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]

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