoo,儿, as a hand. I have also left the possibility of a different interpretation, a leg. But here both 女 and a ninny, 儿, in ancient writings seem to direct us to view that it was a hand. Based on that interpretation, we are going to say that in kanji 女 the first strokes came from two hands and the last horizontal stroke represented the body and legs. I find it a little odd, so I am welcoming other interpretations from readers.

The kun-yomi 女 /onna’/ means “woman,” and is in 女の子 (“girl” /onna’noko/), 女らしい (”woman-like; feminine” /onnarashi’i/) and 女っぽい (“feminine with sex appeal” /onnappo’i/). Another kun-yomi /me/ is in 女々しい (“womanish” /memeshi’i/), The on-yomi /jo/ is in 女性 (“woman” /josee/), 長女 (“first-born daughter; oldest daughter” /cho’ojo/) and 男女 (“both sexes; a man and a woman” /da’njo/). Another on-yomi /nyo/ or /nyo’o/ is a go-on and is in 女房 (“wife; my wife” /nyo’oboo/).

(2) The kanji 好 “to like; favorable; good”

History of the Kanji 好In the first three oracle bone styles of the kanji 好, (1), (2) and (3), a woman was sitting on her heels with a child on her knees. It suggested the tender loving way in which a woman cared for a child. It meant “to like; fond of; good; beautiful.” In bronze ware style, the position of the woman and the child in (4) was the mirror image of (5). In ten style, (6), the woman was placed on the left and the child on the right. Only a left-facing woman remained in ten style. In fact, based on the way the knee was bent, the woman even appeared to be showing her back to the child. But this is because by the time of ten style shapes were not writing from images but just writings. Ten style was the last ancient writing before rei style (隷書 /reesho/), the first kanji style which went through dramatic standardization of shapes. As a bushu onnahen, the last stroke goes up slightly.

The kun-yomi /suki’/ means “to be fond of; like,” and is in 子供好きな (“being fond of a child,” /kodomozukina/) and 好きずきな (”a matter of individual taste or preference” /suki’zuki-na/). Another kun-yomi 好む /kono’mu/ means “to favor; like,” and is in お好みの (“favorite; of one’s choice” /okonomino/). The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 好青年 (“nice young man; congenial youth” /koose’enen/) and 好物 (“favorite food” /ko’obutsu/).

(3) The kanji 妹 ”younger sister”

History of the Kanji 妹In oracle bone and bronze ware styles for the kanji 妹 “younger sister,” the left side had a tree with a line at the top. The line at the top signified that the tip of the tree was still growing and not matured yet. It was the kanji 未 “yet,” as in 未だ 〜ない (“not yet” /ma’da/) and 未来 (“future,” from the meaning of “yet to come” /mi’rai/). The right side was a “woman.” Together they meant a female member of the family who was yet to grow, which was “younger sister.” In ten style, the positions of 未 and 女 switched.

The kun-yomi /imooto/ means “younger sister.” The on-yomi /mai/ is in 姉妹 (“sisters” /shi’mai/) and 弟妹 (“younger brother and sister” /teemai/.)

(4) The kanji 要 “essential; important; to require; to need”

History of the Kanji 要In the history of the kanji 要, the shape 女 was not present originally. In oracle bone style the middle was a pelvis, and two hands were placed on the hip. It meant “waist” or “hip.” The waist is the center of one’s body and is important. So this writing came to be used to mean “essential.; important.” We have two shapes in ten style. The left one had the hip with both hand and two legs at the bottom. In the right one, because a woman has a more prominent hip, 女 was added at the bottom, but it still meant “essential; important; to require; to need.”

For the original meaning of “waist; hip” a new writing was created by adding a bushu nikuzuki “body part”, 腰 (“waist” /koshi/). This way of kanji formation – in which a shape that originally meant a part of a body got taken away to mean something else and that a new kanji had to be created for the original meaning by adding bushu nikuzuki “part of a body” – is quite common. We have already seen it in 殿 “feudal lord; palace; an official way of addressing someone” and 臀 “hip,” Another pair, 北 “north” and 背 “back; to betray,” is also a good example.

The kun-yomi is in 要る (“to need; require” /iru/). The on-yomi /yo’o/ is in 要因 (“factor“ /yooin/), 要領 (“the gist” /yooryo’o/), 重要な (“important” /juuyoo-na/), 必要な (“necessary” /hitsuyoo-na/), and 要する (“to require” /yoo-su’ru/).

(5) The kanji 妻 “wife” and 夫 ”husband”

History of the Kanji 夫In order to understand the origin of 妻 (“wife” /tsu’ma/), looking at the history of the kanji 夫 (“husband” /otto/) may be useful. The history of the kanji 夫 is shown on the right.  In oracle bone style, bronze ware style and ten style, it was a man, 大, with a line at the top. The line at the top signified a ceremonial or formal hairpin that a groom wore at the wedding. It meant a “bride groom.” From that the kanji 夫 meant “husband; man.”

History of the Kanji 妻For the kanji 妻 “wife,” no oracle bone style or bronze ware style writing is available. In ten style, the top was a hair accessory that a bride wore; the middle was a hand from the side; and the bottom was a woman. Whose hand was it?  Two different views are possible– the hand could be the bride putting her hand on her hair accessory to signify her wedding; or a groom’s hand taking her as his bride. I tend to take the latter view. Together they meant “wife.”

The kun-yomi is in 妻 (“wife” /tsu’ma/). In modern Japanese, when you refer to your own wife, the word 家内 /ka’nai/ (and in some instances かみさん /kamisan/) is usually used. Someone else’s wife is 奥さん and 奥様 /o’kusan; o’kusama/ and never 妻 /tsu’ma/, particularly in speaking. The on-yomi /sa’i/ is in 夫妻 (“married couple; husband and wife” /fu’sai/) and 妻子 (“wife and child” /sa’ishi/),

(6) the kanji 安 “peaceful; inexpensive”

History of the Kanji 安In all of the ancient writings for the kanji 安 shown on the left, a woman, 女, was placed inside a house. It meant “quiet; secure; peaceful.” An inexpensive thing is less strenuous to obtain, so it also meant “inexpensive; cheap.” In a first-year Japanese class in a university program, whenever this kanji was introduced in the context of 高い and 安い (“expensive” /taka’i/ and “inexpensive” /yasu’i), I could almost predict female freshman students would react with disgust or at least annoyance to this kanji, thinking that a woman is cheap. But a woman sitting inside the house peacefully is the original meaning.

Another thing is that when I was copying the photos of ancient writing in Akai (1985 and 2010) last year to be used for the Visual Kanji video tutorials, I noticed that 安 in some of the oracle bone and bronze ware styles had an extra line at the bottom. I wondered if it was just a flaw in the making of the inscription or not. But the same thing happened in copying the kanji 保 “to keep.” Shirakawa’s explanation is that this was a ceremonial piece of clothing to protect someone from evil.

The kun-yomi is in 安い (“inexpensive” /yasu’i/), 安らかな (“peaceful’ /yasu’rakana/), 安上がり (“inexpensive; less cost” /yasua’gari/), 安値 (“low price” /yasu’ne/) and 目安にする (”to use as rule of thumb” /meyasu-ni-suru/). The on-yomi /a’n/ is in 安心 (“security; ease” /anshin/) and 不安な (“anxious; restless” /huanna/).

In the next post, I would like to discuss the kanji 母毎海悔毒梅, which originally contained the same shape as 女. [11-24-2014 Japan time]

2014-11-29 A Photo from Tokyo

Tokyo30thflooDaikanyama(1r)jpgview of Tokyo from a high-rise building near Shibuya in November, 2014 (facing east.)  Not exactly postcard quality because of a hazy late afternoon light. (No posting on kanji this week because I am traveling. Sorry about that.)   11-30-2014 in Tokyo

2014-12-10 Kanji Radical 母毋はは – 母毎海悔梅毒

 (1) The kanji 母 “mother”

The two kanji shapes 女 and 母 show little resemblance to each other. But the meanings “woman” and “mother” are closely related; A mother is a woman who has a child. When a woman becomes a mother, the first thing that she does is to nurse a baby. That was what creators of the ancient writing focused on to differentiate the two meanings.

History of the Kanji 母On the left is the development of the kanji 母 from oracle bone style (brown), bronze ware style (green), ten style (red). It was a woman keeling down with her hands crossed in front, with two dots added to the ancient writing of 女.  In those shapes two dots signified a nursing woman’s breasts. History of the Kanji 女(frame)The development of the kanji 女 from the last post is shown on the right for comparison. When we compare the two kanji in each of the three ancient styles, they show direct correspondence, except that for the kanji 母 two dots had been added. Even in the two kanji shapes that did not appear to have a resemblance, similarity starts to show up.

The kun-yomi /ha’ha/ (“mother”) is in 母方の (“maternal side” /hahakata-no/). The on-yomi /bo/ is in 父母 (“parents” /hu’bo/), 母校 (“one’s alma mater” /bo’koo/) and 分母 (“denominator” /bu’nbo/). It is also customarily used for お母さん (“mother” /oka’asan/) and 母屋 (“o’moya” /main house/.)

(2) The kanji 毎 “every”

History of the Kanji 毎The kanji 毎, 海, 悔, 梅 and 毒, have 毋 in common. The shape 毋 came from 母. We are going to look at those five kanji now. In the kanji 毎, in all three ancient styles, at the top of 母, a line of different contours (straight, wiggly, or curving upward) was added. There seems to be different interpretation on what this extra line signified, including “a plant that grew profusely” and “a hair accessary on a woman who was busily engaged in religious ceremony.” Together with the meaning that a mother could give a birth to a child one after another, it signified something “multiplying, proliferating.” From that it meant “every.” Throughout the ancient writings, there were two dots that were breasts, but in kanji they became a long single line.

The kun-yomi /goto/ is in 〜する毎に (“every time one does something” /suru-go’to ni/), 一週間毎 (“every week; by the week” /isshuukango’to/). The on-yomi /ma’i/ is in 毎日 (“every day” /ma’inichi; mainichi/) and 毎月 (“every month” /maitsuki/.)

 (3) The kanji 海 “ocean; sea”

History of Kanji 海In the kanji 海, the left side was a bushu sanzui “water” and the right side 毎 was used phonetically to mean “dark; unknown.” From unknown water it meant “ocean; sea.” The kun-yomi /u’mi/ is in 荒海 (“rough sea” /araumi/) and 海や山 (“the sea and mountains” /u’mi ya yama/).

The on-yomi /ka’i/ is in 北海道 (”Hokkaido Island” /hokka’idoo/), 日本海 (“the Japan Sea” /niho’nkai/) and 海水 (“sea water” /kaisui/.)

(4) The kanji 悔 “to regret; to repent; vexing”

History of the Kanji 悔In the ten style of the kanji 悔, the left side was a vertical shape of a heart. This bushu is called risshinben “vertical heart.” When the heart 心 was used on the left side it took this shape to make room. The right side was used phonetically for /kai/ which meant “dark; regret; vex.”

The kun-yomi /ku/ is in the verb 悔いる (“to repent; regret” /kui’ru/ ), 悔やむ (“to regret” /kuya’mu/) and the adjective 悔しい (“vexing; regretful” /kuyashi’i/.)  The on-yomi /ka’i/ is in 後悔する (“to regret” /ko’okai-suru/.)

 (5) The Kanji 梅 “plum”

History of the Kanji 梅In the ten style of the kanji 梅, the left side 木 was a bushu kihen “tree.” The right side was the same as that of 毎., and was used phonetically to mean a tree that bears sour fruits such as a plumb tree. In the Key to Kanji, I referred to the view that associated the tart acidity of plums with relieving morning sickness and the kanji 梅. Now I am wondering if this story was added at a later time.

Plum flowers bloom very early in the spring before other spring flowers, and Japanese people appreciate them as a sign of the arrival of a new spring. Every year, from the end of January through February, TV news features blooming plum flowers, starting form Kyushu Island and gradually moving to the north, just as they do with cherry blossoms. Because it blooms early, it is also appreciated as an auspicious tree together with the pine tree 松 and bamboo 竹  in the word 松竹梅 (“auspicious combination of trees”/shoochiku’bai/.)

Plum fruits are also popular. During the rainy season, which is mid-June through mid-July in the Tokyo area, green fruits are sold and some people pickle them to make 梅干し/umeboshi/ that are salty and sour but very pungent. The fruits also make a flavorful drink called umeshu “plum drink” which is popular among women.

The kunyomi /ume/ is in 梅干し (“pickled plum /umeboshi/), 梅酒 (“plum drink” /umeshu/). The on-yomi /ba’i/ is in 梅雨 (“rainy season”/ba’iu/). The word 梅雨 is also pronounced as /tsuyu‘/ and in 梅雨時 (“rainy season” /tsuyudoki/).

 (6) The kanji 毒 “poison”

History of the Kanji 毒For the the kanji 毒, the ten style added two lines to the ten style of the kanji 毎. What did the additional lines mean? There are two different interpretations. One is that the top was poisonous plants. This view may have come from the pre-ten style given in the Setsumon Kaiji (shown in gray here) that had two grasses growing at the top. Another is that this was three elaborate hair accessories on the hair of a woman, 母. Too many hair accessories was gaudy, and from that it meant “poisonous; poison.” Another thing to note about the ten style writing is that all the five kanji above had two dots for breasts, but for 毒 it had already become a single horizontal line. The kanji 毒 means “poison; poisonous.” There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /doku’/ means “poison” and is in 毒々しい (“gaudy; excessively showy” /dokudokushi’i/), 無毒 (“not harmful” /mu’doku/) and 毒味 (“tasting before serving for poison” /dokumi’/).

Stroke order of the kanji 女

Stroke order of the kanji 女

Stroke order of the kanji 母

Stroke order of the kanji 母

Stroke order of the kanji 毎

Stroke order of the kanji 毎

The stroke order of the three kanji 女, 母 and 毎 are shown for comparison. The first two strokes of 女 correspond to those of the kanji 母, which is repeated in 毎.

In these last two posts we have seen that the shapes 女, 母 and 毎, 毋 are all closely related to the origins of “woman.” In the next post, we are going to look at the kanji 男 “man; male.” [December 10, 2014]

2014-12-19 The Kanji 男 and 田力甥舅虜勇湧- 力 “power” (1)

In the last two posts we looked at the kanji that were related to 女 “woman.” What about the kanji that are related to man? Unlike 女 “woman,” the kanji for “man” was not a single pictographic writing, but a semantic composite of 田 “rice paddies” and 力 “power; strength.” So in order to understand the kanji 男, it would be helpful for us to look at these two components beforehand.

(1) The kanji 田 “rice paddies”

HistoryoftheKanji田Many of the oracle bone style samples for the kanji 田 (such as the two in light brown on the left) had multiple grids. It was an image of rice paddies. The account in Setsumon Kaiji (100 AD) was that it was the image of the footpath that ran from south to north and from east to west in four directions. Most rice plants grow in paddies in which plants get immersed in irrigation water when they are young. The kanji 田 meant “rice paddies; field.”

The kun-yomi for 田 /ta/ is in 田んぼ (田圃) (“rice paddies” /tanbo/) and 田畑 (“agricultural fields” /ta’hata/). The on-yomi /de’n/ is in 田園 (“pastoral field” /den-en/), 油田 (“oil field” /yuden/). It is also used in 田舎 (“country side” /inaka/).

(2) The kanji 力 “power; strength”

HistoryoftheKanji力For the kanji 力, there are two different views that are of interest. One view, by Setsumon, is that it was muscles in an arm. The bottom was a hand. It meant “a strong hand.” The bronze ware style sample (in green) showed a bump at the top that was interpreted as muscle in the upper arm. But in ten style (in red), I find it somewhat hard to view the bottom as fingers. Another view, that it was “a plough for field work,” by Shirakawa, appeals more to me. (There are many other kanji that can be explained better if we look at the origin of the component 力 to be a plough in the field, as we will discuss in the next post.) When I go back to the earlier four writings, the idea of “plough” still works for me. Whether it originally was a strong hand or a plough in the field, it meant “power; strength.”

The kun-yomi is in 力 (“power; strength” /chikara”/) and 底力 (“real ability” /sokojikara/). The on-yomi /ryo’ku/ is in 努力 (“effort” /do’ryoku/) and 電力(“electric power” /de’nryoku/).Another on-yomi /ri’ki/ is a go-on and is in 力量 (“ability” /rikiryoo/).

(3) The kanji 男 “man; male; masculine”

HistoryoftheKanji男Now we are ready to look the kanji 男. In oracle bone style, it had rice paddies and a plough or strong hand. In bronze ware style, the right one had something on the right side. Could it be a handle of a plough? In ten style the two components were placed vertically, which became the kanji shape. The person who does manual hard work in the field using a plough was a man. It means “man; male; masculine.”

The kun-yomi /otoko’/ means “man,” and is in 男の子 (“boy” /otoko’noko/), 男らしい (“manly” /otokorashi’i/) and 男勝り (“strong-minded (woman)” /otokoma’sari/). The on-yomi /da’n/ is in 男性.  Another on-yomi /na’n/ was a go-on and in 長男 (“firstborn son” /cho’onan/) and 下男(“manservant” /ge’nan/).

According to Atsuji (2004), 男 was a bushu in Setsumon. Only two kanji, 甥 and 舅, are included among Joyo kanji. In the current kanji in Japanese, it is not a bushu, but there are other kanji that contain 男 — 虜 and 勇 (and 湧). We are going to look at those kanji now.

(4) The kanji 甥 “nephew”

HistoryoftheKanji甥In ten style of the kanji 甥, the left side was a growing plant, which becomes the kanji 生 “life.” The right side was the kanji 男.  Together, they originally meant sons of one’s sisters, meaning only a female side. But in Japanese it means “nephew.”

The kun-yomi is 甥 (“nephew” /oi/) and is also in 甥子さん (someone else’s “nephew” /oigo-san/.)  The on-yomi /se’e/ is not used in Japanese.

(5) The kanji 舅 “father-in-law”

HistoryoftheKanji舅The ten style of the kanji 舅 consisted of 臼, which gave the pronunciation, and 男 “man; male.” Together they originally meant a maternal uncle. In Japanese it means “father-in-law.”

The kun-yomi 舅 /shuuto/ means “father-in-law.” The on-yomi /kyu’u/ is not used in Japanese.

(6) The kanji 虜 “captive; prisoner”

HistoryoftheKanji虜In ten style of the kanji 虜, the top and the middle were used phonetically for /ro/ to mean “to tie on a rope” and the bottom was 力. Captives in battle were tied together on a rope and often became slaves. Together they meant “captive; prisoner.” The kyujitai (in blue) reflected the ten style writing. In kanji the middle became 田.  So, the kanji 虜 did not share the origin of the kanji 男 even though in kanji the shape 男 appears.

The kun-yomi /toriko’/ means “captive; prisoner.” The on-yomi /ryo/ is in 俘虜 (“prisoner of war” /hu’ryo./)  [We touched this word when we discussed the kanji 俘 in the post entitled as “A Hand From Above (2): 浮, 乳, 争, 静 and 印” on May 24, 2014]

(7) The kanji 勇 “courageous; gallant”

HistoryoftheKanji勇(2)Another kanji that did not have the same origin as 男 but contains it now is the kanji 勇. The kyujitai (which I am unable to find a typeface for) had 甬 at the top and 力 at the bottom. Let us look at the development on the left.

In bronze ware style, (1), the top meant a hand bucket of spring water and the bottom was a plough. Together they meant “spirit” that sprang out. The pre-ten style, (2), had a heart at the bottom. The Setsumon variant, (3), had a halberd (戈) on the right, whereas the primary ten style in Setsumon, (4), had 力. The kanji variant, (5), reflected the variant style in Setsumon, consisting of 甬 and 力. The kyujitai (not shown here) had マ at the top, 用 in the middle and 力 at the bottom. In the current kanji, (6), the middle 用 was replaced by 田.  By adding a bush sanzui, we get the kanji 湧く/waku/ “to gush out; spring out.” So, from the point of the view of origin, it would be wrong to connect “bravery; courage” (勇) to “manliness” (男). Rather, courage is something that wells out of one’s heart.

The kun-yomi 勇ましい /isamashi’i/ means “courageous; valiant; gallant” and also in 勇んで (“in full of spirits” /isa’nde/.)  The on-yomi /yu’u/ is in 勇気 (“courage” /yu’uki/) and 勇退する (“to retire voluntarily” /yuutai-suru/).

In the next post, I would like to start to look at the kanji that contain 力 now that it has been introduced in this post. [12-19-2014]

2014-12-29 The Kanji 功加労助幼協 – 力 “power” (2)

This post is a continuation of the discussion of the bushu shape 力 from the last post.

1. The Kanji 功  “achievement; skilled work; merit”

History of the kanji 功The bronze ware style (in green) of the kanji 功 was same as the bronze ware style of the kanji 工 “craft” or, more generally, “things that people made or crafted.” In ten style (in red) the shape 工 became minimized, and the shape for a “plough” was added to signify strenuous work in the field. Work that people created and hard work in the fields together meant “achievement, skilled work, or merit.”

The kun-yomi is not in the Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 成功する (“to succeed” /seekoo-suru/), 年功序列 (“seniority system” /nenkoo joretsu/) and 功績 (“merits; achievement” /kooseki/). Another on-yomi /ku/ is a go-on and is in 功徳 (“act of charity” /ku’doku/), a Buddhist term.

2. The kanji 加 “to add”

片仮名カ筆順

Katakana /ka/ stroke order

平仮名か筆順

Hiragana /ka/ stroke order

History of the kanji 加In bronze ware style, the top may be interpreted as “a hand and strong arm” placed sideways, and underneath was a “mouth.” In ten style, the left side appeared more like a plough. (Please read the last post about the development of the shape 力.) When one wants to exert himself, adding a shout, such as a one-two-THREE, is helpful. Together they meant “to add.” Both the katakana カ /ka/ and hiragana か /ka/ came from this kanji. A simple kana such as カ or か can create a little embarrassing situation if you write the first strokes in the wrong order — the angle stroke is the first stroke in the katakana カ and the hiragana か (and the kanji 加), as shown on the right.

The kun-yomi 加える /kuwaeru/ means “to add” and its intransitive verb counterpart 加わる /kuwawaru/ means “to join.” The on-yomi /ka/ is in 追加 (“supplement addition” /tsuika/), 加算する (“to add (in caltulation)” /kasan-suru/), 加減する (“adjust; modify; moderate” /kagen-suru/) and 加工品 (“processed goods” /kakoohin/).

3. The kanji 労 “labor; effort”

History of the kanji 労The top of the bronze ware style of the kanji 労 had two bonfires on torches. Bonfires burn intensely. From that it meant “vigorous; energetic.” The bottom was a piece of clothing (a collar) to signify “a person.” In ten style, it had “fires” and “a plough,” which was reflected in the kyujitai (in blue). “Power” (from a plough) and “fires” together meant “working hard at night.” It also meant “to reward for service.” In shinjitai, the two fires were reduced to a shallow katakana ツ /tsu/ shape, just as we have seen previously in 栄 from 榮 and 営 from 營 in the previous post entitled “A Bonfire for Prosperity” (on March 6, 2014.) Replacing a complex shape in kyujitai with a katakana /tsu/ shape in shinjitai can be observed in many other kanji, and we will discuss that at a later time.

There are two kun-yomi that are not on the Joyo kanji list but are used commonly – 労る/itawa’ru/ means “to treat kindly; comfort” and 労う /negira’u/ means “to express one’s thanks; reward for one’s pains”. The on-yomi /ro’o/ is in 苦労 (“trouble; worry; pain” /ku’roo/), 労働 (“labor” /roodoo/), 心労 (“the strain of grief; weight of are” /shinroo/) and 過労 (“strain; overwork” /karoo/).

4. The kanji 助 “to help”

History of the kanji 助In the bronze ware style of the kanji 助, the top was a stack of things and the bottom was a hand. In ten style, the stack of things was placed on the left side and the right side was a plough or a strong hand. Adding a helping hand meant “to help; assist.”

The kun-yomi 助ける /tasuke’ru/ means “to help,” and 助かる /tasuka’ru/ is its intransitive verb counterpart that means “(it) helps me; it saves me; being helpful.” 助かります “Thank you for your help” is an expression you use when someone offers help. 手助けする /teda’suke-suru/ is a verb “to give a hand to help.” There is another kun-yomi /suke/ and it is in 助太刀する (“to lend a helping hand (in a fight).” The on-yomi /jo/ is in 助手 (“assistant” /joshu/), 助走する (“to make an approach run” /josoo-suru/) and 助詞 (“particle” /joshi/) in Japanese grammar.

5. The kanji 幼 ”very young”

History of the kanji 幼In the oracle bone style of the kanji 幼, it was a skein of threads twisted with a stick at the top. In ten style, the left side showed the contrast with the bushu itohen “thread; continuity,” which would have three lines to signify long silk filaments. Without three lines at the bottom, the shape signified that threads were short, or being young. On the right side a plough was added. Together someone who was still short of power meant “young; immature; little; tender.”

The kun-yomi 幼い /osana’i/ means “very young; immature.” The on-yomi /yo’o/ is in 幼稚な (“immature” /yoochina/) and 幼稚園 (“kindergarten” /yoochi’en./

6. the kanji 協 “to cooperate”

History of the kanji 協In the ten style of the kanji 協, the left side was a shape that meant “to bundle up.” On the right side was three hands or three ploughs. Together they meant many people “cooperate.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /kyo’o/ is in 協力する (“to cooperate” /kyooryoku-suru/) 生協 (“co-op” /se’ekyoo/) from 生活協同組合 (/seekatsu kyoodoo ku’miai/) and 経済協力 (“economic corporation” /keezaikyo’oryoku/).

In the next post, I am planning to discuss the kanji 動働重 and 東. 東, as in “east”? Yes, surprisingly, they share the same origin for the shape. [December 29, 2014]

2015-01-05 Visual Kanji: Lessons 11 -15 available now

Part3announcement[Revised on January 30, 2015] The PART 3 of the Visual Kanji tutorials, an etymology-based kanji study course [from Lessons 11 through 15] has been uploaded in its entirety at http://www.visualkanji.com.   I am very pleased to say that we have reached the midway point of our goal.  So many young people have been helping me to realize my long-time dream of making tutorials such as these available to the public.  I would appreciate any feedback so that I can further improve the contents.  I can be reached by email at: visualkanji@@@gmail.com.  [Please remove two @@.]  Thank  you very much. – Noriko Williams

Below is the table of 200 kanji in the Part 3.

Visual Kanji Part 3 Kanji Table

 

2015-01-06 The Kanji 東動働重童-力 “power” (3)

In continuing the bushu 力 “power; strength”, we are going to look at the kanji 動 and 働 in this post. In the two kanji 動 and 働, the obvious starting point is the kanji 重.  When we look at ancient writing, discussing the kanji 重 further takes us to the kanji 東.

(1) The kanji 東 “east”

The kanji 東 is the kanji that we study at a very early stage (we need it for 東京 “Tokyo” /tookyoo/!). Your teacher tried very hard to make kanji meaningful to the class and may have said something like, “Can you see the sun, 日, inside a tree, 木, in this kanji?  Morning sun shines through the branches of a tree in the east.  So, the kanji 東 means ‘east.’”  Forty years ago, when I first started to teach Japanese and looked for a way to explain kanji, I also came across this explanation. Even then I felt doubtful about it. Apparently that was the explanation given in the Setsumon Kaiji, the utmost authoritative etymology source of Chinese characters.  So, it has been retold timelessly.

The history of the kanji 東(abc)The ancient writings tell us a different story. In oracle bone style, (a) in brown, and bronze ware style, (b) in green, it was a bag that was tied around a pole, with two ends tied tightly and the middle wrapped around as well.  The middles of these samples do not look anything like the sun.

History of the kanji 日

The History of the kanji 日

At the time of the oracle bone style and bronze ware style, shown on the right, the sun was a circle with a dot, long or short, in the middle, that signified that the inside was not empty.  It was only in ten style, (c) in red, when the middle dot became a line across.

What did a bag of stuff with a pole going through have to do with the direction “east”?  The answer is, “Nothing.” The writing was borrowed to mean “east.” Borrowing means it had no relevance to the meaning or sound of the original kanji. Borrowing a shape for a direction was not uncommon: the kanji 西 “west,” from a basket, 南 “south,” from a musical instrument, were borrowed. The kanji 北, “back to back,” was used phonetically for “north.”  This was just the ground work for the kanji in this post.

The kun-yomi 東 /higashi/ means “east.”  Another kun-yomi /a’zuma/ also meant “east.” The on-yomi /to’o/ is in 東京, 東海道 (“the Tokaido road” /tooka’idoo/) and 東北地方 (“northeast region” /toohokuchi’hoo/), 中東 (“Middle East” /chuutoo/).

(2) The kanji 重 “heavy; weight”

The history of the kanji 重(de)The bronze ware style sample, (d), of the kanji 重 consisted of a person on top, a bag that was tied around, and soil at the bottom. In ten style, (e), it had the shape of a person bending over at the top, and below that was the same as (c) in 東, and the dirt at the bottom. The person’s feet were connected all the way to the ground.  Together a person with a heavy bag standing on the ground meant “heavy.”

The kun-yomi is in 重い (“heavy” /omoi/), 重たい (“heavy” /omotai/), and 重み (“weight” /omomi/).  Another kun-yomi 重ねる (“to pile; lay something on the other” /kasaneru/), 重ね重ね (“repeatedly” /kasanega’sane/). The on-yomi /ju’u/ is in 二重 (“double” /nijuu/), 厳重に (“closely; strictly” /genjuuni/).

(3) The kanji 動 “to move” and the kanji 童 “young child”

The history of the kanji 動(fg)In the kanji 動, the left side 重 was just explained. If we jump to the ten style, (g), we see what we expect from the kanji 重, with the plough for 力 “power” on the right side. Together they meant applying power to move heavy stuff, or “to move.”  So far it makes sense, doesn’t it.

But what about the bronze ware style, as in (f)?  It had a large tattoo needle (辛) with a big handle, and an eye underneath at the top. (f) in bronze ware style was different from (d), 重 in bronze ware style. Why is that? Even though the ten style, (e) for 重 and (g) for 動, are closely similar, why are the bronze ware styles from which they developed so different? What a bother…, but we will not give up.  There is a reason. Ancient creators of writing used a tattoo needle in various kanji. The bushu 言 and 音 that we saw earlier were just a few of the examples. Another example of use of a tattoo needle was that a convict was tattooed as a punishment for a crime.

History of the kanji 童

History of the kanji 童

I remember that earlier I had come across a shape that was the same as (f).  It was the bronze ware style of the kanji 童, shown in (h) on the right. (f) and (h) had to be the same.  In 童, someone who had a tattoo, a convict, did a heavy manual work. (We recognize a heavy load and the soil in (h) and (i).)  The needle over an eye symbolized blindness to knowledge or not having freedom. Later on, the meaning of convict was dropped and the kanji meant someone who was ignorant. That is a young child. The kanji 童 means “young child.”

Now back to our kanji 動. The kanji 動 originally meant “to work hard” or “physical work.” The writing was later taken away to mean “to move” or “to move stuff,” which is the current use.

The kun-yomi 動く (“to move” ugo’ku/) is 身動きできない (“cannot budge; cramped” /miu’goki deki’nai/), 動き回る (“to move about” /ugokimawa’ru/).  The on-yomi /do’o/ is in 運動 (“exercise” /undoo/), 活動 (“activity” /katsudoo/) and 自動ドア (“automatic door” /jidoodo’a/).

(5) The Kanji 働 “to work; labor”

What happened to the original meaning of “working hard” that 動 had? That is where the newer kanji 働 comes in.  The kanji 働 was created in Japan to mean “to work (using one’s body).” So, there is no ancient writing existed. Logically a kokuji (国字), a kanji that was created in Japan, does not have an on-yomi. But the kanji 働 just took the on-yomi of the kanji 動 /do’o/.

The kun-yomi /hataraku/ means “to work for wages” and is in ただ働き (“work without pay” /tadaba’taraki/). The on-yomi /do’o/ is in 労働 (“labor” /roodoo/) and 稼働する (“(machine is) in operation” /kadoo-suru/).

The year 2015 is hitsujidoshi, “the year of the sheep,” written as 未年.The kanji 未 and the animal sheep have no relation, so it is just an arbitrary use. I would like to touch on the kanji 羊 to celebrate the new year in the next post. [1_6_2015]

2015-01-11 Year of the Sheep 羊洋達鮮群 – 羊 ひつじ (1)

明けましておめでとうございます

A Happy New Year. I should have started with this greeting in the last post.  明ける /akeru/ means “a day breaks; a new dawn comes.” The word おめでとう /omedetoo/ is the polite style of the adjective めでたい /medeta’i/ “auspicious.” So the greeting /akema’shite omedetoo-gozaima’su/ that we exchange literary means, “The new year has broken and we celebrate this auspicious occasion.”

History of Kanji 未In the Chinese zodiac calendar, the year of 2015 is the year of the sheep, /hitsujidoshi/ in Japanese. The kanji for the word hitsujidoshi is 未年, not 羊年. The kanji 未 means “yet,” as in 未だやらない (“I am not doing it yet” /ma’da yaranai/). The history of the kanji 未 is shown on the right. In oracle bone style, in brown, and bronze ware style, in green, it had a tree, 木, and, an extra line, 一, at the top to indicate an emphasis on the meaning – The treetop was “yet to grow.” The ten style writing, in red, was more stylized. (We have looked at the kanji 妹, a female member of the family yet to grow, “younger sister” in the November 27, 2014, post.)

The kanji for the animal sheep 羊 is nothing to do with the kanji 未. In fact all the twelve animals for the cycle of 12 years were chosen arbitrarily. Last year was the year of the horse 馬, umadoshi (午年). In our modern life in Japan, the only occasions when most of us even think about those animals are if we discover that someone was born in the year of the same animal — it may be a conversation topic. Another occasion would be in December and January in choosing a design for a nengajo 年賀状 (“new years greeting postcard” /nenga’joo/), or buying an engimono 縁起物 “good luck charm,” such as the one on the right. By the way, Japan celebrates new years day, 正月 /shoogatsu/, by the Gregorian calendar (since 1873.) I used to feel awkward when a Chinese colleague would greet me cheerfully, “A happy new year,” in February, when I was already over the excitement of a new year. Now, what kind of year will the year of sheep be? I hope it is a very good one for everyone. We are going to see in this and next posts that the kanji that contain 羊 are all something good and desirable.

(1) The kanji 羊 “sheep”

History of Kanji 羊In oracle bone and bronze ware styles, it was an image of a sheep viewed from the front – two horns that curved down at the top, and the body. The History of Kanji 牛This image is often in contrast with the image of the kanji 牛, whose horns were upward, as shown on the right.

In the ancient times sheep had many uses. The hide was good for clothing and making a tent; wool for clothing and making yarn; the meat for nutrition; and the horns and bones for making tools, etc. Sheep were also used as sacrificial animals in religious rites. With all these good uses that sheep provided, when used as a component, the shape 羊 usually gives the meaning of goodness and desirability.

The kun-yomi 羊 /hitsuji/ means “sheep” and is in 子羊 (“lamb” /kohi’tsuji/). The on-yomi /yo’o/ is in 羊毛 (“wool” /yoomoo/) and 羊皮紙 (“parchment” /yoohi’shi/). I do not believe that parchment was used in China or Japan. The kanji 羊 is customarily used for 山羊 (“goat” /ya’gi/.)

(2) The kanji 洋 “ocean”

History of Kanji 洋The oracle bone style of the kanji 洋 had one or two sheep in flowing water. The Setsumon’s explanation was that it was the name of a river. The kanji was used to mean “ocean; abroad.” In ten style, water and sheep got separated and were placed side by side, keeping the general rule that the left side gave the meaning and the right side gave the pronunciation.

There is no kun-yomi in the Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /yo’o/ is in 東洋 (“the east; orient” /to’oyoo/), 西洋 (“the west” /se’eyoo/), 洋服 (“western-style clothes” /yoohuku/), as contrasted to 和服 (“Japanese clothing, such as kimono” /wafuku/), 洋風 (“western style” /yoohuu/) and 太平洋 (“the Pacific Ocean” /taihe’eyooo/).

(3) The kanji 達 “to attain; reach; a plural suffix for person”

History of Kanji 逹In oracle bone style, the left side was a crossroad, and the right side had a person and a footprint. Together they meant “to go; something goes without a hitch.”  In bronze ware style, the right side was a sheep to signify the scene in which a lamb was born smoothly. In ten style, the left side was the precursor to the bushu shinnyuu (a crossroad and a footprint together). From something going without a hitch, it also meant “to attain; reach; healthy; skillful.” It is also used as a plural suffix for people.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /tatsu/ is in 達成する (“to complete; reach” /tassee-suru/), 到達する (“to arrive at” /tootatsu-suru/), 達者だ (“healthy and active; skillful at” /tassha-da/), 子供達 (“children” /kodomo’tachi/) and 友達 (“friends” /tomodachi/.)

(4) The kanji 鮮 “fresh; vivid”

History of Kanji 鮮The bronze ware style of the kanji 鮮 had a sheep at the top and a fish at the bottom. Phonetically it meant “raw; fishy smell.”  Freshness of fish and meat meant “fresh.” It is also means “distinctive; clear.”

The kun-yomi 鮮やかな /aza’yaka-na/ means “vivid (color).” The on-yomi /se’n/ is in 鮮明 な (“clear and sharp” /senmee-na/, 新鮮な (“fresh” /shinsen-na/) and 鮮魚 (“fresh fish” /se’n-gyo/).

(5) The kanji 群  “to throng; crowd; swarm”

History of Kanji 群In the bronze ware style of the kanji 群, the sheep was at the bottom. The top was the origin of the kanji 君. The kanji 君 had a hand (I call this type of hand “a side-ways hand“) holding a stick (on the left), and a mouth underneath. A feudal lord governed people by word and stick. A flock of sheep is meek and easily herded. Together someone herding a flock of sheep meant a feudal load governing a lot of people. It meant “flock; throng; crowd.”

The kun-yomi 群れ /mure’/ means “flock; herd; group’ and is in 群がる (”to crowd; swarm; throng” /muraga’ru/). The on-yomi /gu’n/ is in 群衆 (“crowd; throng” /gunshuu/) and 大群 (“large group” /taigun/.)

There are many more frequently used kanji that contain 羊. We will continue with this topic in the next post. [January 11, 2015]

2015-01-17 Year of the Sheep 美義養祥詳善様 – 羊ひつじ(2)

We continue the story of kanji that contain 羊.

 (1) The kanji 美 “beauty; aesthetic”

History of Kanji 美Different interpretations on the origins include: (a) The combination of 羊 “sheep,” which had a pretty appearance, and 大 “a person” meant “beautiful”; (b) sheep (羊) that is mature and large (大) looked impressive, thus “beautiful”; or (c) viewing the whole as a single image of a sheep, with its head and front and hind legs, that looked pretty. The three ancient writings are shown on the left. In oracle bone style (brown), bronze ware style (green), and ten style (red.) In the Key to Kanji I took view (a) but now that I have spent some time looking at the sample photos of oracle bone style and bronze ware style, treating the image as a single image (view (c)), rather than being made up of two separate meanings, is more appealing to me.

The kun-yomi is 美しい (”beautiful” /utsukushi’i/). It is used more in literature than in conversation. The on-yomi /bi/ is in 美 (”beauty; aesthetics”/bi’/), 美人 (“beautiful woman” /bijin/), 美男子 (“handsome man” /bida’nshi/), 美術 (“fine art” /bi’jutsu/), and 美談 (“moving story” /bi’dan/.)

(2) The kanji 善 “good; virtue”

History of Kanji 善In Akai (2010) there are as many as 12 bronze ware style samples included. All except one looked very similar to the one shown, in green, on the left. It had a sheep at the top and two 言 “word; language” at the bottom. Why did it have two 言? One view is that “two” meant many, and it meant many people praising with words. Another is that “two” meant two parties in a court that would be judged which side was right, based on the behavior of a sacrificial sheep (Shirakawa). In ten style it had only one 言, but then in the orthographic style (正字), shown in gray here, two 言 returned. In shinjitai, 羊 and the top of 言 coalesced, and口 was kept at the bottom. There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ze’n/ means “good; virtue,” and in 善良な (“good-natured” /zenryoona/), 善戦する (“to fight bravely” /zensen-suru/), 善処する (“to take the appropriate steps” /ze’nsho-suru/).

 (3) The kanji養 “to support; foster; nutrient”

History of Kanji 養In oracle bone style for the kanji 養, the left side was a sheep, and the right side was a hand holding a stick. Together it signified sheep farming. Sheep provided good meat. In ten style, the top was a sheep and the bottom was food in a bowl, which was the precursor to the kanji 食 “to eat.” In kanji, the bottom is the kanji 食, except that the top two strokes do not meet. It meant “to support (by providing food); foster.”

The kun-yomi 養う/yashina’u/ means “to support (by providing food); foster.” The on-yomi /yo’o/ is in 養分 (“nutrient; nourishment” /yo’obun/), 栄養 (“nutrition” /eeyoo/), 休養 (“rest” /kyuuyoo/) and 養子 (“adopted child” /yooshi/).

 (4) The kanji 祥 “auspicious”

History of Kanji 祥In ten style, the left side was an altar table, and the right side was used phonetically for /shoo/ to mean “a sign in divination.” The words of the gods were a good, favorable omen. From that it meant “auspicious; show of future success.” The kyujitai reflected the ten style writing. The left side示 (“to reveal; demonstrate” /shimesu/) was originally from “the god showing a sign an altar table,” so it meant “religious matter.” In shinjitai it got replaced by ネ a bushu shimesuhen, the shape that was similar to a katakana /ne/. (A katakana /ne/ was taken from the left side of the kanji 袮 from 禰).

The kanji 祥 is  in 吉祥 “good omen” and 発祥の地 (“birthplace” /hasshoo-no-chi’/) and 不祥事 (“scandal” /husho’oji/).

 (5) The kanji 詳 “detail; to clarify”

History of Kanji 詳The ten style of the kanji 詳 had a bushu gonben “word; language.” It shared the same sound /sho’o/ with the kanji祥 above that meant “auspicious.” With a gonben, it originally meant “to explain the god’s good words.” Now the religious flavor was dropped and it meant “details: to clarify.” The kun-yomi 詳しい /kuwashi’i/ means “in detail; knowledgeable.” The on-yomi /sho’o/ is in 詳細 (“details” /shoosai/).

(6) The kanji 義 “morality; significance”

History of Kanji 義In oracle bone style, a long bar in the middle had a sheep’s head, and the middle was a saw. In bronze ware style the sheep was separated at the top, and the bottom was a more elaborate halberd that had saw-like blades. Together they meant cutting a sacrificial sheep with a saw to prepare it as offering to the god. Something suitable for the god meant “morality; just.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /gi/ is in 正義 (“justice; right” /se’egi/), 義務 (“obligation” /gi’mu/), 義理 (“moral obligation; indebtedness” /giri’/), 意義ある (“significant; meaningful” /i’giaru/).

The kanji 義 made up a few more kanji. When a bushu gonben “word; to speak” was added to 義, it created the kanji 議 “to discuss what is just” or “to discuss.” When a bushu ninben “person” was added to 義, it created the kanji 儀 “protocol; propriety,” as in 礼儀 (“courtesy; etiquette” /reegi’/), When a bushu ushihen “cow; animal in general” was added, it made the kanji 犠 “sacrificial; victim,” as in 犠牲者 (“victim” /gise’esha.)

(7) The kanji 様 “appearance; manner: honorific form of address”

History of Kanji 様For the kanji 様, the left side of the ten style writing had a tree 木and the right side, the combination of 羊 and 永, was used phonetically and meant a sawtooth oak.

 永

Ten 永

The kanji 永 “very long time” came form an image of tributaries, as shown on the right. The account in the Setsumon Kaiji was that it was an acorn of a kunugi tree “sawtooth oak.” A kunugi tree is native to the Far East. I gather from various articles that sawtooth oak trees have been spreading fast in the United States as a source of food for wild life because they mature fast and have a heavy crop of acorns. The kanji 様 meant “appearance; manner.”

Sawtooth Oak-Bark and Acorns

Sawtooth Oak: Bark and Acorns http://www.jugemusha.com

Having seen a number of photos of kunugi trees in Japan and the U. S., two characteristics have intrigued me. First, the thick cork-like bark has deep ridges that run like the ancient writing for “tributaries” (永.)  Second, a round acorn is in a cup-shape receptacle that looks like, well, a wig, rather than a smooth surface (two photos on the right.)  Could the image, such as the one on the right, have been the reason for choosing 羊 that had many lines?  I think it is reasonable to think that in making up a new 形声文字 “semantic-phonetic composite writing,” creators of ancient writing had some sort of semantic association in mind in addition to phonetic use, rather than choosing randomly. Using your imagination based on what you know is a part of the fun in thinking about the etymology of kanji.  The kyujitai 樣, in blue, reflected the ten style writing. In shinjitai, 永 has been simplified.

The kun-yomi /sama/ means “appearance; state; manner” and is in 有様 (“state; condition” /a’risama/) and 様になる (“to start looking appropriate” in casual style /sama ni na’ru/). The on-yomi /yo’o/ is in 様子 (“appearance; look” /yoosu/), 同様に (in a similar manner” /dooyoo-ni/), 模様 (“pattern” /moyoo/). Additionally two different uses were added in Japan. One is 様 /sama/ as a polite form of addressing someone. Another use is in adverbial phrase 〜の様だ (“it appears or looks X” /X no yo’oda/).

This post ended up long again, because there are so many kanji that have 羊 and we regularly use them in daily life. With the versatile usefulness of sheep to people’s daily life as well as in religious life in ancient times, the kanji 羊 brings us all around goodness. [January 17, 2015]

Photos: (1) the bark of a kunugi tree and (2) the acorns of  a kunugi tree taken in Kanagawa Prefecture by Mr. Jugemu.

2015-01-24 The kanji 寺 – 持待侍特時詩等 – “to hold; sustain”

The kanji 寺 “temple” appears in many frequently-used kanji as a tsukuri (旁 “the right side of a kanji”), but their meanings do not appear to be related to anything like a temple. In this post, we examine how the component 寺 came to be used in those kanji.

(1) The kanji 寺 “temple”

History of Kanji 寺The top of the kanji 寺 looks like the kanji 土 /do/ “soil; ground,” but in bronze ware style, in green, it was a footprint that would become 止 “to halt” or 之 ”to go.” Both kanji 止 and 之 came from the same image of a footstep, and the oracle bone style share the same shapes.  History of Kanji 之The development of the kanji 之 is shown on the right. (We have discussed the kanji 止 in the posts of December 28, 3013, and July 5, 2014.) Even though the kanji 之 is used in a male name, such as /yuki/, and is a frequently used kanji in any kanbun style writing, surprisingly it is not included in the revised Joyo kanji. Both 止 and 之 have the sound /shi or ji/ and played a phonetic role in many of the kanji that contain 寺.

Now, the meaning of 寺. In bronze ware style, it had a footstep and 寸, “hand” (please refer to the June 22, 2014 post.) The footstep gave the sound and probably the meaning of halting one’s step or staying in one place. The hand gave the meaning “to hold in hand.” Together the kanji 寺originally meant “to have in hand; keep; sustain.” Then in the Han dynasty it came to mean “government office; court office.” People who serve in imperial court and government offices worked using their hands. The government office that handled guests and diplomatic delegates from foreign countries was called 鴻臚寺 /kooroji/. Later on this guest house became a place for visiting Buddhist monks from the west to stay. From that the kanji 寺 came to mean a “temple.” So, the original meaning of 寺 “holding in hand; staying in one place; to sustain” changed to “government office” and further to “temple.”

The kun-yomi is 寺 /tera/ and means “temple.” The on-yomi /ji/ is in 寺院 (“temple” /ji’in/) and 東大寺 (“Todaiji temple” /to’odaiji/).

(2) The kanji 持 “to have; hold”

History of Kanji 持Now we are going to look at kanji that use 寺 as a tsukuri. Generally speaking, tsukuri indicated sound, and it was often the case that component used phonetically also kept its original meaning.

For the kanji 持, In bronze ware style, it had a footstep and a hand, which was the same as the kanji 寺, and it meant “to hold in hand.” In ten style, the left side had five fingers, which became a bushu tehen, ”hand; an act one does using a hand.” (Please refer to the June 7, 2013, post.) The right side 寺 was used phonetically and to mean “to hold in hand.” Together they meant “to hold or keep something in hand; sustain; possess.”

The kun-yomi 持つ “own; have; to hold in hand” is in 持っている (“to own; have; hold in hand” /mot’teiru), 持ってくる (“to bring” /motteku’ru/), 持ち物 (“belonging; property” /mochi’mono/). The on-yomi is in 持続する (“to last long time” /jizoku-suru/), 持参する (“to bring” [humble style] /jisan-suru/).

