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.]
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)