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 A horse as a means of transportation has been replaced by a car in the modern times.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 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)