(3) The kanji 待 “to wait”

History of Kanji 待For the kanji 待, In bronze ware style, the left side was the left half of a crossroad, which became a bushu gyoninben “to go; conduct.” The right side had a footprint and a hand, and was used phonetically to mean “to sustain”. Holding back to crossing a crossroad meant “to wait.”

The kun-yomi 待つ /ma’tsu/ “to wait” is in 待ち合わせる”to meet up,” キャンセル待ち (“on a wait-list” /kyanserumachi/).  The on-yomi /ta’i/ is in 招待する (“to invite” /sho’otai-suru/), 待遇がいい (“to be treated well” /taiguu ga i’i/.)

(4) The kanji 侍 “vassal; attendant; retainer”

History of Kanji 侍In the ten style of the kanji 侍, the left side was a person, a bushu ninben. The right side 寺 was used phonetically for /ji/ and meant “government office; court office.” Together a person who serves someone in a high position closely meant “vassal; attendant; retainer.” Later on in Japan it was used for /samurai/ “military retainer (who serves a daimyo).”

The kun-yomi are 侍 /samurai/ (“samurai warrior”) and 侍る /habe’ru/ (“to wait upon.”)  The on-yomi /ji/ is in 侍従 (“chamberlain” /jijuu/) and 侍医 (“court physician” /ji’i/.)

(5) The kanji 特 “special; to stand out”

History of Kanji 特For the kanji 特, in ten style, the left side was a bushu ushihen “cow; bull.” The right side 寺 was used phonetically for /to’ku/ and meant “to stay in one place.” Together they meant a big mature stallion that stayed in a place and stood out in the herd. From that it meant “to stand out.” There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /to’ku/ is in 特に (“especially” /to’kuni/), 特別な (“special” /tokubetsuna/) and 特売 (“special sale” /tokubai/.)

(6) The kanji 時 “time; o’clock”

History of Kanji 時For the kanji 時, in oracle bone style, it was a footprint to signify “to sustain” at the top, and the sun at the bottom. In bronze ware style and ten style, the sun moves to the left. The right side took the shape of the kanji 寺 that had meant “to keep,” and had the sound /ji/. From “to sustain movement of the sun,” it meant “time.”

The kun-yomi /toki/ is その時 (“at that time; then” /sonoto’ki/), 時々 (“sometimes’ /tokidoki/), その時々によって (depending on the occasion /sono-toki’doki ni yotte/), 潮時 (“good timing” /shiodoki/). The on-yomi /ji/ is in 時間 (“time; duration of time” /jikan/), 何時 (“what time” /na’nji/), and 時代 (“era; period” /jidai/.)

(7) The Kanji 詩 “poetry”

History of Kanji 詩In the ten style writing of the kanji 詩, the left side was a bushu gonben, “words; language,” and the right was used phonetically for the sound /shi/ to mean “one’s own wish” (志.) The kanji 志 “aspiration” comes from “one goes (from “a footprint”) as his heart (from “a heart”) desires.” Words that express one’s own thought or idea are “poetry” and the kanji 詩 means “poetry.” There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /shi/ is in 詩 (“poetry” /shi/), 詩的な (“poetic” /shitekina/), and 詩人 (“poet” /shijin/).

 (8) The kanji 等 “equal; such things as; etc.”

History of Kanji 等For the kanji 等, in ten style the top was a bushu takekanmuri “bamboo” and the bottom 寺 was used phonetically only. Bamboo or wooden tablets were cut to an equal length to be bound to make a rolled book. It meant “equal; equivalent of.”

The kun-yomi 等しい /hitoshi’i/ means “equal.” It is also used as a plural suffix 等 /na’do or /to’o/ “such things as; etc.” and ら, as in 我等 (“we all” /wa’rera/). The on-yomi /to’o or do’o/ is in 平等 (“equality” /byoodoo/), 等分する (“to divide equaly” /toobun-suru/), 高等な (“advanced” /kootoo-na/).

We have seen eight kanji that contain 寺 in this post. The component 寺 is not a traditional bushu, but we have seen that the original meaning of “to hold; sustain” permeates the meanings of those kanji. We should remember that the meaning “temple” was added to 寺 much later well after kanji were established. That is why other kanji have no connection with the meaning “temple.”  [January 24, 2015]

2015-01-31 The kanji 老孝考長張帳髪抜 “the long hair of elders”

In this post we begin with the three kanji 老孝考 that share the bushu oigashira “old,” the three kanji 長張帳 that have 長 “long” and two kanji 髪抜. They all came from “hair of an elder person.”

(1) The kanji 老 “to become old; to age; old”

History of Kanji 老In bronze ware style, the two samples (a) and (b) had the same shapes in which a man with a long hair (more like a long bang in front of his face) stood slightly stooping and holding something in his hand. The man in (a) had a walking stick whereas in (b) two lines were hanging down from his arm. This shape reminds us of the bronze ware style sample of the kanji 兄 that we saw in an earlier post [on August 20, 2014].

兄(koukotuThe two samples of the kanji 兄 are from that post. One, in oracle bone style, was praying on his knees and the one in bronze ware style had some ornaments to carry out a religious ritual. From that we concluded that the kanji 兄 meant an elder person of the family who carries out a religious ceremony – “elder person” or “older brother.” The kanji 兄 and 老 (and 考, as we are going to see next) tell us that the role of an elder was to carry out ancestral religious ceremony. I have not come across any other explanation for these two lines.

Now back to the kanji 老 — (a) and (b) meant an elderly person who carried out ancestral religious ceremony, the chief of a clan. In bronze ware style, in (c) and (d), his long hair was more emphasized at the top and the bottom had the shape 匕. The shape匕 was a person or fallen person. It appeared in the kanji 死 “death” and 化 “to change.” Together they meant “to become old; to age; old.” In kanji the long hair at the top became the shape 土 with a long slanted line.

The kun-yomi is 老いる /oi’ru/ and means “to become old; age.” The on-yomi /ro’o/ is in 老人 (“old person” /roojin/), 老化 (“aging” /rooka/) and 老後 (“one’s old age” /roogo./)

(2) The kanji 考 “to think”

History of Kanji 考In oracle bone style, (a) was basically the same shape as (a) and (b) of the kanji 老, except that he had both a walking stick and ornaments in his hand. In (b), his hair became long and bushy. In bronze ware style, (c) and (d), the bottom had a shape that signified “bent; not straight,” and had the sound /ko’o/. Together they originally meant a deceased father. The bent shape at the bottom was also suggestive of something that did not come straight. One takes time to think. So it was also used to mean “to think.”

The kun-yomi考える /kanga’eru/ means “to think” and is in 考え (“thought; idea” /kanga’e/.) The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 思考 (“thinking” /shikoo/), 参考になる (“to provide one with useful information” /sankoo ni na’ru/) and 参考書 (“reference” /sankoosho/).

(3) The kanji 孝 “filial duty”

History of Kanji 孝In oracle bone style, only long hair at the top appeared to signify an old person, and the bottom was a child. In bronze ware style and ten style, a long-haired person was stooping over a child. Together they meant a child taking care of old parents or filial responsibility. The on-yomi of the kanji 考 and 孝 are both /ko’o/, but while the kanji 考 is a semantic-phonetic composite, the kanji 孝 is a semantic composite.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi is in 親孝行する (“to act kindly to parents” /oyako’okoo-suru/) and 親不孝者な (“undutiful (to parents)” /oyahu’koona/).

Incidentally, the bushu oigashira means “old,” and in addition to these kanji above, it also appears in the kanji 教. The left side is the kanji 孝, but it had a different origin from “old,” as discussed in an earlier post [October 18, 2015.]

(4) The kanji 長 “long; chief”

History of Kanji 長In the oracle bone style of the kanji 長, it was an old man standing with a cane. What looks like a long “top hat” was long hair. We can also spot a tiny dot under his arm in this kanji too. It meant a chief or elder person of a clan. In bronze ware style, a man standing on the ground was added on the left. In ten style the shape that became 匕in 老 was present. Together they meant “chief; long.” In ten style it was not very easy to see a long hair, but interestingly it became more visible in kanji.

The kun-yomi /naga’i/ 長い means “long. ” Another kun-yomi 長 “osa” means “chief; elder.” The kun-yomi /cho’o/ is in 身長 (”(one’s) height”/shinchoo/), 長男・長女 (“first born male child; first born female child” /cho’onan/cho’ojo/.) 市長 (“mayor” /shi’choo/), 長幼の序 (“order of senior and junior” /chooyoo-no-jo/.)

(5) The kanji 張 “to stretch; extend; paste”

History of Kanji 張The kanji 長 was used phonetically in the next two kanji 張 and 帳 for /cho’o/. In the ten style of the kanji 張 the left side was a bow (弓) – something that stretches. The right side kanji 長 /cho’o/ was used phonetically and also meant “to stretch.” Together they originally meant “to draw a bow to the full.” Then it was extended to mean “to stretch; to extend.”

The kun-yomi /haru/ means “to stretch; tighten; pitch.” It is in verbs such as 我を張る (“to assert oneself” /ga-o-haru/), 欲張る (“greedy; to make a pig of oneself” /yokuba’ru/), 頑張る (“to exert oneself” /ganba’ru/.) The on-yomi /cho’o/ is in 拡張する (“to expand” /kakuchoo-suru/) and 出張 (“business trip” /shucchoo/). Until the 2010 revision of Joyo kanji, we used to use this kanji to mean “to paste; stick to” for the kanji 貼.

 (6) The kanji 帳 “book; account”

History of Kanji 帳In the ten style of the kanji 帳, the left side was a piece of long cloth draped or folded. The right side gave the sound /choo/ that meant “long.” Together they originally meant a long surrounding drapery. Something that was long and folded or bound together was a booklet or ledger. So, it also meant “drapery; booklet; ledger.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /cho’o/ is in 手帳 (“picket book” /techoo/), 帳面 (“notebook” /cho’omen/), 几帳面な (”exact; methodical” /kicho’omenna/), 帳簿  (/choobo/ “account book”).

 (7) The kanji 髪 “hair”

History of Kanji 髪In bronze ware style it had a dog on the left side and a person’s head with hair on the right side — a very peculiar combination at a first look. In ten style, the left side was 長 “long.” On the right side the diagonal three lines meant “a beautiful shape” and at the bottom a dog was used phonetically for /ha’tsu/ to mean ”to pluck hair.” Together they meant “hair.” In kyujitai, the positions shifted a little – “long” and “beautiful” came at the top. If we look at the bottom closely, we see that it is not the kanji 友 but has a cross with a dot at the top. It reflected more a dog in ten style. In shinjitai, the bottom was replaced by the kanji 友.

The kun-yomi 髪 /kami’/ means “hair” and is in 髪型 (”hair style” /kamigata/) 黒髪  (“black hair” /kurokami/). It is also customarily used for 白髪 (“gray hair” /shiraga/). The on-yomi /ha’tsu/ is in 散髪する (“to have a hair cut” /sanpatsu-suru/) and in the phrase 間一髪 (“a narrow squeak” /ka’n ippatsu/.)

(8) The kanji 抜 “to pull out; stand out”

History of Kanji 抜In ten style, the left side had a bushu tehen “hand; an act that one does using a hand” and the right side was used phonetically for /ha’tsu/ to mean “to pluck hair; to pull out.” Pulling a person out from the group meant “outstanding; eminent.” The right side of the kyujitai was the same as the bottom of the kanji 髪. In shinjitai the right side became the kanji shape 友 with no relevance to its meaning.

The kun-yomi 抜く /nuku/ means “to pull out; to exceed” and also is in the verbs such as 引き抜く (“to pull out; headhunt” /hikinu’ku/), 追い抜く (“to come from behind” /oinu’ku/) and in 手抜きをする (“to cut corners” /tenuki o suru/). The on-yomi /ba’tsu/ is in 選抜チーム (“all-star team” /senbatsu-chi’imu/) and 抜群の (“preeminent” /batsugun-no/).

In this post, we have seen that long hair signified an elder person of a clan. According to Shirakawa, only an elder person of a clan was allowed to have long hair. For the next post, I am thinking about the kanji 心 “heart.” [January 30, 2015]

2015-02-07 The Kanji 心思急恩念応 – こころ (1)

The kanji 心 “heart” appears in a large number of kanji that are related to mental and emotional experiences. So I expect that our discussion of these kanji will stretch over a few postings.

 (1) The kanji 心 “heart; mind; core”

History of the kanji 心In bronze ware style, in green, and ten style, in red, it was an anatomical shape of the chambers of a heart. In ten style an artery was added. It meant “heart” as in the part of one’s body and “heart; mind” as in emotion. The heart being the center of the body and important, it is also used to mean “essential; core.”

The kun-yomi /kokoro’/ means “heart; mind; feelings,” whereas the on-yomi /shi’n/ is in the 心臓 /shinzoo/ “heart,” as in the part of the body. The kun-yomi /kokoro’/ is in 心から (“sincerely; truly” /kokoro’kara/), 心がける (“to be mindful of” /kokorogake’ru/), 気心の知れた (“trusted” /kigokoronoshireta/). /Koko/ is in 心地よい (“to feel good; pleasant” /kokochiyo’i/). The on-yomi /shi’n; ji’n/ is in 心配する (“to be worried” /shinpai-suru/), 安心する (“to feel relieved” /anshin-suru/), 中心 (“central; middle” /chuushin/) and 肝心な (“essential; point of” /kanjin-na/.)

 (2) The kanji 思 “to think”

History of the kanji 思In ten style, the top of the kanji 思 was a baby’s fontanel that was viewed from above. (A fontanel is the soft spot between the bones on a new-born baby’s head.) It signified “brain.” The bottom was a “heart.” “Brain” and “heart” together meant “to think.” In the last post, we looked at the kanji 考 “to think.” What is the difference between 思 and 考, both of which means “to think,”in English is an often asked question by a student. The verb /kanga’eru/ (考える) was using one’s mind actively or thinking logically, taking time to think matters over. In kanji 考, the bushu oigashira came from an image of an elder with long hair and a cane, and it indicated “taking time.” The process of deliberate thinking takes time. On the other hand the verb /omo’o/ (思う) means that a thought, idea, feeling or opinion comes to you, usually spontaneously.

The kun-yomi 思う /omo’o/ is in 思い出す (“to recall; remember; recollect” /omoida’su/), 思い出 (“memory” /omoide/), 思いがけず (“unexpectedly” /omoigake’zu/).  It is interesting to know that the words in on-yomi /shi/ do not necessarily imply spontaneity. It is in 思考 (“thought’ thinking” /shikoo/), 思想 (“thought; ideology” /shisoo/), 思考力 (“ability to think” /shiko’oryoku/) and 意思 (“one’s will; intent” /i’shi/).  So the distinction between 思う and 考える that I have just written may apply only to those words.

 (3) The kanji 急 “to hasten; rush” and 及 “to reach; also”

History of the kanji 急The kanji 急 “to hasten” has a surprise “cousin” — the kanji 及 “to reach; extend; in addition to.” How could the kanji 急 and 及 be related other than having the same on-sound /kyuu/?  The answer lies in the ancient writing, not only in the meanings but also the shapes. For the kanji 急 we only have a ten style sample shown on the left. The top was a person (he had very long arms, didn’t he?); the middle was what I call a sideways hand (of someone else); and at the bottom was a heart. The exact same shape appeared in the kanji 及. The kanji 及 has a fuller inventory of ancient writing, as shown on the right. Since we have not discussed this kanji before, let us look at it now.

History of the kanji 及The kanji 及 — In 及, the two oracle bone style samples, in brown, were a mirror image of each other, featuring a person and a hand from behind catching his leg. It was someone trying to reach from behind, and it meant “to reach; chase.” In bronze ware style, the left sample had a bigger sideways hand, focusing on “to catch; reach,” and the right sample had a crossroad, indicating that two people were moving. In ten style the crossroad dissappeared. In kanji the person and a hand from behind coalesced into the current shape. It meant “to reach over; extend; also.”

The kun-yomi is in the verb 及ぶ (“to reach; extend; stretch” /oyobu/) and in the connecter 及び (“and; in addition to” /oyobi/). The on-yomi /kyu’u/ is in  追及する (“to investigate; accuse” /tsuikyuu-suru/) and 波及する (“to infect; extend” /hakyuu-suru/). Other kanji that contain the shape 及 include the kanji 吸 “to suck; absorb” and 扱 “to handle; deal.”

Now back to the kanji 急. We can see now that the ten style of the kanji 急 was really 及 and 心 combined. From a feeling of being chased, it meant “to hurry; rush.” In kanji, the shape of a person reached by the hand is better preserved in 急 than in 及. It is noteworthy that even though the kanji 急 belongs to semantic-phonetic composite writing (形声文字 /keeseemo’ji/), the element that was used for a phonetic purpose clearly demonstrated semantic relevance as well.

The kun-yomi 急ぐ /iso’gu/ means “to hurry; rush.” Another kun-yomi /se/ in 急かす /seka’su/ (“to rush someone”) is a transitive verb, while 気がせく /kigase’ku/ (“to feel rushed”) is an intransitive verb. The on-yomi /kyu’u/ is in 急に (“suddenly; abruptly” /kyuuni/), 急行 (“express” /kyuukoo/) and 急速に (“rapidly” /kyuusoku-ni/).

(4) The kanji 恩 “indebtedness; goodness; favor”

History of the kanji 恩In the ten style writing of the kanji 恩, the top 因 had a person (大) sleeping on a floor mat, and was used phonetically. By itself it was the kanji 因 /i’n/ “to be based on; dependent on.” The bottom was a heart. With a heart 心 added at the bottom to 因, the kanji 恩 meant “goodness; a debt of gratitude.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /o’n/ is in 恩がある (“to be indebted; feel grateful for a favor” /o’n-ga-aru/), 恩人 (“benefactor; patron” /onjin/), 恩返しする (“to repay out of gratitude” /onga’eshi-suru/), 恩義 (“obligation; favor” /o’ngi/), 恩恵 (“benefit; blessing; grace” /onkee/.)

(5) The kanji 念  “long-held thought; for confirmation”

History of the kanji 念In bronze ware style and ten style, the top of the kanji 念 was a lid or a stopper for a rice wine cask. The bottom was a heart. Together they meant something that one kept inside his heart for a long time, that is, “to ponder; thought.” We recognize the top to be another kanji 今 “now.” History of the kanji 今

The kanji 今 had the same development, as shown on the right. The shape was borrowed to mean “now,” but the interpretation that a stopper for a wine wine cask signifying catching the present moment makes sense to me. The kanji 今 meant “present time; now.”

There is no kun-yomi for 念. The on-yomi /ne’n/ is in 念じる (“to pray” /nenjiru/), 残念な (“pitiful; sorrowful; regrettable” /zanne’n-na/), 念入りな (“careful; elaborate” /nen-iri-na/), 念を押す (“to remind; make sure” /nenoosu/), 念のため (“just to make sure; for confirmation” /nennotame/), 念仏を唱える (“to chant a prayer to the Buddha” /nenbutsu-o tonae’ru/).

(6) The kanji 応・應 “to respond (willingly)”

History of the kanji 応The kanji 応 had a kyujitai that was much more complex, 應, shown in blue on the left side. In bronze ware style, all three writings had a bird that returned to the eave of a house. The bird is believed to be a hawk, which swiftly returns on command. I have noticed that all of the bronze ware style samples in the reference (there were six of them in Akai 2010) had a dot or a line on the left side of the bird. Just to make sure that it was not a simple bump that showed up in the reference materials, or even in copying the original, I have looked up a photo of 毛公鼎 in Ishikawa (1996), which provided an image in better quality, and it was there too. To my disappointment I still cannot make out what that extra dot or line next to the bird meant. We only have one sample of ten style, but in it a couple of more changes took place — The eave of the house became a table with legs, and a heart was added at the bottom. Altogether, they signified “to respond willingly like a hawk returning swiftly at the command of a person. In kyujitai, the top left became a bush madare “a house with one side wall open.” In shinjitai, the person and the bird were dropped, leaving a madare and a heart only. The kanji 応 means “to respond (willingly).”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /o’o/ is in 応じる (“to respond willingly; comply” /oojiru/), 応募する (“to apply for” /oobo-suru/), 相応の (“suitable; appropriate” /soooo-no/). It is also read as /no’o/ in 反応 (“reaction” /hannoo/).

We have looked at only six kanji with 心 so far. We obviously need to continue to look at many more kanji that contain 心, so I had better stop here until our next post. [February 7, 2015]

2015-02-14 The kanji 愛恋憂優 − 心 こころ (2)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

(1) The kanji 愛 “love”

History of the kanji 愛There are at least two different interpretations of the origin of the kanji 愛. There is no oracle bone style available to us but two bronze ware writings, in green, are shown on the left. In the left one, the top was a person leaning back because his stomach was full, signifying “filled with,” and the bottom was a “heart.” – It described his heart filled with emotions. Another interpretation is that the second writing consisted of a person facing toward the right side, signifying looking backward, a heart inside a circular line and a long line coming down – It described a person looking back because the heart inside him found it hard to leave because of emotions.

The ten style writing, in red, seems to favor the second interpretation. In ten style, in addition to what the second bronze ware style had, it had a “dragging foot” at the bottom.  For 愛 with the top and the bottom together they meant the state of mind that one could not move forward because his heart was filled with emotions. That is “love.” In kanji the top becomes the shape that we find in the kanji 受, which I call “a hand from above” [in the May 24, 2014 post], but I do not think it is related to a hand in this case. The katakana /tsu/ shape is used as a simpler replacement in many kanji. The circular shape that surrounded the heart in ten style was kept above the heart.

There are two kun-yomi. /Ito/ is in 愛しい /itoshi’i/ “dear; beloved” and /mana/ is in 愛娘 (“someone’s loving daughter” /manamu’sume) and 愛弟子 (“one’s favorite disciple or student” /manadeshi/.) The on-yomi /a’i/ is in 愛情 (“affection; love” /aijoo/), 恋愛 (“love; romance” /ren-ai/), 愛用する (“to use habitually; cherish” /aiyoo-suru/) and 愛車 (“one’s own car” /aisha/).

(2) The kanji 恋 “to be in love; romance”

History of the kanji 恋The kanji 恋 had a totally different shape in ten style. It had two skeins of threads on both sides, and in the center was a tattoo needle over a mouth that meant “word or language,” and a heart below that. Together they meant that a heart was so tangled up with emotions or yearnings, like many threads tangled up, and did not know how to express itself in words. It meant “to be in love.” In the kyujitai, in blue, the heart was moved out to the bottom to be more conspicuous. In shinjitai, the top became 亦. What a difference! But this seemingly simplified shape also has its own history too.

History of the kanji 亦The history of the shape 亦 is shown on the right side. In oracle bone style through ten style, it was a person and two dots on both sides, indicating “both sides.” (Its bronze ware style, not shown here, is practically identical to oracle bone style.) The kanji 亦 is sometimes used as /mata/ “also” even though it is not a Joyo kanji. Now I am beginning to wonder if the reason why this shape was chosen for shinjitai simplification in 恋 was because it had a person and two dots on either side, signifying that a person whose heart was confused must be in love. Well, I may be reading too much into it. (In case you are wondering about the kanji 変 “strange; to change”– It  (變) contained the same element at the top in ten style, but its bronze ware style was different. We need to explore more about the kanji 変 later on.)

The kun-yomi /ko’i/ is in 恋 (“being in love; romance” /ko’i/), 初恋 (“first love; puppy love” /hatsukoi/), 恋文 (“love letter” /koibumi/), 恋する (“to be in love; to yearn” /koisu’ru/). The on-yomi /ren/ is in 恋愛 (“love; romance” /ren-ai/) and 失恋 (“broken heart” /shitsuren/).

(3) The kanji 憂 “anxious; melancholy”

History of Kanji 憂Since we have covered two important kanji 愛 and 恋 for Valentine’s Day today, we move on to a couple of kanji that are closely related to the kanji 愛. The two kanji 愛 and 憂 share the same components with “a heart inside” and “a “backward foot.”

We have three samples of bronze ware style writings here. The left-most one had a person whose head was covered with something, and a hand in front. What he was wearing was a veil for mourning. The middle one had something at the foot that looked like a hand from the back, preventing him from moving. The third one looks like there was a hand in front of his head, pushing him back. Together they meant the sorrow one feels in mourning that prevented one from moving. In ten style, the top became 頁 without the two short strokes at the bottom. The shape 頁 originally came from an official or ceremonial headdress and meant “head.” We discussed this shape (pronounced as /ke’tsu/) that meant “head” in an earlier post [on November 15, 2015]. The bottom had a heart inside. Together they meant “to feel anxious about; be worried about; melancholy.”

The kun-yomi 憂い /urei/ means “melancholy,” and is also in 憂い顔 (“sorrowful face” /ureigao/). The on-yomi /yu’u/ is in 憂鬱 (“melancholy” /yuuutsu/), and the verbal phrase 杞憂に終わる (“to be proven unfounded” /kiyuu ni owaru/.) The word 杞憂 (/kiyuu/ “groundless worry”) came from a fable that people in a country named 杞 /ki/ were worried that the sky would break and fall.

(4) The kanji 優 “excellent; actor”

History of the kanji 優The kanji 優 has a twist to it too. In terms of the shape, you just add a bushu ninben “person” on the left side and the right side was phonetically used for /yu’u/. But when you dig up a little deeper with knowledge of the origin of the right side 憂, a story comes out like this — It signified the posture that a person took when feeling melancholy, and the person who took that posture, with his/her feel dragging gracefully, was an actor in a play of tragedy. In ancient times music and plays were votive offerings. They were important parts of worshiping, and an actor’s role was to express emotions and appeal gracefully to the god. From that the kanji 優 meant “graceful” and “actor.” On the other hand an actor who played a comedic role was 俳 /ha’i/. The kanji 俳 is used in a Japanese literary genre haiku (俳句) that came from 俳諧 (“playful literary genre” /haikai/). So, a 17-syllable poem haiku is a poem in which one expresses the light side of one’s emotion. The word for an actor in Japanese, 俳優 /haiyuu/, contains both the kanji 優 and 俳, and the origin of that word was a person who could play both tragedy and comedy.

The kun-yomi 優れる /sugure’ru/ means “to excel.” Another kun-yomi 優しい /yasashii/ means “gentle-hearted.” The on-yomi /yu’u/ is in 優雅な (“elegant” /yuuga-na/), 優先する (“to prioritize” /yuusen-suru/), 優秀な (“excellence” /yuushuu/) and its original meaning 俳優 (“actor” /haiyuu/) and 声優 (“voice actor” /seeyuu/) in modern times.

Well, doing researching and writing about kanji that deal with emotion drains me of my energy. So, I end today’s post here. We will continue with many more kanji with 心 “heart.” [February 14, 2015]

2015-02-21 The Kanji 息恥志悩聴 – 心 こころ (3)

In this post we are going to explore the kanji that are made up of a heart 心 and another part of the body. The parts of the body that appear in this post are one’s nose, ear, mouth, foot (footprint), brain, and eye.

(1) 息 “breath”

History of the kanji 息History of the kanji 自The kanji shape 息 consists of two kanji 自 “oneself” and 心 “heart.” On the right side the history of the kanji 自 is shown. In oracle bone style, in brown, it was a nose, with wide nostrils and the bridge in the center. In bronze ware style and ten style, the shape became less picture-like. The nose is in the center of one’s face, and it was used to mean oneself. As you undoubtedly know, in Chinese and Japanese culture when you point at yourself you point at your nose. In western cultures, you would point at the chest. After the shape for the nose was taken to mean “oneself” a new kanji had to be created to mean a nose, 鼻, which has its original shape at the top. For the kanji 息, in ten style it was a nose as a physical feature, rather than meaning “oneself,” and a heart. One breathes through the nose, and breathing carries oxygen to the heart. It meant “breath; to breathe.” The kun-yomi /i’ki/ “breath” is in ため息をつく (“to sigh” /tamei’ki-o-tsuku/). 息をする “to breathe” /i’ki-o-suru/). The on-yomi /so’ku/ is in 消息 (“news about a person (in a distance)” /shoosoku/), 休息する (“to rest; take a break” /kyuusoku-suru/) and 子息 (“someone’s son” in honorific style /shi’soku/). It is also used in the word 息子 (“son” /musuko/).

(2) 恥 “shamed; embarrassing”

History of the kanji 恥History of the kanji 耳In ten style of the kanji 恥, the left side was an ear and the right side was a heart. The history of the kanji 耳 “ear” is shown on the right. In oracle bone style and bronze ware style, the shape of an ear is more recognizable. The shape in ten style was consistent with the shape that appeared on the left side of 恥. When embarrassed, one’s ears become red. From that it meant “to be embarrassed; shame.” The kun-yomi 恥 /haji’/ means “shame,” and is used in the verbal phrase 恥をかく (“to embarrass oneself; disgrace oneself” /haji’-o-kaku/). In an adjective, it is pronounced as /hazu/ in 恥ずかしい /kazukashi’i/ “to feel embarrassed; be ashamed”).  The on-yomi /chi/ is in 羞恥心 (“sense of shame” /shuuchi’shin/).

(3) 志 “aspiration; will”

History of the kanji 志In ten style of the kanji 志, if you look very closely you may be able to see that the top is not quite symmetrical. It was a forward-facing footprint that meant “to go.” [We have talked about two directions of a footprint creating different shapes in the July 5, 2014, post.]  One of the forward-facing footprint shapes became the shape 士, as seen in kanji such as in 売. (It is different from the kanji 士, which came from a warrior’s weapon.)  In the ten style of 志, it was the combination of a footprint “to go” and a heart “will.” Together they signified “where one’s heart desires to go” and it meant “will; aspiration.” The kanji 志 also appears with a bushu gonben in the kanji 誌 “journal.” A journal was where one wrote down his thoughts as he wished.

The kun-yomi 志 /kokorozashi/ means “aspiration,” and its verb is 志す (“to aspire; aim; shoot for” /kokoroza’su/). The on-yomi /shi/ is in 志望者 (“applicant” /shibo’osha/), 志望校 (“the school to which one wishes to get accepted; school of one’s choice” /shibo’okoo/), 同志 (“comrade; each other” /do’oshi/) and 有志 (“volunteer” /yu’ushi/).

(4)  The kanji 悩 “to suffer torment; to be perturbed; worry”

History of the kanji 悩The kanji 悩 in both kyujitai, in blue, and shinjitai had a heart stretched vertically to make space for the right side component. It is the bushu risshinben “vertical heart.” Its ten style writing shown in the Setsumon had a woman on the left side, instead of a heart. Curiously the only explanation I could find was Shirakawa’s (2004) – The ten style writing with a woman on the left came from a particular dialect, and it meant “to be distressed; worry.” Other references do not even mention “the woman” on the left in ten style. So we leave it as it is. In ten style, the right side was a scalp with the brain inside at the bottom and hair at the top. In the last post, we have just seen the same shape of a brain in the kanji 思, which was a baby’s scalp with its fontanel showing.(The kanji 思 did not have hair.) Having a heart on the left and the brain on the right the kanji 悩 meant “to worry; be tormented.” In shinjitai, the three wavy lines of the hair were replaced by a katakana ツ /tsu/ and the bottom became a receptacle and a katakana メ /me/. The kun-yomi 悩む /naya’mu/ means “to suffer torment; to be troubled,” and is in the adjective 悩ましい “disturbing; perturbing” /nayamashi’i/. The on-yomi /no’o/ is in 煩悩 (“earthly desires” /bonnoo/), 子煩悩 (“a person who dotes on his children” /kobonnoo/).

History of the kanji 脳The kanji 脳 — Relatedly, the kanji 脳 “brain” shares the right side with the kanji 悩. The ten style writing shown on the right had a person facing the brain. In kyujitai the left side became a bushu nikuduki “part of the body.” In shinjitai the right side was reduced to the katakana ツ /tsu/ and メ /me/ and a receptacle for the brain.

(5) The kanji 聴 “to listen to”

History of the kanji 聴The oracle bone style of the kanji 聴, (a) on the left, had an ear and two mouths. It signified to listen to words of a god. In bronze ware style the left sample, (b), had an ear and a mouth. The right sample, (c), was a person with an enlarged ear at the top and his legs marked with a short stroke, signifying “standing.” This bottom shape 壬 also appeared in other kanji such as 聖, 廷 and 望, and meant that a man was standing to look far. So, the shape in (c) meant that someone was listening to the words of a god from a distance. In ten style, (d), a set of other elements was added – an eye looking straight with a straight true heart. Does this sound familiar to you? The History of the kanji 徳That is right. It was exactly the same as the right side of the kanji 徳 [in the March 26, 2014, post]. To refresh our memory, the history of the kanji 徳 “virtue” is shown on the right side — now in color (!), thanks to the recolor feature that Microsoft Office has. The kanji 徳 began as an eye with a straight line with a crossroad on the right in oracle bone style, and it developed into the kyujitai which had a straight line of sight, a true heart and a straight forward act (the bush gyooninben), all in one. It means “virtue; personal grace.” In shinjitai, the straight line above the heart was dropped.

Now back to our kanji 聴. In ten style, (d), the elements in (c) from the bronze ware style time and the right side of the kanji 徳 together meant “someone listening to a god’s voice far away with a true heart and eyes that see things straight. In a single English word it means to “listen.” I normally do not draw a lesson from kanji etymology, but once in a while I cannot help doing it. This kanji reminds us that we should humbly and attentively use our ears, heart and eyes when we listen to the words of the God or of people. In kyujitai, (e), the standing person is visible under the ear, but in shinjitai, it disappeared, along with a straight line above the heart. In shinjitai we have an ear, an eye that look straight and a heart to make up the kanji 聴. The kun-yomi 聴く means “to listen to.” The on-yomi /cho’o/ is 聴衆 (“audience; listeners” /chooshuu/), 傾聴する (“to listen attentively” /keechoo-suru/). We still have more to go in discussing the kanji that contain 心. A heart makes us human. So it is not surprising to see it in many kanji. [February 21, 2015]

2015-02-28 The Kanji 感情性恐怖怒悲快 – 心 こころ (4)

We are continuing to look at kanji that contain a component “heart.” In this post we are going to look at the kanji 感情悲恐怖怒悲 and 快.

(1) The kanji 感 “feeling; to feel”

History of the Kanji 感The kanji 感 “feeling; to feel” has a rather unexpected origin. The earliest sample we have for this kanji is a ten style sample, but the history of the top, which is the kanji 咸, shown on the right, gives us a better understanding. History of the kanji 咸In oracle bone style, in brown, and bronze ware style, in green, it was a halberd and a mouth, signifying “words.” A weapon was sacred to warriors and it had a fringe or decoration on the blade. In ten style, in red, the decoration became a long line on the left side. With a threat of a halberd, one was to keep the words inside. From that, the kanji 咸 meant “to lock up; shut away; confine.”

For the kanji 感, the bottom had 心 “heart.” Together they meant a feeling that was kept inside or to keep one’s emotion inside. There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ka’n/ is in 感じる (“to feel” /kanjiru/), 感心する (“to be impressed; admire” /kanshin-suru/), 感動する (“to be moved” /kandoo-suru/), 感情 (“emotions; feeling” /kanjoo/) and 感覚 (“sense” /kankaku/).

(2) The kanji 情 “emotion”

History of the kanji 情For the kanji 情 the earliest writing available to us was also in ten style. But the right side 青 had a bronze ware style writing, as shown on the right side. So, let us look at the kanji 青 “blue; fresh.” History of the kanji 青In bronze ware style of the kanji 青, the top was a plant emerging, which signified “fresh; emerging.” It was the precursor to the kanji 生 “life; to be born; person.” (In the kanji 生, the short slanted stroke was added to emphasize the meaning of growing.) The bottom was a well with clean fresh water emphasized by a line inside. Together the kanji 青 meant fresh like growing plants and clean fresh water in a well. The color of fresh water is blue and the color of a growing plant is green. From that the kanji 青 means “blue; fresh.” The color blue often also refers to “green.” Now back to our kanji 情. The heart on the left and 青 “fresh” together signified an emotion that emerges anew in one’s heart.

The kun-yomi is 情 (“pity; sympathy” /na’sake/) and is also in 情けない (“woeful; miserable; deplorable” /nasakena’i/). The on-yomi /jo’o/ is in 感情 (“feelings; emotion”/kanjoo/), 情感のある (“expressive of an emotion” /jookan-no-a’ru/) and 情景 (“sight; scene” /jookee/).

Incidentally all the kanji that contain 青 used to have , in which the water in a well was shown as a short vertical stroke, signifying that the well was not empty.

(3) The kanji 性 “natural character; innate attribute; gender; sex”

History of the kanji 性While we are talking about the combination of a heart and an emerging plant, we should also touch upon another kanji 性. This kanji had the same components as the kanji 情, except the clean water. It meant a heart that one was born with or “innate nature.” From that it meant “natural character; innate attribute; gender; sex; having a tendency of.”

The kun-yomi 性 /sa’ga/ means “nature.” The on-yomi 性 /se’e/ by itself means “sex; gender,” and is in 女性 (“woman” /josee/), 性格 (“characters; personality; nature” /seekaku/), 性質 (“nature; disposition; composition” /seeshitu/). Another on-yomi /sho’o/ comes from a go-on and is in 性分 (“disposition; nature; temperament” /shoobun/) and 根性 (“guts; grit; push” /ko’njoo/).

(4) The kanji 恐 “fearful; to awe”

History of the kanji 恐In the bronze ware style of the kanji 恐 on the left, it was a person holding an instrument or tool (工) with two hands. It was used phonetically to mean “to fear.” Shirakawa (2004)’s explanation is that he was praying to a god as he held up a magic tool. In ten style under the tool a heart was added. The shape on the right side signified a person with two hands. In ten style this shape appears in other kanji such as 熱, 熟 and 藝 (芸), and meant a person handling something with both hands. In the kanji 恐, this shape became simplified to 凡, rather than 丸.

The kun-yomi 恐れる /osore’ru/ means “to fear,” and 恐ろしい /osoroshi’i/ means “frightful; horrifying; horrible.” It is also in a polite attention-getting expression, such as 恐れ入りますが (“I am terribly sorry to bother you, but…”  /oso’re irima’su-ga/). On the Joyo kanji list, this kanji lists only /oso(re’ru)/ as its kun-yomi and does not include the pronunciation /kowa’i/. However, it is widely used for恐い/kowa’i/ “scary; strict.” The on-yomi /kyo’o/ is in 恐慌 (“financial crisis” /kyookoo/), 恐竜 (“dinosaur” /kyooryuu/), 恐縮する (“to be obliged” /kyooshuku-suru/). The literal meaning of the word 恐縮 would be “I dwarf myself being awed,” but I do not think anyone thinks of the literal meaning in using this expression.  恐縮です (“deeply appreciated” /kyooshuku-de’su/) is also used as a formal business expression to express appreciation.

(5) The kanji 怖 “fearful”

History of the kanji 怖Another kanji for “fear” is the kanji 怖. In ten style, the left side was a heart. The right side had a hand and drapery, and was used phonetically for /hu/ to mean “fear.”  The kun-yomi is 怖い /kowa’i/ (“to be scared of”). Compared to the kanji 恐, this kanji tends to mean a more personal emotional experience of a fear. The on-yomi /hu/ is in 恐怖 (“fear; terror; horror” ‘kyo’ohu/), which have two kanji for “fear,” and 畏怖の念 (“sense of awe” /ihu-no-n’en/).

(6) The kanji 怒 “anger; wrath“

History of the kanji 怒In ten style the top of the kanji 怒 was a woman and a hand, which made the kanji 奴 (“fellow; guy” in the current use). The kanji 奴 by itself came from a female slave who had committed a crime. It was used phonetically for /do/ to signify intensity. Together with the bottom 心 “heart,” the kanji 怒 signified the agitated state of one’s heart, which was “wrath; anger.”

The kun-yomi 怒る /oko’ru/ means “to get angry.” Another kun-yomi /ika’ru/ also means “to get angry” in a more literary style and perhaps is a stronger emotion than /oko’ru./ The on-yomi /do/ is in 激怒 (“rage; fury” /ge’kido/) and 怒号 (“roar; outcry” /dogoo/).

(7) The kanji 悲 “sad; grief; sorrowful”

History of the kanji 悲The kanji 悲 consists of 非 and 心. History of the kanji 非The history of the top, which is the kanji 非, is shown on the right. The Setsumon’s account for 非 “different” was the two opposing wings of a flying bird. The two wings are never together. From that it came to mean “to be against; not good; not.”  The shape in ten style appeared almost identical in the kanji 悲.  In the kanji 悲, together with the heart, it signified a heart torn apart in grief, which meant “sorrow; grief; sad.”

The kun-yomi 悲しい /kanashii/ means “sad” and also makes a noun 悲しみ (“sorrow; grief” /kanashimi/).  The on-yomi /hi/ is in 悲観的な (“pessimistic” /hikanteki-na/), 悲劇 (“tragedy” /hi’geki/) and 悲鳴 (“scream” /himee/).

(8) The Kanji 快 “comfortable; pleasant”

History of the kanji 快In the ten style of the kanji 快, the left side was a vertical heart. The right side (夬) was used phonetically for /kai/, and had a knife or weapon and a hand, signifying “to cut.” The related kanji 決 had the same component. The kanji 決 “decisive; decision” came from an action that broke part of a riverbank to prevent flooding. It meant a decisive action after a long deliberation, like water gushing out at breaking of a river flow.

For the kanji 快, which has a bushu risshinben “heart”, we can interpret that it was a state of a mind in which a long held concern, or a weight on over mind, was finally lifted and one felt light-heated and pleasant. The kanji 快 means “pleasant; cheerful.”

The kun-yomi 快い /kokoroyo’i/ means “pleaseant; comfortable. The on-yomi /ka’i/ is in 快適な (“comfortable; pleasant” /kaiteki-na/), 快速電車 (“rapid train” /kaisokude’nsha/) and 快方に向かう (“to get better; be recovering” /ka’ihoo ni mukau/).

We have covered quite a lot of the kanji that contain “heart” in the last four postings. It looks like we need one more posting to wrap up the kanji that are frequently used in the daily kanji. [February 28, 2015]

2015-03-07 The Kanji 悪亜惑忘忙忍認恭 – 心こころ (5)

(1) The kanji 悪 “bad; vice” and 亞 “secondary; Asia”

History of the kanji 悪For the kanji 悪, the top of the bronze ware style, in green, and ten style, in red, was a foundation or base of a mausoleum, with columns at the four corners. By itself it is the kanji 亜.

History of the kanji 亜The kanji 亞 — The history of the kanji 亜 is shown on the right side. (Oracle bone style, in brown)  From a foundation of a structure it signified something being suppressed. In kyujitai, in blue, the four corners showed better than the shinjitai (亜). Having the meaning of something underground, the kanji 亜 meant “secondary; not authentic.” It was also used phonetically for /a/ in the words such as 亜細亜 (“Asia” /a’jia/) and 亜流 (“secondary; imitator; follower” /aryuu/). I always find the use of the kanji 亜 for “Asia” puzzling. I have not had a chance to look into it.

For the kanji 悪 the bottom had 心 “heart.” Together they signified “bad feelings that were suppressed” and it is used to mean “bad; vice; evil.” The kun-yomi /wa’ru/ is in 悪い (“bad” /waru’i/) and 意地悪な (“wicked; spiteful” /iji’waruna/). Another kun-yomi /a/ is in 悪しき(“bad” /a’shiki/). The on-yomi /a’ku/ is in 悪 (“evil; badness; vice” /a’ku/), 悪人 (“villain” /akunin/), and 悪事 (“evil deed” /a’kuji/). Another on-yomi /o/ is in 嫌悪感 (“feeling of abhorrence” /ken-o’kan/) and 悪寒がする (“to shiver; shake (with a fever)” /okan-ga-suru/).

(2) The kanji 惑 “to be confused; bewildered” and 或 “or”

History of the Kanji 惑In bronze ware style of the kanji 惑, the top 或 was “an area that was protected with a halberd”, and the bottom was “a heart.” The top 或 by itself had the meaning “to have a doubt,” and is in the word 或は (“perhaps;  maybe; or” /aru’iwa/). Together they meant the state of mind that was not certain. The kanji 惑 means “to be confused; bewildered.”

The kanji 或 “perhaps; or”:  The kyujitai 國 (the kyujitai for 国) “country” and 惑 came from the same origin — “an area protected by a halberd” or “to exist.” The kanji 或 is not included on the Joyo kanji list, even though the word /aru’iwa/ is an everyday word in speaking.

The kun-yomi /mado’u/ 惑う means “to be confused; go astray,” and is in 惑わされる (“to be misled by” /madowasare’ru/) and 戸惑う (“to be puzzled; feel at a loss” /tomado’o/). The on-yomi /wa’ku/ is in 迷惑な (“annoying; inconvenient; troublesome” /me’ewaku-na/) and in 惑星 (“primary planet” /wakusee/)– because it circles around the earth!  The expression 不惑 /hu’waku/ means “to be at the age of forty,” from the belief that this is when one is supposed to be free from vacillation. Hmmm….

(3) The kanji 忘 “to forget” and 忙 “busy”

The History of the Kanji 忘The top of the kanji 忘 by itself is the kanji 亡 “not to exist; to disappear.” The History of the Kanji 亡The history of the kanji 亡 is shown on the right.

A couple of different views on the origins here. One is that it was a person and a screen, and that one disappeared when he died, thus “to disappear.” Another view is that it was a deceased with his bones bent and signified “to disappear.” The kanji 亡 meant “to pass away; to die.”

Now back to the kanji 忘. With a “heart” added at the bottom, it meant that something disappeared from the mind, that is, “to forget.” The kun-yomi 忘れる /wasureru/ means “to forget,” and is in 忘れ物 (“leaving something behind inadvertently; lost article” /wasuremono/.) The on-yomi /bo’o/ is in 忘年会 (“end-of-the-year party” /boone’nkai/), a party letting the year pass by.

A related kanji we should not leave out here is the kanji 忙 “busy.” There is no ancient writing available because it did not exist in ancient times. The components of the kanji are a heart (in this case, the bushu risshinben) and the kanji 亡 “to disappear.” Together they originally meant “to be dazed; with a blank look.” When one is very busy he becomes absent-minded. The kanji 忙 means “busy.” A clever use of the two existing components.

The kun-yomi 忙しい means “busy.” The phrase ご多忙中のところ /gotaboochuu-no-tokoro/ “during the time when you are very busy” is used in the polite expression for thanking someone for “taking so much of your valuable time.”

(4) The kanji 忍 “endurance”

Historty of the Kanji 忍The top of the kanji 忍 in ten style was a knife with a dot, which pointed out the blade. By itself 刃 /ha/ means “blade.” Its on-yomi /ji’n/ also had the meaning “something strong and resistant.” With a heart at the bottom, the kanji 忍 meant “to endure; brave out.”

The kun-yomi 忍ぶ /shino’bu/ means “to endure; brave out.” The on-yomi /ni’n/ is in 忍耐 (“endurance” /ni’ntai/) and 忍者 (“ninja spy” /ni’nja/). Out of curiosity I have just looked up the Oxford American Dictionary for ninja. The definition was “a person skilled in ninjutu.” Then what is /ni’njutsu/ (忍術)?  It says, “The traditional Japanese art of stealth, camouflage, and sabotage, developed in feudal times for espionage and now practiced as a martial art” (New Oxford American Dictionary).  That covers it all!

(5) The kanji 認 “to accept; recognize”

The History of the Kanji 認The two ten style writings for the kanji 認 had “word; language” on the left. The right side had either a blade of knife, or a heart with a knife, and was used phonetically for /ji’n/ to mean “to ensure.” Together they meant to listen patiently to what another person had to say and accept it. The kanji 認 meant “to accept” or “to recognize.”

The kun-yomi 認める /mitomeru/ means “to accept; acknowledge; recognize,” and is in 認め印 (“stamp for receipt” /mitomein/). When you receive a package, the delivery person asks you, saying,「認め印お願いします」(“Please press your name stamp here.” /mitomein onegai-shima’su/), instead of your signature. A Japanese person buys an inexpensive stamp of family name in kanji for this kind of informal purpose, which would not be used for a bank account or other important documents. The on-yomi /ni’n/ is in 確認する (“to confirm” /kakunin-suru/), 認定 (“certification” /nintee/), 否認する (‘’to deny” /hinin-suru/) and 認可する (“to grant permission” /ni’nka-suru/).

(6) The kanji 恭 “respectfully; reverentially”

We have been looking at the kanji that have two bushu, the bushu kokoro 心, which comes at the bottom, and the bushu risshinben, which comes on the left side. There is one more bushu shape that came from a heart. The inside of the bottom of the kanji 恭 is called /shitago’koro/ and has four strokes, the second of which is longer, perhaps for the artery in the ancient shape of a heart.

