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

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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]

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

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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!]

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

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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.

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

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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]

Which Hand Helps? – 又右友有左 – “hand” (1)

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(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]