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.


(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]

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