The History of the Kanji 恭In the ten style of 恭 the top had the making of the kanji 共, in which two hands were raising something to show the humbleness of the bearer. Inside the two hands was a heart. Together they meant “respectfully; reverentially.” It is not a productive kanji other than the kun-yomi word 恭しく (“respectfully; reverentially” /uyauyashi’ku/) and the on-yomi word 恭順 (“dutiful submission (to an order)” /kyoojun/). The word 恭順 /kyoojun/ is not an everyday life word at all. The occasion that comes to my mind is the term that historians used to describe the act of transferring power when the last Tokugawa Shogun submitted to the Emperor in 1868. [We have looked at the kanji 共 in the May 31, 2014 posting.]

Well, I think we stop our exploration of the kanji that have a heart here. There were a quite a lot already. We need to move on to other kanji. We have learned in the last five postings, in terms of shape in kanji, it comes in three different shapes, kokoro, risshinben and shitagokoro. In terms of meaning, these kanji deal with physical features of a heart, emotion, and the state or activity of one’s mind.

In the next several pots, we continue to look at the component that originally comes from a physical feature. [March 7, 2015.]

2015-03-14 The Kanji 大太天夫央英映笑 – Posture (1)

In the next few posts, we are going to look at the kanji that originated from the shape of the posture of a person using his entire body. They vary depending on how the posture was viewed, from the front or from the side.

(1) The kanji 大 “large; grand”

History of the kanji 大For the kanji 大, in oracle bone style, in brown, bronze ware style, in green, and ten style, in red, it was a person standing with his arms and legs spread, who was viewed from the front. Spreading the arms and legs makes a person look large. The kanji 大 means “large.” When it is used as a component, it keeps the original meaning of a “person.”

The kun-yomi 大きい /ooki’i/ means “large; grand,” and is in 大げさな (“exaggerated” /oogesa-na/), 大いなる (“great” /o’oinaru/). The on-yomi /da’i/ is in 莫大な (“huge; enormous” /bakudai-na/. Another on-yomi /ta’i/ is in 大作 (“monumental work” /taisaku/) and 大河ドラマ (“a saga that runs a great many episodes” /taiga-do’rama/). Other reading includes 大人 (“adult; grown-up” /otona/.)

(2) The kanji 太 “peaceful; thick; fat; big”

History of the kanji 太For the kanji 太, in oracle bone style and bronze ware style, it was the same as the kanji 大. For ten style, there were two shapes, (a) and (b) on the left. The shape (a) was treated as an older style and (b) as ten style in Setsumon. The account by the Kadokawa kanji dictionary is that (a) had a person, and two short lines inside signified “doubling.” Together they signified “even larger; very large.” Shirakawa and the Kanjigen treated the writing (a) as a simplified shape from (b). (b) had a person at the top, two hands and water inside. Together they signified two hands rescuing a person from drowning. From that, it meant “living in security; peaceful.”

In current use, two different kanji are used -太 and 泰. The kanji 泰 means “peaceful” and is used in 安泰 (“peace and security” /antai/). Other than that it is rarely used. (It is used for a name.) The kanji 太 is more inclusive of the original meaning “peaceful; thick; fat; big.”

The kun-yomi 太い /huto’i/ means “thick,” and is in 太る (“to gain weight” /huto’ru/) and 図太い (“bold; impudent” /zubuto’i/). The on-yomi /ta’i/ is in 太平洋 (“the Pacific ocean” /taihe’eyoo/) and 太陽 (“the sun” /ta’iyoo/). One tricky thing to remember when writing kanji for the Pacific ocean 太平洋 /taihe’eyoo/ and the Atlantic ocean 大西洋 /taise’eyoo/ is that, even though both are pronounced as /ta’i/, the Pacific ocean uses the kanji 太 whereas the Atlantic ocean uses the kanji 大. It must have been transliterated from the word pacific, “peaceful.”

(3) The kanji 天 “heaven; sky”

History of the kanji 天For the kanji 天, in all ancient styles, it was a person, facing front, with his head emphasized. The first line at the top was the head itself, but it meant something above his head, that is “heaven; sky.”

The kun-yomi /a’me/ in 天地の (“heaven and earth” /a’metsuchi-no/), a literary phrase. Another kun-yomi /a’ma/ is in 天降り or 天下り (“high-ranking government official landing an industry job” /amakudari/). The on-yomi /te’n/ is in 天下 (“world” /te’nka/), 天火 (“cooking oven” /te’npi/), 天日干し (“sun-drying” /tenpiboshi/), and 天引き “check off from (salary, etc.)” /tenbiki).

(4) The kanji 夫 “husband”

History of the kanji 夫We looked at the origin of the kanji 夫 in connection with the kanji 妻 “wife” in the post on November 24, 2014. In all ancient writing styles, it had a man with an ornamental hairpin, which signified a bridegroom. In both 妻 and 夫, the line at the top was an ornamental hairpin for a wedding. It meant “husband; man.”

The kun-yomi 夫 /otto/ means “husband.” The on-yomi /hu/ is in 夫妻 (“married couple” /hu’sai/) and 夫人 (“wife of; Mrs.” /hujin/). Another on-yomi /pu/ is in 人夫 (“laborer” /ni’npu/). A third reading /hu’u/ is in 夫婦 (“married couple” /hu’uhu/) and 工夫する (“to devise” /kuhuu-suru/). The word 夫人 (“wife of; Mrs.” /hujin/) is an honorific word and you never use it for your own name. When an English-speaking person, say Mr. Smith, says something like “I will discuss it with Mrs. Smith,..” when referring to his own wife, it does not sound odd. (It may be used more in British English.) But it sounds odd to a Japanese speaker, because we tend to translate it as スミス夫人. Chines look at this the same way Japanese do. A young Chinese tutor I knew was frustrated because her female student kept on referring to herself as /furen/, the Chinese pronunciation of /hujin/. I immediately understood what she was talking about.

(5) The kanji 央 “center; central”

 

History of Kanji 央The next three kanji 央 英  and 映 have 央 in common. In the oracle bone style of the kanji 央, it was a man facing front with a yoke around his neck, which meant “bad luck.” Then its original meaning had been dropped and it was used to mean “center; central,” from the fact that the neck was the center of the body. The bronze ware style writing had a short stroke under an arm, but what it signified is not clear. In ten style we see that the shape for “person” was the same as that for 夫. In kanji in both 夫 and 央, “person” returned to the shape 大, in which is easier for us to see the original meaning being “person.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /o’o/ is in 中央 (“center; central” /chuuo’o/), 中央出口 (“central exit” /chuuoode’guchi/) and 震央 (“epicenter” /shin-oo/.)

Note: This section on the kanji 央 has been revised as new information came to my attention. Thank you. Noriko (February 5, 2016)

(6) The kanji 英 “excellent; English”

History of the kanji 英In the ten style of the kanji 英, the top was “plants; grass,” and the bottom was 央 “center,” which was used phonetically. The center of a flower is the most beautiful part. It meant “beautiful; flourishing; excellent.” The use of this kanji for “English language” 英語 /eego/ came from the Chinese word for England 英吉利. Unlike Japanese language, which developed two phonetic letter systems, the Chinese language does not have phonetic letters to express a new word. So, existing kanji gets chosen phonetically. My observation is that when they assign kanji to a foreign name, the kanji combination tends to carry a flattering meaning. The literal meaning of the Chinese word for America is 美国 “beautiful country” and for England is 英国 “flourishing beautiful country.” The kanji 英 means “excellent; English.”

The kun-yomi is not in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /e’e/ is 英訳 (“English translation” /eeyaku/), 英和辞典 (“English-Japanese dictionary” /eewaji’ten/) and 英雄 (“hero” /eeyuu/).

(7) 映 “to be reflected; be imaged”

History of the kanji 映In the ten style of the kanji 映, the left side was 日 “the sun,” and the right side meant “the center” of a person’s body. From the outline of a person in the sun, it meant “to be reflected; to be imaged.”

The kun-yomi 映る /utsu’ru/ means “to reflect; to be imaged. ” Another kun-yomi 映える /hae’ru/ means “to glow; shine; look better.” The on-yomi /e’e/is in 映画 (“movie” /e’ega/), 反映する (“to reflect” /han-ei-suru/) and 上映される (“to be shown/screened” /joosee-sareru/).

(8) The kanji 笑 “to smile”

History of Kanji 笑Let me add one more kanji that has the shape 大 to mean “person.” In the ten style of the kanji 笑, the top was bamboo. The bottom 夭 “young; to die young” by itself has a fuller history, shown on the right side. History of Kanji 夭

The kanji 夭 In oracle bone style and bronze ware style, a person was swaying his hands and head in dancing, and the pliant posture originally meant “young.” The meaning “young” came to be used to mean “to die young” in the word 夭折する (“to die young” /yoosetsu-suru/). On the other hand the kanji 笑 with bamboo at the top, a pliant plant swaying easily in wind, gave the meaning “to smile” from easily smiling.

The kun-yomi 笑う/warau/ means “to laugh; smile,” and is in 笑い声 (“laughter” /waraigo’e/), 苦笑いする (“to smile a wry smile” /nigawa’rai-suru/), 大笑いする (“to roar; to laugh hard” /oowa’rai-suru/). Another kun-yomi /e’mu/ is in 笑顔 (“smiling face” /e’gao/). The on-yomi /sho’o/ is in 冷笑する (“to sneer at” /reeshoo-suru/), 爆笑する (“to burst into laughter” /bakushoo-suru/).

In this post we have looked at kanji that originated from the image of a standing person viewed from the front – 大. In the next post, we will look at the kanji whose original image included the ground that a person was standing on – 立. [March 14, 2015.]

2015-03-21 The Kanji 立位泣粒並普譜 – Posture (2)

In the last post, we looked at the kanji that came from a front view of a person with hands and legs spread wide, which was 大. In this post we are going to look at the kanji that came from the same image except that it included the ground. A person, 大, and standing on the ground, 一, together became the kanji shape 立.

(1) The kanji 立 “to stand”

History of the kanji 立In the oracle bone style of the kanji 立, in brown, a man standing on the ground was viewed from the front. Where one stood in court signified his position or rank. From that it originally meant “position” and “to stand.” In bronze ware style, in green, the person on the left appeared to be twisting his body with his two feet apart. The sample on the right side had a person and the ground. In ten style, in red, the two standing legs were emphasized.

The kun-yomi 立つ /ta’tsu/ means “to stand,” and is in 立ち上がる (“to rise up” /tachiagaru/), 目立つ (“to stand out” /meda’tsu/), 立場 (“standpoint; situation” /ta’chiba/) and 成り立ち (“beginning; origin” /naritachi/). Our Kanji Portraits blog examines kanji from the viewpoint of  漢字の成り立ち (“makeup of kanji; history of kanji” /kanji no naritachi/). The on-yomi /ri’tsu/ is in 直立 (“upright” /chokuritsu/), 立法 (“legislation; law making” /rippo’o/), 立派な (“praiseworthy; impressive” /rippa-na/). It has another on-yomi /ryu‘u/ in the word 建立する (“to erect a temple or shrine” /konryuu-suru/).

(2) The kanji 位 “position; status; approximately; ranking”

History of the kanji 位By adding a bushu ninben, “person,” we get the kanji 位 “position; status,” which was also a part of the original meaning of the kanji 立. In fact in oracle bone style and bronzed ware style, they were the same — None of the many samples of oracle bone style or bronze ware style  had a person on the left. (There were four oracle bone style samples and seven bronze ware style samples in the reference.) In addition to the meaning of “position; status” it is also used for approximation when used with quantity words such as どの位 (“how much” /donogurai/ or /donokurai/), 二十人位 (“approximately 20 people” /nijuuningu’rai/). In the Japanese keigo system (敬語 /keeo/), rather than directly addressing to a person, you often refer to the place where the person is situated, such as どちら様 (“who” honorific word, /do’chira-sama/) from the literal meaning of a person of which direction, The kanji 位 is also used when referring to people unspecified, such as お客様各位 (“Dear customers” /okyaku-sama ka’kui/) in writing. 位 is also used as a suffix for ranking from where one stands.

The kun-yomi /kurai/ means “position; status.” When used as a suffix of quantity words, such as 一週間位で (“in about a week” /isshuukangu’rai de/), 二ヶ月位かかる (”it takes approximately two months” /nikagetsu-gu’rai kaka’ru/), the kanji 位 can be pronounced either /ku’rai/ or /gu’rai/. The on-yomi /i/ 各位 (“dear all” in writing /ka’kui/), 地位 (“position; status” /chi’i/), 位置 (“location” /i’chi/), 第三位 (“the third place” /da’i-sa’n-i/),

(3) The kanji 粒 “granule”

History of the kanji 粒For the kanji 粒, in pre-ten style, in gray on the left, the left side 立 was used phonetically for /ryu’u/, and the right side was “food.” It meant “rice; grain; food.” In ten style the left side 米 was “rice,” and the right side 立 was used phonetically. Together they originally signified “rice.” The small pieces such as rice and other grains gave the meaning “granule.”

The kun-yomi /tsu’bu/ means “granule,” and is in the phrase 粒よりの〜 (“handpicked ~; select ~” /tsubuyori-no ~/) and 一粒の (“a single grain of” /hito’tsubu-no/). The on-yomi /ryu’u/ is in 粒子 (“particle” /ryu’ushi/) and 顆粒の (“granular” /karyuu-no/).

(4) The kanji 泣 “to cry”

History of the kanji 泣For the kanji 泣, the left side of the ten style sample was “water,” and the right side was used phonetically, originally for /ryu’u/, which changed to /kyu’u/. The Setsumon Kaiji’s explanation was that 泣 meant “crying with tears without voice.” Now it means “to cry,” with or without tears.

The kun-yomi /naku/ means “to cry,” and is in 泣きつく (“to implore” /nakitsu’ku/), 泣きじゃくる (“to sob” /nakijaku’ru/) and 泣き言を言う (“to complain; whine” /nakigoto-o-iu/). The on-yomi /kyu’u/ is in 号泣する (“to cry loudly” /gookyuu-suru).

(5) The kanji 並 “ordinary; to queue; equal”

History of the kanji 並Placing two people standing side by side facing the front created a writing that meant “to stand side by side; queue; equal.” All of the ancient writing shown on the left gave us quite convincing pictures of what they meant. Even after it became kanji, in kyujitai 竝, in blue, it consisted of the two kanji 立, and the meaning was evident. In shinjitai 並, however, the two discreet components coalesced into one shape, and it is no longer easy to see the origin. When two people stand side by side, not standing out from the rest, they are “equal” or “ordinary.”

The kun-yomi 並ぶ /narabu/ means “to queue; line up.” Another kun-yomi 並みの /name-no/ means “ordinary,” and is in the phrase 人並みの生活 (“a decent life like others’” /hitonami-no-seekatsu/), 軒並みに (“at every house” /nokinami-ni/), 並木道 (“a street lined with trees” /namiki’michi/). The on-yomi /he’e/ is in 並列 (“parallel” /heeretsu/).

(6) The kanji 普 “universal”

History of the kanji 普In the ten style of the kanji 普, the top was two people standing side by side (並), and the bottom was the sun (日). Together the sun shining across people meant “universal.” Universal could also mean nothing stands out, thus “ordinary.” Even though the two kanji 並 and 普 share the same origin of having two people standing side by side, and the kanji 並 had the kyujitai 竝, as far as I could search for, there was no earlier shape that contained 竝 for 普. The kanji 普 was already in use in the Kangxi dictionary. Kyujitai is based on the Kangxi dictionary.

The kun-yomi /amane’ku/ means “universal; everywhere” in a literary style. The on-yomi /hu/ is in 普通 (“ordinary” /hutsuu/), 普遍的な (“universal” /huhenteki-na/), 普及する (“to spread; permeate” /hukyuu-suru/) and 普段 (“everyday; habitual” /hu’dan/).

(7) The kanji 譜 “score; chronological records”

History of the kanji 譜The last kanji we look at in this post is the kanji 譜. It has a bushu gonben “word; language.” The right side 普 was used phonetically to mean “to lay things in sequence; line up.” Together from the meaning that something was stated in an orderly manner, it meant “family lineage chart” or “chronological records.” Now it is also used for “music score” because it spreads sideways.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /hu/ is in 年譜 (“annuals” /nenpu/), 楽譜 (“music score; sheet music” /gakuhu/), 譜面台 (“music score stand” /humendai/) and 暗譜で弾く (“to play music from memory” /anpu de hiku/).

In the next posts, we will look at the kanji in which a person is viewed from the side. [March 25, 2015]

2015-03-28 The Kanji 人仁従縦比皆階陛 – Posture (3)

As the third posting related to a posture that a person made using his entire body, we are going to look at the kanji that used the view from the side. In the last two posts, a standing person that was viewed from the front had his hands spread on his side (大 and 立). The standing person viewed from the side had his hands put forward. Whether the shape contained a single person or two people and which direction the person was facing made a difference in meaning, and eventually kanji shapes. In this post we are going to look at them in three groups: A. A single person facing left; B. Two people facing left, one of which follows the other; and C. Two people facing right.

A. A standing person facing left – 人,仁, 付

(1) 人 “person”

History of Kanji 人For the kanji 人, in oracle bone style, in brown, and bronzed ware style, in green, a person was standing facing left, putting his hands forward. His legs were slightly bent. It meant “person; others; character.” The ten style sample here, in red, is from Setsumon, and his hands became very long and his body bent forward. The three samples in black, (a), (b), and (c), are kanji.  (a) was from a stone stele of rei style writing (隷書体, clerical style), the first kanji style. In rei style, the left line in (a) was very short whereas the right side was extremely long. (b) is in Mincho style, which was used in the Kangxi dictionary and became the standard typeface of publication, usually called 明朝体 /minchotai/, including for Internet use. One of the characteristics of Mincho style was that it utilized all four corners of an imaginary square space. (c) is in kyokasho-tai (教科書体, textbook style) typeface, which is the best approximation of writing style for a kanji learner to emulate.

The kanji 人 and 入 in different typefaceNow I am going to put my old Japanese teacher’s hat on here. The difference between (b) and (c) is alarming. A novice learner of kanji who uses a textbook that is printed in Mincho style may end up learning to write the kanji that looks strange to Japanese. Particularly, the kanji 人 in Mincho style creates a confusion with the kanji 入 “to enter.  The comparison of three typefaces is shown on the right. (I wish that the Japanese government would provide textbook writers and classroom teachers with the appropriate kyokasho-tai style font application that were affordable. Well, this is a different matter that I need to discuss somewhere else.) I admit that being on the Internet the text portion of this blog is shown in Mincho style, which is beyond my control.

The kun-yomi /hito/ is in 人のいい (“good-natured” /hitonoi’i/) and 人のことを言う (“to speak of others” /hitonokoto’ o iu/). The on-yomi /ji’n/ is in 外国人 (“foreigner; foreign national” /gaikoku’jin/) and 人格(“character” /jinkaku/). Another on-yomi /ni’n/ is a go-on, and is in 人間 (“human being; man” /ningen/) and 三人 (“three people” /sanni’n/). Other pronunciations include 一人 (“one person” /hito’ri/) and 二人 (”two people” /hutari/.)

(2) 仁 “benevolent; virtue”

When 人 was used as a component to create new kanji, it took the shape close to the oracle bone style writing of 人. That component also became a katakana イ. As an example of kanji with a bushu ninben, we look at the kanji 仁 here.

History of Kanji 仁In all of the four ancient writing styles of the kanji 仁 shown on the left, it comprised a person facing left and two very short lines. The bronze ware style sample and the “old style” in Setsumon, in gray, suggested that a person was sitting on comfortable double cushions. When the meaning of “pleasant; comfortable” was applied to a person, it gave the meaning “desirable” and “virtuous.” 仁 was the most important virtue one should attain according to Confucianism, but the use of this particular kanji is limited in modern life. There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi ジン is in 仁 (“perfect virtue” /ji’n/) and 仁術 (“benevolent act; healing art” /ji’njutsu/). Another on-yomi /ni’n/ is a go-on and is in 仁王 (“the two Deva kings at a temple gate” that you see when you visit an old Buddhist temple.  /ni’oo/.)

History of Kanji 付(frame)There are numerous kanji that contain a bushu ninben, giving the meaning that it is something to do with a person or human. Among the kanji we have looked at in the past, the kanji 付 was illuminating. Just to refresh our memory, I am showing the development of the kanji 付 on the right side.

–“It had a person and a hand from behind. In (1) the hand was touching the person, and in (1) and (2) there is no short line that would become a third stroke in kanji. From handing something to another person, 付 meant “to hand out; attach.” Giving out documents was what a government office did, so it also meant “to issue.” [June 21, 2015]

B. Two people facing left, one following another — 従 and 縦.   We are going to look at two kanji that contained two people facing to the left as they stood in front or back of each other.

(3) 従 “to follow; obey”

History of Kanji 従Many things happened in the development of the kanji 従. In oracle bone style, (a) simply had two people facing left, in which the second person stood behind the first person. In (b) a crossroad (technically speaking, it was the left half of a crossroad) was added to the two people facing to the left. The crossroad suggested that a person was not just standing but walking, with one person following another. So, it meant “to follow.” In bronze ware style, (c), a footprint (止) was added at the bottom, to reinforce the meaning “following someone on foot.” In ten style, (d), a crossroad and a footprint were placed vertically. As we have discussed before, usually a crossroad and a footprint coalesced into a bushu shinnyoo or shunnyuu in kanji, which meant “to move forward.” But in the case of the kanji 従, when it became kanji, as the kyujitai in blue in (e) shows, the footprint moved back to the bottom right and took the shape that was the bottom of the kanji 足. (For the development of the kanji 足, please refer back to the August 3, 2014, posting.) Above the footprint, there were two small 人 placed side by side. That left only a crossroad on the left side, which became the bushu gyooninben “to go; conduct.” In shinjitai, (f), the two people were reduced to two short katakanaソ. What we have in shinjitai is far from (a) — the two people got diminished into two tiny strokes!

The kun-yomi 従う /shitagau/ means “to obey.” The on-yomi /ju’u/ is in 従事する (“to be engaged in” /ju’uji-suru/), 従業員 (“employee; worker” /juugyo’oin/), 服従 (“obedience; submission” /hukujuu/) and 追従する (“to follow” /tsuijuu-suru/). There is another on-yomi /sho’o/. When the word 追従する is read in the second on-yomi, it becomes 追従する and お追従を言う (“to flatter; play up to” /tsuishoo-suru/ /otsuishoo o iu/), a very different meaning.

(4) 縦 “vertical”

History of Kanji 縦By adding a bushu itohen 糸 to the kanji 従, we get the kanji 縦. The ten style sample is the earliest we have. On the left it had a string of silk cocoons with filaments coming out, which signified “thread; continuity.” In the center was a crossroad and a footprint, and the right side was two people facing left. Together they made up the kanji 従 “a person following another,” and was used phonetically for /juu/. Altogether they meant “a continuous line to follow” or “vertical.” Having the thread also added the meaning “to indulge oneself” from “loose threads.” It had the kyujitai, in blue, and shinjitai, which correspond with the kanji 従.

The kun-yomi 縦 /ta’te/ means “vertical; length,” and is in 縦糸 (“warp” /tateito/), and 縦書き (“vertical writing” /tategaki/), which is the traditional way to write Japanese. The on-yom /ju’u/ is in 縦横に (“in all directions” /juuo’oni/) and 縦断する (“to travel through; to divide something vertically” /juudan-suru/) and 操縦する (“to navigate; control” /soojuu-suru/).

C. Two people facing right –比皆階陛.   In this group, the two people were facing right.

(5) 比 “to compare”

History of Kanji 比For the kanji 比, in oracle bone style, it was a mirror image of (a) in the kanji 従 above. Placing two people next to each other meant “to compare.” The bronze ware style and ten style samples looked like what we would expect. However when it became kanji, the shape changed quite a lot. The hands that were put forward were there but the bottom became the shape as if they were sitting. The right side of the kanji shape looks like a katakana ヒ /hi/. The katakana /hi/ was taken from this kanji. (The hiragana ひ came from this kanji in its entirety.)

This bent shape in 比 is not inconsistent with the bottom right shape in another group of kanji 眼根銀, etc., which we looked at in an earlier post [April 7, 2014 post]. The ten style writing of the bottom right of 艮 in those kanji was similar to 比 for having a bending shape, and it meant “a person looking back.” I am wondering if we can say that when facing to the left it signified a forward movement whereas when facing to the right it signified no movement and staying where you were. I may be reading too much into it, but for the fun of it, I am going to keep that in mind for our future discussion.

The kun-yomi 比べる /kuraberu/ means “to compare.” The on-yomiヒis in 比較する (“to compare” /hikakusuru/), 比例して (“proportionately” /hireeshite/), 前年比 (“comparing to previous year” /zenne’nhi/).

(6) 皆 “everyone; all”

History of Kanji 皆For the kanji 皆, in the only bronze ware style sample available to us, the two people were facing left, not right. (All other samples of later time seem to face right.) The bottom was 曰 (e’tsu) to “talk.” From many people talking, it meant “everyone; all.” The bottom also has a different view that it was 自 “self” from one’s nose. People (or faces) in a row also meant “everyone; all.” In ten style the two people faced right. In kanji now the bottom is the kanji 白. The kun-yomi /mina/ or /minna/ means “everybody; all” and is in 皆さん (“everyone; you all” /mina’san/), which is a polite style. The on-yomi /ka’i/ is in 皆目分からない (“to have no clue; in complete mystery” /kaimokuwakara’nai/) and 皆無 (“nonexistence; complete absence” /ka’imu/).

(7) 階 “stairs; floor; class”

History of Kanji 階The ten style of the kanji 階 had “mounds of soil; stairs” on the left side that signified “stairs; gradation.” The kanji 皆 on the right was used phonetically for /kai/. It meant “stairs; gradation; story.” There is no kun-yomi in the Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /ka’i/ in 階段 (“stairs; stairways” /kaidan/), 二階 (“second floor; upstairs” /nikai/), 階下 (“downstairs; lower floor” /ka’ika/) and 階級 (“class; caste” /kaikyuu/).

(8) 陛 “majesty”

History of Kanji 陛The ten style of the kanji 陛 also had “stairs; gradation” on the left side, which became a bushu kozatohen . The right side had 比 “people standing in a row” and 土 on the ground. In the imperial court, subjects stood in line under the stairs that led to where the emperor was. It meant “Your Majesty.” There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /he’e/ is 陛下 (“Your/His Majesty” /he’eka/), 両陛下 (“Their Majesties; the Emperor and Empress” /ryoohe’eka/). The use of this kanji is quite limited, but it is necessary in reading newspaper articles.

This post runs longer than I have intended. In the next post, we continue to explore the kanji that contain two people, including standing with their backs to each other. [March 28, 2015]

2015-04-05 The Kanji 北背死化花真 – Posture (4)

In the last post, we looked at kanji that had two standing people who are facing in the same direction, either to the left – 従縦, or to the right – 比皆階陛. In this post we are going to look at six kanji that contain a single 匕 in two groups: Group A 北背死 from 匕, and Group B 化花真 from 匕.

A. The component 匕 “person; ladle; short knife”

History of Kanji ヒperson; ladle; knifeThere is no kanji used in Japanese by itself. We look at it as a component here. In ten style, in red, it was a standing person who was facing right, putting his hands forward. His legs were bent a little. In bronze ware style, in green, one sample looked as if he was sitting and another looked like he was standing. In ten style, in red, it was the mirror image of the kanji 人. In kanji it became the shape of a katakana hi.  It carried the meaning “person” and also a “ladle; spoon” or a “short knife,” as in 旨.

(1) 北 “north”

History of Kanji 北In the oracle bone style and bronze ware style of the kanji 北 it was two people standing with their backs to each other. It originally meant “to turn one’s back on each other.”  From early times on, the writing was also used to mean “north.” People built a house facing south and the back faced north. Turning away from an enemy also meant a “defeat.” In ten style, the two standing people with their backs to each other became the shape that was consistent with what we saw in the last post, one of each from the ten style writing of 従 and 比. 北 meant “to be defeated; north.”

北-明朝体教科書体比較Now let us take a moment to compare how different a Mincho style 北 and a textbook style (教科書体) 北 look.  (a) is in the mincho style font that came in a Mac, and (b) is in the kyokashotai style (by Iwata). The stroke order is shown underneath. The difference in the two styles is evident in the left side. In (a) the left side looks very similar to the left side of the kanji 状, in which the vertical stroke goes straight down. In (b), the approximation of model handwriting style, the third stroke goes up touching the bottom of the second stroke. In reading or kanji study, we should be aware that there are two different styles used, one for print or online text and another for handwriting.

The kun-yomi is in 北向き (“facing north” /kitamuki/), and 北側 (“north side” /kitagawa/). The on-yomi /ho’ku/ is in 北米 (“North America” /hokubee/) and 東北地方 (“northeast region” /toohokuchi’hoo/), /-bo’ku/ is in 敗北 (“defeat” /haiboku/) and /hok-/ is in 北海道 (“Hokkaido Island” /hokka’idoo/).

(2) 背 “one’s back; to breach a trust”

History of Kanji 背In ten style of the kanji 背, it had two people with their backs to each other and underneath was “flesh.”  Because the writing 北 came to be used more for “north; defeat,” in order to mean “one’s back,” the body part component (月) was added. It meant “one’s back.” The bushu nikuzuki shared the same origin as the kanji 肉 “flesh; meat.”  One’s back is the opposite of the front. Doing something behind someone’s back also meant “breach of trust; to revolt.”

The kun-yomi /se/ is in 背中 (“one’s back” /senaka/) and 背伸びする (“to stretch up; try to do beyond one’s ability” /seno’bi-suru/). Another kun-yomi /se’e/ may be used in 背が高い (“tall in stature” /se’ga taka’i/ or /se’ega taka’i/). The kun-yomi 背く /somu’ku/ means “to revolt: violate.” The on-yomi /ha’i/ is in 背景 (“background” /haikee/) and 背信 (“betrayal” /haishin/).

(3) The kanji 死 “to die”

History of Kanji 死In the two oracle bone style samples of the kanji 死, it had a person looking over the remains of a deceased person. He was mourning. It is a touching sad scene, the mourner kneeling down with his head bending over the remains.  Shirakawa (2004) noted that in ancient times the body was left in the field until it weathered to become a skeleton and after that the bones were collected for burial. So what the person was looking at was not the body but the bones. In bronze ware style the person was standing up, and in ten style the person became the shape that we are now familiar with from the last post. The bones on the left became the bushu kabane , which appears in other kanji such as 残列例. (Kabane is the old word for a dead body.) The mourner became the shape 匕. Oddly it ended up that the mourner looks like he is showing his back to the bones. As we are about to see in B, the right side of 化 came from a dead body. But ironically the right side in the kanji 死 was not a dead person but a live person who was mourning.

The kun-yomi 死ぬ /shinu/ means “to die.” The on-yomi is also /shi/ and is in 病死 (“death due to illness” /byooshi/), 死語 (“extinct word or language” /shi’go/), 必死で (“frantically” /hisshide/).

B. The kanji component 匕 “dead person”

History of kanji 匕 (body)The component匕 (if your browser does not show it, the first stroke crosses over the second stroke) meant a dead person. The ten style sample is in the same shape as the right side of the 化 below. Some scholars interpreted this shape as a body in a sitting position as a form of burial. We do not have an earlier style sample. History of Kanji 老(frame)However, our readers may recall that the kanji 老 “old” did have earlier writing samples. [January 31, 2015]  I am copying it on the right side. In (c) and (d) we can recognize a person who fell. The kanji 老 originated from someone with a very long hair (the top) who was close to death (the bottom). In addition to these, and the oracle bone style sample for the kanji 化 below, I feel more confortable saying that 匕 was a fallen person.

(4) The kanji 化 “to change shape; transform”

History of Kanji 化In the oracle bone style and bronze ware style of the kanji 化, the left side was a standing person facing left. The right side was an image of a 180 degree turn of the left side. That was a person upside down — a person dead. I find this image a little disturbing. I used to explain to our class that the kanji 化 consisted of a person standing and then sitting and that the change of one’s posture meant “a change of state.” Then our students would respond with approving nods. But now, faced with these ancient writing samples, I have to change my explanation, disappointedly. A change was not a matter of posture, but a matter of life and death.

The kun-yomi is 化ける (“to change for” /bake’ru/), お化け (“ghost” /oba’ke/) and 文字化け (“character corruption; misconversion (on a computer)” /mojibake/).  The on-yomi /ka/ is in 化学 (“chemistry” /ka’gaku/), 文化 (“culture” /bu’nka/), 近代化 (“modernization” /kindaika/). Another on-yomi /ke/ is in 化粧する (“to put on makeup” /kesho’o-suru/).

(5) The kanji 花 “flower”

History of Kanji 華・花What about the kanji 花, then?  Again, I used to explain to our class that the kanji 花 had a neat story: The top, the bushu kusakanmuri, means plants; a flower changes its form from a bud to a full bloom and eventually withers. Now this too has turned out to be a half a story. Oh, well.

On the left side, in bronze ware style, it was a plant with lots of flowers, and in ten style it added plants at the top, which became the kyujitai 華. The kanji 華 meant “flower; gorgeous; showy.  The kanji 化 and 華 had the same sounds, and later on a new kanji 花 was created and it means “flower.”
The kun-yomi 花 (“flower” /hana’/) is in 花盛り (“flowers at their best; flowering” /hanaza’kari/), 生け花 (“flower arrangement” /ike’bana/) and 花火 (“firework” /ha’nabi/). The on-yomi /ka/ is in 開花する (“to bloom” /ka’ika-suru/.)

(6) The kanji 真 “truth”

History of Kanji 真Let us look at one more kanji that contained a fallen or dead person. The kanji 真 has the kyujitai 眞. This kanji belongs to a small group of kanji that I call humpty dumpty kanji, in which a person or building was placed upside down. (Other kanji include 逆県幸 and 厚, as discussed on our kanji study site http: http://www.visualkanji.com in Lesson 10 Section 1). In ten style, the top was the shape匕, a fallen or dead person, and the bottom was 県.

History of Kanji 県 (frame)The kanji 県  The development of the kanji 県 from the kyujitai 縣 was a gruesome one, as shown on the right. In bronze ware style it was a tree on the left, and a rope that was attached to a head on the right side. Together they meant hanging on a tree the severed head of someone executed for a crime. The gruesome meaning was dropped and it meant “to hang up; append.” The authority that had the power to execute was in a jurisdiction. The kanji 県 means “prefecture.”  For the original meaning of “to hang on; append,” the kanji 懸 is used.

Now back to the kanji 真. The kyujitai faithfully reflected the ten style writing, but in shinjitai the top became a truncated 十 and the bottom became a straight line and a katakana ハ.  The kanji 真 meant “truth.”  How could a dead body and something upside down together mean “truth,” I wondered.  Shirakawa’s explanation is interesting. He says, “The deceased can no longer undergo any change. That is the ultimate eternal truth that he reaches.” Wow… It makes me pause for a while.

The Kadokawa dictionary has a totally different explanation, however. It takes the view that the top was a ladle or spoon (which was the meaning A above). The bottom was interpreted as a tripod pot to cook food. It meant putting food into a pot using a ladle until you are full.  Being full meant “true.”  A much lighter explanation.

The kun-yomi /ma/ is in 真面目な (“serious; earnest” /majime-na/). It is also used as an intensifying prefix in words such as 真っ白 (“completely white” /masshi’ro), 真っ先に (“first; at the very beginning” /massa’kini/). The on-yomi /shi’n/ is in 真実 (“truth” /shi’njitu/), 写真 (“photograph” /shashin/), and 真剣な (“serious” /shinken-na/).

In the next post, I hope to begin exploring kanji that came from a posture other than standing. [April 5, 2015]

2015-04-08 Visual Kanji kanji lessons Part 4 is up now

VisualKanjiPart4The Part 4 of the Visual Kanji kanji lessons is now available at http://www.visualkanji.com. We now have covered 800 kanji and 5000 words.

Thank you very much. – Noriko

Visual Kanji Part 4 Kanji Table

2015-04-11 The Kanji 欠吹次姿資歌飲 – Posture (5) あくび

In this post we are going to look at a person with his mouth wide open, 欠, which is called bush akubi or kentsukuri.

(1) 欠 “to lack; want of”

History of Kanji 欠The current use of the kanji 欠 had two different shapes, 欠 and 缺, in its development. On the left, we have three samples of oracle bone style for 欠, in brown, – a standing person facing left, a kneeling person facing left, and another kneeling person facing right. All of them were viewed from the side and had a mouth that was open wide and was tilted slightly upward. It signified a person “exhaling or inhaling air,” and a posture that was related to singing (as in 歌) or drinking or swallowing (as in 飲). In ten style, in red, the head became three hooked lines and the bottom had arms and a torso and legs that were kneeling, which in kanji became the shape 人. How did the meaning “exhaling or inhaling air” come to be the current meaning of “lack of; want of”? The answer lies in the kyujitai 缺, which was not related to 欠 in meaning or shape. The development of 缺 is shown on the right.

History of Kanji 缺 (欠)The kyujitai 缺 for 欠: In the ten style of 缺, the left side was clayware or earthenware, which was easily chipped. The right side had a weapon at the top and a hand at the bottom and it signified “to break.” Together chipped or broken earthenware or just stuff in general meant “not complete” or “not sufficient.” The kyujitai, in blue, reflected the ten style shape. In shinjitai, however, the kanji 缺 was replaced by the phonetically same 欠, even though the two kanji 缺 and 欠 did not share the same origin. The meaning that the shape 欠 originally had, which was kept in the component of other kanji (“opening one’s mouth open to take in air, food or drink”), overlapped the meaning of “want of; to lack” that the kanji 缺 had. In shinjitai, the simpler shape must have won over, making 缺 a shape of the past.

The kun-yomi 欠く /kaku/ means “to lack; to chip; nick.” It is in phrases such as 欠くことができない (“indispensable” /kakukoto’-ga deki’nai/), 欠けている (“is chipped; lacking” /kaketeiru/). The on-yomi /ke’tsu/ is in 欠席 (“absence” /kesseki/), 欠点 (“fault; shortcoming; defect” /kette’n/) and 不可欠な (“indispensable; essential” /huka’ketsu-na/). The original meaning of 欠 is also used in 欠伸 (“yawning” /akubi/). (Please note that 欠く /kaku/ is an unaccented word whereas 書く /ka’ku/ “to write” is an accented word.)

(2) 吹 “to blow”

History of Kanji 吹This kanji has the shape 口 added to the shape 欠. In the two samples of oracle bone style, the kneeling person was placed on the left, each facing an opposite direction, and had 口 on the right side. In bronze ware style, in green, and ten style, a person and 口 were placed  in front of a person. It meant a person opening his mouth big and blowing air. That has been the traditional explanation. Shirakawa treated 口 as a prayer box throughout his books. Was the shape 口 just an emphasis of a mouth or a prayer box? Let us leave that question unsolved here. The kanji 吹 means “to blow; puff.”

The kun-yomi 吹く /hu’ku/ is used in 風が吹く(“the wind blows” /kaze-ga hu’ku/), 口笛を吹く (“to blow a whistle” /kuchibu’e-o hu’ku/) and 吹き出す (“to spout; puff; to burst into laughter” /hukida’su/). It is also used for the word 吹雪 (“snow storm; blizzard” /hu’buki/). The on-yomi /su’i/ is in 吹奏楽 (“wind instrument music” /suiso’ogaku/).

(3) 次 “next; following”

History of Kanji 次For the kanji 次, there are a couple of different interpretations. One view is that it is a person breathing out (two lines on the left signified breath) and lamenting, which signified asking the god’s will (which are in the kanji such as 諮 “to consult”). ニ was phonetically used to mean “secondary; again” and “following; next.” It meant “to lament; following; next.” Another view is that ニ was phonetically the same as 止 “to stop” and 欠 signified resting and yawning. Together they meant a traveler resting for the next move. It meant “next.” So either view seems to work all right.

The kun-yomi 次 /tsugi’/ means “next; following,” and is in 次に (“next; after this” /tsugi’-ni/), 相次いで (“one after another” /a’itsuide/), 次々に (“one after another” /tsugi’tsugi-ni/). The on-yomi /ji/ is in 次回 (“next time” /ji’kai/) and 目次 (“table of contents” /mokuji/).

(4) 姿 “appearance; figure”

History of Kanji 姿The kanji 姿 consists of two shapes 次 and 女. In ten style the top left had two lines ニ, and the bottom was 女 “woman.” The right side was 欠. Together a woman preparing herself in good order meant “figure; form; appearance.”

The kun-yomi /su’gata/ means “appearance; figure; form” and is in 晴れ姿 (“appearance in one’s shining moment” /haresu’gata/) and 後ろ姿 (“appearance from behind” /ushirosu’gata/). The on-yomi /shi/ is in 姿勢 (“attitude; posture” /shisee/) and 容姿 (“appearance” /yo’oshi/).

 (5) 資 “resources; capital”

History of Kanji 資Another kanji that contains 次 is 資. In ten style the bottom left was a cowry. A cowry came from the southern sea in a far away place. It appeared in a number of kanji signifying something valuable. History of Kanji 貝(frame)The development of the kanji 貝 “shell,” starting from an image of a cowry, is shown on the right. A cowry was not a bivalve (二枚貝 /nima’igai/) but a snail (巻貝 /maki’gai/). The image captured in oracle bone style had an opening. (Because this shape is so important to other kanji, it deserves its own posting later on.) The shape 次 was used phonetically here. The kanji 資 meant “resources; capital.”

There is no kun-yomi in the Joyo-kanji. The on-yomi /shi/ is in 資本 (“capital”/shihon/), 資格 (“qualification; license” /shikaku/) and 資料 (“data; material” /shi’ryoo/).

(6) 歌 “to sing; song”

History of Kanji 歌rIn the bronze ware style of the kanji 歌 the left side was the old form of 言 “word; language.” The right side was 可. History of Kanji 可We have a fuller picture of the history of 可, shown on the right side.

The kanji 可: The oracle bone style of 可 had a bent shape and 口. For simplicity we take 口 here as a mouth. A bent shape signified that voice did not come out straight and was forced. Singing a song was one voicing words with some effort.

Back to the left side of 歌. As the ten style writing of 歌, Setsumon showed two shapes (a) and (b). The writing (a) had “words” on the left and 哥, two 可, on the right. In (b), 哥 “forced voice” was placed on the left and the right side became 欠 – “someone opening his mouth wide open.” Together they meant “to sing.” I wonder which composite shape of (a) and (b) would represent better to mean “to sing; song.” You decide.  

The kun-yomi 歌う /utau/ means “to sing” and 歌 /uta’/ is “song.” The on-yomi /ka/ is in 歌手 (“singer” /ka’shu/), 国歌 (“national anthem” /ko’kka/), 演歌 (“enka song” /e’nka/), 歌謡曲 (“popular song” /kayo’okyoku/), and 歌曲 (“song,” usually classical song. /ka’kyoku/).

(7) 飲 “to drink; swallow”

History of Kanji 飲The last kanji we look at in this post is 飲. The kanji 飲 had humorous images of writing in the beginning. In oracle bone style, the left side had a sake or rice wine cask that had a stopper at the top, and the right side was a person drinking rice wine out of it. From the way he was leaning over the cask, he must have been enjoying drinking very much! I always like oracle bone style writing because you can have a glimpse of a real person in ancient times. In bronze ware style, the left sample only had the wine cask whereas the right side had a person with his tongue out signifying that he was not just standing next to it but drinking. The left side of the ten style writing consisted of a lid (今) at the top and rice wine cask 酉 below, and the right side was a person 欠. Together they made a good story. However, in kyujitai, the left side was replaced by a totally different shape, the old form of a bushu shokuhen.

History of Kanji 食(frame)The kanji 食: To see that the bushu shokuhen came from the origin that was totally different from 飲, I am showing the development of the kanji 食 “food; to eat” on the right side. In oracle bone style and bronze ware style, it was food heaped on a dish with a lid on top. In ten style the bottom took the shape that was the same as a person that we looked at in the last two posts. We saw that in ten style that shape had the meaning of “person; spoon; ladle.”

Now back to the kyujitai 飮, in which the bottom has two lines. I imagine that this was the remnant of the ten style writing of 食 at the bottom. In shinjitai, the bushu shokuhen has a short stroke at the end.

The kun-yomi 飲む “to drink, to swallow” is also used in 薬を飲む (“to take medicine” /kusuri o no’mu/), 飲み物 (“drink, beverage” /nomi’mono/) 飲み食い (“eating and drinking” /no’mikui/). On-yomi /i’n/ is in 飲食店 (“restaurant; eatery” /insho’kuten/), 飲酒運転 (“drunken driving” or “driving under the influence of alcohol.”) and 飲用水 (“drinking water” /in-yo’osui/).

Our exploration of kanji that originated from the posture of one’s whole body continues in the next post. [April 11, 2015]

2015-04-18 The Kanji 令命印即節迎仰昂抑 – Posture (6) ふしづくり

In the last five posts we have looked at kanji or component shapes that originated from an image of a standing person. Is there any kanji that came from a person sitting down? Yes, there are a few. In this post we focus on the shape that is known as a bushu hushizukuri ふしづくり (卩).

1. The kanji 令 “order; law”

History of Kanji 令In the oracle bone style of the kanji 令, in brown, it was a person kneeling with his hands on his knees, each facing the opposite direction. His back was rather straight up. The triangle or a letter “A” shape above him meant “to gather many things or people under one roof.” Together they signified a person or people listening to an order of the ruler or god’s oracle. It meant “order; law.” In bronze ware style, in green, his back tilted forward, demonstrating more reverence in listening. In ten style, in red, the body bent even deeper with his hands still showing and his bent legs stretched longer in a stylized shape that was characteristic of ten style. In Mincho style kanji the bottom became angular shape, which got replaced by a katakana マ in textbook style.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /re’e/ is in 命令 (“order; decree; directive” /meeree/), 法令 (“laws and ordinances” /hooree/), and 辞令 (“written notice of an appointment” /jiree/). Another on-yomi /ryo’o/ is a go-on, and is used in the old words such as 律令制度 (“legal system” in history /ritsuryoo-se’edo/).

2. The kanji 命 “life; order”

History of Kanji 命The oracle bone style writings of the kanji 命 were the same as the kanji 令. In bronze ware style, 口 “mouth; word” was added in front of the person who was kneeling down reverently. Together from a person listening to god’s words, it meant “order.” One’s life is given by the god, thus it also meant “life.” In ten style, the shape was more stylized, which became the kanji with a hushizukuri.

The kun-yomi /i’nochi/ means “life; lifetime; most important thing; order” and is in 命がけで (“desperate; risking one’s life” /inochigake-de/.) The on-yomi /me’e/ is in 命日 (“anniversary of one’s death” /me’enichi/), 使命 (“mission” /shi’mee/) and 一生懸命 (“with all of one’s might; very hard” /isshooke’nmee/) and 運命 (“lot; fate” /u’nmee/).

3. The kanji 印 “seal; stamp”

We looked at the kanji 印 almost a year ago in connection with the left side that came from “a hand from above.” This is what I wrote: The oracle bone style showed a hand from above in front of a person who knelt down. In ten style a hand came above the person who was bowing deeply as if a hand were pushing him down. (May 24, 2014).  Since a few more writing samples are available to us now, we take this up again. History of Kanji 印On the left, the two samples of oracle bone style were mirror images of each other, a hand from above and a person who knelt down being pushed down. We are seeing more and more convincingly the samples that support our hypothesis that in oracle bone style which side an image faced did not matter. We also have two samples of bronze ware style, with the position of the hand differing. The difference corresponds with how the two components are placed in ten style (on the top and the bottom) and in kanji (the left and the right). A hand pushing a person or something down from above gave the meanings “to stamp a seal; or seal.”

The kun-yomi 印 /shirushi/ means “sign; seal; symbol; emblem,” and is in 目印 (“mark; sign; landmark” /meji’rushi/). The on-yomi /i’n/ is in 印刷 (“printing” /insatsu/), 印鑑 (“stamp; seal” /inka’n/) and 印字 (“printing; printed letter” /inji/). It is also used to mean “India” for the phonetic similarity.

4. The kanji 即 (卽) “at once; immediately; to ascend to the throne”

History of Kanji 即In the oracle bone style and bronze ware style of the kanji 即, we recognize that the left side was a part of 食, which was touched in the last post. The kanji 食 came from an image of food heaped on a dish with a lid. In 即, it did not have a lid, and on the right side was a person kneeling or standing with the food in front. From a person taking a seat for celebration meal, it signified ascending to the throne. With a heap of food, it was not an ordinary mealtime, but on a special occasion. Taking a seat for meal signified acting swiftly. The kyujitai, in blue, reflected ten style, in that we see a ladle at the bottom. The right side became simplified and became a hushizukuri.

