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
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”
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”
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”
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”
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”
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!]