The kun-yomi 即ち /suna’wachi/ means “that is to say; namely.” Another kun-yomi 即く /tsu’ku/ is in 王位に即く (“to ascend to the throne” /o’oi-ni tsu’ku/). The on-yomi /so’ku/ is in 即座に (“immediately; right away” /so’kuza-ni/), 即位 (“enthronement” /so’kui/) and 即売 (“sale on the spot” /sokubai/).

5. The kanji 節 “section; tune; moderation; holiday; envoy”

History of Kanji 節The kanji 節 comprises of a bushu takekanmuri “bamboo” and the kanji 即, which was used phonetically for /se’tsu./ The development is shown on the left. This kanji has a number of different meanings — A bamboo joint punctuates something that is continuous [“section”; “tune” of a song], and it prevents something from becoming excessive [“moderate”]. It was the time to sit down for a feast [“holiday or occasions”]. A foreign envoy to the imperial court had a bamboo tally that proved that he was on a genuine mission [“mission; envoy”].

The kun-yomi 節 /hushi’/ means “section; tune; occasion,” and is in 節目 (“turning point” /hushime’/). The on-yomi /se’tsu/ is in 節度を持つ (“to have restrained good behavior” /se’tsudo-o motsu/), 関節 (“joint” /kansetsu/), 節電 (“energy conservation” /setsuden/) and 使節 (“mission; envoy; delegate” /shi’setsu/).

6. The kanji 迎 “to welcome; receive”

Now we are going to look at four kanji that share the same component – 迎仰昂 and 抑 on the right side. History of Kanji 迎In ten style the left side of the kanji 迎 had a crossroad and a footprint, which became a bushu shinnyuu/shinnyoo in shinjitai. The center and right side were two people facing each other – a standing person and another person kneeling down with his back arched humbly and head lowered. Together they meant “to receive or welcome (a visitor).” A clever use of two different postures.

The kun-yomi 迎える /mukaeru/ means “to welcome; receive,” and is in 迎えに行く (“to go to pick up someone” /mukae’ni iku/) and 出迎える (“to go out to meet” /demukae’ru/). The on-yomi /ge’e/ is in 歓迎 (“welcome; reception” /kangee/), 送迎バス (“courtesy bus” /soogeeba’su/), and 迎合する (“to go along with someone’s view without own opinion” /geegoo-suru/).

7. The kanji 仰 “to respect; look up”

History of Kanji 仰For the kanji 仰, the ten style sample had a person facing left on the left side, which is a bushu ninben, “matter or act that is related to a person.” The center and right side together were used phonetically, and also had the meaning of “to look up,” from a sitting person looking upward to face a standing person, as in the kanji 迎. Altogether they meant “to respect; to look up to; to look up.”

The kun-yomi 師と仰ぐ /shi’-to ao’gu/ means “to look up to as a mentor,” and is in 天を仰ぐ (“to look up in the sky” /te’n-o ao’gu/) and 仰ぎ見る (“to look up a tree” /aogimi’ru/). Another kun-yomi is 仰せになる (“to say” /oose-ni-na’ru/) in a very honorific style. Sometimes the honorific verb おっしゃる (“to say” /ossha’ru/) is also written as 仰る. The on-yomi /gyo’o/ is in 仰天する (“to be astounded” /gyooten-suru/) and 大仰な (“exaggerated” /oogyoo-na/). Another on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 信仰 (“belief; faith” /shinkoo/).

8. The kanji 昂 “to be exalted”

History of Kanji 昂For kanji 昂 in ten style the bottom left was a standing person and the bottom right was a sitting person. A sitting person looking up to face a standing person signifying “to look upward” also created the kanji 昂, by adding the sun (日). Together with the sun 日 at the top they described the sun risen high. From that it meant “to rise; exalted.” The kun-yomi 昂る /takabu‘ru/ is in 気分が昂る (“to feel exalted” /ki’bun-ga takabu’ru/). The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 昂揚する (“to be exalted; get invigorated” /kooyoo-suru/).

9. The kanji 抑 “to restrain; press down”

History of Kanji 抑The last kanji 抑 for this post contains the shape that is common in 迎, 仰 and 昂, and yet the meaning (“to restrain; press down”) is quite opposite of those kanji. Why is that? The answer lies in its history. The oracle bone style and ten style writings shown on the left look identical or similar to the kanji 印 “seal; to stamp; sign.” Even though the two components, a kneeling person and a hand, were placed in the reverse position of the kanji 印, some scholars suggest this to be a variant of the kanji 印. So, there seem to two explanations for the kanji 抑 — one from 印, originally “a hand pushing down another person,” and another from the reverse placement of the two components that signified “to look up” — giving the meaning of a person or hand pushing down another. Both are consistent with the meaning of “to restrain; press down.”

The kun-yomi 抑える means “to press down; restrain (someone’s action.” The on-yomi /yo’ku/ is in 抑圧的 (“oppressive” /yokuatsuteki/), 抑制する (“to restrain” /yokusee-suru/) and 抑揚 (“inflection; modulation” /yokuyoo/). In Japanese pronunciation, the correct /yokuyoo/, tonal contour in this case, is very important. The name of the bushu ふしづくり must have come from the kanji 節, even though the kanji 節 belongs to the bushu takekanmuri group in the traditional classification. There are many other kanji that take this bushu shape, but we will move to other shapes in the next post. [April 18, 2015]

2015-04-26 The Kanji 負危色配巻港選(絶己) – Posture (7)

However small, every component of kanji had a role to play in its origin. The shape that looks like a truncated katakana /ku/ (ク) that we see at the top of the kanji 急, 負, 色 and 危 is no exception. History of Kanji 急 (frame)It would have been more convincing if we had a sample writing in oracle bone style or bronze ware style. Fortunately we had a full range of ancient style writings for the kanji 及. A newly joined reader may say, “The kanji 及 does not have a truncated /ku/ shape.” That is true, but in one of the earlier posts [February 7, 2015 post] we saw that in ten style 急 and 及 had shared the same shape, as shown on the right side. History of Kanji 及(frame)

The kanji 及 It is reasonable that what we see in the development of 及 can be used to understand the shape in 急負色危. For the kanji 及, in oracle bone style, in brown, and bronze ware style, in green, it  had a person standing, bending his back slightly. Then in ten style, in red, his arms stretched long and his back bent forward deeply. This shape became the kanji 及, and 急 by adding 心 “heart” at the bottom. From this we can say that the truncated /ku/ shape in those kanji meant “person” standing or crouching with his arms extended. Let us look at three kanji here.

  1. The kanji 負 “to bear; carry on one’s back”

History of Kanji 負In the ten style of the kanji 負, the top was a person with a stooped back. The bottom was a cowry that represented something valuable or money. Together a person carrying money or something on his back meant “to carry something on the back.” Carrying a burden or debt on one’s back also meant “to owe.” It was also extended to mean “loss.”

The kun-yomi 負う /ou/ means “to owe; carry on his back,” and is in 重任を負う (“to bear a heavy responsibility” /juunin-o ou/) and 背負う (“to carry on one’s back; to shoulder” /seo’u/). Another kun-yomi 負ける /makeru/ means “to lose” and is in 勝ち負け (“victory and defeat” /kachi’make/) and 根負けする (“to have one’s patience exhausted” /konmake-suru/). The on-yomi /hu/ is in 負担 (“to bear” /hutan/), 自負する (“to take pride in; flatter oneself in” /jihu-suru/). Another sound /bu/ is in 勝負 (“match; fight” /sho’obu/.)

  1. The kanji 危 “perilous; danger”

History of Kanji 危The ten style of the kanji 危 had a person crouching dangerously on top of a cliff (厂). It signified something perilous or dangerous. To emphasize danger, another person crouching was added under the cliff. From someone being scared, it meant “danger; perilous.” In kanji, however, the person changed to the shape that had some similarity to hushizukuri (卩), except that the bottom goes up. This is another shape of a “person” in other kanji, such as 犯 “to violate” and 氾 “to flood.”

There are two kun-yomi for 危. 危ない /abunai/ means “dangerous” and 危うく /ayauku/ “almost; nearly” is used when a danger is averted in the end, in the phrase such as 危うく遅刻するところだった (“I almost arrived late (but I did not)” /ayauku chikokusuru-tokoro’-datta/). The on-yomi /ki/ is in 危険物 (“dangerous article” /kike’nbutsu/), 危惧する (“to feel apprehensive about” /ki’gu-suru/), and 危機一髪で (“in the nick of time” /ki’ki ippatsu/.)

  1. The kanji 色 “color; characteristics of; lust”

History of Kanji 色In the ten style of the kanji 色, the top was a person, and the bottom was another person. Together they meant amorous affairs. The meaning of color comes from the heightened facial color. It was also used as “characteristics.” In kanji the bottom became the shape 巴 called /tomoe/. (It is not a Joyo-kanji.) In judo there is a throw called 巴投げ /tomoenage/ “somersault throw” from a crouched position. I do not know if it is an official name of 技 (“winning move” /waza’/). The kun-yomi 色 /iro’/ means “color; complexion; lust; kind,” and is in 色々な (“various” /iroirona/), 色紙 (“color folding paper for origami craft” /iro’gami/), 色事 (“amorous affairs” /irogo’to/). The on-yomi /sho’ku/ is in 特色 (“specific character” /tokushoku/). Another on-yomi /shi’ki/ is in 色素 (“pigment” /shiki’so/.)

History of Kanji 絶(frame)The kanji 絶: The kanji 色 also appears on the right side of the kanji 絶. The writing in gray is an old style given in Setsumon. It has shelves of skeins of threats.  In ten style, we can see that the top right came from a knife rather than a person, shown on the right. From “cutting (/se’tsu/ phonetically meant “to cut”) threads with a knife,” it meant “to cut; cease.” They are related in meaning in that the kanji 絶 “to cut; cease” came from “cutting beautiful color threads.” Beautiful color threads gave the meaning of “exquisitely beautiful.” Something was so exquisitely beautiful that it would not allow comparison, thus “absolutely.”

The next four kanji 配巻港 and 選 share the component 己.

History of Kanji 己(frame)The kanji 己:  The kanji 己 by itself means “self” as in 自己 (“self” /ji’ko/), 知己 (“someone who knows me well; good friend” /chi’ki/), and 利己的な (“selfish” /rikoteki-na/). The meaning “oneself’ seemingly fits well with the meaning of “person.” However, the development of 己 as kanji is unrelated to “person,” as shown on the right. The three ancient styles are generally interpreted as some sort of ruler or tool used in carpentry work. It was just borrowed to mean “self.”

  1. The kanji 配 “to hand out; deliver”

History of Kanji 配In oracle bone style and bronze ware style of the kanji 配, the left side was a rice wine cask, and the right side was a person with his hands on his knees watching the rice wine cask closely. It signified a person sitting in front of rice wine to be served or a person who stayed close by. It meant “to deliver; deal; hand out.” In ten style, the shape for the person on the right side became one continuous line, dropping the hands, and became the 己 shape in kanji.

The kun-yomi 配る /kuba’ru/ means “to distribute; arrange.” The on-yomi /hai/ is in 配達する (“to deliver (good)” /haitatsu-suru/), 配分する (“to distribute; apportion among” /haibun-suru/), 配偶者 (“spouse” /haigu’usha/). Another sound /pai/ is in 心配する (“to worry” /shinpaisuru/).

  1. The kanji 巻 “to roll”

History of Kanji 巻In the ten style of the kanji 巻, in the bottom half we see a crouched person under two hands. But what was the top half about? There are at least two different views. One view was that it was rice (米), and altogether they meant two hands making rice ball. From that it meant “to roll.” Another view was that the top was an animal paw, which signified animal hide. (An animal hide was used to write a pledge and cut in half as a stub, as in the kanji 券.) Together they meant two hands rolling an animal hide. By the time of kyujitai kanji, in blue, there was a drastic change. Before paper was invented, a record was written on bamboo or wooden tablets that were tied together and rolled up for storage. From that the kanji 巻 is also used as a volume counter for a serial.

The kun-yomi 巻く /maku/ means “to roll” and the word 海苔巻き (“seaweed sushi roll” /nori’maki/), 巻き込まれる (“to get dragged into” /makikomare’ru/). The on-yomi /ka’n/ is in 第三巻 (“third volume” /da’i sa’nkan/). Another on-yomi /ke’n/ is in 席巻する (“to sweep over” /sekken-suru/).

  1. The kanji 港 “port”

History of Kanji 港For the kanji 港, we have three different ten style samples shown on the left. Writing (a) is comprised of 共 “together” at the top, from many hands holding up something together, and the bottom 邑 “village,” from an area where many people live. Together they meant a busy place where many activities were happening. Writing (b) had two 邑 “village” on both side of 共, signifying the same as (a). These two ten style writings, (a) and (b), were shared by another kanji 巷 /chimata/. The kanji 巷 is not a Joyo-kanji but the word /chimata/ means “crowded town.” It is used in a phrase such as 巷の噂では (“according to a rumor in town” /chimata-no-uwasa-de’wa/), quoting irresponsive, most likely an unfounded, rumor. Writing (c) had water on the left side and writing (a) on the right side, and it became the kanji shape 港. Together they meant a waterfront where many people come, which is a port. The kun-yomi 港 /minato/ means “port.” The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 空港 (“airport” /kuukoo/) and 漁港 (“fishing port” /gyokoo/.)

  1. The kanji 選 “to select”

History選It has been a while since we looked at the kanji 選 [September 26, 2014, post] in connection with the meaning of 共. Let us revisit this kanji, focusing on the two little 己 above 共 this time. In both bronze ware style and ten style, two people were putting their hands on their knees, which were bent. They also had a footprint and a cross road even though the placement was different — side by side, in bronze ware style; and at top and the bottom, in ten style. From select people doing votive dancing on a stage for the god to see, it meant “to select.”

Well, we have seen quite a lot of shapes that came from a posture that a person made using the whole body. I feel I ought to make a table of those shapes so that we can review them. It is time for us to move to another topic for now. [April 26, 2015.]

2015-05-02 The Kanji 子字学孫孝身射謝

In this post, we are going to look at the kanji that contain the image of a “baby” (子) in 子字学孫孝保 and a “pregnant woman” (身) in 身射謝.

1. The kanji 子 “child”

History of Kanji 子In oracle bone style, in brown, bronze ware style, in green, and ten style, in red, it was a baby. Of a large number of samples available in reference there are two different types if we look at what the baby’s hands are doing. (a) and (c) have two arms in the same manner whereas (b) and (d) have one arm upward and the other downward. Shirakawa noted, with some reference to the ancient documents, that the second type meant a “prince.” Here we simply take them as the two wiggly hands of a baby. The kanji 子 meant “child.” It is also used for something that was produced from something else, such as interest from capital.

The kun-yomi /ko/ is in 子供 (“child” /kodomo/), どこの子 (“whose child” /do’ko-no-ko), 男の子 (“boy; male child” /otoko’noko/). The on-yomi /shi/ is in 女子 (“young women; girls” /jo’shi/), 弟子 (“disciple; student in traditional art” /deshi’/), 利子 (“financial interest” /ri’shi/), 子音 (“consonant” /shiin/). Another on-yomi /su/ is in 椅子 (“chair” /isu/).

2 The kanji 字 “writing; letter; character”

History of Kanji 字Placing a baby inside a house created the writing 字. A child was born in a house and was given a called name (字 /azana/) before getting a formal name. The writing for the name was used to mean “writing.” Also, writing was created one after another starting with a simple one, like a child being born. The kanji 字 means “writing; letter; character.”

The kun-yomi /azana/ means “called name; nickname” and /a’za/ was a small section of town in olden days. The on-yomi /ji/ is in 文字 (“writing; letter; character” /mo’ji/), 数字 (“figure; numeral” /suuji/), 字幕 (“subtitle; superimposed dialogue” /jimaku/), 字体 (“typeface; print; font type” /jitai/). In a tanka poem (5-7-5-7-7 syllables) and haiku poem (5-7-5 syllable), if a phrase exceeds the set syllable number, it is called 字余り (“poem with an extra syllable” /jia’mari/). (Technically speaking, in Japanese it is not a syllable but a mora, 拍 /ha’ku/.)

3. The kanji 学 “to learn; study”

History学The kanji 学 has the kyujitai 學. In oracle bone style (1), the top was two hands or people mingling (an “x” shape in the middle), and the bottom was a house. In bronze ware style (2) a child was added inside the house. Together they signified caring hands of adults helping children to learn in a schoolhouse. From a place of learning for children it meant “to learn.” The tops of the ten style (3) and kyujitai writings (4) were the same as those of the kanji 覚 [as discussed in the April 12, 2015, post.] The kun-yomi /mana/ is in 学ぶ (“to learn; study” /manabu/) and 学び舎 (“place of learning” [poetic style] /manabiya/). The on-yomi /ga’ku/ is in 通学する (“to commute to school” /tsuugaku-suru/) and 学習 (“learning; study” /gakushuu/) and /gatt/ is in 学校 (“school” /gakkoo/), 小学校 (“elementary school” /shooga’kkoo/).

4. The kanji 孫 “grandchild”

History of Kanji 孫In oracle bone style and bronze ware style, the left side was a child, and the bottom right was a string of silk cocoons or skein of threads. A thread is long and continuous, so it signified “continuity.” In ten style the right side became the kanji 系 “connection,” which had an additional stroke to the kanji 糸 “thread.”

History of Kanji 系(frame)The history of the kanji 系 is shown on the right side – It started as many strings of silk cocoons or skeins pulled together by a hand at the top. Holding many strings together signified “to unite; connect.” In ten style the hand got simplified to a single stroke, and a single skein of threads.

With the two kanji 子 and 系 together, they meant a child who was connected, that is “grandchild; off-spring.” The kun-yomi /mago’/ means “grandchild” and is in ひ孫 (“great-grandchild” /himago/)” and 孫娘 (“granddaughter” /magomu’sume/). The on-yomi /so’n/ is in 子孫 (“descendant” /shi’son/).

5. The kanji 孝 “filial duty”

History of Kanji 孝(frame)We have discussed the kanji 孝 along with the kanji 考 and 老 in the January 30, 2015, post. The common component among those kanji is called a bushu oigashira and meant “old; long time.” In the development of the kanji 孝, shown on the right, in all of the ancient style writings it had a long-haired old man stooping over at the top. Underneath that was a child. A child taking care of old parents meant “filial responsibility.” There is no kun-yomi for this kanji and the on-yomi /ko’o/ is used in a very limited way such as in 親孝行 (“filial duty; kind to one’s parents” ‘oyako’okoo/) and 忠孝 (“loyalty and filial responsibility” /chu’ukoo/).

6. The kanji 保 “to keep; maintain; protect”

History of Kanji 保The kanji 保 does not have 子 in the kanji, but in ancient writings it was unmistakably present. So, let us look at this kanji here too. The oracle bone style and the first bronze ware style samples were picture-like — an adult holding a baby in her arms. It originally meant “to care for an infant; protect.” Another bronze ware style writing sample on the right was from a later time (third century, A.D.), and it had a person on the left and an infant with a caring hand, or possibly a diaper, at the bottom right. In ten style, the right side was “a baby with diapers on.” So, from a person caring for a baby, it meant “to keep; maintain; protect.”

The kun-yomi 保つ /tamo’tsu/ means “to keep; maintain.” The on-yomi /ho/ is in 保険 (“insurance” /hoken/), 保母 (“nursery school teacher” /ho’bo/) and 保存する (“to preserve” /hozon-suru/). [Oh, did you just notice that 保存する contained 子 in 存?  子 in this case was just used phonetically to mean “to exist.”]

7.  The kanji 身 “body; person”

History of Kanji 身The kanji 身 was an image of a pregnant woman with a large belly who was viewed from the side. The fullness of a body was extended to mean “one’s body; own life; flesh.” The meaning of pregnancy was dropped. The kun-yomi 身 /mi/ means “body; person; one’s life,” and is in 身内 (“relatives; family” /miuchi/), 身軽な (“agile” /migaruna/), 身の上話 (“one’s life story” /minoueba’nashi/) and 身分 (“one’s social standing or status” /mi’bun/). The on-yomi /shi’n/ is in 自身 (“self; oneself” /ji’shin/) and 出身地 (“one’s hometown” /shusshi’nchi/).

8. The kanji 射 “to shoot”

History of Kanji 射The kanji 射 is comprised of two kanji, 身 and 寸. However, it has no relationship with 身 in meaning or sound, as the oracle bone and bronze ware style writings on the left demonstrate. In these two styles, it was an arrow on a bow being pulled by a hand. It meant “to shoot an arrow.” In ten style, the dilated shape of the bow was “mistakenly” taken as the same as the origin of 身. In kanji the original meaning of an arrow and a bow in oracle bone and bronze ware styles was kept, and it meant “to shoot.” The kun-yomi 射る /i’ru/ means “to shoot an arrow,” and is in 射止める (“to shoot; win; gain” /itome’ru/). The on-yomi /sha/ is in 発射する (“to fire; discharge” /hassha-suru/).

9. The kanji 謝 “to apologize; thankful”

History of Kanji 謝The kanji 謝 is the kanji 射 with a bushu gonben “words; language” added on the left. The bronze ware style writing was the same as 射. Here 射 was used phonetically to mean “to forgive.” Together with the additional meaning of “words,” they meant “to apologize; to be thankful.” The kun-yomi 謝る /ayama’ru/ means “to apologize,” and is in 平謝りに謝る (“to make a humble apology profusely” /hiraayamari-ni ayama’ru/). The on-yomi /sha/ is in 感謝する (“to be grateful; thank; appreciate” /ka’nsha-suru/), 月謝 (“monthly tuition” /gessha/), 謝罪 (“apology” /shazai) and 謝恩セール (“customer appreciation sale” /shaonse’eru/).

For the next post, I am thinking about the kanji 執熱熟塾芸 and 丸. Until I started to write the Key to Kanji, it had never occurred to me that the first five kanji had a “person.” [May 2, 2015]

2015-05-09 The Kanji 丸熱勢芸土執摯幸 – the component 丸凡 (1)

In the last post we looked at the kanji that originated from a baby. Now we return to a posture made by an adult, but this time with two additional arms in focus — “a person kneeling down with his arms stretching forward.” What he was doing using the two hands is the focus of this and the next posts. It may be a little messy because these kanji look so alike, and some kanji are outside the 1100 kanji that I discuss (but they are mostly Joyo kanji, and therefore are used regularly).

kanjicomponent丸The kanji we are going to look at — 熱勢芸(藝)執摯孰熟塾築恐 — had the common shape of either 丸 or 凡 on the right side or upper right side of the kanji. They came from the same ten style shape, as shown on the right side in red. In ten style in the middle are two hands, and the long contour that surrounded the two hands was a person kneeling down. There are at least four different components that were teamed up with this shape. We are going to look at them as [A. Top of the kanji 熱勢芸(藝)] and [B. 執 in 執摯] in this post, and the components [C. 享 in 孰熟塾] and [D. 凡 in 築恐] in the next post.

1. The kanji 丸 “round; whole”

History of Kanji 丸Before we begin to look at the component 丸 in kanji, we need to know that this shape standing alone is the kanji 丸 /maru/. The kanji 丸 came from a totally different origin, and is not related to kanji that takes 丸 as its component. The history of the kanji 丸 is shown on the left. In both bronze ware style, in green, and ten style, in red, it was a person with his back bending forward facing a cliff. From a body in a coiled up position under a cliff, it meant “round.” In Japanese, a round shape also meant “whole; entirety.” The kun-yomi /maru/ means “circle” and is in 丸い (“round“ /marui/) and 丸焼き (“roasting whole” /maruyaki/), 丸ごと (“whole; altogether” /marugoto/), 丸つぶれ (“complete destruction; utter failure” /marutsubure/), and 日の丸 (“Japanese rising sun flag” /hinomaru/). The on-yomi /ga’n/ is in 弾丸 (“bullet” /dangan/).

Now we begin our exploration of 丸 as a kanji component.

A “Plant and soil” in 熱勢藝(芸)

History of Kanji 熱勢芸(藝)の上部The writing whose development of  is shown on the left side is not a kanji in Japanese. Since Some kanji only have ten style writing, this  well-documented writing helps us to understand the development of the shapes and meaning of the kanji that we are interested in now.

In oracle bone style, (a) and (b), and in bronze ware style, (c), it had a person who was kneeling down as he held a young plant in a pot with two hands. In kanji origin, doing something with both hands generally signified “with care and attention,” as we have seen in the earlier posts about two hands. So, these writings meant History of Kanji 土 (frame)“to take care of a young plant carefully.” From sample (d) on, the plant was placed on the ground (土) directly. The bulge we see under a plant in (d) signified a lump of soil to celebrate the god of the earth, as shown in the development of the kanji 土 shown on the right. The right side of (d) looks similar to a “dog” in ancient writing, but I cannot find any explanation in the references. In (e), the upper right was a crouched body with two hands and the lower right was a woman. In ten style, (f), the right side went back to having just a crouching person with two hands. In kanji shape, (g), the plant became 土 and ハ.  So the component A consist of 土, ハ, 土 and 丸 in kanji. It meant “to nurse a plant” and “hand skills to grow plants; hand skills.”

2. The kanji 熱 “heat; warm; hot”

History of Kanji 熱In the ten style writing of the kanji 熱, in addition to a plant on the ground and a person kneeling down with his two hands, it had 火 “fire” to signify “heat; warmth.” The writing we have just seen above (which is not a kanji now) was the original writing for this meaning. Plants grow better in a warm environment. Together they meant “warmth; heat.” In kanji, the bottom became the bushu called renga or rekka “fire,” which had four dots. We can view those four dots as small flames. Most writing that had “fire” at the bottom have this bushu in kanji. The kun-yomi is 熱い /atsu’i/ (“hot”). The on-yomi  熱 /netsu’/ means “heat” and is in 熱がある (“to have a fever” /netsu’ga aru/), 熱っぽく (“intently; enthusiastically” /netsuppo’ku/), 熱気 (“enthusiasm” /nekki/), and 熱狂的な (“exuberant; enthusiastic” /nekkyooteki-na/).

3. The kanji 勢 “vigor; momentum; impetus”

History of Kanji 勢In the ten style writing of the kanji 勢, in addition to a plant on the ground and a person kneeling down with his two hands, a plough or hoe was added at the bottom. Together they signified that by using a plough or hoe to till the soil plants grew vigorously. As we have discussed, the kanji 力 came from either “strong hand” or “plough; hoe.” In this writing,  力 makes sense to view this as a tool to cultivate the field, a plough or hoe. It meant “vigor; momentum; impetus.”

The kun-yomi /ikio’i/ “rigor” is in 勢いのいい (“vigorous; to have good momentum” /ikioi-no-i’i/). The on-yomi /se’e/ is in 勢力 (“power; force” /se’eryoku/), 加勢する (“to support; back up” /kasee-suru/), and 気勢をそぐ (“to discourage” /kisee-o so’gu/). Another on-yomi /ze’e/ is in 大勢 (“many people” /oozee/ as a noun; /ooze’e de/ as an adjective). Two different word accent patterns, depending on how it is used in a sentence.

4. The kanji 芸 (藝) “skill; art”

History of Kanji 芸 (藝)The kyujitai 藝 of the shinjitai kanji 芸 has a fuller documentation than 熱 and 勢, as shown on the left. In oracle bone style, the two samples were almost identical to what we saw in (a) and (b) above. The bronze ware style and ten style samples were exactly the same, suggesting that the two writings came from the same writing whose meaning had originally been more inclusive. In this writing, it meant “skills and art for which one used hands.” In the kyujitai, in blue, the bushu kusakanmuri “plants” was added at the top, which came from the original meaning of growing plants. At the bottom the shape 云 was also added. Hmm… What does the shape 云 mean? We wonder.

The Kadokawa dictionary says that it came from the kanji 耘 “to cut grass” (耘 is not a Joyo kanji, but is used in 耕耘機 /koou’nki/ “tilling machine”). Shirakawa says 耘 is not related, but he did not explain why 云 was added. So, using my miniscule brain and knowledge I have to come up with something. The kanji 云 originally came from “clouds rising” and meant “cloud.” For the kanji 雲 “cloud,” later on the bushu amekanmuri (雨) “meteorological phenomenon, such as rain that falls from the sky” was added. So, could it mean that the plants grew like clouds? I only speculate – I do not have the answer. (The kanji 云 is sometimes used to mean “to say” as in 云う /iu/, but it was just a borrowing.) In shinjitai, the entire component of “two hands growing plants; hand skills that enable to grow plants or create art” disappeared, and became 芸. It has become an empty shape and does not convey much content. It is ironic that what matters most to its meaning was dropped entirely.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi 芸 /ge’e/ means “skill; art,” and in 芸術 (“art; fine arts” /geejutsu/), 芸人 (“performer; entertainer” /geenoo/), 芸能 (“performing art” /geenoo/), 手芸 (“needle craft” /shugee/), and 園芸 (“gardening” /engee/), which originated this writing in the first place.

B. 執 “to grab; have a power to carry out”

5. The kanji 執 “to grab; have a power to carry out”

History of Kanji 執The component B type has 幸 in the kanji 執 and 摯. The kanji 執 is also well documented as shown on the left. In oracle bone style, (a) and (b), a person kneeling down was putting his hands out to get his hands shackled. Restraining a criminal with hand shackles signified “to retain; take; grab” and it signified the authority’s act. You might say, “Wait! The kanji 幸 means good luck or happiness. How is it related to the meaning a hand shackle or handcuff?” The story of the kanji 幸 has a twist. Let us make a little detour on this.

History of Kanji 幸 (frame)The history of the kanji 幸 is shown on the right side. In the two oracle bone style writing samples, the symmetrical shape vertically placed was a handcuff for two hands locked on the both sides. It meant “calamity; misfortune” — to be caught as a criminal. In ten style, it took different components – the top was a person being struck in the head 夭 (do you see his head tilted?), and the bottom was the ten style shape for the kanji 逆 “reverse,” which originated from a person upside down.  A reversal of one’s calamity meant “good luck.” It means “luck; happiness.”

Now back to the kanji 執. So, from having the meaning of a prisoner putting his hands out to be shackled, the writing was used for an action by the authority. The kun-yomi is 執る (“to assume the power” /to’ru/). The on-yomi /shi’tsu/ is in 執務中 (“at work; during work” /shitsumu-chuu/), 執権 (“regent” /shikken/), 刑の執行 (“execution of punishment” /ke’e-no shikkoo/), and 執刀 (“surgical operation” /shittoo/). Another on-yomi /shu’u/ is used in words that involve holding onto something for a long time, such as 執念深い (“vengeful; spiteful” /shuunenbuka’i/) and 執着する (“to be deeply attached” /shuuchaku-suru/).

6. The kanji 摯 “very earnest; very sincere”

History of Kanji 摯This kanji was added to the Joyo Kanji list in 2010. It is used in only one but an important word – 真摯な (“very earnest: very sincere” /shi’nshi-na/), the virtue that Japanese culture values. (When I agreed to write a letter of recommendation in Japanese for my student, the word 真摯 was certainly essential in writing a positive letter.) The selection of the government kanji list usually focuses on how productive a kanji is in terms of making up words. The kanji 摯 is so limited in use that it had been excluded from the old Joyo Kanji list.

We have two oracle bone style samples shown above. In them on the upper right corner do you see a hand placed above the person kneeling?  This extra hand is the key to this kanji. It signified “to grab a person or matter by hand firmly.” The kanji 摯 means “to grab something and work on it seriously.” In ten style, a grabbing hand was moved to the bottom.

We will continue to discuss more kanji that came from a person sitting down with his two hands stretched out in the next post. [May 9, 2015]

2015-05-17 The Kanji 孰熟塾享築恐工 – the component 丸凡 (2)

This is the second half of our exploration on the kanji components that contain a person with two hands reaching forward.

C. 孰 “hands cooking food thoroughly”

7. The kanji 孰 “either; anyway”

History of Kanji 孰The rarely used kanji 孰 in 孰れ /izure/ “either; which option; future; anyway” is not a Joyo kanji, but its history, shown on the left, helps us to understand the two kanji, 熟 and 塾. In oracle bone style of the kanji 孰, in brown, the left side was a cooking stove with a lid on top. The right side was a person who was cooking with his two hands above the stove. They meant “to cook food thoroughly.” In bronze ware style, in green, the upper left became a multiple layered cooking stove and the lower left appeared to be a woman. The right side was a person with two hands. In ten style, in red, the lower left was replaced by “sheep” 羊, which signified tasty meat or food. In kanji the lower left was replaced by 子.

There is no on-yomi word for this kanji, but it was borrowed in kun-yomi words in classical literature to mean “either; which; future.” It may be related to the original meaning of the right side of the kanji having the meaning of “to grab; take.” The kun-yomi is 孰れ /izure/ but the words that could use this kanji are usually written in hiragana nowadays. They include いずれ (孰れ) (sometime in the future), いずれかを取る (“to choose either one” /izureka’ o to’ru/) and いずれにせよ (“whichever the case may be; at any rate” /izurenise’yo/). Those expressions are frequently used in polite or business speech.

History of Kanji 享&亨Notes on 享 (亨) to mean “cooking.”– The left side of the kanji 孰 by itself is the kanji 享 (a Joyo kanji) and it means “to receive” (/uke’ru/ in kun-yomi and /kyo’o/ in on-yomi, in words such as 享受する “to enjoy” /kyo’oju/.)  Another kanji 亨 “through; to cook through” (only used in a name now) shared the same origin. When a bushu rekka or renga, “fire,” is added at the bottom to 亨, it made the kanji 烹 (/ho‘o; po’o/) and meant “cooking.” 割烹料理 /kappooryo’ori/ means “Japanese style cooking.” A white cooking apron that any housewife used to wear over the kimono is called 割烹着 /kappo’ogi/. It covered the sleeves of the kimono and wide area in front through most of the back. Nowadays most people use a western style apron, but some school children still wear them on their lunch service duty 給食当番 /kyuushoku-to’oban./

8. The kanji 熟 “to mature; ripen”

By adding a fire (bushu renga or rekka) at the bottom of the kanji 孰, we get the kanji 熟. There is no ancient writing for this kanji. Putting food on a fire signified “cooking thoroughly,” and from that it meant “to ripen; thoroughly.” The kun-yomi 熟れる /ure’ru/ means “(fruit) to ripen.” The on-yomi /ju’ku/ is in 熟する “to ripen” and in 機が熟する (“ripe opportunity” /ki’ga jukusu’ru/). It is also in 完熟トマト (“ripe tomato”  /kanjukuto’mato/), 未熟な (“immature” /mijukuna/), 早熟な子供 (“precocious child” /soojuku-na kodomo/), 熟睡する (“to sleep soundly” /jukusui-suru/). More recently the word 熟年層 (“mature people; middle aged and older” /jukune’nsoo/) has appeared as the older population gets more attention.

9. The kanji 塾 “private tutoring classes”

Adding 土 “soil; ground” to the kanji 孰, we get the another kanji 塾 /ju’ku/. There is no ancient writing for this kanji. It meant a place where students were educated privately. Juku 塾 is now a part of Japanese education, which is rigidly competitive. A large number of children attend after-school classes where they deepen their understanding of lesson materials. The meaning of ripening or cooking thoroughly is applied to learning and thinking — I find this very interesting. Tuition can be a burden on the parents, who feel that they do not have a choice if they want the best for their children. The kanji 塾 does not have any kun-yomi.

D. 凡 “hands holding a tool” in 築恐

The fourth component that teams up with the shape that originated with “a person kneeling down with his two hands forward” resulted in the shape 凡, not 丸. We look at two kanji, 築 and 恐 here.

10. The kanji 築 “to build; construct”

History of Kanji 築In the bronze ware style writing of the kanji 築 the top was bamboo and the lower left had the shape 工 “craft work” and 木 “tree; wood.” The right side was a person kneeing down with his hands out. Bamboo and wood signified construction materials. So, altogether they meant that a person was engaged on building something using wooden boards and bamboo sticks. In ten style the position of these four components remained the same. The kanji 築 meant “to construct; build.“ The kun-yomi 築く /kizu’ku/ means “to construct; build.” (Please note that when you write the word 築く in hiragana, you write きずく, whereas the same pronunciation verb 気付く is written in きづく.)  The on-yomi /chi’ku/ is in 建築 (“architecture” /kenchiku/), 建築家 (“architect” /kenchikuka/) 構築する (“to construct” /koochiku-suru/).

History of Kanji 筑The top without 木 is another kanji, 筑. Even though it has the same meaning “to construct; build,” it is only used in names of an area or a person in Japanese. It is believed to be the earlier shape of the kanji 築, but there is no bronze ware style sample available to us for 筑.

11. The kanji 恐 “to fear”

History of Kanji 恐(2)The kanji 恐 contains the middle component of the kanji 築. The meanings of these two kanji differ drastically. In fact we have already looked at the kanji 恐 in an earlier post [February 28, 2015] in the context of 心 “heart.” This time I am adding a couple more writing samples, (b) and (c), in the development shown on the left side. In bronze ware style (a), a person kneeling down was holding something with two hands. A later bronze ware style, (b), and (c) in the Setsumon kobun (古文), an older style writing cited in Setsumon Kaiji, had only 工 and a heart. How did the two shapes 工 and 心 lead to the meaning “to fear”?  The answer must be in the shape 工.

History of Kanji 工(frame)The development of the kanji 工 is shown on the right. A simple shape such as 工 allows all kinds of interpretations, including — a carpenter’s ruler; two boards connected with a stick; a work area for pounding iron; or a tool in a religious rite.  Shirakawa (2004)’s explanation was that it was a tool for magic or spells and that the writing meant the person was praying to a god as he held up a tool for magic or a spell. From “fear of god” it meant “fear.” An interpretation that involves magic or spells in ancient times is not something I feel very comfortable with, but for this kanji other interpretations do not seem to add up convincingly to me. So, I leave as it is.

History of Kanji 凡(frame)Incidentally the shape 凡 by itself is a kanji /bo’n; ha’n/ “general; ordinary,” but the origin is totally unrelated as you can see on the right side.

Now let us summarize the two posts in which we have looked at kanji that originated from a person doing something with two hands. By the way the shape is called /geki/ but there is absolutely no need for us to know. We have two tables to help us for our review:

Table1History of Kanji Component 丸凡

Table 1 shows:

(1) We now know what the original shape of the kanji component 丸 or 凡 looked like – it was a kneeling person with his two hands reaching forward. From that the kanji component 丸 or 凡 pertains to an act that one does using two hands.

Table 2 Four Comibination Types of 丸凡

Table 2 shows the following:

(2) There are four types of shapes that appear on the left side of 丸 or 凡, each forming a different meaning.

Type A, in the kanji 熱勢藝 (芸), had a plant to grow on the left side. Together they pertained to hands used to grow a plant, rigorously and skillfully.

Type B, in the kanji 執摯, had a handcuff on the left side. Together they pertained to the authority to carry out a job or the manner of carrying out a job.

Type C, in the kanji (孰)熟塾, had a cooking stove on the left side. Together they pertained to heat or to heat up thoroughly.

Type D, in the kanji 築恐, had a craft or tool on the left side. Together they pertained to building or casting spell with a tool to instill “fear.”

I will not be able to post an article for the next two or three weeks but hope to resume in June. Thank you very much for your interest in reading this blog. Noriko Williams  [May 16, 2015]

2015-06-06 The Kanji 民眠盲衆自面首道導

  1. The kanji 民 “people”

The origin of the kanji 民 was closely related an eye and I could have discussed this kanji more than a year ago when we looked at “eye” in five posts (from March through April in 2014.) But the origin of the kanji 民 is so gruesome and would cast such a shadow on our values that I have avoided discussing it until now. But it is time for us to face the historical fact. So let us look at it.

History of Kanji 民The two bronze ware writings, in green, had an eye at the top and a needle piercing an eye to make one blind. It signified that people without ability to see things would follow the order of their ruler blindly. Ten style sample is in red. According to the reference I have used said that this reflected the slavery of ancient times in which captives from conquered foreign tribes were made slaves. Then it became more inclusive of newly conquered subjects to rule or just “people.” From the fact that the ancient Chinese writing originated as the writing for a ruler to communicate with a god in ruling his country, this standpoint of treating people as “those who obey blindly” is not entirely surprising. Nonetheless for us who breezily accept democracy 民主主義 (/minshushu’gi/) as a principle of governance by the people in our life, it makes us to pause to think a little about the word-formation – “those who obey the master blindly.”  The kanji 民 means “people; civil; non-governmental.”

The kun-yomi 民 /ta’mi/ by itself is the word for “people; subject.” The on-yomi /mi’n/ is in 国民 (“people; nationality; citizen” /kokumin/), 民主的な (“democratic” /minshuteki-na/) and 民間 (“non-governmental; civilian; people-level” /minkan/), as contrasted to the word that has the kanji 官 /ka’n/ “governmental; bureaucratic.”

History of Kanji 盲The kanji 盲 “blind”– The kanji for “blindness; blind person” is 盲. The top is 亡 “to disappear; loss; die,” and the bottom is 目 “eye,” as shown in ten style on the right. Together “loss of eye” meant “blindness.” The kun-yomi 盲 /mekura/ means “blind,” and the on-yomi /mo’o/ is in 盲目 (“blind” /moomoku/), 盲目的に (“blindly” /moomokuteki-ni/) and 文盲 (“illiterate person” /monmoo/).

  1. The kanji 眠 “to sleep; sleepy”

The kanji 眠 contains the kanji 民. There is no ancient writing for this kanji, which suggests that it was created at a later time. But with the original making of 民 “one cannot see” and an eye, 目, together,  the kanji 眠 means “to sleep.” The kun-yomi 眠る /nemuru/ means “to sleep; slumber; lie dormant,” and is in 眠い or 眠たい (“sleepy” /nemui/ or /nemutai/), and 居眠り (“doze” /ine’muri). The on-yomi /mi’n/ is in 睡眠(“sleep” /suimin/), 睡眠不足 (“lack of sleep” /suiminbu’soku/) and 仮眠を取る (“to take a nap” /kamin-o to’ru/).

  1. The kanji 衆 “people; mass”

History of Kanji 衆Another kanji for people en mass is 衆. In the three ancient styles on the left, the bottoms all had three people standing in the same direction, signifying “people following.” In kanji, two usually means “many,” so having three are really a “mass of people.” There are different interpretations for the top, however – (1) an enclosed area in oracle bone style; (2) the sun in bronze ware style; and (3) an eye in ten style. The top and the bottom together signified “many people working under watchful eyes following the order under the sun.” From that it meant “a lot of people; mass.” Like the kanji 民, in 衆 we have a glimpse of the fact that the writing was created from the standpoint of a ruler. Not surprising at all. StrokeOrder衆In kanji the top became 血 “blood,” instead of a sideways eye as seen in the ten style sample. It is interesting to see how a person was represented in three different shapes in three different writing styles at the bottom. The stroke order is shown on the right.

There is no kun-yomi. The two on-yomi are /shu’u/ (and /shu/), and is in 大衆文化 (“popular culture” /taishuubu’nka/) and 群衆 (“crowd; throng” /gunshuu/).

  1. The kanji 自 “oneself”

History of Kanji 自We have touched upon the kanji 自 in connection with the kanji 息 “to breathe.” [February 21, 2015 post] — The top of the kanji 息, was a nose, through which one breathed. The meaning of a nose as a physical feature was dropped completely in the kanji 自, and it means “oneself.” The kanji for a “nose” is 鼻.

The kun-yomi 自ら /mi’zukara/ means “oneself; personally,” used for a person, and 自ずと /onozuto/ means “spontaneously; by itself,” used for a situation. The on-yomi /ji/ is in 自分 (“oneself” /jibun/), 自由 (“liberty; freedom” /jiyu’u/), 自立 (“independence; self-supportive” /jiritsu/), 自他共に (“to everyone’s eyes; apparently” /ji’tatomoni; ji’ta tomoni/). Another on-yomi /shi/ is in 自然 (“nature” /shizen/).

  1. The kanji 面 “face; mask”

History of Kanji 面For the kanji 面 in oracle bone style, in the center was an eye placed diagonally, with an outline. The outline was the outline of a face. It meant “face.” In ten style the inside was the same shape as the kanji 自, which originally was a nose, rather than an eye, and the line was extended at the top, signifying a face. A square shape that surrounded the face was a mask. The kanji 面 meant “face; mask.” If you have to choose only one feature to signify a face in an ultimate minimal way, which one of the two, “an eye” or “nose,” would you choose? A tough choice, isn’t it.

The kun-yomi /tsura’/ by itself means “face” and is in rough male speech. It is in 面当て (“out of spite” /tsuraate/) and 上っ面 (“exterior; surface” /uwattsura/). Another kun-yomi 面 /omote’/ means “face; mask,” and /omo/ is in 面白い (“interesting” /omoshiro’i/). The on-yomi /me’n/ is in 仮面 (“mask” /kamen/) and 面目をつぶす (“to be disgraced; lose one’s face” /menboku-o-tsubusu/) and 面食らう (“to be bewildered; be taken aback” /menkurau/). It is also in 面倒な (“troublesome” /mendo’o-na/), and 面倒くさい (“very troublesome” /mendookusa’i/) (Colloquially we say めんどくさい /mendokusa’i/). StrokeOrder面The stroke order is rather difficult to figure out. The sixth stroke is the key as shown on the right.

  1. The kanji 首 “neck; head”

History of Kanji 首For the kanji 首, in oracle bone style, (a), it was a face with an eye inside and the hair on top. In bronze ware style in (b, c, d) the hair got detached from the face. It meant “head; chief.” In (d) and (e) inside the face appeared to be the shape that signified a nose, instead of an eye. In ten style (e) the top three wavy lines were the hair. So the transition from “eye” to “nose” that we saw in the kanji 面 above is evident here too. Even though it originally came from “head,” when it is used by itself, the kanji 首 /kubi/ means a “neck,” not a “head.” For “a head” as in a physical feature, /atama’/, we use the kanji 頭.

The kun-yomi 首 /kubi/ is used in 首になる (“to be fired” /kubi-ni-na’ru/) and if you are an employer it would be 首にする (”to fire” /kubi-ni-suru/). Either act is not a pleasant experience for the both parties. The on-yomi /shu/ is in 首都 (“capital of a country” /shu’to), 首相 (“prime minister” /shushoo/) and 自首する (“to surrender oneself to the police”/jishu-suru”).

  1. The kanji 道 “road; way”

History of Kanji 道In the bronze ware style for the kanji 道 (a), inside a crossroad there was a head with hair sticking out, as we have just seen above in 首, and a footprint at the bottom. Together they signified that one stopped his feet at the crossroad with his head facing the way to go – thus it meant “road; way.” The sample (b) had a hand at the bottom, instead of a footprint. There are a few more samples in the reference that I use that had a hand at the bottom like this. The kanji 道 and  a hand,寸, make up another kanji 導 “to guide,” as we are about to look at next. So, in the beginning the kanji 道 was inclusive of the meaning “to guide.” (c) was a later sample in bronze ware style and had a crossroad on the left side and a head on the right and a footstep at the bottom.  In ten style (d) it was more in line with the components in (c). In shinjitai kanji the left side becomes a bushu shinnyoo “to move forward.”

The kun-yomi 道 /michi/ “road” is also in 近道 (“short cut” /chika’michi/) and 道草を食う (“to loiter on the way; waste time” /michikusa-o-ku’u/). The on-yomi /do’o/ is in 道路 (“road” /do’oro/), 歩道 (“pedestrian’s walk; side-walk” /hodoo/) and 道理で (“it is no wonder” /dooride/). Many Japanese traditional art forms have the kanji 道, such as 茶道 (“tea ceremony” /sa’doo/), 柔道 (“judo” /ju’udoo/), 剣道 (“Japanese swordsmanship” /ke’ndoo/), 華道 (“flower arrangement” /ka’doo/), 武道 (“marshall arts” /bu’doo/) and 書道 (“calligraphy; brush writing art” /sho’doo/). Well, whatever the traditional art form is, if it has 道 at the end, a student is expected to have years of practice, often with disciplined devotion with no particular end in sight!  So, it requires spiritualism and means a way of living a life.

  1. The kanji 導 “to lead the way; guide”

History of Kanji 導The kanji 導 has a hand (寸) at the bottom of the kanji 道. A hand showing the way to move forward meant “to lead the way; guide.” As mentioned above in 道, 道 and 導 were one writing originally, then later on the two meanings came to have different kanji.

The kun-yomi 導く /michibi’ku/ means “to lead the way.” The on-yomi /do’o/ is in 指導する (“to guide; teach someone” /shi’doo-suru/) and 導入する (“to introduce or bring in something new” /doonyuu-suru/).

Since the posts in March, 2014, we have focused on kanji that originated from a physical feature of a person and a posture. Undoubtedly there are other points we could take up, but it is time for us to move onto other origins. I am planning to start to discuss the kanji that originated from human habitats in the next post. [June 6, 2015]

2015-06-13 The kanji 家宇宙宮官管館–うかんむり

Now that we have finished with physical features of a person and postures, we begin shapes that originated from human habitats. The first shape we look at is a house. The most common shape for a house is what is known as a bushu ukanmuri (宀) – a truncated shape of a katakana /u/ ウ and a kanmuri (冠) “crown; cap.” A bushu ukanmuri is often explained as a “roof,” but we will see that in the ancient writing it was a house with walls reaching the ground or a huge cover that wrapped around completely.

1 The kanji 家 “house; family”

History of Kanji  家The kanji 家 is a familiar kanji even to a beginning learner. On the left, In oracle bone style, in brown, bronze ware style, in green, and ten style, in red, it had a house, and inside that was a pig. Together they meant a house that had domesticated animals such as pigs. Then it meant a “house” where people live. The bottom by itself is the kanji 豕 (“hog; pig” /i’noko/), which we do not use much at all. StrokeOrder家The stroke order is shown on the right.

History of Kanji 豕 (frame)The history of 豕 is shown on the right. In the oracle bone style sample we can recognize the shape as some sort of animal that was placed vertically. The second bronze ware style sample was unmistakably a picture of a pig. In ten style, it was the skeleton of a pig.  Using this shape, we get the kanji 豚 (“pig” /buta/) by adding a bushu nikuzuki “fresh; meat.”

The kun-yomi is 家 /ie’/ “house; home.” Another kun-yomi /uchi/ (“house; home” /uchi/) is in 家中で (“the entire family” /uchijuu-de/.) The on-yomi /ka/ is in 家族 (“family” /ka’zoku/), 家庭 (“home; family” /katee/) and 一家 “the entire family” /i’kka/).  Another on-yomi /ke/ is a go-on and is in 家来 (“vassal” /ke’rai/) and 石川家 (“the Ishikawa family” /ishikawa’ke/).

2  The kanji 宇 “space”

History of Kanji 宇For the kanji 宇, inside was 于. History of Kanji 于 (frame)The development of 于 is shown on the right. 于 came from supporting poles in making a bent shape, and had the sound /u/. 于 meant “a large bent shape.” A universe was viewed as a space that was covered by an imaginary huge semi-circular cover, like a dome. So in this kanji, the bushu ukanmuri was the semi-circular cover of the space, rather than a house. The kanji 宇 meant “roof; space.” There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /u/ is in 宇宙 (“universe” /u’chuu/).

3 The kanji 宙 “in the air”

History of Kanji 宙For the kanji 宙, the oracle bone style and ten style samples had a house or big cover. Inside the cover, 由 came from an empty gourd. When a gourd ripens, its oily substance leaks out and the inside becomes hollow. Emptiness under a big cover meant “space; suspended in the air.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /chu’u/ is in 宙ぶらりんの (“pendant; unsettled” /chuuburarin-no/), 宙返り (“somersault; tumble” /chuuga’eri/), 宙吊り (“suspension in the air” /chuuzuri/) and 宙に浮く (“to float in the air” /chu’u-ni uku/), 宇宙飛行士 (“astronaut” /uchuuhiko’oshi/).

4  The kanji 宮 “palace; prince”

History of Kanji 宮In oracle bone style and bronze ware style, inside the house were two square shapes, which signified rooms or houses. In ten style the two squares became connected with a short line. “A house or estate that had many rooms or houses” meant a “palace.” It also meant the royalty who lived in a palace or mansion – “prince or princess.” The kun-yomi 宮 /miya’/ “prince; princess” is in 宮様 (“loyal prince or princess” /miyasama/) and 宮仕え (“court service; life of a government official” /miyazu’kae/). The on-yomi /kyu’u/ is in 宮殿 (“palace” /kyuuden/), 王宮 (“royal palace; court” /ookyuu/). Another on-yomi /gu’u/ is in 明治神宮 “the Meiji Shinto shrine” /meejijingu’u/).

5  The kanji 官 “official; governmental; sense”

History of Kanji 官For the kanji 官, in oracle bone style and bronze ware style, inside a house was a shape in which two round shapes were connected. This shape was traditionally viewed as mounds of dirt or a hilly area where many people gathered and worked (based on the Setsumon account). Together they meant “government office; official.” There is another view (Shirakawa) that inside was a piece of meat that was offered at the altar in a military ceremony before going to a battle. It was a place where only military leaders were able to go inside. The kanji that contain this, such as 師 and 追,  also had a military origin. Bureaucracy is an organization of many offices, each having its own function in a huge network. Interestingly this meaning of having a network was applied to senses in a human body. The 官 also meant “body senses.” StrokeOrder官The stroke order is shown on the right.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ka’n/ s in 官民 (“governmental and non-governmental” /ka’nmin/), 官僚 (“bureaucrat” /kanryoo/), 官吏 (“government employee” /ka’nri), 官立 (“government-supported or -run” /kanritsu/) and 教官 (“instructor” /kyookan/). For the meaning of organ, it is in 器官 (”organ” /ki’kan/), 五官 (“five organs; five senses-目耳鼻舌身” /gokan/), and 官能的 (“sensual”/kannooteki-na/).

6  The kanji 管 “pipe”

History of Kanji 管We have two more kanji that contain 官 – 管 and 館 for this post. In the ten style of 管, the top was a bushu takekanmuri “bamboo.” The inside of a bamboo stalk is hollow, like a pipe. The bottom 官 was used phonetically for /ka’n/. Together they meant a pipe. It also meant “to control, administer.” The kun-yomi 管 (“pipe; tube” /ku’da/) is in the expression 管を巻く (“to talk incoherently over drink” /ku’da-o-maku/), an interesting expression, isn’t it. The on-yomi /ka’n/ is in 管理する (“to manage; administer” /ka’nri-suru/), 保管 (“custody; safekeeping” /hokan/), 水道管 (“water pipe” /suidookan/) and 血管 (“blood vessel” /kekkan/).

7  The kanji 館 “large building; mansion”

History of Kanji 館In the ten style of 館, the left side came from food in a bowl. It became a bushu shoku-hen “to eat; food.” The right side was 官, which meant many people inside a house. Together they signified a place where many people gathered and ate. It means “large building; mansion.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ka’n/ is in 旅館 (“Japanese-style inn” /ryokan/), 図書館 (“library” /tosho’kan/).

In the next post, I am thinking about discussing the bushu anakanmuri and others. [June 13, 2015]

2015-06-20 The Kanji 穴空究突窓探深写 – あなかんむり

In this post we are going to look at kanji that originated from “an opening in a cave dwelling”– 穴空究突窓探深写. The bush is called anakanmuri.

  1. The kanji 穴 “hole”

History of Kanji 穴The earliest writing sample for the kanji 穴 that I was able to find was in ten style, shown in red. It was explained in Setsumon as comprised of an opening in a cave dwelling and the phonetically-used shape 八. Another view treats it as a single pictograph of a cave dwelling with an entrance. Either way, the outer line was a cave dug out for a dwelling, rather than a free-standing house that people built like the origin of the bushu ukanmuri. When it is used by itself as a kanji, 穴 meant a “hole.” When used as a bushu, it meant “a hole; emptiness,” and the lines on both sides became much shorter in the kanji. The kun-yomi /ana’/ 穴 “hole” is in ほら穴 (“cave” /horaana/), 穴埋めする (“to make up the deficit” /anaume-suru/), 穴場 (“good unknown spot” /anaba/). The expression 穴があったら入りたい /ana’-ga-attara hairita’i/ means that you are so embarrassed that you wish you could sink through the floor. The on-yomi /ke’tsu/ is in the expression 墓穴を掘る (“to dig one’s own grave” /boketsu-o-ho’ru/).

  1. The kanji 空 “sky; empty”

History of Kanji 空In bronze ware style of the kanji 空, in green, the shape 工 (a) was used phonetically to mean “an arch-like shape,” as in in the kanji 虹 “rainbow.” In (b) 工 was placed inside a large dome shape. The inside of the dome shape was empty. Together they signified “large emptiness.” The sky was viewed as having a dome shape that was empty, so it also meant “sky.” The ten style writing (c) was the stylized version of (b). In kanji (d), the two elements were separated and the cave opening became a bushu anakanmuri (/anaka’mmuri/). The kanji 空 has four different kun-yomi. /So’ra/ 空 means “sky,” and is in 絵空事 (“pipe dream” /esora’goto/), 空々しい (“transparently false” /sorazorashi’i/). /Kara’/ 空 means “empty,” and is in 空っぽ (“empty” /karappo/). The third kun-yomi /aku/ 空く means “to become empty,” and is in 空き部屋 (“room vacancy” /akibeya/). The fourth kun-yumi /munashi’i/ 空しい means “empty; vain.”  The on-yomi /ku’u/ is in 空港 (“airport” /kuukoo/) and 空中 (“in the air” /kuuchuu/).

  1. The kanji 究 “to investigate thoroughly”

History of Kanji 究In ten style, the outer component was “a dwelling entrance; to dig a hole in a cave.” The inside 九 /kyu’u/ was used phonetically to mean something winding or bent. Together, digging deep in a winding shape meant “to investigate throughly to find the answer.” The kun-yomi 究める /kiwame’ru/ means “to investigate thoroughly.” The on-yomi /kyu’u/ is in 究明 (“thorough investigation” /kyuumee/), 研究 (“research” /kenkyuu/), and 究極的な (“ultimate” /kyuukyokutekina/).

  1. The kanji 突 “to thrust; sudden move”

History of Kanji 突For the kanji 突, the oracle bone style sample, in brown, had a cave opening at the top and a dog at the bottom. A dog? Really?  If we look at the ten style sample, the bottom  was a dog. A dog thrusting out of a hole meant “to thrust; sudden move.” In kyujitai, in blue, the top was a bushu anakanmuri, and the bottom was the kanji 犬 “dog.”  In shinjitai the kanji 犬 lost a dot and became the kanji 大. So, now it is as if the two components would mean a person thrusting out of a hole. The kun-yomi 突く (“to push; thrust; shove” /tsu’ku/) is in 突き落とす (“to push someone off/over” /tsukioto’su/). The on-yomi /to’tsu/ is in 唐突に (“abruptly” /toototsu-ni/), 突然 (“all of a sudden” /totsuzen/) and 突風 (“gust; a flurry of wind” /toppuu/).

  1. The kanji 窓 “window”

History of Kanji 窓The kanji 窓 was a variant of the kyujitai 窗 (d). There were three different ten style writings for 窗 given in Setsumon. (a) was a skylight or an air vent in the ceiling. (b) had a cave dwelling or a house with an opening on the exterior, and the inside was a skylight or an air vent in the ceiling. In (c) a heart was added to (b) at the bottom. From a skylight or air vent in the ceiling, it meant “window.” Why a ”heart” was added in (c) is not clear. In the kyujitai 窗, inside the air vent was replaced by a katakana /ta/ タ. In shinjitai (e), the middle in (c), or the bottom in (d), was further replaced by a katakana ム shape, which was used to simplify a complex shape, and a heart was kept. The kun-yomi 窓 /ma’do/ means “window,” and is in 天窓 (“skylight” /te’nmado/) and 窓口 (“window; teller” /mado’guchi/). The on-yomi /so’o/ is in 車窓 (“view from a train or bus window” /shasoo/), 同窓会 (“school reunion” /doosookai/) and 同窓生 (“someone who went to the same school” /dooso’osee/).

———-

The next  two kanji 探 and 深 have a bushu wakanmuri (ワかんむり /waka’nmuri/), instead of ukanmuri (ウかんむり) or 穴かんむり, because it lacks a dot at the top. But if we look at their ten style writings, we see that it did have a dot at the top having the original meaning of a cave opening.

  1. The kanji 探 “to search”

History of Kanji 探The ten style writing of the kanji 探 had a hand on the left, which signified “an act one does using a hand.” On the right side, below the cave dwelling opening, there was a what we are calling in this blog sideways hand (ヨ) and a fire (火).  Together they signified a hand looking for something in the darkness of a cave using a torch. From that it  meant “to search, to look for.” In the kanji on the right, the bushu anakanmuri lost the top and became a wakanmuri with 八, and the bottom lost a hand, and the fire became 木. The kun-yomi /sagasu/ 探す means “to search for; hunt; seek,” and is in 探し出す (“to find; locate” /sagashida’su/), 探し当てる (“to find out; locate” /sagashiate’ru/), 探し物をする (“to look for something missing” /sagasimono-o-suru). The on-yomi /ta’n/ is in 探検 (“exploration” /tanken/) and 探検家 (“explorer” /tankenka/).

7.  The kanji 深 “deep”

History of Kanji 深For the kanji 深, in ten style, the left side was “water.” The right side was “to search for something deep in a cave with a light from the fire. Together with “water” they signified “to search for something deep in the water.” From that it meant “deep.” The kun-yomi 深い /huka’i/ means “deep” and is in 根深い (“deeply-rooted” /nebuka’i/), 奥深い (“profound” /okuhuka’i/), and 深み (“hole; depth” /hukami’/). The on-yomi /shi’n/ is in 深刻な (“serious; grave” /shinkokuna/) and 意味深長な (“profound; meaning; significant” /i’mi shinchoona/).

8. The kanji 写 “to copy”

History of Kanji 写I am adding the kanji 写 here even though it is not related to a bush anakanmuri. The kanji 写 had the kyujitai 寫, which reflected the ten style writing more closely. In ten style, the exterior was a house. The shape inside has different views, including a slipper that people wore inside a palace. From changing shoes, the meaning of “to take it to somewhere else” may have been created. It came to mean “to copy.” In shinjitai, the top lost a dot, becoming a bushu wakanmuri, and the bottom was replaced by the kanji 与 ”to give; provide,” a totally unrelated kanji. The kun-yomi 写す /utsu’su/ means “to copy; take a picture,” and is in the noun 写し (“copy” /utsushi’/), 生き写しの (“life-like” /ikiutsushino/), 書き写す (“to copy down” /kakiutsu’su/). The on-yomi /sha/ is in 写真 (“photograph” /shashin/), 描写 (“description” /byoosha/), 写生 (“sketch” /shasee/), and 写実的な (“naturalistic; realistic” /shajitsutekina/).

In the next post we are going to look at another bushu that pertains to a house or a part of a house — a bushu madare. [June 20, 2015]

2015-06-27 The Kanji 庫席広黄庭廷序店占座床 – まだれ

A bushu madare 广 and gandare 厂 are similar in shape but their sources are different. A madare came from a house or a building in which one side was against a wall, the other open for access, and a roof. On the other hand a gandare came from a “cliff”; thus it belongs to the category of nature in our study. The type of bushu that has the name /tare/ or /-dare/ has a top and left side and it comes from the verb 垂れる(“to hang down” /tare’ru/). /Ma/ is from the on-yomi for the kanji 麻. In this post we are going to look at the kanji 庫席広庭序店座床 and 黄廷占 as related shapes.

  1. The kanji 庫 “storage; warehouse”

History of Kanji 庫For the kanji 庫, in bronze ware style, in green, it had a wall on one side with a roof and a vehicle, 車. A place that housed a vehicle was a garage for military vehicles. It meant “storage place; warehouse.” The shape did not change through ten style, in red, and kanji. There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ko/ is in 車庫 (“garage” /sha’ko/), 車庫入れ (“driving a car into a garage” /shakoire/), 書庫 (“library; stacks of books” /sho’ko/), 文庫本 (“pocket edition” /bunkobon/) and 在庫 (“inventory” /zaiko/).

  1. The kanji 席 “seat”

History of Kanji 席For the kanji 席, in bronze ware style inside the house was a piece of cloth to spread over a seat. The shape in gray, which the Setsumon gave as an earlier style 古文 /kobun/ than ten style, had a woven mat inside the house. Together they signified “a place to sit; a seat.” In ten style, it took the bronze ware style writing except that a cooking pot was added above a cloth. From people sitting by a cooking pot over a fire, it meant a “seat; a place to sit.” There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi 席 /se’ki/ “seat” is in 座席 (“seat” /zaseki/), 空席 (“empty seat” /kuuseki/), 席順 (“seating order” /sekijun/), 同席する (“to be among company” /dooseki-suru).

  1. The kanji 広 “wide; spacious”

History of Kanji 広For the kanji 広, in oracle bone style, in brown, the inside of a house was a fire arrow with a balancing weight or combustible in the middle. When a fire arrow was shot in the air at night it illuminated a wide area. In bronze ware style the wall on the right side was lost. It meant “wide; spacious.” The ten style writing was reflected in the kyujitai 廣, in blue, in which an arrowhead was separate. In shinjitai, the inside was totally replaced by the katakana /mu/ ム, which was often used to replace a complex shape.

History of Kanji 黄(frame)The kanji 黄: As we can easily guess from the kyujitai of the kanji 広, the kanji 広 was closely related to the kanji 黄 “yellow.” The kanji 黄 came straight out of the pictograph of a fire arrow. The color of a fire was yellow and that became its meaning. The history of the kanji 黄 is shown on the right. The kyujitai shown 黃 is in Mincho style (The kyokashotai font I use does not include the kyujitai for 黄). If we look closely at the kyujitai, we see that there was an extra stroke that showed an arrowhead in ten style.

The kun-yomi 広い /hiro’i/ means “wide; spacious,” and is in 広場 (“square; plaza” /hi’roba/), 広間 (“hall; large room” /hi’roma/) and 手広く (“extensively” /tebiro’ku/). The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 広告 (“advertisement” /kookoku/).

  1. The kanji 庭 “garden” and  廷 “courtyard”

History of Kanji 庭For the kanji 庭, the earliest writing sample available to us is in ten style. It had a wall on one side and a roof, and the inside was 廷 “court.” Fortunately I have found the ancient writing of the kanji 廷, shown on the right.

History of Kanji 廷(frame)The Kanji 廷: 廷 by itself is a kanji and it’s bronze ware style writings are abundant. In (a) and (b) it had a standing person on the upper right, a mound of soil in the middle, and a wall on the lower left side. Together they signified a place where the god of the earth was being celebrated in the courtyard of the palace. It meant “court; courtyard.” In (c) the three lines signified rice wine being sprinkled to sanctify the area. In ten style (d), the lower left became what would become a bushu ennyoo “extended roadway.” It is used in the word 宮廷 (“royal court” /kyuutee/).

Later on by adding a bushu madare 广 “house with one side open,” 庭 meant “garden.” The kun-yomi 庭 /niwa/ means “garden,” and is in 庭先 (“front garden” /niwasaki/), 中庭 (“inner court” /nakaniwa/), and 庭いじり (“gardening” as a hobby /niwai’jiri/). The on-yomi /te’e/ is in 庭園 (“large garden” /teen/).

  1. The kanji 序 “order; beginning” and 予 “advance; preliminary”

History of Kanji 序In ten style of the kanji 序, the inside shape 予 was a weaving shuttle that was pushed through the loom between the threads. In order for the shuttle to go through, the threads were loosened to make room. From making room in advance it meant “in advance; preliminary.” The shape of a wall and a roof was used to signify the eave or addition to the main house. The extended area next to the main house was used as a place or school where propriety was taught. From that the kanji 序 meant “order; beginning of an order.” The kun-yomi 序でに /tsuide-ni/ means “while (you) are at it; taking the opportunity.” The on-yomi /jo/ is in 順序よく (“in good order” /ju’njoyoku/), 序列 (“order; ranking” /joretsu/), 秩序 (“order; ranking’ /chitsu’jo”).

The next three kanji did not have ancient writing but by adding a bushu madare to an existing kanji, a new kanji was created.

  1. The kanji 店 “shop; store” and 占 “divination; fortune telling”

In the kanji 店, inside the bushu madare is 占, and 占 was used phonetically to mean “a place; to occupy.” Adding a bushu madare, “a house with one side open,” they meant “store; shop.” The kun-yomi 店 /mise’/ means “store; shop,” and is in 出店 “stall; booth.” The on-yomi /te’n/ is in 小売店 (“retail store” /kouri’ten/), 免税店 (“duty-free store” /menze’eten/). Customarily it is also read as /tana’/, and it is in 店子 (“tenant” /tanako/) and 店卸し (“inventorying; stocktaking” /tanaoroshi/).

History of Kanji 占(frame)The Kanji 占: We have oracle bones style samples for the kanji 占, as shown on the right. In the left sample the top was lines that appeared on a tortoise shell or an animal bone when it was heated. In the right sample the exterior line was probably the outline of the tortoise shell or an animal bone. The crack lines were read as the god’s oracle. Together they meant “fortune telling; divination.” How those lines were interpreted by a fortuneteller is not known. It is used in 占い (“fortune telling; divination” /uranai/) in kun-yomi, and 占領軍 (“occupation army” /senryo’ogun/) in on-yomi.

  1. The kanji 座 “a place to sit; company; to sit”

History of Kanji 坐(frame)The kanji 座 does not have ancient writing. It is believed to be the newer form of the 坐 “to sit.”

The Kanji 坐: The kanji 坐 had the ancient writings, as shown on the right. The earlier style, in gray, had two people (人) facing each other and the middle was the ground (土). Together they meant “to sit.” The kanji 坐 is not a Joyo kanji and now the kanji 座 is used in place of 坐.

For the kanji 座, 坐 was used phonetically for /za/ to mean “to sit.” Adding a bushu madare “house” made a kanji that meant “a place to sit.” From people sitting and doing something together, it also meant a “troupe” or “company.”

The kun-yomi /suwaru/ 座る means “to sit,” and is in 居座る (“to stay on for a long time” /isuwa’ru/), usually an unwelcome act. The on-yomi /za/ is in 正座する (“to sit on one’s heels; to sit up straight” /seeza-suru/), 土下座する (“to kneel down on the ground (in begging forgiveness)” /dogeza-suru/), 一座 (“troupe” /ichi’za/) and 座を保つ (“to keep a group entertained” /za-o-tamo’tsu/). The expression 座右の銘 /zayuu-no-me’e/ means “one’s favorite motto.” StrokeOrder座The stroke order is shown on the right.

  1. The kanji 床 “floor: bed”

The kyujitai for the kanji 床 was 牀, in which the left side was a vertically placed bed with legs, and the right side was the kanji 木 “wood.” Together they meant a wooden bed, a wooden surface or floor. In shinjitai, the bed has been replaced by a bushu madare “house.” It meant “bed” or “floor.” The kun-yomi 床 /yuka/ means “floor.” Another kun-yomi /toko/ is in 床につく (“to go to bed; to be sick in bed” /toko-ni-tsu’ku/), 床屋 (“barbers shop; barbers” /tokoya/), 床の間 (“an alcove in Japanese house” to hang art work or to place flowers and objects. /tokonoma/) and 寝床 (“a place to sleep; bed; futon laid out on tatami” /nedoko’/). The on-yomi /sho’o/ is in 病床 (“sick bed” /byooshoo/).

In the next three postings, we are going to look at the kanji that contain 田 “rice paddies” and the related kanji. [June 27, 2015]

2015-07-04 The Kanji 田画畑留界介町丁 – 田 (1)

  1. The kanji 田 “rice paddies”

History of Kanji 田We have looked at the origin of the kanji 田 “rice paddies” earlier when we discussed the kanji 男 [December 19, 2014, post]. Since then several bronze ware style samples have come to my attention, so I am adding a couple of bronze ware style samples here, in green. The oracle bone style samples, in brown, had more than a single line vertically and/or horizontally inside the rectangular shape. It was rice paddies and the lines signified levees. In the beginning stage of growing rice, fields are immersed in water inside raised ridges. Those strips of raised land also served as a footpath. The writing meant “rice paddies.” In bronze ware style, the rice paddies were simplified to four paddies. The proportion of the ten style sample, in red, was typical of ten style, which was longer than it was wide.

The kun-yomi /ta/ is in 田んぼ (田圃) /tanbo/ “rice paddies.” The on-yomi /de’n/ is in 水田 (“irrigated rice paddies” /suiden/), 油田 (“oil field” /yuden/), 炭田 (“coal field” /tanden/). It is also customarily used for the word 田舎 (“countryside” /inaka/).

  1. The kanji 画 “drawing; plan”

History of Kanji 画For the kanji 画, in bronze ware style, it had a hand holding a brush at the top, and rice paddies at the bottom. An official recording a boundary of rice paddies meant “boundary; to draw.”  In ten style, the lines surrounded rice paddies to show the boundaries in four directions. In kyujitai, in blue, it consisted of 聿 “to write” from a hand holding a brush, 田 “rice paddies,” and another line underneath 一. In shinjitai, the top was reduced to just 一, and below that 由, instead of 田, was placed inside a receptacle shape 凵.

There is no kun-yomi for 画 in the Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /ga/ is in 画家 (“painter” /gaka/), 画面 (“screen” /ga’men; gamen/), and 漫画 (“comics” /manga/). Another on-yomi /ka’ku/ is in 企画する (“to make a plan; propose a project” /kikaku-suru/), 画数 (“number of writing strokes” /kakusu’u/), 九画 (“nine strokes” /kyu’ukaku/), and 画する (“to mark an epoch or boundary” /kaku-su’ru/).

  1. The kanji 畑 “agricultural field; specialty”

No ancient writing existed because this was created in Japan. It is a 国字 (“kanji that was created in Japan” /kokuji/). All kokuji are a composite of two semantic components. The kanji 畑 is no exception – it consists of the kanji 火 “fire” and the kanji 田 “rice paddies.” The agricultural fields that were not immersed in water would occasionally be burned to give the soil certain nutrients. Together they signified an agricultural field that was not necessarily irrigated. It meant “agricultural field.” The word /tanbo/ 田んぼ is used for rice paddies whereas the word /hatake/ 畑 is used for field that is not immersed in water. 畑 is also used for a more general sense of one’s field, such as a specialty of one’s work.

The kun-yomi /hatake/ 畑 means “agricultural field,” and is in 田畑 (“farm; field” /ta’hata/), 畑仕事 (“field work” /hatakeshi’goto/), 花畑 (“flower field” /hanaba’take/), 畑違い (“different area of expertise” /hatakechi’gai/), 化学畑 (“chemistry field” /kagakuba’take/).

  1. The kanji 留 “to stay; remain; fasten”

History of Kanji 留For the origin of the kanji 留, we discuss two different interpretations here. One from Shirakawa is that in bronze ware style the left side was a stream of water with two pools of water on both sides, and the right side was rice paddies. The pools of water signified something “to stay in one place” like water in rice paddies. It meant “to stay; remain.” In ten style the two elements were placed up and down.

History of Kanji 留 (old kanji photos)Another interpretation is from the Kadokawa dictionary. It does not refer to the bronze ware style sample above. Instead, it appears to be based on writing from later time, including from official seal samples and a stele, as shown on the right side. In this account, the top was explained to be the kanji 卯 “horse’s bridle” and the bottom 由 was used phonetically to mean “to put a bridle on firmly.” Together tying a horse to a tree by the bridle to keep it in one place signified “to fasten” and “to remain.” In the Key to Kanji book I took the latter view. Now I am wondering if both accounts can be possible to explain “to remain” and “to fasten.” In shinjitai kanji the symmetrical shapes at the top (卯) were replaced by two different shapes.

The kun-yomi 留める /tomeru/ means “to fasten.” Another kun-yomi 留まる /todoma’ru/ means “to stay in a place.” The on-yomi /ryu’u/ is in 留学 (“study in a foreign country” /ryuugaku/), 留意する (“to pay enough attention to” /ryu’ui-suru/). Another on-yomi /ru/ is in 留守にする (“to be absent from home” /ru’su-ni-suru/) and 留守番 (“house sitter; staying home” (during a family is away) /rusuban/).

  1. The kanji 界 “world; area” and 介 “to help; mediate”

History of Kanji 界For the kanji 界, in ten style, the left side was rice paddies, and the right side was used phonetically for /ka’i/ to mean “something between.” The history of the kanji 介 is shown on the right.

History of Kanji 介(frame)The Kanji 介; In oracle bone style a person was standing sandwiched by two dots on both sides. It signified a person wearing armor in the front and on the back. A hard casing such as armor was also used for shellfish, as in the word 魚介類 (“fish and shellfish” /gyoka’irui/). A person sandwiched between two sides signified someone who “mediates two sides” or “help.” So the kanji 介 meant “to help; mediate.”

For the kanji 界, 田 ”rice paddies” and 介 “a person in the middle” together signified the area inside the boundaries. What is inside a boundary is also a world. It meant “world.” In shinjitai, the rice paddies 田 is placed on top of 介.

There is no kun-yomi for 界. The on-yomi /ka’i/ is in 世界 (“world” /se’kai/), 限界 (“limit” /genkai/), 境界 (“boundary” /kyookai/), 財界 (“financial world; business circle” /zaikai/), 他界する (“to die” /takai-suru/).

  1. The kanji 町 “town”

History of Kanji 町For the kanji 町, in ten style, the left side was neatly arranged rice paddies. The right side was 丁. The history of the kanji 丁 is shown on the right.

History of Kanji 丁The kanji 丁: In the oracle bone style of 丁, it was the top of a nail that was viewed from the above. In bronze ware style, the nail was viewed from the side. A nail is pounded down in a right angle. In ten style it became stylized. 丁 meant something that had a right angle such as a block. (We discussed 丁 when we looked at the kanji 打 in the June 7, 2014, post.)

For the kanji 町, 田 “rice paddies” and 丁 “block” together meant the land that had blocks and junctions, that is a “town.” /Cho’o/ used to be used as the measurement of land in olden days.

The kun-yomi 町 /machi’/ means “town” and is in 町中に出る (“to go into the town” /machinaka-ni-de’ru/), 町外れ (“outer edge of a town” /machiha’zure/) and 下町 (“downtown; shitamachi.” /shitamachi/). The word Shitamachi usually refers to the low area of Tokyo on the east of the Sumida River. In the Tokugawa era, large residences where samurai class people lived were on the west side of Edo Castle and commoners lived on the east side toward the waterfront. The on-yomi /cho’o/ is in 町内会 (“neighborhood association” /choona’ikai/), 町人 (“merchant” (in old class system, as contrasted to samurai); townspeople” /choonin/).

There are several more frequently used kanji that contain 田, so we will continue this topic in the next post. [July 4, 2015]

2015-07-11 The Kanji 略各当(當)尚番米巻券 – 田 (2)

In this post we continue to look at kanji that contain 田 and related kanji — 略各当(當)尚番米巻券.

(1) 略 “summary; tactic”

History of Kanji 略For the kanji 略, in ten style, the left side was 田 “rice paddies.” The right side was the kanji 各 that was used phonetically to mean “to divide.” When a new land was conquered, a strategy for how to manage the new land or tax its new rice fields was drawn up. From strategy, it meant “tactic.” It was also borrowed to mean “summary.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /rya’ku/ is used in 省略 (“omission” /shooryaku/), 略図 (“outline; sketch” /ryakuzu/), 計略 (“trick; strategy” /keeryaku/), 略す (“to shorten; take out” /ryaku’su/). The expression 前略 /ze’nryaku/ is the greeting phrase that you write at the beginning of a hurriedly written letter, without putting in an expected seasonal greeting.

History of Kanji 各(frame)The kanji 各: The top of the kanji 各 came from a foot that faced backward or downward. It is a bushu suinyoo . For the explanation of “backward foot” please refer to the July 5, 2014, posting. Even though we spent four postings looking at “a backward foot” a year ago, I did not discuss the kanji that contain 各. The reason was that 各 by itself as a kanji was a borrowing that meant “each; individual.” There was not much for me to add. 各 as a component was mostly used phonetically with little relationship with the original meaning. Several kanji that contain 各 as its component have the following meanings and on-yomi: 格 (“standard; class” /kaku; koo/), 客 (“guest” /kyaku; kaku/), 落 (“to fall” /raku/), 絡 (“to intertwine; contact” /raku/), 路 (“road” /ro/), 略 (“summary; tactic” /ryaku/) and 閣 (“tall important building” /kaka/).  (Kun-yomi is omitted here.)  We can see the phonetic connections in on-yomi.

(2) 当 (當) “appropriate; correct; the very X”

History of Kanji 当The kanji 当 does not have 田, but 当 had the kyujitai 當 that contained 田. The kyujitai, in blue on the left, faithfully reflected its ten style. In ten style the top was 尚 “high,” which was used phonetically to mean “to be appropriate” (we are going to look at its history below.)  The bottom was 田 “rice paddies.” From an appropriate value for rice paddies, it meant “appropriate; correct.” It was also used to mean “this; the very X.” I am wondering why the bottom of the shinjitai was so drastically abbreviated to ヨ, when the kyujitai was not that complex. I have not encountered a good explanation in reference for this.

The kun-yomi 当たる /ataru/ “to hit (a target)” is in 思い当たる (“to recall; remember” /omoiata’ru/), 八つ当たりする (“to take out on someone” /yatsua’tari-suru/), 当たり前 (“natural; of course; obviously” /atarimae/). The on-yomi /to’o/ is in 当然 (“naturally; of course; obviously” /toozen/), 当人 (“the person in question” /to’onin/), 当事者 (“person concerned; party involved” /tooji’sha/) and 正当化する (“to justify” /seetooka-suru/).

History of Kanji 尚(frame)The kanji 尚; This kanji is not a Joyo kanji or a traditional bushu. But it appears as a component in other frequently used kanji including 常 and 党 in addition to the kyujitai 當. (尚 and other related kanji 常堂賞償党 are discussed in a later post on human habitats.) The history is shown on the right. In oracle bone style, bronze ware style and ten style, the bottom was a kitchen stove with a door to the furnace. The top was smoke or steam rising straight up. From rising straight up high, this shape signified “high.”

(3) 番 “turn; watch; number”

History of Kanji 番There are different views on how the kanji 番 came about. One view is that the top meant to scatter seeds and the bottom was rice paddies. The top was interpreted as grain such as rice. Growing rice involves different steps in a set order, and gave the meaning “turn; a number in a series.” Thus, the kanji 番 meant “to turn; a number; a watch; pair.” It makes good sense to me. However, as I looked at several samples of bronze ware style writing, I began to feel a little uncertain about that. The problem is that the history of the kanji 米 showed a very different shape, as shown on the right.

History of Kanji 米(frame)The kanji 米: The oracle bone style sample had three grains on both sides of a diagonal line. It meant a stalk of millet on which grain was still attached. No bronze ware style sample is available to us. In ten style, it became a cross with grain scattered in four directions. It looks similar to the top of the ten style of 番. But there is an important difference — the tip of the center line in 番 in ten style was bent whereas 米 was straight. So, the top of 番 might not have had been scattered rice grains at the top. That bring to us another view here.

The another view originated from Setsumon. It treated the whole shape as a single image of an animal paw, with claws at the top and palm below. I would never have thought of that. But the power of suggestion is working on me now. An animal paw signified a step for a person, and it signified a person stepping out for his watch duty. It meant “duty watch.” A watch duty was done taking turns, thus “order; a number in a series” and also done in pairs, thus “pair.”

There is no kun-yomi for 番 in the Joyo kanji, but /tsugai/ is used in 鳥の番 (“a pair of birds” /tori no tsugai/) customarily. The on-yomi 番 /ba’n/ means “watch; turn,” and is in 一番 (“the first; most” /ichi’ban), 番をする (“to be on watch duty” /ba’n-o-suru/), 留守番 (“house sitting; staying home” /rusuban/), 番人 (“watch; guard” /banni’n/), 当番 (“duty; watch” /to’oban/) and 番組 (“TV/radio program” /bangumi/).

One more thing about the top of the ten style writing of 番: I have come across in a few kanji that had the same shape at the top of ten style writing. In those kanji it is interpreted as “a paw” or “a human hand.”  Let us look at two examples here, 巻 and 券.

History of Kanji 巻(frame)The kanji 巻: The history of the kanji 巻 is shown on the right. One view, from Shirakawa, was that in ten style the top was an animal paw that signified animal hide. The bottom had two hands outside, and the inside was a person in a crouched position. Together they signified hands rolling an animal hide into a scroll. Another view, from the Kadokawa dictionary, is that it had two hands making a rice ball in the shape of a crouched person. It meant “to roll.” This view appears to take the top as grain or rice.

History of Kanji 券(frame)The kanji 券: The history of the kanji 券 is shown on the right. In ten style the top was an animal paw and the bottom had two hands and a knife. Together they meant cutting an animal hide that had a pledge written on it in half to keep as a tally. Another view is that it was used phonetically to mean “to make a notch.” With a knife at the bottom, it meant a tally. The kanji 券 means “ticket; tally.”

There are a little more matter that I would like to explore on 田. We will continue in the next posting. [July 11, 2015]

2015-07-18 The Kanji 里野予理王玉畜蓄玄 – 田 (3)

  1. The kanji 里 “village; one’s parents home”

History of Kanji 里For the kanji 里, the top of the bronze ware style writings, in green, was rice paddies which had neatly arranged grids. Under that the vertical line had a bulge which signified a ball of dirt on the ground (土.) Together they meant a land where people grew rice and produce. It meant a “village; one’s parents’  home.” In the two bronze ware style samples, the center line in the two elements “rice paddies” and “ground” was continuous, rather than two discrete images. In fact none of the eight bronze ware writing samples in Akai (2010) shows a separation between the two elements. We do not have oracle bone style writing. Ten style, in red, had lines that were even thickness.

The kun-yomi 里 /sato/ means “village,” and 里帰り /satogaeri/ means “return to parents home; homecoming.” /Sato/ also is used by a married woman talking about her parents home, in a more humble style than saying 実家 /jikka/. The expression 里心がつく /satogo’koro-ga tsu’ku/) means “to start feeling homesick.” The on-yomi /ri/ was a unit of distance measurement. In Japan one ri was about 4 km. The expression 千里の道も一歩から /se’nri-no-michi-mo ip’po-kara/ means “A long journey begins with the first step.”

  1. The kanji 野 “fields; outside”

History of Kanji 野For the kanji 野, the oracle bone style sample (a), in brown, and the bronze ware style sample (b) had two “tree” 木, signifying woods 林, and “soil; ground” 土. Together they signified “wooded land.” Another bronze ware style sample (c) had rice paddies and the origin of 予 “roomy; latitude” at the top, instead of a wooded land. The bottom was “soil.” Together a land that stretched like many rice paddies meant “fields.” While in (c), 田 and 土 were placed in two separate locations, in ten style (e) the two elements became one shape 里 “village.” The right side was 予 “roomy; latitude.”  Setsumon also gave the shape (d) as its old style, in gray. The shape (d) consisted of 林 “wooded area,” 予 “roominess” and 土 “soil.”

History of Kanji 予(frame)The Kanji 予; The origin of 予 was explained as a weaving shuttle with a thread attached at the bottom. A weaving shuffle pushed through the loom between the threads that were loosened a little. In order to get the shuttle to pass through, threads were pulled to make room. From “making room in advance of a shuttle’s passing” the kanji 予 meant “in advance; preliminary.” As a kanji, 予 only had the ten style sample, as shown on the right. But as a component of 野, we can see a couple earlier shapes in (c) and (d) in the history of the kanji 野 above.

So, the left side of the kanji 野 was 里 “village,” and the right side 予 was “roominess.” Together a spacious piece of land in the field meant “field.” A field was outside of a town where important business was conducted. From that it meant “outside the power; outsider; opposition.”

The kun-yomi /no/ is in 野原 (”a green field” /no’hana/). The on-yomi /ya/ is in 野球 (“baseball” /yakyuu/), 野党 (“opposition party” /ya’too/), 在野 (“outside government; outside power” /zaiya/), 野蛮な (“barbaric” /yaban-na/).

  1. The kanji 理 “logic; rational”

History of Kanji 理For the kanji 理, the left side of the ten style writing 王 was jewels strung together. Splitting a gem neatly along the natural cleavage signified the rational way to do something. The right side 里 was used phonetically for /ri/, and also contained 田 “rice paddies.” Rice paddies had levees that went through. Both components had the meaning of something going straight through. From that the kanji 理 meant “logic; rational.”

There is no kun-yomi in the Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /ri/ is in 理解する (“to understand” /ri’kai-suru/), 理由 (“reason” /riyuu/), 無理な (“unreasonable” /mu’ri-na/) and 論理 (“logic” /ro’nri/).

王の鉞イラスト

King’s axe

The kanji 玉 and : The kanji 王 means “king; crown” and the kanji 玉 means “jewel; ball.” Jewels could also signify the crown jewels of a king. In a traditional kanji dictionary, 王 and 玉 are treated as one bushu. However the two shapes have totally different lines of history.

The kanji 王 came from a large ornamental axe of a ruler that signified power, such as the drawing on the right. History of Kanji 王(frame)In the history of the kanji 王 on the right, in oracle bone style it was an outline of an axe that was placed with the blade side down. In bronze ware style the first example showed a thick blade. The bronze ware style and ten style samples showed the middle horizontal line closer to the top line to emphasize the importance of the bottom, the blade. In kanji the three horizontal lines were distributed evenly.

History of Kanji 玉(frame)The kanji 玉 came from a string of jewels. The oracle style sample had three jewels with a string going through with a knot at the top. In bronze ware style and ten style, the three horizontal lines were evenly placed, unlike the kanji 王. In kanji a dot was added to differentiate it from 王.

Among the Joyo kanji the component 玉 is used in just a few kanji, such as the kanji 玉, 宝 and 璧. Most kanji use the component 王 even when it originated in, and/or still means, “jewel,” including the kanji 現珍班球環 and 珠.

  1. The kanji 裏 “back; inside; wrong side”

History of Kanji 裏For the kanji 裏, in bronze ware style, the left sample (a) was the same as that of the kanji 里. In (b), 里 was placed inside a collar and was used phonetically for /ri/. Together something inside the collar meant the wrong side of clothes (a collar). The kanji 裏 meant “the back; inside: the wrong side.”

The kun-yomi 裏 /ura’/ or 裏側 /uragawa/ means “the back; inside; the wrong side,” and is in 裏工作 (“behind-the-scene maneuvering” /urako’osaku/) and 裏話 (“story behind; inside story” /uraba’nashi/). The on-yomi /ri/ is in 裏面 (“back side” /ri’men/).

In this last post on kanji that came from 田 “rice paddies,” let us look at two more that may have a different origin here — 畜蓄.

  1. The kanji 畜 “livestock”

History of Kanji 畜The top of the kanji 畜 was 玄. The history of 玄 is shown on the right.

History of Kanji 玄(frame)The kanji 玄: The bronze ware style of 玄 was a skein of threads. (The one in gray is the old style before ten style given in Setsumon.) In ten style the top was added to signify the tied knot for dyeing. From dyeing threads dark, it meant “black” and “mysterious.”

For the kanji 畜, there are different views on what was under 玄 “skein of threads.” Shirakawa treated it as a pot to dye threads. From soaking the skein of threads for a duration of time to pick up pigments better, it meant “to accumulate.” The Kadokawa dictionary treated the top not as the skein of threads but as an abbreviated shape of the kanji that meant “to nurture (the right side of the kanji 滋),” and the bottom as rice paddies. Together from leaving rice field uncultivated to regain the nutrients in the soil, it meant “to accumulate; store.” Later on the kanji 畜 came to be used to mean “livestock.” For the original meaning “to accumulate; store” a bushu kusakanmuri was added 蓄.

There is no kun-yomi in the Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /chi’ku/ is in 家畜 “livestock.” The word 畜生 originally meant “animals” (in the sense of below humans) and is used as a strong cursing word “You brute!” by an angry male speaker with a variation of こん畜生 /konchikisho’o; konchikisho’o/.

  1. The kanji 蓄 “to accumulate; store”

History of Kanji 蓄We have already touched above on how the kanji 蓄 came about. With the bush kusakanmuri “plants” added, it bears the original meaning of the bottom “to accumulate; store.”

The kun-yomi 蓄える /takuwae’ru/ means “to stash away; store.” The on-yomi /chi’ku/ is in 貯蓄 (”saving” /chochiku/), 蓄積する (”to accumulated; heap up” /chikuseki-suru/), 蓄電 (“to charge electricity” /chikuden/).

There are other kanji among the Joyo kanji that contain 田 that originated from the rice paddies. The presence of the meaning from “rice paddies in the kanji 畔 (“levee; ridge” /u’ne/ in kun-yomil /ha’n/ in on-yomi), and 苗 (“nursery plant; seedling” /na’e/ in kun-yomi, /byo’o/ in on-yomi) are self-evident. The kanji 描 (“to describe; depict” /ega’ku/ in kun-yomi and /byo’o/ in on-yomi) and 猫 (“cat” /ne’ko/ in kun-yomi and /byo’o/ in on-yomi) are phonetically related to 苗 /byo’o/.  Another kanji 奮 (“to muster one’s courage/strength” /huruu/ in kun-yomi and /hu’n/ in on-yomi came from the rice paddies.)

We have had three postings on kanji that contain 田 “rice paddies.” There are kanji that contain the shape 田 but do not mean “rice paddies.” I will try to put some of them together in the next post.  [July 18, 2015]

2015-07-25 The Kanji 鬼畏異細思脳悩胃-田 (4) “not rice paddies”

In this post, we are going to look at kanji in which the component 田 did not come from “rice paddies.” Three origins are discussed here — [A] The shape 田 from “head of the spirit of the dead” in the kanji 鬼畏異; [B] The shape 田 “brain” from “baby’s skull viewed from above” in the kanji 細思脳悩; and [C] The shape 田 from “stomach” in the kanji 胃.

[A] The shape 田 from “head of the spirit of the dead”– 鬼畏 and 異

The kanji 畏 has the 田 shape at the top, but in order to discuss that it may be useful to look at a closely related kanji 鬼 first.

  1. The kanji 鬼 “devil; deceased”

History of Kanji 鬼In the history of the kanji 鬼 shown on the left, in oracle bone style, in brown, it was a figure with a square head with a crisscross inside kneeling down. The crisscross inside the square shape signified a fierce expression of a deceased person. It meant the spirit of a deceased person. In bronze ware style, in green, the head became a pointed shape. In the old style that predated ten style given in Setsumon, in gray, the left side had an altar table, and a small shape that signified a dark spirit was added next to the figure. In ten style, in red, an altar table was not present. The kanji reflected ten style writing, including the top short stroke above the head as a short slanted stroke. From the spirit of the dead in its origin, 鬼 was used to signify mysterious ability or supernatural power.

The kun-yomi /oni’/ means “ogre; devil,” and is in 鬼退治 “slaying the ogre” in folktale, 鬼ごっこ (“a game of tag” /onigo’kko/) in children’s play, and 仕事の鬼 (“demon for work” /shigoto-no-oni’/). The on-yomi /ki/ is in 鬼才 (“genius; a person of extraordinary talent” /kisai/) and 鬼門 (“weak point; area to be avoided” /kimon/). The expression 鬼籍に入る (“to join the necrology; to die” /ki’seki-ni hai’ru/) takes the original meaning of the spirit of a deceased person. Other kanji that contain 鬼 among the Joyo kanji all reflect “spirit” in its origin. They are 魂 (“soul; spirit” /ta’mashii/ in kun-yomi, /ko’n/ in on-yomi), 魅 (“charm” /mi/ in on-yomi) and 醜 (“ugly” /miniku’i/ in kun-yomi, /shu’u/ in on-yomi).

  1. The kanji 畏 “to revere; obey respectfully”

History of Kanji 畏In the oracle bone style sample of the kanji 畏 (a), we recognize a shape similar to the kanji 鬼 on the left, with a couple of differences — the figure in 畏 was standing whereas the figure in 鬼 was kneeling; and 畏 had a stick. A figure of the spirit of the dead carrying a stick signified something to be feared. The bronze ware style samples (b) and (c) had the position switched. In the third bronze ware style sample (d) another set of elements was added on the right side — a stick and a hand. As we have discussed before, “a stick” and “a hand” made up the meaning “to cause an action to happen,” which became a  bushu bokuzukuri 攴, or 攵 in a newer kanji [the postings on October 18 and 24, 2014]. So the right side reinforced the meaning “making someone revere or obey respectfully.” In ten style, (f), just as we saw in 鬼, the pointed head changed to a short line sticking out above the head. The bottom shape is difficult to make out (and its older style given in Setsumon (e) is not helpful to me either.) The best I can do is to suggest that the stick on the left, the body in the center and a hand contributed to this shape. The kanji 畏 means “to be fearful of; awe.”

The kun-yomi 畏れる /osore’ru/ means “to revere; awe,” and another kun-yomi 畏まる /kashikoma’ru/ (this sound not on the Joyo kanji list) means “to obey respectfully; humble oneself.” The polite expression かしこまりました (“Certainly; I understand.” /kashikomarima’shita/) comes from this verb. The on-yomi /i/ is in 畏敬の念 (“reverence; awe” /ikee-no-ne’n/) and 畏怖の念 (“fearful; with awe” /ihu-no-ne’n/).

History of Kanji 異(frame)The kanji : Another kanji that had the shape 田 related to a fierce facial expression or a spirit is the kanji 異. [Two post on May 31, 2014 and September 26, 2014]. In 異, rather than a face bearing fierce expression, it was a mask worn in a votive play. In oracle bone style and bronze ware style on the right we see two hands holding a mask of a fearsome face. The ten style sample had a stage for the votive play added. Putting on a mask of an extraordinary face changes the wearer into another person. It meant “different.”

There is another difference in ten style. In the ten style of 鬼 and 畏 from “face/head,” there was a short line sticking out at the top whereas 異 from “mask” did not. Then, if we look at the ten style samples of the kanji 細思脳悩, which originated from a baby’s skull as we are about to see,we notice that they all have a short line at the top. So, it appears that this short line at the top in ten style did carry the meaning of a head as a part of the body. In the case of 鬼, it retained as the short slanted stroke in kanji.

[B] The shape田 “brain” from baby’s skull

The next four kanji shared the same shape in ten style — a rounded square with a diagonal crisscross and a short line on top. That shape became 田 in the kanji 細 and 思, but not in the kanji 脳 or 悩.

  1. The kanji 細 “small; thin”

History of Kanji 細The left side of the ten style of the kanji 細 was a skein of threads, which signified “long and thin,” and it became the bushu itohen. History of Kanji Component %22Brain%22On the right side was a rounded square shape with a diagonal crisscross inside and a short line at the top. This shape came from an infant small head with a fontanel that was viewed from the top. A fontanel is a soft spot between the bones of the skull and it is  called ひよめき /hiyomeki/ or 泉門 /senmon/ in Japanese. The gap is so small that it signified “smallness.” Together they meant something “long and thin; very small.” In an earlier kanji for 細, the right side had 囟 (if your browser comes as blank, it is (b) in the purple table on the right.) The diagonal crisscross was similar to a katakana メ.

History of Kanji 思(frame)The kanji : The kanji 思 shared the same origin as “brain” as 細. We have looked at the kanji 思 in connection with 心 “heart.”[February 7, 2015] In ten style the top was an infant head where the bones of the skull had not closed completely and it signified the brain. Together with an anatomical shape of a “heart” they meant “to think.” In kanji the top took the shape 田 and the bottom 心.

The kanji 脳 ”brain” and 悩 “torment; distress” The meaning of “brain” from a baby’s skull with a fontanel shape not only became the shape 田, but it also became an combination of a receptacle with a katakana /me/ inside, in kanji such as 脳 and 悩. We revisit those kanji that we looked at earlier [February 21, 2015] to focus on the role of “brain.”

History of Kanji 脳(frame)The kanji 脳: The left side of the ten style writing of the kanji 脳 (a) on the right was a person. On the right side in addition to an infant head viewed from above, it had three wavy lines. Those were fully grown hair. So, the right side was no longer that of an infant, but of a person. Together they meant “brain.” (b) and (c) were both older kanji, (b) with a person from ten style, and (c) with the body radical nikuzuki 月. Officially (c) was the kyujitai. In shinjitai (d) the right side had a simplified shape ツ and the bottom was replaced by a receptacle shape with メ inside.

History of Kanji 悩(frame)The kanji :  The left side of the ten style writing was a woman, whose role is not clear. It meant “to torment; distress.” In kyujitai 女 was replaced by the bushu risshinben “heart.” In shinjitai, the right side have gone through the same process as 脳.

In [B] we have looked at four kanji 細思脳 and 悩, that originated from a baby’s skull. They all share the same ten style shapes with a diagonal crisscross inside (囟).  The baby’s skull became 田 in two kanji 細 and 思, and a receptacle with a メ in 脳 and 悩.

One more “not rice paddies” 田 here — 胃.

[C] The shape 田 from “stomach”     

  1. The kanji 胃

History of Kanji 胃In bronze ware style of the kanji 胃, the top was a stomach that contained food. The dots signified that it had food particles and was not empty. The bottom came from a piece of meat, which signified that the writing was about a part of a body. Together they meant “stomach.” There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi 胃 /i/ means “stomach,’ and is in 胃腸 (“stomach and intestines” /ichoo/).

Next we are going to move onto another topic of “habitats.” Since we have discussed a house in the bushu ukanmuri “house,” anakanmuri “opening (in a cave dwelling),” and madare “house with one side open” before we spent four posts on the bushu ta “rice paddies,” how about returning to a house and looking at a door and a gate next time?   [July 25, 2015]

2015-08-01 The Kanji 戸所門問間開閉関閣 – もんがまえ

In this post we are going to look at kanji that came from a door (戸) and closed two doors (門).

  1. The kanji 戸 “door; family”

History of Kanji 戸For the kanji 戸, in oracle bone style, in brown on the left, it was a single door  that swung open. It meant a “door.” The front door to a house also signified the people inside, thus “family.” In ten style, in red, the top right, which was a hinge to lock, got separated, and it became a separate stroke in kanji. The kanji 戸 meant “door; family.”

The kun-yomi 戸 /to/ means “door,” and is in 網戸 (“screen door; window screen” installed in summer /ami’do/), 戸棚 (“cupboard; cabinet” /todana/), 戸締まりをする (“to lock the doors” /toji’mari-o-suru/). The on-yomi /ko/ is in 一戸建ち (“single-family house” /ikkodachi/), 戸外 (“outdoor” /ko’gai/), 戸別訪問 (“door-to-door canvasing” /kobetsuho’omon/) and 戸籍 (“family registry” /koseki/). Koseki information includes the record of birth, marriage, divorce, family members, adoption and death. It is the ultimate ID document as a Japanese national.

  1. The kanji 所 “place”

History of Kanji 所For the kanji 所, in bronze ware style and ten styles the left side was a single swing door. The right side was an axe. The explanation of these two components making up the meaning “place” is obscure. Setsumon said that it was “the sound of cutting a tree.” Another view is that they meant a place where an axe was.

The kun-yomi 所 /tokoro’/ means “place,” and is in 台所 (“kitchen” /daidokoro/), 居所 (“whereabouts” /idokoro/). The adverb ところどころ “here and there; patches of” is sometimes written in kanji 所々. The on-yomi /sho/ is in 住所 (“address of residence” /ju’usho/), 所在地 (“address” /shoza’ichi/), 所定の (“prescribed” /shotee-no/).

  1. The kanji 門 “gate”

History of Kanji 門For the kanji 門, in both oracle bone style, in brown, and bronze ware style two types of shapes existed — one had two swinging doors with a hinge at the top of each door to ensure closure, and another was just two swinging doors. Closed double doors protected or hid what was inside. The hinge to lock the door indicated that purpose. In ten style, the side bar at the top disappeared and the two poles became long, just as they did in 戸. When used as a kanji 門 meant a “gate.” When used as a component, it became a bushu mongamae, which signified “to hide and protect what is behind,” as we are going to see in the next six kanji.

The kun-yomi /ka’do/ is in 門出 (“departure; setting out” /kadode/), お門違いな (“barking at the wrong tree” /okadochi’gai-na/). The on-yomi /mo’n/ is in 門 (“gate” /mo’n/), 門外不出 (“much-treasured heirloom; treasure that never allowed to be taken out” /mo’ngai hushutsu/), 門下生 (“student; disciple” /monka’see/), 一門 (“clan” /ichi’mon/) and 入門書 (“introductory book” /nyuumonsho/).

  1. The kanji 問 “question; to inquire”

History of Kanji 問For the kanji 問, in oracle bone style and ten style, a mouth was added to two closed doors. One asked what was hidden behind the doors that were closed. It meant “to inquire; question.” I like this kanji — 門 is not something we can easily walk through but something that blocks our going in. It is closed and locked. What is behind remains a mystery and unknown to us. We want to know. So, standing on this side of the doors shut, we ask (by using words) what is on the other side. Curiously the kanji 問 is not classified as a mongamae (門) kanji but as a kuchi or kuchihen (口) kanji in a traditional kanji dictionary.

The kun-yomi /to/ is in 問い合わせる (“to inquire” /toiawase’ru/), 問いと答 (“question and answer” /toi-to-koto’e/), 問いかける (“to cast a question” /toikake’ru/).  問屋 “wholesale store dealer” has two readings /toiya; tonya/. The on-yomi /mo’n/ is in 問題 (“problem; issue; question” /mondai/), 押し問答する (“to haggle; argue” /oshimo’ndoo-suru/).

  1. The kanji 間 “duration; gap”

History of Kanji 間For the kanji 間, the left sample in bronze ware style had an early moon and a knife or person under the closed doors. The right sample had a moon above two closed doors. It meant a moonlight coming in through the opening of the two doors for a period of time. The ten style writing and the kyujitai, in blue, had a moon 月 inside 門.  In fact among many samples available to us none of the ancient writings had the sun 日, as the shinjitai does. To think about it, a moon at night makes more sense than the sun in a broad daylight because it described the gap between two doors from which one saw a moon moving across, and that happened in a certain duration of time. From that it meant “gap; in-between” and “duration.” It is used for spatial and temporal sense.

The kun-yomi 間 /aida/ means “duration; interval; gap,” and is in 間柄 (“relationship” /aidagara/). Another kun-yomi /ma/ is in 知らない間に (“while one did not know; before one realizes” /shiranaimani/), 間抜けな (“foolish; stupid” /manukena/) and 間もなく (“shortly; soon” /mamo’naku/). The on-yomi /ka’n/ is inその間 (“during that time’ /sonoka’n/ in writing, also /sonoaida/ in speaking), 中間 (“middle; medium” /chuukan/), 間一髪 (“by a hairbreadth; to have a narrow escape from” /ka’n ippatsu), 空間 (“room; space” /kuukan/). Another on-yomi /ke’n/ is a go-on, and it is in 世間 (“world of people” /se’ken/).

  1. The kanji 開 “to open”

History of Kanji 開In the earlier style of the kanji 開 given by Setsumon, in gray, the outside was two closed doors and inside was two hands trying to open the bolt above. It meant “to open; begin.”

The kun-yomi 開ける /akeru/ is a transitive verb and means “to open.” Its intransitive counterpart is 開く(”to open” /aku/).  開く also has another kun-yomi /hira’ku/ and means the same, “to open.” The on-yomi /ka’i/ is in 開会 (“opening a meeting” /kaikai/), 開口一番 (“to begin his speech with ~” /kaikooichi’ban/) and 開発する (“to develop” /kaihatsu-suru/.)

  1. The kanji 閉 “to close”

History of Kanji 閉In the bronze ware style of the kanji 閉, inside the two closed doors it was a weir that blocked the flow of water. Together blocking something or someone coming in meant “to close.”  (We are going to look at the shape inside (才) in the next post.) The kun-yomi 閉じる /toji’ru/ means “to close,” and also is in 閉じ込める (“to shut in” /tojikome’ru/). Another kun-yomi 閉める /shime’ru/ and its intransitive verb counterpart 閉まる /shima’ru/ mean “to close.” The on-yomi /he’e/ is in 開閉 (“opening and closing” /kaihee/), and 閉店時間 (“store closing time” /heetenji’kan/).

  1. The kanji 関 “checkpoint; to relate”

History of Kanji 関In the bronze ware style of the kanji 関, it had two bolts inside the closed two doors. From putting the bolts down, it became a “checkpoint.” In ten style and kyujitai the inside became two skeins of threads with a tied end, which signified “to close securely.” Together they meant “checkpoint.” Threads also connected things, thus it meant “to relate.” In shinjitai, the inside was simplified to the shape that was the same as the top of the kanji 送 or 咲. The kun-yomi /se’ki/ is in 関所 (“checkpoint” /sekisho/).  Another kun-yomi 関わる /kakawa’ru/ means “to touch on; affect.” The on-yomi /ka’n/ is in 関係 (“relationship” /kankee/), 通関 (“clearing the customs” /tsuukan/), Xに関して (“concerning X” /X ni ka’nshite/), 玄関 (“front door; front hall” /ge’nkan/) and 関心がある (“to be interested in” /kanshin-ga a’ru/.)

  1. The kanji 閣 “large important building; cabinet body”

History of Kanji 閣The ten style writing of the kanji 閣 had two closed doors outside, and the inside was the kanji 各, which was used phonetically for /ka’ku/. From an important structure that had a bolt on the gate doors, it meant a “large important building; pavilion.” It also meant a “cabinet body.” The on-yomi /ka’ku/ is in 内閣 (“cabinet” /na’ikaku/), 閣議 (“cabinet meeting” /ka’kugi/) and 金閣寺 (Kinkakuji Temple /ki’nkakuji/.)

Of the seven kanji that has 門 that we looked at here, the first six kanji were all semantic composite writing (会意文字), and only one 閣 was a semantic-phonetic composite writing (形声文字). The explanation of these kanji is straightforward and easy to digest. Kanji study by a bushu, or a common component in a broader sense, generally allows us to focus on what is different from other kanji that share the same bushu shape. In semantic composite writings such as mongamae kanji that advantage is more evident.  [August 1, 2015]

2015-08-08 The Kanji 至室屋到致台(臺)-至

In this post we are going to look at kanji that contain 至 “an arrow reaching the ground.” They are the kanji 至室屋到致台(臺).

  1. The kanji 至 “an end; to reach an end”

History of Kanji 至For the kanji 至 in oracle bone style, in brown, and bronze ware style, in green, it was an arrow coming downward, and the line at the bottom was the ground. When an arrow hits the ground that is as far as it can go. So, it meant “an end; to reach an end.” In ten style, in red, the arrowhead was stretched, and became a part of the component 土 in kanji. The kun-yomi 至る /ita’ru/ means ”to reach an end.” It is in the phrase 至れり尽くせり (“boundless hearty hospitality” /itare’ri tsukuse’ri/) and 至る所 (“throughout; everywhere” /ita’rutokoro/). The on-yomi /shi/ is in 至急 (“without delay” /shikyuu/) and 必至の (“inevitable; sure” /hisshi-no/).

2 The kanji 室 “room”

History of Kanji 室For the kanji 室, in all three ancient writing styles, the outside was a house. The oracle bone style sample did not have a short dot at the top whereas the bronze ware style and ten style samples had it. Inside was an arrow hitting the ground, whose development was virtually the same as 至. When an arrow was shot inside a house, it would hit the wall of a room. It meant “room.” In kanji a house became a bushu ukanmuri “house.” The kun-yomi 室 /muro’/ means “cellar; greenhouse,” and is in 氷室 (“icehouse” /hi’muro/). The on-yomi /shi’tsu/ is in 洋室 (“western-style room” /yooshitsu/), 室内 (“inside a room” /shitsu’nai/), 研究室 (“research room; professor’s office” /kenkyu’ushitsu/) and 暗室 (“darkroom” /anshitsu/.)

  1. The kanji 屋 “house”

History of Kanji 屋For the kanji 屋 in ten style the bottom was an arrow reaching the ground, as seen above. The upper left shape尸, however, is a problematic shape for us if we look for a one-on-one correspondence between a shape and the meaning. As a bushu in kanji it is called shikabane. It appeared in a number of kanji, and there are a few different interpretations, including “deceased person,” “roof” and “buttock.”

History of Kanji 尸(frame)The shape 尸 shikabane: The shape 尸 is not a currently used kanji, but its history was well-documented, as shown on the right. It was a person in a sitting position – a person in a sluggish posture or a deceased person. The name shikabane means a dead body. There is a non-Joyo kanji 屍, which consists of a bushu shikabane and the kanji 死 “death.”

The Setsumon account of the kanji 屋 mentions two meanings, “a deceased person” and “a house.” How are the two meanings related? Shirakawa’e explanation is that 屋 was a mortuary where a deceased person was temporarily enshrined. The component 至 added the meaning that the location was indicated by the god with an arrow. The Kadokawa dictionary’s explanation is more appealing to us in modern life even though it lacks the explanation of where it came from. It says that 尸 was a draped cloth and 至 signified a place deep in the back of a house, that is a sleeping chamber in the back. From that it came to be used to mean “house.”

The kun-yomi /ya/ is not used by itself but it is in 屋根 (“roof” /ya’ne/), 本屋 (“bookstore” /ho’nya/). The on-yomi /o’ku/ is in 家屋 (“house” /ka’oku/), 屋上 (“rooftop” /okujoo/).

 4. The kanji 到 “to arrive”

History of Kanji 到For the kanji 至, in the two bronze ware style samples on the left both had an arrow that reached the end, and a standing person on the side. Together they signified a person reaching the end or goal. So far it makes sense, doesn’t it. But then, something happened in ten style — the right side became a knife or sword. In ancient writing the shape for a person and the shape for a sword looked very similar. The Setsumon’s account of 到 took the right side as a phonetic component for /to’o/ from 刀 “knife.” Looking at the bronze ware style sample, it appears more likely that it was miscopied as a sword. That makes the formation of this kanji to be a semantic composite writing, rather than a semantic-phonetic composite writing. In kanji, the right side further changed to a bushu ritto /rittoo/, “vertical sword.” It means “to reach an end; arrive.” The difference between these two kanji 至 and 到 could be that 至 is the end itself whereas 到 concerns a person reaching the end, meaning “to reach; arrive.” The kun-yomi 到る /ita’ru/ means “to arrive; reach; arrive.” The on-yomi /to’o/ is in 到着 (“arrival” /toochaku/), 到底できない (“cannot possibly” /tootee deki’nai/) and 殺到する (“to rush out” /sattoo-suru/.)

  1. The kanji 致 “to do; make; cause”

History of Kanji 致For the kanji 致 in ten style the left side was now familiar shape to us. The right side was “footprint” signifying “walking.” Together they originally meant “to go to the destination on foot.” The meaning changed to “to do; make; cause.” The “correct” kanji shape, in light blue, originally had a bushu suinyo 夂 (/suinyoo/) on the right. It was not a kyujitai, however. The current kanji uses a bushu bokuzukuri, which means “to act upon.” A bushu bokuzukuri originated from “a hand holding a stick.” It is interesting to think that the old kanji had a footprint whereas the shinjitai came from a hand. The kanji 致 means “to do; make; cause.” The kun-yomi 致す /ita’su/ is a humble verb of する to mean “to do,” as in 私が致します (“I will do it.” /watakushi-ga itashima’su/.) The on-yomi /chi/ is in 致命的な (“fatal” /chimeeteki-na/) and 一致する (“to correspond with; fall in line with” /itchi-suru/).

  1. The Kanji 台 (臺) “stand; raised level”

History of Kanji 台 (臺)There is one more kanji that I would like to put in among kanji that contain 至 even though the shinjitai does not. In bronze ware style and ten style on the left the top was a tall tower to watch enemy. It shared the same origin with the kanji 高 “tall.” The bottom showed a house where an arrow ended and stayed. Together they meant “stand; tower; raised level.” The kyujitai, in blue, consisted of the kanji 吉 and 室. In shinjitai, it was replaced by the shape 台. The history of the shape 台 is shown on the right.

History of Kanji 台(frame)The kanji : The top was a haw and the bottom was a mouth or words. Together they meant “to begin communal fieldwork.” It was the original shape of the kanji 始 “to begin.” So the shape 台 had no relationship with the meaning “stand; platform.” I would think that people were using this shape as a simplified writing for a very complex kanji such as 臺.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi 台 /da’i/ means “stand; platform,” and is in 台所 (“kitchen” /daidokoro/.)  /tai/ is in the country name Taiwan, which is written both in 台湾 in shinjitai and 臺灣 in kyujitai. On this blog I am afraid that the text font size is too small to make out the kyujitai.

I think we have covered a house enough for now. Next we will go back to outside the house to look for other origins. [August 8, 2015]

2015-08-15 The Kanji 才材財在存-才

In this post we are going to look at five kanji that share the same origin of 才 – 才材財在存.

  1. The kanji 才 “talent; age”

History of Kanji 才For the kanji 才 in oracle bone style (a), in brown, and bronze ware style (b), (c) and (d), in green, and ten style (e), in red, the cross shape was a weir that was blocking water flow, and came to be used mean “materials” in general. This view from the Kadokawa dictionary was based on the Setsumon’s account. Another interpretation (Shirakawa) is that it was a marker for sanctified area for the god and it meant “what was given by the god,” which is “talent.” In ten style what was blocking or a marker became a slightly slanted line, which in kanji became a katakana ノ /no/ shape that crossed a vertical line. (It is different from a katakana オ.) Customarily it is also used in casual writing of the kanji 歳 “one’s age” (but not as “year”).  The kanji 才 means “ability; talent; one’s age.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /sa’i/ is in 才能 (“talent; ability” /sainoo/), 天才 (“genius” /tensai/), 才覚 (“ability; wit” /saikaku/), 異才 (“genius; prodigy” /isai/), and 三十才 (“thirty years old” /sanji’ssai/).

  1. The kanji 材 “materials”

History of Kanji 材For the kanji 材 in ten style on the left was a kihen, “wood; tree,” and the right side was 才 “natural materials.” From “raw materials that came from a tree” it meant “timber.” From timbers it also meant “materials” in general.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /za’i/ is in 材木 (“lumber; timber” /zaimoku/), 木材 (“wooden materials” /moku’zai/), 材料 (“materials” /zairyo’o/), 教材 (“study materials” /kyoozai/), 食材 (“ingredients; food to cook” /shokuzai/), and 人材 (“personnel; talent” /jinzai/).

  1. The kanji 財 “finance; fortune”

History of Kanji 財For the kanji 財 in ten style the left side was a bushu kaihen or kai 貝 “cowry,” which signified “money.” The right side 才 meant “materials” from what was accumulated around a weir. Together money that accumulated meant “fortune” and “finance.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /za’i/ is in 財政 (“national finance” /zaisee/), 財産 (“assets; estate; property” /za’isan/), 財を成す (“to build one’s fortune” /za’i-o nasu/), 私財を投じる(“to expend one’s own fortune on” /shi’zai-o toojiru/) and 財テク (“money investment/management aimed at high yielding” /zaiteku/). Another on-yomi /sa’i/ is in 財布 (“wallet” /saihu/).

Coining a word from a foreign word: The word 財テク is said to have come from 財務テクノロジー.  The word 財務 /za’imu/ means “department of finance” in a company. テクノロジー /tekuno’rojii/ is, of course, “technology.” It described a way for company finance management people to seek for a high yield investment opportunity. The word tekunorojii implied an engineered or constructed scheme in managing a fund that was unconventionally creative. It is used for an individual investor too.

Japanese coins a word from foreign words by taking two initial syllables of each word. So, usually a new word consists of four syllables. The popular children’s anime figure ポケモン (“Pokemon” /pokemon/) is a good example. It took two first syllables of the English words, pocket (ポケット /poke’tto/) and monster (モンスター /mo’nsutaa/). Sometimes it ends up in a three-syllable word if it includes a long vowel or double consonant syllable. More recently when I hear words such as スタバ /sutaba/ (from スターバックス “Starbucks” /sutaa’bakkusu/) and ミスド /misudo/ (from ミスタードーナッツ “Mister Donuts” /mi’sutaa do’onattsu/) in young people’s lively conversation, I sense that it is a sign of approval and acceptance by these young people as a Japanese word.

  1. The kanji 在 “to exist”

History of Kanji 在There are a number of writing samples for the kanji 在 “to exist.” It must have been an important kanji in ancient times. The oracle bone style samples, (a) and (b), and the bronze ware style samples, (c), (d), the left side of (e) and the right side of (f) were the same as 才. Just as the interpretations of 才 differ, the interpretations of the right side of (f) differ. The Kadokawa dictionary views that it was “dirt” 土. Dirt and weir together signified that the dirt accumulated around the weir. From “dirt or something is there,” it meant “to exist.” Another view, by Shirakawa, is that it was a “warrior’s axe” 士, which meant “man; warrior.” (A more ornamental large axe became the kanji 王 “king.”) Together with a marking of a divine place (才), an axe, a symbol of a ruler, protected a place. It signified that the location was a sacred spot of the god’s presence. It meant “to exist.” Which view do we take?

Well, the key point seems to be how we view the right side of the sample (e) and (f).  So I went back to Akai (2010) and compared the ancient writings for 土 and 士. The difficulty I have was that some of the bronze ware style writings of 土 and 士 looked very similar. In general, however, the kanji 土 had emphasis on the top because that was a mound of soil on the ground, signifying the god of earth. On the other hand the kanji 士 had an emphasis on the bottom because that was the blade of a weapon, a warrior’s axe. The sample (e) and (f) do look like the emphasis was on the bottom. So are we to treat this as 士?  Of course this has to be interpreted in the larger picture of related kanji. When writing became ten style (g), it was 土. My thinking is that it is reasonable to think that historically two interpretations existed. In kanji, the shape 才 changed to the current shape with the second stroke the more prominent slanted stroke. The transition is not clear.

The kun-yomi 在る /a’ru/ means “to exist.” The on-yomi /za’i/ is 現在 (“at present” /ge’nzai/), 在庫 (“stock; inventory” /zaiko/), 不在 (“absence” /huzai/), 実在する (“to actually exist” /jitsuzai-suru/), 在学中 (“in school” /zaigakuchuu/), 自由自在に (“complete freedom; with complete mastery” /jiyu’u jizai/), 在宅ケア (”home care” /zaitakuke’a/), 在留外国人 (“foreign resident” /zairyuugaikoku’jin/).

 5. The kanji 存 “to sustain; live long; think”

History of Kanji 存For the kanji 存, in ten style the left side was a weir and the right side was a child. The sound of the right side also meant “to accumulate.” From soil accumulating around the weir over time, it meant “to sustain; live long.” In Japanese it is also used to mean “to think; know” in humble style.

The on-yomi /zo’n/ is in 実存する (“to exist in reality” /jitsuzon-suru/), 生存者 (“survivor” /seezo’nsha/), 存じている (“to know” [humble-style] /zo’njiteiru/), ご存知ですか (“Do you know?” [honorific-style] /gozo’njidesuka?/). Another on-yomi /so’n/ is in 存在する (“to exist” /sonzai-suru/).

才 in a traditional kanji dictionary — One curious thing about 才 is that in a traditional kanji dictionary it is listed among 手 in a four stroke bushu section. A bushu tehen, which has three strokes, is listed in this four-stroke section of 手. The kanji shape 才 does look similar to a tehen, doesn’t it, even though 才 and a tehen had no relationship at all. The Kangxi dictionary classified kanji by shapes. As a child I hated the kanji dictionary. Who would not have?  There was no clue that I should look up 才 in the four stroke section. Nowadays there are many indexes to look up kanji. But if you need to dig up old information, you have to use an old dictionary and your patience will be tested.

In the traditional dictionary, other kanji that came from 才 that we looked at in this post were all listed in different bushu sections — 材 in 木 /kihen/ “tree; wooden,” 財 in 貝 /ka’i/ “cowry,” 在 in 土 /tsuchi’/ “soil dirt” and 存 in 子 /ko/ “child.”

We will continue to look at the shapes that were related to human habitats, perhaps “building.” [August 15, 2015]

P. S. for an iPad user

I have learned this evening something about the importance of language setting for Japanese on iPad. If your iPad shows the kanji 才“talent” exactly the same way as the katakana オ in this post, you need to add the Japanese language. I would suggest doing the following; Tap (1) Setting (2) General (3) Language & Region (4) iPad Language – leave English (or your own language) as it is; Click Add Language (5) Tap 日本語 (6) Done (7) Click Keep English. You should be able to get correct Japanese kanji.

It seems that the default setting on iPad gives you simplified Chinese characters. After I got my iOS reinstalled at an Apple store while ago (it had become corrupted), I did not bother to set up the language myself, unlike two years ago when a very able Japanese-speaking staff at the store set it up for me. Since the new iOS I have been seeing a square between kanji when my original input was a nakaguro (・) (particularly on the Previous Posts page) and some truncated shapes. Now the mystery is solved. Because the correct shapes matters in our exploration together, I wanted to share my experience with you.   – Noriko  [August 16, 2015]

2015-08-21 No new post until October

Dear readers:

Thank you very much for your visit to this blog and continued interest.

I will be gone away from my desk and research materials. I hope to be able to resume my post from Tokyo in early fall.

Noriko   [August 21, 2015]

2015-10-02 The Kanji 国(國)或域惑図(圖)園遠 -くにがまえ(1)

In this post and the next, we are going to look at kanji that have a bushu kunigamae (囗) “an enclosure; boundary” and other related kanji.

1 The Kanji 国 (國) “country”

The kanji 国 has the kyujitai 國. The inside of the kyujitai is 或. 或 appeared in other Joyo kanji such as 或 域 and 惑 without a kunigamae. Because the four kanji shared the same origin, we are going to look at them all here, staring with 或.

(1-a) The kanji  或 “perhaps; or; maybe”

History of Kanji 或The oracle bone style sample of the kanji 或, (a) in brown, consisted of a box which represented a wall around a fortress or town, and a long stake to mark the boundary of a capital. In the bronze ware style sample, (b) in green, the area or city wall was marked with a line at the top and the bottom to emphasize the range or outline of an area. The right side became a halberd (戈), signifying “weapons.” In ten style, (c) in red, the top boundary line and the top of the halberd became a continuous line. Setsumon’s explained that 或 was weapon (戈) protecting land (一). Setsumon also gave the shape with a bushu tsuchihen (土) “soil” on the left as its variant, as in (d), which became the kanji 域. So, 或 originally meant “area; domain.” Then later on 或 came to be used to mean “to exist.” “To exist” also extended to mean “certain” in the sense “specific but not explicitly stated.” The kanji 或 meant “or; perhaps; maybe; alternatively.”

The kun-yomi /a/ or /a’ru/ is in 或る人 (“certain person” /a’ruhito/) and 或は /aru’iwa/ means “or; perhaps; maybe; alternatively.” There is no on-yomi.

The original meaning of “area; range” remained in two Joyo kanji — 域and 國 (国), which we are going to look at next.

(1-b) The kanji 域 “area; limit; range”

History of Kanji 域As we have just seen, 或 and 域 shared the same origin. The first bronze ware style sample shown on the left was exactly the same as that of 或 in (1-a). In the second bronze ware style sample, a new component was added — a small circle signifying an “area,” and a “person” at the bottom. In the history of kanji, generally speaking if we see a small circle or a box placed above a person in bronze ware style, we can expect them to become the kanji 邑 “village” or a bushu oozato “village,” as in the right side of 都, 部. But in this case, a bushu tsuchihen (土) “soil; ground” appeared in ten style, probably to focus on the land itself, rather than people. The kanji 域 meant “area; limit; range.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /i’ki/ is in 地域 (“area; region” /chi’iki/), 区域 (“zone; segment” /ku’iki/) and 領域 (“domain; territory” /ryooiki/).

(1-c) The Kanji 国 (國) “country; territory; realm; homeland”

History of Kanji 国(國)Another kanji that retained the meaning “area; domain” that 或 originally had is the kanji 國, which is the kyujitai for 国. In the history of the kanji 国 shown on the left, the oracle bone style writing (a) and the first bronze ware style (b) were the same as those of 或, as in (1-a) above. Another bronze ware style sample (c) had an enclosure (囗) around 或. Sometime during the bronze ware style time when 或 changed its meaning to “to exist; certain,” a new kanji for country 國 was created by adding an enclosure line, to mean “country; domain.” The ten style sample (d) and the kyujitai (e), in blue, reflected that shape. In shinjitai (f), however, 玉 “jewel,” instead of 或, was adopted for the inside. It seems that 国 had been used as an abbreviation of 國, but I have not been able to find in the references when the simplified kanji emerged.

The kun-yomi 国 /kuni/ means “country; nation; one’s hometown; home country.” It is also in 国元 (“one’s home country” /kunimoto/). The on-yomi /ko’ku/ is in 日本国 (the official name of Japan /niho’nkoku/), 国民 (“people” /kokumin/), 国語 (“national language; Japanese” /kokugo/), 国際 (“international” /kokusai/), and /kok-/ is in 国家 (“nation; state; country” /kok’ka/), 国交 (“diplomatic relations” /kokkoo/).

(1-d) The kanji 惑 “to be bewildered; to be confused”

History of Kanji 惑There is one more kanji we discuss that contains 或 here. For the kanji 惑, in bronze ware style and ten style the top 或was used phonetically for /waku/. When 心 “heart” was added, they described the state of mind of the heart wondering about existence. An oscillating state of mind means “to be bewildered; confused.”

The kun-yomi 惑う/mado’u/ means “to be bewildered; confused,” and 戸惑う /tomado’u/ means “to become disoriented; become perplexed.” The on-yomi /wa’ku/ is in 疑惑 (“suspicion; doubt; mistrust” /giwaku/), 誘惑 (“temptation” /yuuwaku/), 当惑する (“to feel lost; to be confused” /toowakusuru/). An interesting use for this kanji is in 惑星 (“planet” /wakusee/) because the planet circles around the sun as if being lost.

  1. The kanji 図 (圖) “drawing; to plan; scheme; contrive”

History of Kanji 図(圖)For the kanji 図 in both bronze ware style samples (a) and (b), there was a granary inside the enclosure. The whole image was a map or drawing that showed where the granary was located in the village. The drawing served an important role in managing farming fields. From “discussing how to manage the land using the plan of the field,” it also meant “to plan; scheme.” The ten style sample (c) was reflected in the kyujitai (d). In shinjitai, the inside component was replaced by a katakanaツ and a short slanted stroke, a device that was seen in other simplified kanji. The kanji 図 means “drawing; to plan; scheme; contrive.”

The kun-yomi 図る /haka’ru/ means “to plan; attempt,” and is in 図らずも (“unexpectedly; accidentally” /hakara’uzumo/). The on-yomi (go-on) /zu/ is in 地図 (“map” /chi’zu/), 図星 (“the bull’s eye” /zuboshi/), 図式 (“diagram; graph” /zushiki/). Another on-yomi (kan-on) /to/ is in 図書 (“book” /to’sho/) and 意図 (“intention” /i’to/).

  1. The kanji 園 “garden”

History of Kanji 園For the kanji 園, the inside of an enclosure (囗) in the ten style sample had 袁, which was used phonetically for /en/ to mean “roomy.” (More on the origin of 袁 in the next kanji 遠.) Together they meant an enclosed area that was roomy. From that it meant “garden,” and a roomy place where people gather such as a school.

The kun-yomi is 園 /so’no/ and is in 花園 “flower garden” /hanazono/). The on-yomi /e’n/ is in 公園 (“park” /kooen/), 庭園 (“(large) garden” /teeen/), 動物園 (“zoo” /doobutsu’en/), 幼稚園の園児 (“kindergarten pupil” /yoochi’en-no e’nji) and 学園 (“(private) school” /gakuen/).

  1. The kanji 遠 “far; distance”

History of Kanji 遠The Kanjigen dictionary explained that 袁 came from “clothes/collar (衣) loosely wrapped around the body (○),” and that the kanji 遠 was “辵 (semantic composite) + 袁 (phonetically /en/ and means roomy and having latitude).” Together they meant “far; distant.” I am a little troubled by the fact that this view does not appear to touch upon 土 in 袁. On this point, Shirakawa’s explanation is more inclusive of all the elements in the bronze ware style sample — The upper left was a “crossroad” (); the upper right was a footprint that signified “footwear”; the middle had a collar with a jewel that was used for awakening the dead; and the bottom was another “footprint.” According to Shirakawa in ancient times, before sending the deceased on the long journey to the afterlife a jewel was placed inside the collar of the deceased and footware was placed above the head (which would explain 土); the crossroad and the bottom footprint signified a journey. Altogether they meant “far; long.”

Those who criticize Shirakara’s etymological analyses are primarily concerned about his premise that the meaning of kanji and the origins of writing derive from the practices of magic and incantation that were prevalent at the time the kanji were created. Our readers may have noticed this tendency in some of the earlier posts as well as on 遠 here. We cannot contribute to the discussion among kanji historians about whether that premise is correct. We can only note it, and in his instance it seems to explain more of the kanji than other views.

By the time the writing had reached ten style, the crossroad and footprint were aligned vertically, which eventually became the bushu shinnyoo, “to move forward.” The kanji 遠 meant “far; distant.”

The kun-yomi 遠い /tooi/ means “far; distant.” In hiragana it is とおい, rather than とうい. It is also in 遠出する (“to go for outing” /toodesuru/). The on-yomi /en/ is in 遠距離の (“distant” /enkyo’rino/), 遠慮する (“hold back; be modest” /enryo-suru/), 敬遠する (“to keep at a respectful distance” /keeen-suru/).

We will continue to look at kanji that have a bushu kunigamae – 困因囚固個団回 and others – in the next post. [October 3, 2015  Japan time]

2015-10-09 The Kanji 困因囚圏囲(圍)古固個回四 – くにがまえ (2)

As the second post on kanji that have the bushu kunigamae “enclosure” and related kanji, we are going to look at the kanji 困因囚圏囲(圍)古固個回 and 四.

  1. The kanji 困 “to be in trouble; be inconvenienced”

History of Kanji 困For the kanji 困, in oracle bone style, in brown, and ten style, in red, it was a standing tree inside an enclosure, and it is commonly explained as “a tree inside a tight space that could not move,” thus it meant “to be in trouble.” Setsumon also gave the shape (b) as its old style, in gray. In it the top was a footprint (止) and the bottom was wood (木), together signifying a wooden latch that stopped someone from coming in through an entrance. Shirakawa takes the original meaning to be “closing time; lockup,” and by extension it meant “to be in trouble; be inconvenienced.”

The kun-yomi 困る /koma’ru/ means “to be troubled; be inconvenienced.” The on-yomi /ko’n/ is in  困難 (“difficulty” /ko’nnan/) and 貧困 (“poverty” /hinkon/).

  1. The kanji 因 “to depend; based on; relatedly”

History of Kanji 因For the kanji 因, inside was a “person” (大) in oracle bone style, bronze ware style, in green, and ten style. The outside rectangle shape signified a floor mat for a person to sleep on. So it was an image of a person sleeping that was viewed from above. From something that one used in daily mundane life such as a place to sleep on, it meant “conventional,” and then it was extended to mean “to be based on; depend on” (Shirakawa). Another explanation (the Kadokawa dictionary) is that a sleeping mattress was something one was on, and from that it gave the meaning “to be based on; depend on.”

The kun-yomi 因る /yoru/ is used in Xによると (often in hiragana) “based on X; according to X.” And another kun-yomi 因む /china’mu/ is used in Xに因んで (“after X” /X ni china’nde/). The expressionちなみに /chinamini/ means “while we are on the subject; in connection with.” The on-yomi /i’n/ is in 原因 (“cause” /gen-in/), 死因 (“cause of death” /shiin/) and 因果関係 (“cause and effect” /ingaka’nkee/).

  1. The kanji 囚 ”captor; to be seized; be shackled by”

History of Kanji 囚The kanji 囚 has the kanji 人 “person” inside an enclosure. The kanji 人 originally comes from a standing person who was viewed from the side, in contrast to 大, which was an image of a person viewed from the front. The oracle bone style and ten style samples on the left exactly showed the shape of 人. It signified a person who was captured or confined. It meant “prisoner; captor; to be seized.”

The kun-yomi 囚われる /toraware’ru/ means “to be shackled by; to be gripped by,” and is in 囚われの身 (“being/falling in enemy’s hands” /toraware-no-mi/). The on-yomi /shu’u/ is in 囚人 (“prisoner” /shuujin/), 死刑囚 (“condemned criminal; death-row convict” /shike’eshuu/).

  1. The kanji 圏 “garden”

History of Kanji 圏History of Kanji 巻(frame)The kanji 圏 has 巻 inside. We have discussed earlier two different interpretations of the upper part of 巻 (The Kanji 略各当(當)尚番米巻券 on July 11, 2015), in the discussion os 番 and 巻 in particular. The bottom was a person with his back round, thus it meant “to roll.” With the enclosure “fence” added to 巻, it meant “a block; to encircle.” Just as with the case in the kanji 巻, in shinjitai a crouched person changed the shape to the inside of 厄, but then in kanji it went back to 己 in shinjitai.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ke’n/ is used only with other kanji, such as 大気圏 (“the atmosphere” /taiki’ken/), 安全圏 (“safety zone” /anze’nken/).

  1. The kanji 囲 (圍) “to encircle; surround”

History of Kanji 囲(圍)History of Kanji 韋(frame)The 囲 has the kyujitai 圍. The inside component 韋 is a familiar shape that we discussed earlier (One Foot at a Time (2) 韋衛圍(囲)違偉 on July 13, 2014). The history of 韋 is shown on the right. Two footprints facing opposite directions around a circle signified patrolling around the wall of a fortress or town. For 圍, by adding an outline of a town, they meant “to encircle.” In shijitai the inside was replaced by 井. The kanji 囲 means “to surround; enclosure.”

The kun-yomi 囲う /kakou/ and 囲む /kakomu/ mean “to surround; besiege,” and 囲い /kakoi/ means “enclosure; fence; wall.” The on-yomi /i/ is in 周囲 (“the circumference; those around one” /shu’ui/), 範囲 (“extent; scope; accessible limit” /ha’n-i/) and 雰囲気 (“an ambience; an atmosphere” /hun-i’ki/).

  1. The kanji 古 “old”

History of Kanji 古Before we look at the kanji 固 and 個, let us look at their inside component 古. There are different views about this simple shape — View (A) It was a crown on the ancestral god, and from that it meant “ancient; old”; View (B) The bottom was an old skull of an ancestor and the top was a crown or hair accessory. From that it meant something “old and hard”; View (C) In oracle bone style, the top was a shield and the bottom was a prayer box that was protected with the shield above. Prayers that were protected aged and became authentic precedents to follow. From that 古 originally meant “therefore.” In bronze ware style the vertical line showed a bulge to signify a shield. In ten style, the top became the shape 十. The kanji 古 means “old.” The view (C) is by Shirakawa. If we take the oracle bone style sample into the account, (C) may make more sense to me.

The kun-yomi 古い /huru’i/ means “old,” and is in 古びた (“old and worn” /huru’bita/), お古 (“hand-me-down; used article” /ohu’ru/). Just a reminder that the kanji 古い is not used for people’s old age. Another kun-yomi 古 /inishie/ is a literal word and means “ancient; olden days.” The on-yomi /ko/ is in 古代  (“ancient times” /ko’dai/), and 古典 (“classical work; classics” /koten/).

  1. The kanji 固 “hard; solid”

History of Kanji 固For the kanji 固, in ten style the kanji 古 was placed inside an enclosure. The outside line signified to protect something important and old. Old things became hard, so it meant “solid: hard.”

The kun-yomi 固い /katai/ means “hard; solid; stiff; firm,” and in 固める (“to make hard; solidify; strengthen” /katameru/) and its intransitive verb counterpart 固まる (“to harden; become solid” /katamaru/). The on-yomi /ko/ is in 頑固な (“obstinate; stubborn” /ga’nkona/) and 堅固な (“firm; strong” /ke’ngona/).

  1. The kanji 個 “individual; piece”

There is no ancient writing available for the kanji 個 because this was created at a later time. In kanji, the left side is a bushu ninben “person.” The right side 固 was used phonetically to mean something solid and individual. It is used as a counter for an object. In modern times it came to be used for “individual” as in person. There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ko/ is in 一個 (“one object or item” /ik’ko/), 個数 (“number of items” /kosu’u/), 個人 (“indivisual person” /ko’jin/).

The rectangular shape of the next two kanji, 回 and 四, is wide rather than long unlike other kunigamae kanji and their origins differ from other kanji with kunigamae. Nonetheless they are among the kunigamae kanji in the traditional kanji dictionary.

  1. The kanji 回 “to whirl; time”

History of Kanji 回For the kanji 回, in oracle bone style and bronze ware style, it was the image of whirling water or something coiling. The directions of coiling were not uniform among these earlier styles. It meant “to whirl; to coil.” Coiling also meant “times” because it always returns to the same place.

The kun-yomi 回る (/mawaru/ means “to go around”), an intransitive verb, and 回す/mawasu/ is the transitive verb (“to run in a circle; go around” /mawasu/). It is also iin 遠回り (“detour” /tooma’wari/). The on-yomi /ka’i/ is in 一回 (“once” /ikkai/), 回数 (“number of times” /kaisu’u/).

  1. The kanji 四 “four”

History of Kanji 四For the kanji 四, the writing for “four,” had originally four bars placed horizontally in oracle bone style and bronze ware style. It is in line with 一 “one”, 二 “two” and 三,”three.” Later on the shape 四 was borrowed to mean “four,” and also meant “all (four directions).”

The kun-yomi /yo’n/ or /yo/ is in 四つ (“four pieces” /yottsu/), 四日 (“four days; fourth day of month” /yokka/), and 四人 (“four people” /yonin/), 四時 (“four o’clock” /yo’ji/). On-yomi /shi/ is in 四方 (“all directions” /shiho’o/). The Japanese language kept both Japanese counting systems (kun-yomi) and Chinese kanji counting systems (on-yomi) from one through ten. Some words contain both kun-yomi and on-yomi, such as 二十四日 (“twenty four days; 24th day of month” /ni’juu yokka/), in which 二十 /ni’juu/ is the on-yomi and 四日 /yokka/ is the kun-yomi, even though 二十日 “twenty days; twentieth of month” by itself is in kun-yomi /hatsuka/.

We have seen quite a few kanji that have an enclosure shape. The meaning of the rectangular shape ( ) varied — as a boundary of a country or land, as a fence to corral animal or confine a prisoner, to surround, etc. There are other kanji, such as 団 (團), that have a kunigamae. We will look at them at a later time when we discuss other related kanji. [October 10, 2015  Japan time]

2015-10-18 The Kanji 行街術衛 – ゆきがまえ

In this and next posts, we are going to look at kanji that contain a bushu yukigamae (行) and bushu gyooninben (). The two bushu come from an image of crossroad.

1. 行 “to go; carry out; line”

History of Kanji 行For the kanji 行, in oracle bone style, bronze ware style and ten style, it was a crossroad. The vertical direction was thicker and suggested rather than turning to the right or left, one went ahead straight. From that it meant “to go; way” and also meant “to carry out” and “to conduct oneself,” when that principle was applied to a person. A straight line also was used to mean “line” in writing.

There are a couple of things I need to mention here. The word 行く “to go” has two pronunciations いく /iku/ and ゆく /yuku/ and have been used interchangeably way back in history. Another example that /i/ and yu/ are used interchangeably is the word 言う (“to say” いう /iu/ and ゆう /yuu/).

Another thing is that the kanji 行 has three different on-yomi with its own history. Yes, three on-yomi. This is on top of another kun-yomi /okona/ in 行う (“to carry out” /okonau/). As you know, the Japanese language adopted the Chinese writing over a long stretch of centuries. Even among the people in China kanji was pronounced differently depending on the regional dialects from which the ruling dynasy came from.  What Japanese had learned as the correct Chinese pronunciation became outdated or came to be viewed as “country-style” when the new power came in in China. So during the Tang (唐) dynasty, to bring the on-yomi up to date the Japanese Heian court officially changed the on-yomi in line with the contemporary Chinese pronunciation. That was called kan-on  (“sounds of the Han people”). A large portion of on-yomi words that we use now is kan-on based. At the same time the pronunciation prior to that, called go-on, remained in words that were deeply rooted in Buddhism and people’s daily life. The sounds that were brought in after that were called too-on (“Chinese sound”). They are small groups of words.

So, the kanji 行 ended up with five different pronunciations in Japanese. /i/ い or /yu/ ゆ is in 東京行き(Tokyo-bound /tookyooiki; tookyooyuki/). Even though kun-yomi /i/ or /yu/ is interchangeably used, words such as 行方知らず (“whereabouts unknown” /yukueshi’razu/), 行く末 (“one’s future” /yukusue/) are pronounced as /yu/. Another kun-yomi 行う /okonau/ means “to carry out; conduct,” and is in 行い (“conduct; behavior; deed” /okonai/).

Among the on-yomi, the kan-on /ko’o/ is in 行為 (“action; behavior; deed” /ko’oi/), 銀行 (“bank” /ginkoo/), 旅行 (“travel; trip” /ryokoo/); the go-on /gyo’o/ is in 行列 (“queue; file; procession” /gyooretsu/), 行 (“religious training” /gyoo/), 行 (“line” /gyo’o/) and 行儀 (“manners; deportment; etiquette” /gyoogi/); and the too-on /a’n/ is in 行脚 (“pilgrimage; tour” /a’ngya/), 行灯 (“paper-shade lamp stand” /andon/).

2. 街 “town; street”

History of Kanji 街For the kanji 街, in ten style, the outside was a full shape of a crossroad. The inside was two mounds of dirt stacked up neatly, signifying an area that people built. Together they meant a town with many major streets running through.

The kun-yomi 街 /machi’/ means “town; street,” and 街角 “on the street” /machikado/. The on-yomi /ga’i/ is in 街灯 (“street light” /gaitoo/) and 街路樹 (“tree lining a street” /gairo’ju/)

3. 術 “skill; art”

History of Kanji 術Many different views exist for this kanji. We look at a couple of them. The first one is that in the center was millets sticking to the stalk, signifying “to follow” and the outside a crossroad, signifying “way” to go. From the ways people would adhere to carry out things it meant “means; skills; art.” Another account is by Shirakara that in the center was an animal spell curse and the outside was a crossroad, where an evil spirit was exorcised. An art of casting out spells came to mean “means; skills; art.” It meant “method; means; art.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ju’tsu/ is in 芸術 (“fine arts” /geejutsu/), 手術 (“surgical operation /shu’jutsu/) and 技術 (“technology” /gi’jutsu/)

4. 衛 “to protect”

History of Kanji 衛The kanji 衛 was discussed in the post dated July 13, 2014. (One Foot at a Time (2) 韋衛圍(囲)違偉) with a focus on the middle component 韋. 韋 came from two feet walking in opposite directions around an area, and signified soldiers patrolling the city wall. In Akai (2010), we can see many samples of ancient style for the kanji 衛, several of which are shown above. The oracle bone style samples (a) and (b) had a plough in the middle and the bronze ware style (c) had something else. Even though there may be a more complicated story than two feet walking in opposite directions patrolling, we leave it as it is. There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /e’i/ is in 衛生 (“hygiene; cleanliness” /eesee/), 防衛 (“defense” /booee/).

In the next post, we will look at kanji that have a bushu gyooninben, which is the left side of a crossroad. (October, 18, 2015)

2015-10-25 The Kanji 徳待役後従 – ぎょうにんべん(1)

In the last post we have seen that an image of a crossroad became a bushu yukigamae (行) in 行街術衛. A crossroad was where an action took place. On the other hand, when half a crossroad () was used, the move or motion seemed more apparent. We would imagine that half a crossroad () must have derived from the full shape of a crossroad (行). But, from what I see in oracle bone style samples, both shapes already existed by then, as we will see in 1. The name gyooninben comes from the on-yomi /gyo’o/ of the kanji 行, even though the kanji 行 belongs to the bushu yukigamae group in the traditional kanji dictionary.

Since our exploration on this blog started almost two years ago, we have touched several kanji that had a gyooninben as component. This post is to revisit those kanji from the point of view of the gyooninben. (For sample words, please see the original posts.)

  1. The kanji 徳 “virtue; merit; good (acts)”

The first kanji that we came across that contained the bushu gyooninben was the kanji 徳 in connection with an eye (Eye Wide Open (2) 直値植置徳 posted on March 25, 2014.) We saw that the shape 直 originally came from an eye looking straight ahead that was signified by a vertical line. The horizontal line at the top (十) was originally a bulge in the vertical line to emphasize that the line was straight. The angle at the left bottom below 目 was an emphasis of  being straight.

History of Kanji 徳rFor this post I have added a couple of  samples for the kanji 徳. The two oracle bone style sample (a) and (b), in brown, are mirror images − We have seen many times that in oracle bone style whether a component faces right or left did not carry a particular meaning. Each had an eye looking straight ahead, and a crossroad. The writing meant that one behaved oneself in a straight manner. In the second bronze ware style sample, (d), in green, a heart was added. One had to act straight using not only his eyes but also his heart. In ten style (e), in red, a crossroad became more prominent. In kyujitai (f), in blue, the extra line above 心 was the remnant of an angle that 直 had. So the kanji 徳 is a heavy loaded kanji that meant “a way of life in which one should follow his own heart in a straightforward way.” If you live that way you would be someone of “virtue; merit; good (acts).” I am overwhelmed by morality of this kanji every time I see it.

  1. The kanji 待 “to wait”

History of Kanji 待The kanji 待 was discussed along with kanji that contained 寺 as its component (The Kanji 寺-持待侍特時詩等 “to hold; sustain” on January 24, 2015.) In that post, we noted that even though the kanji 寺 “temple” had lost its original meaning, when 寺 was used as its component it kept the original meaning of “to sustain; hold.” In the kanji 待 in bronze ware style, the left side was a crossroad. The right side was a footprint at the top and a hand at the bottom, signifying “to sustain; hold.” Holding back from crossing a crossroad meant “to wait.”

  1. The Kanji 役 “battle; military service; role”

HistoryofKanji役The kanji 役 was discussed with the kanji that contained the bushu rumata/bokuzukuri (The kanji 役投段殺-rumata posted on October 10, 2014.) The bushu rumata/bokuzukuri generally means “to hit,” from someone hitting with a stick. The two oracle bone style samples did not contain a crossroad at all. Instead they had a person on the left, either standing or kneeling. The right side was a hand holding a long object, which was a weapon, with an emphasis on its tip. Together they meant a person readying to go to battle or patrol of the border. It was an ordinary person conscripted for military duty. In ten style the left side became a crossroad, signifying “to go to the front; a soldier leaving for battle.” The kanji 役 originally meant “battle; military service.” From a call to duty, it also meant “role one assumes.”

  1. The kanji 後 “rear; back; behind; after”

History後rThe kanji 後 was discussed in One Foot at a Time (1) 後夏降麦来 on July 5, 2014. That was the first of several articles that discussed various shapes that came from a footprint (footmark). We also compared a forward facing footprint, such as 止, and a backward facing footprint, such as suinyoo 夂. For the kanji 後, the two bronze ware style samples shown here shared a crossroad and a skein of threads without fringes and a backward foot. The left sample had a forward foot as well, which in ten style was dropped. The skein of threads without the fringes signified “short or small.” Together they meant taking short steps or walking backward that resulted in “coming behind or be late in time.” The kanji 後 means “rear; back; behind; after.”

  1. The kanji 従 “to follow”

History of Kanji 従The kanji 従 was discussed in connection with two people standing side by side (The Kanji 人仁従縦比皆階陛 – Posture (3) on April 5, 2015.) The first oracle bone style sample (a) was just two people standing viewed from the side, signifying “a person following another.” In the second oracle bone style sample (b), a crossroad was added on the left side, giving the sense of forward motion. In bronze ware style (c) a footprint was further added below the two people adding the sense of walking. In ten style (d) this footprint was moved to the left, just below a crossroad. When a crossroad and a footprint were aligned vertically, they usually became the precursor to the bushu shinnyoo. However something interesting took place in this kanji. In kyujitai (e) this footprint moved back to the original position, below two people, leaving the crossroad back in its original shape. The two people were kept as two small 人, which became the two stroke ソ shape in shinjitai.  Unless we are shown the original shapes we would never have guessed that the current shape 従 originated from just two standing persons.

Yesterday in Tokyo I had a chance to see a few actual pieces of oracle bone writing that dated from the 13th century B. C. The visit to this small museum (Taito-ward Calligraphy Museum 台東区立書道博物館 in Tokyo near the Uguisudani station on the Yamanote Line) was on my agenda for my visit to Japan this time, but for various reasons it was only yesterday that I was able to visit it. This museum originated from a private collection by an artist-calligrapher before the WWII and was donated by his family to the Taito-ku (ward) in Tokyo more recently. Unlike many art museums in Japan, which started as private collections of wealthy art loving industrialists who had amassed a fortune in modern times, this collection is a modest one and the layout of of the exhibit is rather outdated and not as easy for a visitor to see the objects because of poor lighting. Nonetheless the opportunity to see first-hand the actual archeological pieces was exciting to me. It was also very timely for discussing the kanji 従 in today’s post.

甲骨文(王従)台東区立書道博物館rrOn the right, (A) is a piece of an animal bone with oracle bone writing carved, taken from the article in Yomiuri Shinbun (October 20, 2015). (B) is what I  reproduced from the photo. The left side may be incomplete because it is not legible. (C) is the kanji based on my reading with the help of the accompanying article in the paper. (This exhibit did not give out any literature that I was able to bring home.)  It reads vertically from the right top to the left bottom. It says “The king (王) asked for a forecast (貞) on whether he would make a certain tribe chief (sanzui and 止) follow (従) him or not.” A new sentence starts from the third writing 王, 従, then moves to the left writing. Even in this tiny piece of cow’s bone (the piece is only one inch-wide), we see two samples of the kanji 従 – They were two people standing, one following another.

Oracle bone writing was the record of fortune-telling or divination in answer to a prayer or question made to the god by a ruler. The belly side of a tortoise or a piece of animal bone was heated, and the cracks that appeared were read as the answer from the god. From the contents of this piece, we glimpse the nature of 甲骨文 /kookotsubun/, literally “shell and bone writing,” to be divination. English name goes by its function and it is called “oracle bone” writing. Oracle bone writings were “discovered” as ancient writings only in 1899. The discovery of oracle bone style writing since then has changed the understanding of the ancient Yin 殷 (Shang 商) dynasty and the origin of Chinese characters. Some were brought to Japan. I am hoping to see several more items at the Tokyo National Museum next week. (For bronze ware style writing, I was able to see some items of superb quality at the special exhibit brought from China held at the same museum several years ago.)

This post was revisiting the kanji we had looked at before from the point of a gyooninben. I will continue with a few new kanji with gyooninben next time. [October 25, 2015]

P.S. I have learned that there are various collections of oracle bones in Japan. Most notable one is in Kyoto University. The photos of “rubbing” of these bones were published by Shigeki Kaizuka in 1960, 1968. Another collection is with Tokyo University. I do not know if these collections can be viewed if we make a request in advance.  I would like to try that in my next stay in Tokyo. An experience of looking at real pieces is so different from looking at the “rubbing” of the pieces in print.  [January, 2017}

2015-10-31 The kanji 径往律彼得復徒-ぎょうにんべん(2)

In the last post, we revisited some gyoninben kanji that had been discussed before with a focus on a component other than gyoninben. In this post we are going to look at several more kanji that we have not discussed yet – 径往律彼得復徒.

  1. The kanji 径 “narrow bath; pathway”

History of Kanji 径For the kanji 径, the left side of the ten style, in red, was a “crossroad.” The right side depicted a loom which had warps (three wavy lines) that were held with a horizontal bar at the bottom, signifying “lines that go straight,” together with the sound /ke’e/. Going straight on foot along a narrow path meant “narrow path; pathway.” In the kyujitai, in blue, the wavy lines reflected warp that would get straightened on a loom. In shinjitai the right side became the kanji 又and 土, which is also seen in the kanji 経.

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo-kanji. Sometimes it is used in 小径 (“a little pathway” /komichi/) in a literary style. The on-yomi /ke’e/ is in 直径 (“diameter” /chok’kee/) and 口径 (“caliber; aperture” /kookee/).

  1. 往 “to go; past”

History of Kanji 往The kanji 往 appears to be a combination of a gyoninben and 主 “main.” But its history tells us that it had nothing to do with 主, as shown on the left. In oracle bone style, in brown, the top was a footprint, and the bottom was a king, which was signified by a large ornamental axe. In the last post we happened to see two actual samples of oracle bone style for 王 in our discussion of the kanji 従 (shown in the photo in the last post). “A king advancing” meant “to advance.” In ten style a crossroad “to go” was added. The kanji 往 means “to go” or “something that has gone; past.” In kanji the footprint became a small dot, resulting in the same shape as the kanji 主.

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /o’o/ is in 往復 (“return trip; going and coming back” /oohuku/), 往来 (“traffic; street” /oorai/), 往年 (“years gone by; the past” /oonee/) and 往々にして (”more often than not; frequently” /oooonishite/).

History of Kanji 主 (frame)The kanji – In contrast with the origin of the right side of 往, the history of the kanji 主 is shown on the right. In bronze ware, in green, it was a flame of a lamp only. In ten style, it was a whole image of a long-stem oil lamp holder with a burning oil wick at the top. Fire was important and symbolized the master of a house. The kanji 主 meant “master; primary.” By adding a ninben to this origin, we get the kanji 住 “to reside.”

  1. 律 “law; impartially; rules that one follows”

History of Kanji 律For the kanji 律in oracle bone style, the left side was a crossroad, signifying “a way to go” or “to conduct oneself.” The right side was a hand holding a writing brush straight up. It also had the sound /ri’tsu/. Together they signified “to proclaim law.” Law is something that applies to everyone impartially. So it also means “evenly; impartially.” In ten style the right side took the shape that was closer to the current shape 聿, which is called hudezukuri as a bushu. The kanji 律means “law; impartially; rules that one follows.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ri’tsu/ is in 一律に (“impartially” /ichiritsuni/), 法律 (“law” /hooritsu/), 律する (to judge; govern” /rissuru/) and 規律正しく (“in an orderly manner” /kiritsutada’shiku/). Another on-yomi /ri’chi/ is a go-on and is in 律義に (“sincerely; faithfully” /ri’chigini/).

聿 as a bushu in the traditional kanji classification — There are not many kanji that belong to it. The more frequently used kanji are classified in other bushu. For instance the kanji 律 belongs to the gyoninben group, and the kanji 筆 belongs to the bushu takekanmuri group.

History of Kanji 筆 (frame)The kanji is shown on the right side. The oracle bone style was identical to the right side of 律. In bronze ware style, the left one was a straight line for brush handle only whereas the right sample showed brush’s hair at the bottom as well as a handle. In ten style, a bamboo radical, a bushu takekanmuri, was added at the top to signify a writing brush, from the fact that a writing brush had a bamboo handle. By adding the bamboo the kanji 筆means “a writing brush” rather than an act of writing.

  1. 彼 “he; she; over there”

History of Kanji 彼The kanji 彼 is a borrowed kanji called 仮借 /kashaku/. Kashaku is one of the six ways of classification 六書 /ri’kusho/ in the Setsumon Kaiji. Kashaku writing means that a writing shape was borrowed to mean something totally unrelated in meaning and sound. In 彼, it was borrowed to be used as a pronoun for “he; she” and “over there.” Generally speaking a pronoun was a borrowed writing, including 我 “I,” 他 “other,” and 是 “this; pointing something close to the speaker.” In ten style a crossroad was added on the left. The kanji 彼 indicated a direction away from the speaker and listener.

The kun-yomi 彼 /ka’re/ means “he,” and 彼女 /ka’nojo/ mean “she.” The on-yomi /hi/ is in 彼岸 /higan/. Higan literally means “the other shore,” which came from “the realm of Buddhist enlightenment.” In the Japanese calendar there are two 彼岸 (usuallyお彼岸 /ohigan/) — they are a spring equinox day and an autumnal equinox day. Each is a national holiday. On ohigan time people pay a visit to a family cemetery to place flowers and the favorite food of the deceased. (On the other hand, お盆 /obo’n/ in mid-August is the time when the spirit of the dead comes home.)

History of kanji 皮 (frame)The kanji 皮 – The kanji 彼 was a borrowed kanji, but when the right side, 皮, is used by itself it is used in the original meaning. The history of 皮 is shown on the right. In bronze ware style the top was an animal head. The bottom right was a hand. (We can see that the bronze ware style writing of 彼 came from 皮). It depicted a scene in which an animal was being skinned by hand. The kanji 皮 meant “skin” or “surface skin” and when it is used as a component it usually carries the sound /hi/ or /ha/, as seen in the kanji 波, 破.

  1. The kanji 得 “to gain; make a profit”

History of Kanji 得For the kanji 得 in oracle bone style, (a) was a combination of a cowry, signifying money or valuables, and a hand at the bottom. (b) had a crossroad added. They meant “to obtain something valuable in one’s hand” and “going out to make a gain.” In bronze ware style, in (c) and (d), the three components were the same as (b). Ten style, (e), had the shape 寸 for a hand. From “going out to gain something valuable in one’s hand,” it meant “to gain; make a profit.” In kanji (f), the cowry became 日 “the sun” that had a line underneath.

The two kun-yomi for 得る, /e’ru/ and /u’ru/, mean “to obtain; gain.” The on-yomi /toku/ is in 得する (“to gain; profit” /tokusuru/), 得意がる (“to congratulate oneself; be full of oneself” /tokuiga’ru/), 得意げに (“looking self-satisfied” /tokuige’ni/), Xが得意だ (“to be strong in” /X ga toku’ida/) and得意先 (“customer” /tokuisaki/).

  1. The kanji復 “to repeat; return way; again”

History of Kanji 復For the kanji 復, in bronze ware style a middle cylindrical shape had a small shape at both ends. This was a tool which one flipped repeatedly to measure grain. Underneath this measuring tool was a “footprint” that signified walking back and forth, also a repeated motion. Together they signified “to repeat.” In bronze ware style, the measuring tool became more elaborate and a crossroad was added to signify repeated going and coming. In ten style, it became two round shapes. The kanji 復 meant “to repeat; return way; again.” The same oracle bone style and bronze ware style shapes appear in other kanji such as 複 and 腹, all three of which have the same sound /hu’ku/.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /huku/ is in 復習 (“review learning” /hukushuu/), 回復 (“recovery” /kaihuku.), 復元 (“restoration” /hukugen/) and反復 (“repetition” /hanpuku/).

  1. 徒 “on foot; follower; in vain”

History of Kanji 徒For the kanji 徒, in both samples of bronze ware style the left side was a crossroad, the right side was a mound of soil, and the right bottom was a footprint. Together they meant “going on dirt on foot.” In ten style, the footprint shifted to the left side, but in kanji it went back to the original position. In travelling, an accompanying servant walked while his master was on a vehicle. So it meant someone who followed a master or follower. It was also used to mean “without purpose; in vain.”

History of Kanji 走 (frame)The kanji –The kanji 徒 looks like it comprised of a gyoninben and the kanji 走 “to run.” But the origin of the kanji 走 is not closely related, as shown on the right. In bronze ware style the top was a person running energetically with his hand up, and the bottom was a footprint, emphasizing that this writing was about the use of feet. In ten style, a footprint got extended toward the bottom right. It meant “to run.” In kanji, this running person took the shape 土 “soil” and the last stroke of the footprint got extended

There is one more kanji I hoped to include in this post, 御. However I do not have enough reference materials with me at the moment. Maybe I will have a chance to look at 御 in connection with other components in the future. [October 31, 2015]

2015-11-08 The Kanji 邑都者郡君群部郵郷–おおざと

Bushuおおざと&こざとへんBushu Oozato and Kozatohen: The two three-stroke bushu oozato and kozatohen look very much alike or even identical in kanji. The only difference is the position – An oozato appears on the right side whereas a kozatohen appears on the left side (thus, /-hen/). The two bushu, however, came from very different origins, as shown in the samples of the oldest style, oracle bone style (甲骨文), in brown on the left.

A bushu oozato means “village,” and kozatohen means “stack of dirt; a hill; stairs; ladder.” When you look at a traditional kanji dictionary, you find kanji with oozato in a seven-stroke bushu group, with 邑 attached. On the other hand kanji with kozatohen are found among eight-stroke bushu kanji, with 阜 attached. It is in only more recently published kanji dictionaries that both oozato and kozatohen are found among three-stroke bushu. In this post we are going to look at some kanji that have a bushu oozato (邑), and in the next two posts we are going to look at those with a bushu kozatohen (阜偏).

  1. The kanji 邑 “village” and the bushu oozato

History of Kanji 邑 (and Bushu Oozato)The kanji 邑 (/yu’u/ in on-yomi; /mura’/ in kun-yomi) and a bushu oozato share the same origin. The history of the kanji 邑 was well-documented, as shown on the left. In oracle bone style (a), in brown, the square at the top signified an area or a wall surrounding a town, and the bottom was a person who was kneeling, just a person. Together an area where people were meant “village.” In the three bronze ware style samples (b), (c) and (d), in green, we can see how a simplification took place. (d) showed a close connection to the current shape of an oozato. Then in ten style (e), in red, it went back to the shape in which the two original components, an area and a kneeling person, became more recognizable. The bottom shape in (e) in ten style became 巴 in kanji (f). We have seen that a kneeling person undergoing the same development ended up in the shape 卩, a bush hushizukuri, in the earlier post [The Kanji 令命印即節迎仰昂抑- Posture (6) ふしづくり on April 18, 2015]. The kanji 邑 (f) is not a Joyo kanji. When used as a bushu the simplification took place even in bronze ware style time, as we see in (d), and it ended up the current three-stroke shape. The ground work done, now we are ready to look at some kanji that have a bushu oozato.

  1. The kanji 都 “capital; all”

History of Kanji 都For the kanji 都, we have two samples in bronze ware style here, (a) and (b). The explanation of the left side of these two shapes may be a little peculiar until you see the same shape 者 repeatedly in other kanji. The top was many twigs or wooden writing tablets gathered, and the bottom was a stove to burn them. I imagine that the scattered dots in (b) must be sparks of a fire. Gathering many twigs and things signified “many,” and was used phonetically. The right side was an area and a person, which signified a “village.” The right side of (b) had the same shape as (d) in the kanji 邑 in 1. From “an area where many people live,” it meant “capital” and also “all.”

The kun-yomi 都 /miyako/ means “capital.” The on-yomi /to/ is in 都会 (“city; big town” /tokai/), 都心 (“urban core; heart of city” /toshin/). 都 /to/ is also the  metropolitan jurisdiction, as in 東京都 (“Tokyo metropolis” /tookyo’oto/). There is another on-yomi /tsu/, which is a go-on, and is in 都合がいい (“convenient” /tsugoo-ga i’i/), 都合が悪い (“to have a schedule conflict” /tsugoo-ga waru’i/), and その都度 (“every time; whenever” /sonotsu’do/.)

History of Kanji 者 (frame)The Kanji 者– The left side of the kanji 都 also appears in a number of kanji, including 者・緒・諸・署・暑・著. The history of 者 is shown on the right. In bronze ware style, the top was sticks or things such as writing tablets gathered, and the bottom was a stove to burn them. The meaning as “person” for 者 was borrowed. In fact in most kanji, this shape was merely used phonetically and had little correspondence to the original meaning. I do wonder if the extra dot in the kyujitai 者, in blue, was a remnant of a spark. All of the kyujitai for 者 as a component had a dot in the middle.

  1. The kanji 郡 “county”

For the kanji 郡, we only have a ten style sample. The left side is the kanji 君. Because the kanji 君 has fuller samples, let us look at 君 first.

History of Kanji 君 (frame)The kanji 君 “lord; you”— In oracle bone style, (a), the top was a hand holding a stick to command, and the bottom was a mouth, signifying “speaking.” Together they originally signified a “tribal chief.” In bronze ware style, in (b) a hand and a stick appeared to coalesce and are hard to make out, but in (c) a hand and a stick were recognizable. In ten style (d), the commanding stick became longer. Someone whose words command people to follow means “lord; sovereign.” It is also used as suffix in addressing someone who is equal or junior to you by a male speaker.

History of Kanji 郡Now back to the kanji 郡. In ten style, the left side 君 was a “chief” or “lord.” The right side had an area with a person or people, which signified a village. Together they signified “an area where a local lord 君 governs.” From that it means a smaller jurisdiction or “county.” In Japan, 郡 /gu’n/ is a consolidation of 町 (“town” /machi’/) and 村 (“village” /mura’/) under the supervision of 県 (“prefecture” /ke’n) and does not have a legal power. There are one 都 /to/ (which is the Tokyo motropolis), forty three 県 /ke’n/, two 府 /hu/ (Osaka and Kyoto 大阪府 京都府) and one 道 /do’o/ (Hokkaido 北海道). In school, children are taught to recite 1都1道2府43県 /i’tto ichi’doo ni’hu yo’njuu sa’nken/ in the order of the size of the jurisdiction 都道府県 /todoohu’ken/.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi 郡 /gu’n/ means “county,” and is also in 郡部 (“rural district” /gu’nbu.)

History of Kanji 群 (frame)The kanji 群 — Since we have just seen the kanji 郡 with 君, we add another kanji that contains 君– 群. The top of two bronze ware style samples on the right were the same as (b) for 君, and was used phonetically. It originally was a hand holding a stick and a mouth underneath. The bottom was “sheep.” Sheep stay in a flock, and it signified “to flock.” The kanji 群 meant “group; throng; herd; flock.”

  1. The kanji 部 “part; section”

History of Kanji 部For the kanji 部, the left side was used phonetically to mean “to divide.” The right side had an area and a person, that is, a village. Together they signified “to divide a village into parts.” From that it meant “part; portion” of a whole or “department; section” of a larger organization.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /he/ is in 部屋 (“room” /heya’/) and it was a go-on. Another on-yomi /bu/, in kan-on,  is in 全部 (“all” /ze’nbu/), 部分 (“part; portion” /bu’bun/), 本部 (“headquarters” /ho’nbu/), 学部 (“academic department” /gakubu/). We cannot forget the important word for us, 部首 /bu’shu/. In the first most comprehensive compilation of kanji, Setsumon Kaiji (説文解字), completed in 100 A. D., all kanji were grouped into sections that shared the same component. The section was 部 “section” and its heading was 首 “head”- thus the word 部首 /bu’shu/ in Japanese, bushou in Chinese. It means “section header” of a kanji dictionary. Because a shared  component is something that does not change like a root in some European languages it has been traditionally translated as “radical,” which means “root.” Personally I prefer to stick to the word bushu because it is what it means, “a section header in a kanji dictionary.”

  1. The kanji 郵 “postal service”

History of Kanji 郵For the kanji 郵, the left side 垂 had the meaning “frontier; peripheral area.” The right side was an area and a person, signifying “village.” Together they signified “postings along the road to the frontier that a messenger passed.” It meant “post; postal service.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /yu’u/ is in 郵便 (“postal service” /yu’ubin/), 郵送する (“to send by mail” /yuusoosuru/), 郵便局 (“post office” /yuubi’nkyoku/), 郵便番号 (“postal code” /yuubinba’ngoo/), which works like a zip code in the U. S., and 郵便受け (“mail box” /yuubi’n-uke/).

  1. The kanji 郷 “hometown”

History of Kanji 郷For the kanji 郷, in oracle bone style (a) it had two people sitting, facing each other with food in a bowl in the middle. It signified a “feast.” In bronze ware style (b) and (c) the components were the same. In ten style, however, above each of the two people, an area was added making it to 邑 “village” in mirror images. In the center was the shape we see in the kanji 食 “food in a bowl” (食 has a cover over the food).  So, in ten style “feast” seemed to have expanded to the whole village! Having a feast for people was an important event for a village. It meant “hometown.” I like the story behind those ancient writings from (a) through (d) much better than just a sort of confusing shape of the kanji 郷.

The on-yomi /kyo’o/ is in 故郷 (“one’s hometown” /ko’kyoo/), 郷土 (“homeland” /kyo’do/), 郷里 (“hometown” /kyo’ori/). Another on-yomi /go’o/ is in 郷士 (“squire” /go’oshi/) and 水郷 (“riverside district” /suigoo/). The word ふるさと (“hometown” /huru’sato/) is sometimes written as 故郷.

StrokeOrderおおざとThe stroke order of oozato and kozatohen is unusual, or “counter intuitive” as my former students used to complain in their kanji quizzes. The vertical line is the last stroke, as shown on the left.  In the next two posts, we are going to look at kanji with a kozatohen. [November 8, 2015]

2015-11-14 The Kanji 阜降陟陽陰今雲隊陸ーこざとへん(1)

The name ko-zato-hen may appear to allude that it is “a smaller (小 /ko/) version of oo (大)-zato that was placed on the left side (扁 /he’n/).” Even though it is true that it is a left component and is usually written smaller than an oozato out of necessity (cramped space in the middle), the name misses the important point — its meaning. We know tha kozatohen is nothing to do with “village.” Then what did it mean originally?

The most reliable way to find out is to look at oracle bone style samples and earlier samples of bronze ware style. This is not that easy because the number of oracle bone style samples available to us is limited and it is hard to decide which writings were the precursors of kozatohen. We know that the kanji that is closest to a bushu kozatohen is 阜. We are going to see that there were three different origins for 阜 or kozatohen – (A) a ladder; (B) a mountains or hills that were placed vertically; and (C) a pack of dirt raised high.

  1. Three meanings of the kanji 阜 and bushu kozatohen

History of Kanji 阜 and bushu kozatohen白川The three different views on what a kozatohen originally signified can be summarized as follows:

[A. A ladder] For the kanji 阜 /hu/ and a bushu kozatohen, Shirakawa (2004: 767) gave three oracle bone style writings (a), (b) and (c), in brown, and one ten style sample (d), in red, as shown on the left. In his analysis all the kanji that had a kozatohen was explained as having “a ladder from which a god descended.” Other kanji scholars suggested it as a ladder, without reference to a god.

阜two shapes & meanings[B. A mountain or hills] This explanation was found in the account in Setsumon. It was the image of a mountain range or hills that was placed vertically. According to Ochiai (2014) there originally existed two different shapes and meanings, as shown on the right. (a) was a “ladder” and (b) was a “mountain,” but the distinction got lost later on. Ochiai has dealt with a large pool of oracle bone style writings, so I assume that he came to this conclusion based on them. Even though I was not able to find any example of (b) among oracle bone style writings that I collected from Akai (2010), some bronze ware style samples may be interpreted as (b).

History of Kanji 阜 and kozatohen 赤井[C. A pack of dirt or soil raised high]  The third meaning is what the samples listed in Akai shown on the right signified — two oblong shapes stacked up. (The shapes (a), (b) and (c) appear in other kanji and are interpreted differently.  We will look at these shapes at a later time.) The Kanjigen dictionary by Todo and et. al. took the view that a kozatohen came from “round shaped dirt that were piled up.” In the Key to Kanji, I used this explanation in some kanji.

Now we are going to look individually at kanji with a kozatohen.

  1. The kanji 降 “to come/bring down; fall” and 陟 “to move ahead; progress”

History降rThe kanji 降 was discussed earlier in connection with two downward-facing feet (a right and left foot) [in One Foot at a Time (1) 後夏降麦来­ on July 5, 2014]. We revisit this kanji with a focus on a kozatohen here. This time I also came across a good companion kanji to tell a story of the kanji 降. History of Kanji 陟(frame)On the right side is the history of the kanji 陟 /cho’ku/, a kanji that is no longer used in Japanese, but meant “to climb up.” The right side of 陟 was 步, the kyujitai for 歩, which originated from two forward-facing (or upward-facing) footprints. In contrast the right side of the kanji 降 had two downward-facing footprints. So the difference is that one (陟) was two feet of a person climbing up the ladder whereas the other (降) was two feet of climbing down. I find this contrast very amusing. The kanji 降 has many meanings — please read the earlier post.

  1. The kanji 陽 “sunny; cheerful; positive”

History of Kanji 陽For the kanji 陽 in oracle bone style the left side was “mountains” (Kadokawa dictionary) or a ladder for a god (Shirakawa). In oracle bone style (a), the top of the right side 昜 was “the sun” and the bottom was a “raised altar table,” together signifying “the sun rising high.” Both sides together, “the sun rising high and hitting the mountains” meant “being bright with the sun.” In bronze ware style the line in (b) and the three slanted lines in (c) were the rays of the sun. In ten style (d), the left side became the stylized shape that appeared in all ten style kozatohen. In kanji (e), the kozatohen is squeezed into a narrower space, and the first two strokes become smaller than a oozato, thus ko-zato-hen. The kanji 陽 means “sunny; cheerful; positive.”

There is no kun-yomi in the Joyo kanji. However, it is customarily used interchangeably with the kanji 日 in words such as 陽当たり (“exposure to the sun” /hiatari/) and 陽だまり (“sunny spot” /hidamari/). The on-yomi /yo’o/ is in 太陽 (“the sun” /ta’iyoo/), 陽気な (“cheerful; jovial“ /yookina/), 陽性 (“testing positive; infected” /yoosee/).

History of Kanji 場The kanji 場 “place”: The component 昜 “to rise high” also appears in the kanji 場. The left side was a mound of soil or ground (土). 昜 was phonetically used. Both sides together they meant a place where the sun shined. The meaning of a sunny place became expanded to mean a “place” in general. The ten style of 場 is shown on the right. As we can see the kanji 陽 had oracle bone style and bronze ware style whereas 場 did not. It tells us that the kanji 場 was a kanji that appeared much later than 陽.

History of Kanji 傷The kanji 傷 “injury”: The kanji 傷 (/kizu/ “injury and /sho’o/ in on-yomi) is among the educational kanji, so let us look at it in connection with 昜. In ten style and kanji it consists of a ninben “person” and a cover on top of 昜 “rays of the sun; bright.” Many scholars view that 昜 was used purely phonetically and has no relation to its original meaning. On the other hand Shirakawa explained that 昜 consisted of a jewel placed on a table that emitted rays. The top of the right side of 傷 was a cover over the jewel. The cover prevented the power of the jewel to work in a religious rite, thus “harm; damage.” With a ninben, it meant an injury on a person.

This account is typical of Shirakawa’s study which is deeply rooted in occultism or magic arts that he believed was pervasive in the time when kanji originated. According to Ochiai, occultism or magic arts were performed in some religious rites in the ancient times, but whether they were pervasive as Shirakawa claimed remains to be proven.

4. The kanji 陰 “shadow; shade; gloomy; wily”

History of Kanji 陰The kanji that makes a contrast with 陽 is the kanji 陰. The two kanji make up the widely recognizable phrase, even in the west, “ying and yang” 陰陽. We notice that both have a kozatohen. The history of the kanji 陰 is shown on the left. In the two bronze ware style samples the left sides showed very different shapes of a kozatohen. The right side consisted of a “cover” above a “cloud.” With mountains on the left side (kozatohen), 陰 meant the dark side of mountain where clouds covered. It means “shadow; shade; gloomy; wily.”

The kun-yomi /ka’ge/ means “shade; shelter; the back; shade; background.” The on-yomi /i’n/ is in 陰気な (“gloomy; dreary; dark”/inkina/), 陰影のある (“having shading; nuance”/in-eenoa’ru/) 陰険な (“tricky ; wily; underhand” /inkenna/)

History of Kanji 今(frame)The kanji 今 and 雲 () The right side of the kanji 陰 consisted of two kanji, 今 and cloud 云. The kanji 今 means “present time” now, but it was borrowed from the shape that was “a cover or stopper/plug of a bottle”.

History of Kanji 雲(frame)For the kanji 雲 “cloud,” the two oracle bone style samples shown on the right were the mirror images of each other in which a cloud was rising. The shape in gray on the right was given in Setsumon as a 古文. In ten style, a bushu amekanmuri “rain; meteorological phenomenon” was added. The kanji 雲 means “cloud.”

  1. The kanji 隊 “band of people”

History of Kanji 隊For the kanji 隊 in bronze ware style, (a) had a kozatohen, while (b) did not. The right side was a fat pig with big ears. Shirakawa viewed that the pig was a sacrificial animal placed in front of a ladder for a god. He cited that in Setsumon there was no 隊 but 墜 was used. 墜 had soil (土) at the bottom and meant “falling from a high place to the ground.” In other views, including the Kadokawa dictionary and Kanjigen, a pig was used phonetically and meant something bulky and heavy like a pig. A “band of people” was an extended meaning.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ta’i/ is in 軍隊 (“military” /gu’ntai/), 隊長 (“leader of a party” /taichoo/), 入隊する (“to join the military/band” /nyuutaisuru/), 捜索隊 (“search party” /soosakutai/).

  1. The kanji 陸 “land”

History of Kanji 陸For the kanji 陸 we have three samples of bronze ware style here. The shapes of a kozatohen in (a) and (b) may be appropriate to view as mountains or hills (placed vertically), whereas in (c) it is hard to see mountains in the shape. In (b) the mountain shape appeared on both sides. Then what was the right side in (a) and (c) or the middle in (b)?  In The Key to Kanji I treated them as “two tent-like structures and a mound of earth.” I based this on (c) with Shirakawa’s account in mind. In the absence of a better explanation, we can leave it as it is. The kanji 陸 means “land.”

There is another explanation for the right side given by Kanjigen. The right side is treated as a semantic composite of 土 “two soils” and 八 “to spread.” Together with a kozatohen, 陸 meant “a continuous land.” This explanation would have an appeal if you only looked at the kanji, but it does not explain any of the bronze ware style samples we have here. This is one of the reasons I have not used Kanjigen as primary source for so far. Their basic premise of etymology seems to be in the earlier pronunciation but not that of the ancient times. Their explanation sometimes does not go farther back to the time of oracle bone style or some of bronze ware style, which we are interested in our exploration.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /riku/ is in 陸 “land” 大陸 (“continent” /tairiku/), 着陸 (“landing; touchdown” /chakuriku/), 離陸 (“aircraft taking off” /ririku), 陸橋 (“bridge over railroad or roadway” overpass” /rikkyoo/).

It is already page 3 now. I had better stop here because there are more kanji with kozatohen. We will see how the rest goes in the next post. [November 14, 2015]

2015-11-22 The Kanji 阪反坂陳東陛比階皆完院—こざとへん(2)

Two three-trianglesWe are looking at kanji with a kozatohen, keeping in mind that each may have originated from three different meanings and, possibly, shapes. Ochiai (2014) gave two different original shapes of a kozatohen in which the three triangles were placed differently – one with a horizontal line at the top (for a “ladder”), and the other with a peak of each of three triangles being in the center if you look at them sideways (for “mountains; hills”). He said that these two shapes converged into one. We have also seen the third meaning, “a stack of soil raised high.” Over the last couple of weeks as I looked at these three different shapes and meanings, they started to mingle together and the lines among them became blurred in my mind. A ladder suggests something “high.” A ladder could be flights of dirt stairs. An undulating line of mountains or hills suggests ground that is high and low. Hills are mounds of soil, etc. Keeping all these – a ladder, stairs, mountains/hills, high ground- in mind – we move on to look at more kanji.

  1. The kanji 阪 and 反

History of Kanji 阪For the kanji 阪, the left side of the bronze ware style, in green, would be a good candidate for the interpretation “hills placed vertically.” It gave the meaning that is something to do with soil. The right side 反 is a familiar shape in many kanji, such as 反阪坂返板叛版, all of which have the sound /ha’n/ or /he’n/, and form semantic-phonetic composite kanji.  Let us look at the kanji 反 first.

History of Kanji 反 (frame)The Kanji 反: In the Key to Kanji I explained that it was “a hand pushing back a piece of cloth, indicating ‘to push back, to roll back or to reverse.’” The Kadokawa dictionary, Kanjigen and Shin-Kangorin (2011) all take this view. The history of the kanji 反 is shown on the right. Now looking at the earlier shapes in oracle bone style, in brown, and bronze ware style, I wonder if the upper left shape really looks like a hanging cloth. Usually the upper left (), a bushu gandare in kanji, is viewed as a “cliff.” If we take it as a “cliff,” what does “a hand under or against a cliff” mean?  Shirakawa’s explanation is that putting hands against a sacred area to climb in was sacrilege or disrespect, thus it meant “against.” I need to see more examples for this view to make sense. So, in the mean time, I just leave my explanation in the book as it is.

Now back to the kanji 阪. The left side looks like undulating hill lines. The right side was used phonetically for /han/ and signified “against; to turn back.”  A landscape that would push a person against going forward was a “slope.” The kanji 阪 means “slope.”

The kun-yomi /saka’/ is in 大阪 (“Osaka city; the minor prefecture (府) of Osaka” /oosaka/) and 大阪弁 (“Osaka dialect” /oosakaben/).  The on-yomi /ha’n/ is in 阪神地方 (“Osaka and Kobe area” /ha’nshin-chi’hoo/).

History of Kanji 坂The kanji 坂 “slope”: In Japanese for the kanji that means “slope” we use the kanji 坂, with a bushu tsuchihen (土) “soil.” The kanji 坂 is newer kanji and was not included in Setsumon Kaiji. But, interestingly, Akai (2010) gave the bronze ware style sample shown on the right. (I do not know from which source this shape was taken.) It had a cliff with a slight bulge in the middle for an emphasis, soil (土) at the bottom, and a hand (又) on the right side. The image may be a person trying to climb a cliff putting his hands against it.

  1. The kanji 陳 “to display; state; old”

History of Kanji 陳For the kanji 陳, the two bronze ware style samples on the left had a kozatohen. and what would become the kanji 東, which originally meant “a bag of stuff or dirt tied at both ends.” (We are coming back to this in a second.) In the first bronze ware style sample, the shape on the far right was a bushu bokuzukuri (攵) “to do; cause an action”( from a hand moving a stick.) In the second sample, the bottom was “soil” (土). Together they meant displaying bags of stuff or soil tied on the both ends. From this meaning we interpret the kozatohen in this kanji to mean a stack of dirt (– unless we take the view that bags of soil were placed in front of the divine ladder).

There is no kun-yomi in the Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /chi’n/ is in 陳列棚 (“display shelf” /chinretsu’dana/), 陳述 (“statement; declaration” /chinjutu/), 陳情する (“to make representation against or for; lodge a petition” /chinjoo-suru/), 陳腐な (“stale; ready-made phrase”/chi’npuna).

History of Kanji 東(frame)The kanji 東: Taking the explanation given in Setsumon 2000 years ago, the kanji 東 has often been explained as the sun coming through a tree, thus “east.” But now with abundant samples in oracle bone and bronze ware style scholars generally agree that it was a bag of stuff that was tied on two ends. The three lines at the top and the bottom were the ends of a tied rope. The meaning “east” for 東 was a borrowing. When used as a component the original meaning was retained, as is always the case in bushu. The meaning of “a bag of heavy stuff that was tied on both ends” was in the origin of many other kanji such as 重 “heavy,” 動 “to move” and 童 “child,” just to name a few. I hope to have a chance to look at ancient writing samples for those kanji in the near future.

  1. The kanji 陛 “His majesty”

History of Kanji 陛The next two kanji 陛 and 階 have been discussed in the earlier post [The Kanji 人仁従縦比皆階陛 – Posture (3) on March 28, 2015] in connection with “person,” In this post we look at 陛 and 階 as the examples of a kozatohen to mean “steps; stairs.” In 陛, the right side had 比 “people standing in a row” and 土 “ground.” The subjects were standing in neatly formed rows in front of the stairs that lead to where the emperor was. The kanji 陛 is used only to refer to the royal head of a state. For sample words, please refer to the earlier post.

History of Kanji 比(frame)The kanji 比 – The upper right component of the kanji 陛 was well documented from oracle bone time, as shown on the right. They were all two people standing, one behind the other. Two means “many.” When two people faced backward it became the kanji 比 “to compare,” whereas when they faced left it became 従 “to follow.”

  1. The kanji 階

History of Kanji 階The kozatohen in the kanji 階 really signified exactly the same meaning as the kanji 陛. The origin of the shape, whether “soil stacked up high” or a “ladder,” gave the meaning of having different levels within. Flights of a staircase or steps to walk up were a good match for a kozatohen. The kanji 階 had 皆 “many; everybody,” which was used phonetically for /ka’i/. A kozatohen gave the meaning “stairs; gradation; story” to the kanji 階. We are seeing a clear-cut illustration of the important fact about a bushu and tsukuri (the right side of kanji) in kanji here – A bushu gives meaning and a tsukuri gives sound.

History of Kanji 皆(frame)The kanji 皆. In the earlier post I mentioned that the bottom of the kanji 皆 was from 自 “self,” and also that there is a view that it was 曰 “to talk.” I do not have anything new that makes me choose one over the other now, but now I am inclined to think that both must be correct. The ten style sample may be 自 (白) from a nose on the face, but the bronze ware style was 曰 (“to talk” /e’tsu/ in on-yomi and /i’waku/ in kun-yomi.) During the last two years of our exploration of the etymology of kanji on this blog site, we have seen that components of ancient writing got lost, added, or replaced over the years. In the kanji 皆, both interpretations of the bottom may be right. Even though 曰 is not among the Joyo kanji, it is used in expressions such as 彼曰く (“according to what he said” /ka’re i’waku/”) and 曰く付きの悪者 (“a villain with the past” /iwakutsuki-no-warumono/). For the kanji 皆, from many people talking, it meant “everyone; all.”

  1. The kanji 院 “institution”

History of Kanji 院The right side of the kanji 院 is the kanji 完. History of Kanji 完(frame)In the absence of writing that was earlier than ten style for 院 shown on the left, I hoped to find earlier shape in the kanji 完. But my search came up empty-handed — the kanji 完 only had a ten style sample too. But there was a difference that, in the ten style sample of 完, the walls of the house, a bushu ukanmuri, reached the floor. So, 元 “a person with a big head kneeling down with his hand in front” was entirely wrapped in the safety of the inside the house. The kanji 完 meant “entire; complete.”

Now we go back to the ten style of the kanji 院. 完 was used phonetically (it is not easy for us to see that /kan/ and /in/ shared the same phonetic origin, but that seems to be the finding by kanji scholars). What would a kozatohen add to the kanji 完, then? It is the soil that was stacked high to surround a person in the house. A dirt-walled house with people inside means a “large public house; institution.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /i’n/ is in 病院 (“hospital” /byooin/), 入院する (“to become hospitalized” /nyuuin-suru/), 医院 (“physician’s private practice office” /i’in/), 上院 (“the Upper House; the Senate” /jooin/) and 下院 (“the Lower House; the House of Representatives” /kain/) and 大学院 (“graduate school” /daigaku’in/).

I was not able to squeeze in a few more kanji with a kozatohen here. So there will be one more post on a kozatohen. For our readers who keep the American tradition – A Happy Thanksgiving Day to you and your family!  -Noriko [November 22, 2015 ]

2015-11-29 The Kanji 限除余防方険剣障章際祭隣 – こざとへん(3)

This is the third post on kanji with a bushu kozatohen. We are going to look at 限除余防方険剣障章際祭隣.

(1) The kanji 限 “boundary; bounds; to limit”

History of Kanji 限The kanji 限 was discussed earlier in connection with 艮 “to halt; go against; immobile.” [Eyes Wide Open (4) 限眼根恨痕銀退 on April 7, 2014]  艮 has been given a number of different interpretations among references. One is that the top was an eye and the bottom was a “person facing backward,” and together they meant a situation in which a person was unable to move forward facing a big evil eye. Another is that the bottom was a “knife,” instead of a person, and a cut around the eye made by a knife became a scar, thus signifying “to remain; stay.” A third view is that 艮 was used only phonetically to mean “to remain.”  The history of 限  is shown above in two bronze ware styles, in green, and ten style, in red. Whichever explanation we take on the right side, the left side was a mountain or a stack of dirt raised high that deterred one from going forward. From one’s inability to move forward, the kanji 限 meant “boundary; bounds; to limit.”

The kun-yomi 限る /kagi’ru/ means “to limit” and is in 見限る (“to abandon; turn one’s back on” /mikagiru/), 限りない (“endless; best” /kagirina’i/.) The on-yomi /ge’n/ is in 最大限 (“maximum” /saida’igen/), 制限 (“restriction” /seege’n/), 上限 (“upper limit; cap”/joogen/), and 期限 (“time limit” /ki’gen/).

(2) The kanji 除 “to remove”

History of Kanji 除In the bronze ware style sample of the kanji 除, the right side 余 was used phonetically to mean “(time/money/space) to spare; latitude.” How did the shape 余 get that meaning? The history of the shape seems to have been well documented, and example are shown on the right.

History of Kanji 余(frame)The kanji : One view is that for the oracle bone style (a) and bronze ware style (b), it was a surgery needle with a handle to remove lesions. In (c) and ten style (d) the two ハ-like lines were added to mean “to open a wound to remove soemthing.” Removing something that was not wanted came to mean “to have extra space; what is left; latitude.” Another view is that it was a spade that removed dirt and meant something extra. The two ハ shapes signified dirt that was removed to make a hole. (One view of the origin of the kanji 穴 “hole” is consistent with this.)

In the kanji 除, a kozatohen providing “dirt,” and 余 used phonetically together meant 除 “to remove extra dirt.” I must admit that this explanation is not as convincing as it is with some other kanji. But we must be prepared to accept that fact that not all kanji can be explained logically.

  1. The kanji 防 “to prevent; defend”

History of Kanji 防For the kanji 防, the ten style sample (the middle one) had a kozatohen on the left and the kanji 方 on the right. The 方 was used phonetically to mean something that went sideways. An alternative ten style in Setsumon (the left one) had 土 “soil” at the bottom to emphasize “dirt.” Together they signified a high dirt wall on all sides to prevent an enemy from coming in. The kanji 防 meant “to prevent; defend.” The kun-yomi /huse’gu/ means “to prevent.” The on-yomi /bo’o/ is in 防止 (“prevention” /booshi/), 予防 (“preventive” /yoboo/) and 防衛 (“defense”/booee/).

History of Kanji 方(frame)The kanji 方 — There are many different views on the origin of 方. One is that it was a hoe with a long handle and that the handle pointing on either side and the pole at the top and the bottom together signified “four directions.” A different direction is an “option.” Four directions make a “square.” Another view is a little disturbing. It was a body that was hanged in a public display. As I look at the oracle bone style (a) and bronze ware style samples (b), I am beginning to see how they were explained that way. The sideways line with two short lines at the end is very similar to the origins of the kanji 央 ”center,” and the shape in the center looks like a person viewed from the side. Why did a hanging dead body in a public display mean “direction”?  Shirakawa explained that it was placed at the boundaries of surrounding barbarian countries, thus denoting various directions. When the explanation goes to mystic ancient customs, there is no way for us to judge it. So i leave it as it is. The kanji 方 means “direction; option; square.”

  1. The kanji 険 “danger”

History of Kanji険%0D%0D 険%0D%0DHistory of Kanji 険For the kanji 険, the right side in ten style was an interesting shape – under a cover there were two sets of a box and a person placed side by side. The kyujitai, in blue, retained those elements (僉) in any of the kanji that took this shape (検剣験倹). It is explained as people grading goods under a cover, signifying “to examine; check,” or “people listening to an order of the god” (from the kanji 命). It was used phonetically in many kanji. It is true in the kanji 険 that a kozatohen “mountain; hills,” phonetically used on the right right side together meant “perilous; danger.”

The kun-yomi 険しい /kewashii/ means “steep; challenging; grim.” The on-yomi /ke’n/ is in 危険 (“dangerous” /kikenna/), 保険 (“insurance” /hoken/) and 陰険な (”sly; double-dealing” /inkenna/).

History of Kanji 剣(frame)The kanji 剣– I was curious about where the right side of the kanji 険 came from. The kanji 検 験 and 倹 came in ten style only, but the kanji 剣 “bayonet; sword” came in bronze ware style, as shown on the right. The left sample consisted of a roof at the top, two people at the bottom and a shape in the middle, which I cannot recall seeing elsewhere. (I have a feeling that I will come across it one day) In the second bronze ware style sample the left side was minerals buried in mine. The right side had the same component of ten style, but the curious thing is that the feet of the people were tied together. No semantic explanation on these can be found in references. So, this did not help us much to understand the origin of the right side of the kanji 険, 検, 験, 倹, and the left side of 剣. The shared pronunciation /ken/ in Japanese tells us that it was used phonetically in those kanji, but I would certainly like to know what happened before that.

  1. The kanji 際 “peripheral; edge”

History of Kanji 際In ten style the kanji 際 had a kozatohen “boundary” and the kanji 祭 “festival” that was used phonetically for /sa’i/. It meant “edge; peripheral.”

The kun-yomi 際 /kiwa’/ means “boundary; peripheral” and is in 際どい (“dangerous; bordering on the immoral” /kiwado’i/). /GIwa/ is in 窓際 (“window side” /madogiwa/), 〜瀬戸際 ( “the critical moment of doing” /setogiwa/). The on-yomi /sa’i/ is in 国際的 (“international” /kokusaiteki/) and 交際 (“acquaintance; relationship” /koosai/).

History of Kanji 祭(frame)The kanji  The origin of the kanji 祭 has no relationship in meaning with the kanji 際, but it reminds us what a festival was about. In oracle bone style (a) and (b) it contained a hand and a piece of meat (in a reverse position), and droplets of sake in the middle. It was sacrificial animal meat being sanctified with sake. A sacrificial animal played an important role in ancient Chinese society, including a cow, sheep, pig and dog. In (c) and (d) in bronze ware style, an altar table was added. A festival was a prayer to a god and a celebration of him. The kanji 祭 means “festival.”

  1. The kanji 障 “to block; hinder”

History of Kanji 障For the kanji 障, the ten style sample had a mountain or stack of dirt on the left, and the right side was the kanji 章, which was used phonetically for /sho’o/ to mean “fence.” Together they meant “to block; hinder.”

The kun-yomi 障る /sawaru/ means “to interfere with; irritating” and is in 差し障り (“adverse effect; obstacle” /sashisawari/). /zawa/ is in 目障りな (“offensive to the eye” /meza’warina).  The on-yomi /sho’o/ is in 故障する (“to break down” /koshoo-suru/). 障害 (“hindrance; obstacle” /shoogai/) and 障子 (“shoji paper screen” /shoji/).

History of Kanji 章(frame)The kanji The kanji 章 and 障 are not semantically related. Our reader may find the origin of 章 a little surprising, shown on the right. It was a pictograph, i.e., the entire shape was a single image. The image was a tattooing needle with a big handle at the top and a large ink reservoir in the middle. The needle tattooed a pattern clearly and distinctly, and it signified something that was drawn or written beautifully, such as a badge, chapter, etc. The kanji 章 means “badge; chapter.”

  1. Additional notes on the kanji 隣 “neighbor”

History of Kanji 隣 (frame)In the four postings we have looked at kanji that had the shape . When this shape appeared on the right it meant “village” and was called a bushu oozato, whereas when it appeared on the left side it meant “mountain; hills; ladder; soil stacked up high,” and was called a bushu kozatohen. Generally the side on which it appeared was so important that they never switched their positions. There is a possible exception to this. That is the kanji 隣 [One Foot at a Time (4) 傑燐憐隣 – Two feet off the ground posted on July 28, 2014] The kyujitai for 隣 was 鄰 with a oozato. Many treat 隣 with a kozatohen as “informal variant.” Shirakawa gave samples of bronze ware style, as shown on the right (a) and (b), and said that 隣 was the correct writing. Sample (b) is convincing, but I cannot find the same shape in Akai or other references. So for the time being, we can imagine that onibi in a mountain or hills was used phonetically for “neighborhood; people live in a cluster,” and a village was added to solidify the meaning.

We have spent a lot of time in the last four posts to poke around kanji that have a oozato and kozatohen. We can expect similar findings in other kanji that we did not look at, such as 隙 隆 陥 among the Joyo kanji. We continue our exploration of ancient writing that originated from human habitat. Maybe we should revisit the bushu shinnyoo/shinnyuu, which had the two elements “footprint” and “crossroad” coalesced into one bushu. Thank you very much for your interest. -Noriko   [November 29, 2015]

2015-12-05 The Kanji 進達返退迷逃近-しんにょう(1)

Among the 1100 kanji in The Key to Kanji book, there are 26 kanji that contain a bushu shinnyoo or shinnyuu. For our exploration on the origin of shinny with a focus on ancient writings, we have oracle bone style writing samples in five kanji and bronze ware style writing samples in 18 kanji. So with these samples, we will be sure about where a bushu shinnyoo was coming from. It began with the left side of a crossroad and a footprint together, or one of the two alone. A crossroad suggesting a “road” and a footprint suggesting “walking” together signified “moving forward (along a road).” The table below shows the history of a bushu shinnyoo from the time of oracle bone style through shinjitai style.

History of Bushu しんにゅうExplanation of the table above: In the bronze ware style sample (a) in brown for the kanji 達, the left side was a crossroad, and the right bottom was a (forward-facing) footprint. In the bronze ware style sample (b) in green for the kanji 道, the crossroad was in a full shape, and the footprint at the bottom began to change to the shape that we see in (c). In the second bronze ware style sample (c) for the kanji 過, the crossroad had only left side, which in ten style (d) in red became three hooked shape lines. The bottom was 止. The shape 辵 (e) in purple was taken from the section header in the Kangxi dictionary (康熙字典). In the dictionary, however, the kanji entries themselves had a more simplified shape with two dots, such as (f) for 近 in blue. The last stroke was stretched out to the right side at the bottom. The shape (f) remained as kyujitai (kyujitai was basically the style of the Kangxi dictionary), and in Japanese it was called shinnyuu/shinnyoo. After the Japanese language reform the shape (g) in black replaced it. A bushu shinnyoo has quite a history!

A few additional notes on shinnyoo:

(1) Shinnyoo or shinnyuu?  I have been using the names shinnyoo (しんにょう) and shinnyuu (しんにゅう) interchangeably. A bushu 遶 /nyo’o; にょう/ is a component that starts on the left side and continues at the bottom to the right. Other bushu that have nyoo include an ennyoo (廴) in 延, 庭, 建, a soonyoo (走) in 起, 超, 越 and a suinyoo (夂) in 後, 夏. Most Japanese people still use the older name shinnyuu. The “elegance” of a neatly arranged name is not quite winning over the old name.

(2) Where did the name /shin/ in shinnyoo come from?   /Shin/ was from the kanji 之 /shi/. Shinnyoo meant a “之-like nyoo.” When we see the kyujitai (f) , we can see a similarity to 之 in shape.

(3) Two Different Typefaces of ShinnyooMincho style writing for a shinnyoo — The shapes in Mincho style (a) on the right table and textbook style (kyookasho-tai) in (c) are different. The second stroke of shinnyoo in kai style (b), orthodox style in brush writing, and textbook style (c) is a wavy line whereas in Mincho style (a) it is not.  When you write,  you are expected to write it with a wavy line.

All right. Now that we have taken care of the shapes and its histories, let us look at some kanji 進達返退迷逃近.

  1. The kanji 進 “to advance”

History of Kanji 進The history of the kanji 進 is shown on the left. In oracle bone style, the top was a bird, which was used phonetically, and the bottom was a footprint signifying “walking.” In bronze ware style, a crossroad was added to the left side. Adding a crossroad suggesting “one choosing to go straight past at a crossroad” meant “to advance.” The footprint was taking the shape of 止. By itself it made the kanji 止, and  meant “to stop; halt,” from stopping one’s feet. When used as a component 止 carried the meaning of “foot; moving forward.” In ten style, the crossroad and a footprint were aligned vertically forming a single meaningful unit to mean “to move forward.” The shape “bird” on the right side appeared in many other kanji that eventually becomes 隹. 隹 is called fututori, and the name comes from the kyujitai kanji 舊 for /huru’i/ (旧 in shinjitai), and /tori/ “bird,” and it was frequently used phonetically.

The kun-yomi 進む /susumu/ means “to advance; make one’s way.” The on-yomi /shi’n/ is in 進歩 (“advancement” /shi’npo/), 進化する (“to evolve; develop” /shi’nka-suru/), 後進国 (“underdeveloped country” /kooshi’nkoku/), 急進的な (“radical” /kyuushintekina/) and デモ行進 (“demonstration march” /demoko’oshin/.)

  1. The kanji 達 “to reach; attain; arrive”

History of Kanji 達 (frame)We discussed the kanji 達 in January when we looked at kanji that contain 羊 (sheep). [The Year of Sheep 羊洋逹鮮群-Radical 羊 ひつじ(1) January 11, 2015] The year of the sheep is almost over now. At that time I wrote the following: “In oracle bone style, the left side was a crossroad, and the right side had a person and a footprint. Together they meant “to go; something goes without a hitch.” In bronze ware style, the right side was a sheep to signify the scene in which a lamb was born smoothly.” This time a disconnection between a person in (a) and a sheep (b) started to bother me, so I went back to the references with more critical eyes. The “alternative writing” in Setsumon (d) with a person on the right caught my eye. With (d), (a) is explained better now. With the two components that signified “going forward” and the easy birth of a lamb or a person walking ahead, the kanji 達 meant “to reach; attain; arrive.” (For sample words please refer to the previous post.)

  1. The kanji 返 “to reverse; put it back; restore”

History of Kanji 返In the last post, in discussing the kanji 阪 we touched on the different explanations of the origin of 反. In ten style the kanji 返 consisted of the two elements that signified “to move forward” on the left and 反 on the right, which was used phonetically to mean “to reverse.” The kanji 返 meant “to reverse; put it back; restore.”

The kun-yomi 返す /ka’esu/ means “to return,” and is in 繰り返す (“to repeat” /kurika’esu/). ひっくり返す (“to turn over; turn upside down” /hikkurika’esu/) has the intransitive counterpart verb ひっくり返る /hikkurika’eru/). The on-yomi /he’n/ is in 返事 (“response” /henji’/), 返金 (“repay; reimbursement” /henkin/), 取り返しがつかない (“there is no mending; can’t be undone” /torikaeshi-ga-tsuka’nai/), 見返りがある (“there is a reward/collateral” /mikaeri-ga-a’ru/).

  1. The kanji 退 “to move backward; retreat”

History of Kanji 退Even though the upper right component of the kanji 退, 艮, is the same as the right component of the kanji 限 discussed in our last post, their origins were different – In 限 艮 consisted of an eye and a person or a knife whereas in 退 艮 consisted of a raised bowl of food or the sun, and a backward-facing footprint (夂 suinyoo) below that. The bronze ware style sample showed a bowl of food and a backward footprint. A person walking backward not showing his back in taking down the food offering from the altar table was the explanation given by Shirakawa. The other explanation given by the Kadokawa dictionary is that, from “the sun going down,” it meant “to retreat; recede; move backward.” Now where did the shinnyoo in kanji come from? Interestingly the combination of the crossroad and the backward footprint together gave the meaning the shinnyoo “to move backward” rather than “to move forward.”  (The oracle bone style sample here is the origin of the alternate ten style given by Setsumon (not shown here).)

The kun-yomi 退く /shirizo’ku/ means “to retreat; move backward.” Another kun-yomi /no/ is in 立ち退く (“to get out; vacate” /tachinoku/). The on-yomi /ta’i/ is in 後退 (“retreat” /kootai/), 退職 (“resignation or retirement from a job” /taishoku/), and 退屈な (“boring” /taikutsuna/.)

  1. The kanji 迷 “to be perplexed; lose one’s way”

History of Kanji 迷For the kanji 迷, the bronze ware style sample had a crossroad (left side of 行), 木 and a footprint 止. In ten style the footprint moved to the left, and the right side became 米, which was used phonetically. This kanji is also popularly explained as “one loses one’s way like rice grains scattered in all directions.” The kanji 迷 means “to be perplexed; lose one’s way.”

The kun-yomi 迷う /mayo’u/ means “to be perplexed; lose one’s way,” and is in 迷い子 or 迷子 (“lost child” /mayoi’go/ or /ma’igo/). The on-yomi /me’e/ is in 迷惑な (“annoying; troublesome” /me’ewakuna/), 混迷する (“to be stupefied; be confused” /konmeesuru/) and 迷信 (“superstition” /meeshin/).

  1. The kanji 逃 “to run away; sidestep”

History of Kanji 逃For the kanji 逃, in ten style the right side 兆 came from a pictograph that was the crack lines on a heated tortoise shell or animal bone for divination. When crack lines appeared on the heated bone, they appeared very quickly. The left side “to move forward” and cracks running fast together meant “to run away; dodge.”

The kun-yomi 逃げる /nige’ru/ means “to run away,” and is in 逃げ回る (“to run about” /nigemawa’ru/). Another kun-yomi 逃れる /nogare’ru/ means “to dodge; sidestep,” and is in 言い逃れ (“excuse” /iinogare/). The on-yomi /to’o/ is in 逃亡者 (“fugitive; runaway” /toobo’osha/).

  1. The kanji 近 “close; near”

History of Kanji 近In the ten style of the kanji 近, the right side was a hand axe with a shaped handle, but here it was used phonetically for /ki’n/ to mean “a little.” With the left side “moving forward” a short distance to go forward meant “near.” The kanji 近 meant “near; close.”

The kun-yomi /chika’i/ means “near,” and /jika/ is in 間近に (まぢかに) (“nearby; at close quarters” /ma’jikani/) and 身近な(みぢかな) (“close to oneself; familiar” /mijikana/). The on-yomi /ki’n/ is in 近所 (“nearby place; neighborhood” /ki’njo/) and 最近 (“recently; lately” /saikin/).

We will continue with more kanji that contain a shinnyoo in the next post. [December 5, 2015]

2015-12-13 The Kanji 迎逆連軍運過速束込入 –しんにょう(2)

We are continuing to look at kanji that contain a bushu shinnyoo. In this post we are going to look at the kanji 迎逆連軍運過速束込入.

  1. The kanji 迎 “to welcome”

History of Kanji 迎For the kanji 迎, the left side in ten style, in red, was a composite of two elements, a crossroad (the three hooked lines from the left half of a crossroad) and a footprint. Together they meant “to move along (beyond a crossroad)” and became a bushu shinnyoo in kanji. The center was a person standing, facing right. By having the component that meant “to move along” right behind him we can imagine that he had travelled. On the right side was another person bowing to his visitor in a humble posture. Altogether they meant “to welcome.”

The kun-yomi 迎える /mukaeru/ means “to receive (person)” and is in 迎えに行く (“to go to pick up someone” /mukae’niiku/). The on-yomi /ge’e/ is in 歓迎 (“welcome” /kangee/) and 送迎バス (“pickup bus” /soogeeba’su/).

  1. The kanji 逆 “to reverse; wrong way; backward”

History of Kanji 逆For the kanji 逆, in oracle bone style, in brown, the left side was a person upside down, and the right side was a crossroad. In bronze ware style, in green, the upside down person and crossroad switched their positions and a footprint was added at the bottom. There are a couple of different views on this. One is that “an upside down person” signified “reverse,” and with “to move along” a person went backward. From that it meant “to reverse; wrong way; backward.” Another is by Shirakawa, who said that an upside down person with a crossroad signified a person coming toward another person who was standing on his foot. Together they originally meant “to receive someone.” Then the writing was borrowed to mean “reverse.” Although I find this view, of an upside down person signifying a movement toward you, intriguing, I would like to think about this more in relation to other kanji that originated an upside down image.

The on-yomi 逆さ /sakasa/ means “upside down; backward.” The on-yomi /gyaku/ is 逆に (“conversely; vice verse” /gyakuni/), 反逆 (”revolt” /hangyaku/).

  1. The kanji 連 “to link; accompany; continuous”

History of Kanji 連For the kanji 連 the bronze ware style sample had a crossroad on the left. The right side had two vehicles connected, and a footprint at the bottom. Together they signified a convoy of vehicles. In ten style the footprint moved to the left and aligned with the crossroad. On the right side there was only one vehicle. From many vehicles moving forward in a connected way it meant “to link; to accompany; continuous.”

The kun-yomi 連れる /tsureru/ means “to bring (someone) with,” and is 連れてくる (“to bring someone” /tsureteku’ru/), 二人連れ (“a party of two” /hutarizure/ ふたりづれ) and 親子連れ (“a parent and a child” /oyakozure/ おやこづれ).  The on-yomi /re’n/ is in 連絡する (“to contact; inform” /renraku-suru/), 一連の (“a series of” /ichiren-no/).

  1. The kanji 運 “to carry; transport; luck” and 軍 “military; troops”

History of Kanji 軍The kanji 軍 — Before the kanji 運, let us look at its component 軍 first because 軍 came before 運. On the right we have two bronze ware style writings. Both had 車 “vehicle.” The question is, what the top of or around the vehicle was about. The left bronze ware style sample was explained as a military flag that marked where the military vehicles were. This shape was similar to a flag for a clan in the kanji such as 族, 旅 and 旗, so it has an appeal to me. Another explanation is that the encircling line (勹 in ten style) simply meant “to wrap around,” and the kanji meant soldiers encircling military vehicles. Either way the kanji 軍 meant “military.” In kanji, the short line at the top was lost, possibly to differentiate it from a ukanmuri () “house.” The shape above 車 is called a /waka’nmuri/, from a katakana ワ and /kanmuri/ “crown.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /gu’n/ means “army; troops,” and is in 軍人 (“military personnel” /gunjin/), 陸軍 (“army; land forces” /riku’gun/), 軍隊 (“military forces; troops” /gu’ntai/).

History of Kanji 運For the kanji 運, a bushu shinnyoo “to move forward” and 軍 “military” that was used phonetically signified to “transport military equipment.” It meant “to transport.” Because a luck comes around, it also meant “luck.”

The kun-yomi /hakobu/ means “to carry; transport.” The on-yomi /u’n/ is in 運動 (“movement; exercise” /undo/), 運賃 (“fair” /u’nchin/), 運のいい (“fortunate; lucky” /u’n-no-ii/).

  1. The kanji 過 “to pass through; excessive; mistake”

History of Kanji 過For the kanji 過 in the bronze ware style, in addition to a crossroad and a footprint we see an unusual shape at the top right. It was explained in references as “joint of bones of a deceased person.” Together with “to move along” they meant “to pass through.” Something that goes through could easily end up being excessive, which also may result in a mistake. From that it also meant “excessive; making a mistake.” The kanji 過 means “to pass through; excessive; mistake.”

The kun-yomi /sugi’ru/ means “to pass through” and is in 食べ過ぎる (“to overeat” /tabesugiru.) Another kun-yomi 過ち /ayama’chi/ means “mistake; fault; sin.” The on-yomi /ka/ is in 過去 (“past” /ka’ko/), 過激派 (“radicals; extremist group” /kagekiha/), 超過料金 (“excessive charges” /chookaryo’okin/).

  1. The kanji 速 “fast” and 束 “bundle”

History of Kanji 速For the kanji 速 in bronze ware style, the top was stuff tied with a rope and the bottom was a crossroad which was used phonetically to mean “speedy.” The bottom had a crossroad and footprint, the makings of a shinnyoo. In ten style the tied stuff with strings became 束. Together they meant “fast.”

The kun-yomi /haya’i/ means “fast.” The on-yomi /so’ku/ is in 速度 (“speed” /so’kudo/), 早速 (“at once; right away” /sassoku/), 速達 (“special delivery” /sokutatsu/) and 快速電車 (“rapid train” /kaisokude’nsha/).

History of Kanji 束The kanji 束-– The upper right component of 速 by itself is the kanji 束. For 速, all of the ancient writing styles was a bundle of stuff tied together. It meant “to bundle.” The kun-yomi /ta’ba/ means “a bundle,” and is in 束ねる (“to bundle up” /tabane’ru/) and 花束 (“flower bouquet” /hana’taba/).

7. The kanji 込 “to come into; become crowded” and 入 “to enter”

The kanji 込 is kokuji, a kanji that was created in Japan; therefore no ancient writing existed. All kokuji are semantic composites. The kanji 込 was created by combining 入 “to enter or to put in” and a bushu しんにょう “to move forward.” It meant “to put something in.” When you put too many things in, it becomes crowded. So it also means “to be crowded.”

The kun-yomi /ko/ is in 込む (“to become crowded” /ko’mu/), 込める (“to put in; charge; concentrate” /kome’ru/), 閉じ込める (“to lock in; confine” /tojikome’ru/), 入り込む (“to come into; gain an entrance to” /hairiko’mu/) and 申し込み (“application” /mooshikomi/). Being a kokuji, it does not have an on-yomi.

History of Kanji 入The kanji 入   In all ancient styles, it was the shape of an entrance to a house. It meant “to enter.” In kanji you write the shorter stroke towards the left first.

We will continue more kanji with a shinnyoo in the next post. [December 13, 2015]

2015-12-19 The Online 1100 Video Kanji Lessons Completed

The first stage of the video lessons on an etymology-based kanji study has been completed. The last two tables of kanji are shown at the bottom. The all 1100 lessons are at http://www.visualkanji.com/lessons.html.

Working at the same time on these lessons and on the Kanji Portraits blog has been giving me a chance to revisit the origins of each kanji with more focus on the ancient writings. Ancient writings are great storytellers. They entertain and make us think. I have been sharing my thoughts with you as I do my research. I hope you are enjoying it as much as I have been.

I will be away from the reference materials over the Christmas-New Year break, so the next posting will probably be the second weekend in January.  (Due to the change of my traveling schedule it will be around the third weekend. Updated on January 7, 2016)

I wish you and yours a merry Christmas, a happy holiday for whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year, and the very best of the new year.

メリークリスマス!  どうぞよいお年をお迎えください

憲子

VisualKanjiPart5KanjiList

VIsualKanjiPart6KanjiList

2016-01-15 The Kanji 送朕追師遺貴辺遅遊–しんにゅう(3)

1 The kanji 送 “to send; forward”

History of Kanji 送For the kanji 送, in ten style, in red, the left side was a crossroad and a footstep vertically placed, which were the makings of a bushu shinnyoo “to move forward” later on. On the right side the top looked like a fire but it was an object instead (we will come back to this shape in the kanji 朕 below). The bottom was two hands, which signified a careful act using hands. Together they signified a person sending out an object with hands. Then the left side was added to emphasize a forward movement. The two sides together meant “to send something forward.”

The kun-yomi 送る /okuru/ means “to send,” and is in 送り先 (“recipient; addressee” /okurisaki/), 見送る (“to see someone off” /miokuru/), 見送りにする (“not to act now; shelve for now” /miokurini-suru/), 送り仮名 (“declensional kana ending in Japanese” /okurigana/). The on-yomi /so’o/ is in 送料 (“shipping charge” /so’oryoo/), 転送 (“transfer” /tensoo/), 郵送 (“sending by post” /yuusoo/) and 再放送 (“rebroadcasting” /saiho’osoo/).

The kanji  — This kanji is for an extremely exclusive use. Only an emperor uses this to talk about himself. It means “imperial We.” But it is not an unimportant kanji if you study Japanese history. Until the end of WWII, at every important school assembly the principal solemnly recited the Imperial Rescript on Education. It began as 朕惟フ二・朕思うに (/chi’n omo’oni/ “We. the emperor, believe that …”). So, the word 朕 was a familiar word among people of an older generation for a long time.

History of Kanji 朕The history of the kanji 朕 is shown on the right. In both oracle bone style, in brown, and bronze ware style, in green, the left side had a shallow bowl or a tray that could be used to transport things. (月 in this case is not “moon” or “flesh” but “tray; bowl.”) On the right side the vertical line with a bulge in the middle signified an object (a bulge was to emphasize that the shape was more than just a line), and the bottom had two hands holding up the object carefully. Together they meant a bowl that contained something was held carefully with both hands reverentially. Then it was used to mean “imperial We.” (Shirakawa thinks that it was just a borrowing because pronouns are all borrowing.) In ten style, the vertical line with a bulge took the shape of 火. In kanji the two elements on the right side coalesced and became simplified. The kanji 朕 means “I (imperial We)” [exclusively used by an emperor]. Another kanji that contains the upper right side of the kanji 送 and 朕 is the kanji 咲 (“a flower blooms” /saku/), but it appears to be a more recent kanji (no ancient writing available).

2 The kanji 追 “to chase after; add later” and 師 “teacher; military unit”

History of Kanji 追The upper right component in the kanji 追 and the left side of the kanji 師 share the same shape, not only in the kanji but also in oracle bone style and bronze ware style. Kanji scholars’ accounts on what it signified seem to differ. One view is that it was a stack of things or soil for a boundary. Another view is that it was bands of people and was phonetically used to mean “to follow” and “to add (something) afterwards.” And yet another view, which is by Shirakawa, is that it was two pieces of meat for offerings to the god to pray for a victory in a battle. The ritual with an offering was conducted wherever the military moved to fight a battle. Thus it meant “to follow.” From following it also meant “to add (something) afterwards.”

The kun-yomi 追う /ou/ means “to chase after” and is in 追いかける /oikake’ru/ and its colloquial form 追っかける (“to run after” /oikake’ru; okkake’ru/.) The on-yomi /tsu’i/ is in 追加 (“addition” /tsuika/), 追放する (“to expel; banish” /tsuihoo-suru/), 追突事故 (“car accident” /tsuitotsuji’ko/) and 追従する (“to servile to; follow” /tsuijuu-suru/).

History of Kanji 師2The kanji  –The two oracle bone style samples and the left bronze ware style writing sample shown on the right were the same as the components of 追. In the second bronze ware style writing a military flag was added on the right side. Together they meant a military division or its leader. In the military a leader is very important, From that it also meant a “mentor.” The kanji 師 meant “military unit; teacher; mentor.”

3 The kanji 遺 “to leave behind; bequest”

History of Kanji 遺For the kanji 遺, we have three bronze ware style writing samples here. The left most one consisted of two hands holding something carefully at the top, a crossroad on the left, signifying “to go,” and a cowry, signifying something valuable, at the bottom right. Together they meant someone leaving something precious behind after his death. The two other bronze ware style samples contained the same elements in a different layout. In ten style a crossroad and a footprint were aligned vertically to mean “to go forward,” and the right side was 貴 “precious; valuable.” The kanji 遺 means “to leave behind; bequest.”

The kun-yomi 遺す /noko’su/ means “to leave behind; bequest.” The on-yomi /i/ is in 遺族 (bereaved family; surviving family of a deceased), 遺産 (“inheritance” /isan/), 遺伝 (“hereditary transmission” /iden/), 遺伝子 (“gene” /ide’nshi/) and 遺憾ながら (“regrettably; I regret to say” /ikanna’gara/) [formal style]. Another on-yomi /yu’i/ is in 遺言 (one’s dying wish; one’s will /yuigon/).

History of Kanji 貴The kanji 貴–If you take the bushu shinnyoo out from the kanji 遺, we get the kanji 貴. Its ten style writing shown on the right had two hands over a container of valuable cowry with a lid. It signified “to handle something valuable carefully.” Precious cowries were kept in a container with a lid. Together they meant “precious; valuable.” The kanji 貴 is also used for people and it meant “noble.”

4 The kanji 辺 (邊) “peripheral; edge”

History of Kanji 辺The shinjitai kanji 辺 was a drastic change from its kyujitai邊. The kyujitai had 19 strokes and we can hardly make out the shape unless you enlarge the screen many times over. The writing in blue on the left side is the kyujitai. We have two bronze ware style writing samples here. The left one had a crossroad on the left. On the right side it had a face (自) at the top, a table (丙) in the middle and four directions (方) at the bottom, signifying peripheral areas in all four directions. Together they meant “edge of an area; peripheral.” In ten style a crossroad and a footprint were aligned vertically. The kyujitai had two short strokes in the shinnyoo. The kyujitai is still used in some family names, such as 渡邊 “Watanabe or Watabe” in a formal document even though they are likely to use the shinjitai in their daily life. For us, simply learning the shinjitai shape, which has 刀 “sword,” no relation to the meaning, will do. The kanji 辺 meant “peripheral; edge of an area; area.”

The on-yomi 辺り /a’tari/ means “surrounding; vicinity; neighborhood.” The on-yomi /he’n/ is in この辺 /konohen/ “the neighborhood; this area,” 四辺形 (“quadrilateral; four-sided figure” /shihe’nkee/), 周辺 (“surroundings; vicinity” /shuuhen/), 辺境 (“frontier; outlying district” /henkyoo/), and /pen/ is in 天辺 (“top” /teppe’n/ often in hiragana てっぺん). Another on-yomi /be/ is in 浜辺 (“shore; beach” /hamabe/).

5The kanji 遅 “late; slow”

History of Kanji 遅The kanji 遅 had oracle bone style and bronze ware style samples as shown on the left. How a sitting person and possibly an animal came to mean 犀 “rhinoceros” is not clear. In kanji, the upper right component 犀 was used phonetically to mean “slow.” The lower left was a bushu shinnyoo. In ten style the upper right consisted of 尾 “tail” and 牛 “ox; cow,” which was reflected in kyujitai. In shinjitai they were replaced by 羊. The kanji 遅 means “slow; late.”

The kun-yomi 遅い (“late; slow” /osoi/) and 遅れる (“to be late; arrive late” /okureru/), 出遅れる (“to make a late start” /deokure’ru/), 乗り遅れる (“to miss a bus or train” /noriokure’ru/), 遅かれ早かれ (“sooner or later” /osokarehaya’kare/), 手遅れ (“too late” /teo’kure/). The on-yomi /chi/ is in 遅刻 (“late; arrive late” /chikoku/), 遅々として (“very slowly” /chi’chitoshite/).

6 The kanji 遊 “to play; have fun; travel around”

History of Kanji 遊History of Kanji 游The kanji 遊, with a bushu shinnyoo, does not appear in Setsumon Kaiji, Instead it was with a sanzui “water” (游). The history of the kanji 游 is shown on the right. In oracle bone style, the left and the top was a flagpole and a streamer of a clan. The bottom right was a child. The left bronze ware style writing showed a person viewed from the side. He was holding the flagpole with both hands firmly. The writing meant “clan” with a clan streamer swimming in the sky. In ten style, “water” was added on the left side to indicate “to swim.” When a bushu shinnyoo “to move forward” was added instead, the kanji 遊 originally meant “to travel around; move around.” From that it meant “to play; to have fun.” It also retained the original meaning of “moving about; traveling around” in the words such as 遊学 (“to travel abroad for leaning” /yuugaku/) and 外遊 (“to travel abroad” (often by a politician) /gaiyuu/).

The kun-yomi 遊ぶ /asonu/ means “to play; have fun.” The on-yomi /yuu/ include words such as 物見遊山 (“going on a pleasure jaunt” /monomiyu’san/) in addition to 遊学 and 外遊.

The clan’s pole and streamer in the kanji 旅旗族: In kanji it is written as 方 on the left side and two strokes at the top of the right component. But as we have just seen in the ancient writings above, they originally signified a single meaning. In the history of kanji I find that it is very rare that a meaningful unit got cut off in the middle like this. I believe this is a very rare case in which a meaningful segment was dropped off entirely. In a traditional kanji dictionary, even from the Setsumon times, it has been listed among 方 as a bushu. The kanji that share the same origin include 旅 (“to travel” /tabi’/), 旗 (“flag” /hata’/), and 族 (“family; clan” /zo’ku/.)

It looks like I need one more posting to finish up with kanji containing a bushu shinnyoo. [January 15, 2016]

2016-01-23 The Kanji 道導述帝適敵通造ーしんにょう(4)

  1. The kanji 道 “road” and 導 “to guide”

History of Kanji 導The kanji 道 and 導 have been discussed in an earlier post in connection with a physical feature (The Kanji 民眠盲衆自面首道導 on June 6, 2015) – The upper right component 首 was a head with hair. The two kanji shared the same bronze ware style writing, in green, which consisted of a crossroad, inside which was a head with hair, and underneath was a hand. History of Kanji 道 (frame)Together they signified someone showing by hand the way to go, thus 導 meant “a hand guiding the way to go forward” or just “to guide.” (Ten style is in red.) Without a hand at the bottom it became the kanji 道 “road; way.” As I write this post I am wondering if the two Japanese words みち /michi/ and みちびく /michibi’ku/ existed before the kanji came to Japan and shared the same cognates, too. The word /hiku/ means “to draw; to pull; lead.” Another scenario is that the word みちびく came after the kanji introduction. To look into which was a historical fact is a totally different endeavor. For us in vocabulary study keeping in mind this possible relationship between みち and みちびく may be useful.

  1. The kanji 述 “to state”

History of Kanji 述When we looked at the kanji 術 three months ago in the post entitled the kanji 行街術衛 – ゆきがまえ (October 17, 2015), 術 was explained in two ways, depending on how the middle 朮 was explained. One explanation of 朮 from Setsumon was that “sticky millets around the stalk.” Another, by Shirakawa, was an “animal that was used to exorcise an evil spirit on a road.” Unlike 術, 述 had a bronze ware style sample, but it still does not give us a definitive answer – it looks like the top of the millet stalk drooping with grain, but it also looks like an animal. (One problem with Shirakawa’s account is that many kanji scholars seem to be skeptical of the existence of such magic practice.) Whatever the origin was, the kanji 朮 (it is not a Joyo kanji) meant もちあわ “sticky millet,” and in both kanji 術 and 述, it was used phonetically for /jutsu/. For us it is more convenient to understand 述 as one following what had been said, thus “to reiterate; state.”

The kun-yomi 述べる /nobe’ru/ means “to state; say.” The on-yomi /ju’tsu/ is in 述語 (“predicate” /jutsugo/), 記述する (“to describe; write down” /kijutsu-suru/), and 前述の (“aforementioned” /zenjutsu-no/).

The kanji 帝 “imperial,” 適 “suitable” and 敵 “enemy; foe” — In order to discuss the kanji 適 and its related kanji 敵, it would be helpful to look at the kanji 帝. I would have never imagined that those kanji would lead us to the kanji 帝, until I wrote about the two kanji 適 and 敵 for the Key to Kanji.

  1. The kanji 帝 “emperor; imperial”

History of Kanji 帝For the kanji 帝 in both of the two samples in oracle bone style, in brown, it was an altar table that had three crossed legs for stability. It was the most important altar table to place offerings for the ancestral gods and gods of nature. It signified the highest god that ruled the universe. From that it came to be used for “emperor; imperial.” In bronze ware style, the top, for most likely offerings, got separated. In kanji the bottom 巾 is probably the remnant of stabilizing three legs.

The kun-yomi 帝 /mikado/ means “emperor.” The on-yomi /te’i/ is in 皇帝 (“emperor” /kootee/), 帝国 (“empire” /te’ikoku/) and 帝国主義 (“imperialism” /teikokushu’gi/).

  1. The kanji 適 “suitable” and 敵 “enemy; foe”

History of Kanji 適The history of the kanji 適 and 敵 is shown on the left. The two kanji in bronze ware style were basically the same: The top was what the kanji 帝 was and the bottom was 口 “words; a prayer box.” Together they signified someone who could say a prayer in conducting the most important worship rite of the ancestral gods, that is, a legitimate heir to the throne. History of Kanji 敵When a bushu onnaben was added on the left side, it became the kanji 嫡 /cha’ku/, in words such as 嫡子 (“legitimate son or daughter; heir”/cha’kushi/). Now let us look at the kanji 適 and 敵.

The kanji 適 -In ten style the kanji 適 had the makings of a shinnyoo “to move forward” on the left side. Together from something that can move on it meant “to fit; suitable.” The kun-yomi 適う /kana’u/ means “suitable; qualified.” The on-yomi /teki/ is in 適当な (“suitable; fit” /tekitoo-na/), which is also used in the opposite meaning of “irresponsible.” It is also in 適応する (to adapt” /tekioo-suru/), 快適な (“confortable” /kaiteki-na/), 適材適所 (“the right person in the right position” /tekizaite’kisho/).

The kanji 敵 – In ten style the right side was a bushu bokuzukuri 攵 “to take an action; beat.” Together they meant someone who was a good match to be one’s enemy, or someone who was against the heir to the throne whom one should fight against, thus “enemy; foe.” The kanji 敵 means “enemy; foe” and also “to match; equal; rival.” It also retained the original meaning of “to fit.” The kun-yomi is 敵 /kataki’/ “enemy; foe.” The on-yomi /teki/ also means “enemy; foe,” but the kun-yomi /kataki’/ is a more emotional, stronger word. It is also in 敵味方 (“friend and foe” /tekimikata/), 天敵 (“natural enemy” /tenteki/), 敵意 (“hostility” /te’kii/), 無敵の (“matchless” /mutaki-no/).

(There are a couple of more Joyo kanji that include the same component – 滴 “drop,” and 摘 “to pick.” The component was used solely phonetically.)

  1. The kanji 通 “to pass through”

History of Kanji 通For the kanji 通, we have two oracle bone style samples shown on the left. In addition to a crossroad on the left side, and a footprint on the right, it had the shape that later became 用. In bronze ware style, a round shape was added on 用, which became 甬 in kanji. Even though scholars seem to agree that 甬 signified an action in which something went through, thus it meant “through; to pass through,” what the shape originally was came from is not agreed. One view is that the top was a person stamping on a stick to push it through; another is that the top was a hand pail 手桶 whose cylindrical shape signified something “through”; yet another is that it was just used phonetically. Whatever the origin, the katakana マ shape and 用 formed a single meaningful unit. Together with a bushu shinnyoo, the kanji 通 meant “to pass through; go and come back regularly.”

The kun-yomi 通る /to’oru/ means “to pass through.” Another kun-yomi 通う /kayou/) means “to commute; go repeatedly.” The on-yomi /tsu’u/ is in 通学する (“to commute to school” /tsuugaku-suru/), 通路 (“passageway” /tsu’uro/), 通勤時間 (“commuting time” /tsuukinji’kan/), 交通 (“transportation; traffic” /kootsuu/), and 通話記録 (“call log” /tsuuwaki’roku/).

  1. The kanji 造 “to make; assemble”

History of Kanji 造The kanji 造 means “to  make; do; assemble.” There seem to be a number of different views on the origin, including that it was just a borrowing. One thing agreed upon is that the upper right was a miscopy and was not related to the kanji 告. The bronze ware style and ten style samples are shown on the left. I hate to leave it this way, but I do not see an account that would be helpful for us to learn.

The kun-yomi /tsuku’ru/ means “to make.” The on-yomi /zo’o/ is in 創造 (“creation” /soozoo/), 造作なく (“easily” /zoosana’ku/), 造詣の深い (“to have profound knowledge” /zookee-no-huka’i/).

For other kanji that contain a bushu shinnyoo, such as 遠, 違, 選 and 達, please read the earlier posts. This post concludes our exploration of shinnyoo kanji. We have seen in each one of the kanji that (1) a bushu shinnyoo originated from two discrete shape-meaning units of a crossroad, either one side or both sides, and a footprint. The two elements remained discrete items through ten style.  (2) In kanji the two elements coalesced into one.  (3) a bushu shinnyoo added the sense of setting off an action or moving forward to the component that provided another meaning or sound.

There are a few more shapes that originated from something in human habitats that I would like to look at. In the next two or three posts, I am thinking about 廴, a bushu ennyoo, and 京 “a house on top of a hill” among other shapes. [January 23, 2016]

2016-01-31 The Kanji 廷建健延誕再構講-えんにょう and 再

In this post we are going to look at two shapes — a bushu ennyoo (), which appears in the kanji 廷建健延誕, and the shape 再, which appears in the kanji 再構講.

  1. The Kanji 廷 “court; courtyard”

History of Kanji 廷The kanji 廷 had a number of bronze ware style samples, suggesting that it was an important writing in ancient times. I have picked three of them to copy by hand (in green).  In (a), the right side was a standing person with his hands put forward above a mound of soil on the ground. (In worshiping the god of the earth, a mound of soil was placed on the ground.) In (c) the soil became a line under the person, signifying the ground on which he stood, and under his hands there were a couple of diagonal lines, signifying rice wine being sprinkled to sanctify the ground. Among all three samples of bronze ware style, (a), (b) and (c), the lower left was a wall around an area where the ceremony took place. Shirakawa explained that was a wall viewed from above. Altogether the writing signified a part of the imperial court where a certain sanctifying rite was conducted. From that it meant “court; imperial court.”

In ten style, in red, the upper right was a person standing on the ground. How do we view the lower left shape, which was no longer a single bent line? I tend to think now that it was the shape in which two elements coalesced. One element was the bending wall that we see in bronze ware style samples, and another was crossroad.” (The crossroad appeared in the bronze ware style sample of the kanji 建.) In kanji it became a three-stroke shape, with a wiggly line and a line that stretches to the right. This shape is called a bushu ennyoo — /En/ is from the kanji 延, and /nyo’o/ is a component name that starts on the left side and stretches to the bottom right. A bushu ennyoo means “to stretch; extend.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /te’e/ is in 宮廷 (“imperial court” /kyuutee/) and 法廷 (“court of law; courtroom” /hootee/).

History of Kanji 庭 (frame)The kanji 庭 has been discussed earlier in connection with a bushu madare “house with one side open; court yard” (The Kanji 庫席広庭序店座床-まだれ, on June 27, 2015.) A bushu madare and 廷 together the kanji 庭 meant “courtyard garden” or just “garden.”

  1. The Kanji 建 “to build”

History of Kanji 建For the kanji 建, the top of (a) in bronze ware style was a hand holding a writing brush, and in (b) soil was attached to the brush. Also in (a), the bottom had a crossroad and a footprint at the bottom, whereas in (b) the bent shape that signified a court wall appeared. These two different shapes in bronze ware style in (a) and (b) gave me the reason for me to think that the ten style shape was a coalescence of the two meanings that I have just mentioned in discussing the kanji 廷 in 1. The writing signified one holding a writing brush upright to decide where in the courtyard they should build a building. From that it meant “to build.”

The kun-yomi 建てる /tate’ru/ means “to build.” The on-yomi /ke’n/ is in 建築 (“building” /kenchiku/) and 建設 (“construction; founding” /kensetsu/). There is another on-yomi /ko’n/, a goon, that is used to refer to building a Buddhism temple, 建立 (“erection; building” /konryuu/). /Ryu’u/ for 立 is also a go-on, as you would expect.

  1. The Kanji 健 “healthy; praiseworthiness”

History of Kanji 健For the kanji 健, the ten style sample had a person on the left (a bushu ninben). The right side 建 “to build,” with an upright writing brush, signified someone standing with his back straight. It was used to mean “good health” and also “bravely; praiseworthily.”

The kun-yomi 健やか /suko’yaka/ means “to be in good health.” Another kun-yomi 健気な /kenagena/ means “brave; praiseworthy.” The on-yomi /ke’n/ is in 健康 (“one’s health”/kenkoo/), 健忘症 (“being forgetful” /kenbooshoo/), 健全な (“wholesome; healthy; sound” /kenzenna/).

  1. The Kanji 延 “to stretch; postpone; extend”

History of Kanji 延For the kanji 延, the upper right component of the ten style sample had a slanted stroke over a footprint, which signified a stretched stride. The lower left was what we have already discussed – either a crossroad whose one end was pulled to the right; or a court wall stretching. Either way it signified “a stretched way.” Together they meant “to extend; postpone.”

The kun-yomi 延びる /nobi’ru/ or its transitive verb counterpart 延ばす /noba’su/ means “to stretch; postpone; extend.” The on-yomi /e’n/ is in 延長 (“extension” /enchoo/) and 延期する (”to postpone” /enki-suru/).

  1. The Kanji 誕 “to be born”

History of Kanji 誕The kanji 誕 has a story that has a sense of humor. The story started in bronze ware style – the top was a footstep stretched long vertically, and the small dot on the upper right and a angle line at the bottom was a crossroad split on the top. This is an odd shape that I have not seen anywhere else so far. The writing meant “to stretch.” In ten style 言, a bushu gonben “word,” was added. Together from stretching words they meant “telling a tall story; to brag.” Very clever, isn’t it. But this original meaning of “bragging” is rarely used now. Later on it came to be used for an unrelated meaning of “to be born.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ta’n/ is in 誕生日 (“birthday” /tanjo’obi/) and 生誕百年 (“a centennial of birth of someone famous” /seetan-hyaku’nen/).

Now we move to another shape. The next three kanji 構講 and 再 originated from a shape of a braided rope or string.

  1. The Kanji 構 “structure; to construct”

History of Kanji 構The kanji 構 had two similar oracle bone style samples, in brown. If we look at the top portion and the bottom portion back and forth, we begin to see that they are the mirror images of each other. According the Shirakawa, they were shapes of braided ropes. (I will come back to this point in 8.) The writing signified “to connect two shapes.” For the kanji 構, in ten style time, 木 “wood” was added. Together they meant wooden configuration that repeated the same patterns that people constructed. It meant “structure; to construct.”

The kun-yomi 構える /kamae’ru/ means “to assume a posture; set up a house,” and is in 身構える (“to stand ready; be poised to defend oneself” /migamae’ru/). The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 構築する (“to build” /koochiku-suru/), 構成 (“construction; composition” /koosee/) and 構図 (“composition” /koozu/).

  1. The Kanji 講 “to lecture; talk”

History of Kanji 講The kanji 講 has only a ten style sample. The right was used phonetically for /ko’o/ to mean “to connect two things,” and the left side had 言 “word; language.” Together “people reconnected by talking” gave the meaning “to reconcile; lecture; talk.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 講堂 (“lecture hall; hall” /koodoo/), 講義 (“lecture” /ko’ogi/) and 講習 (“training session” /kooshuu/).

Other Joyo kanji that contain the right side of 構 and 講 include 溝 “furrow; groove; ditch” and 購 “to buy.” The right side was used phonetically for /ko’o/.

  1. The Kanji 再 “again; to repeat”

History of Kanji 再For the kanji 再 we have an oracle bone style sample, (a), and two bronze ware style samples, (b) and (c). (a) showed the shape of a braided rope, and the sideways line at the top. This line at the top indicated the spot where one turned around in making a braided rope. A return signified “again.” The shape of braiding was essentially same as those in the kanji 構 and 講. In bronze ware style, however, it is somewhat not straightforward to view them as a braiding shape. (b) had three lines at the top whereas (c) had two lines inside, signifying “double; to repeat.” From that the kanji 再 meant “to repeat; again.”

In this article I have taken the view that that the right component of 構 and 講 was made by a rope. On the other hand, Setsumon explained it as wooden building materials. It also explained the line at the top in (d) in 再 differently — as a truncation to simplify the full bottom configuration. I followed that view in the Key to Kanji. I am rethinking the Setsumon’s explanation. We see two mirror images in full in the two oracle bone style samples of the kanji 構. Was it really necessary to cut off the top shape of something built and replace it with a single line for the meaning “to repeat”? Viewing the materials as string or rope as the turning point in braiding, rather than wooden materials to build a structure and use a single line at the top, now sounds more appealing to me. This is still not conclusive by any means.

The kun-yomi 再び /hutatabi/ means “again.” The on-yomi /sa’i/ is in 再開する (“to reopen” /saikai-suru/), 再現 (“reenactment” /saigen/) and 再出発 (“restart; a fresh start” /saishu’ppatsu/).

In the two next posts we are continuing with the human habitats theme. I would li