Two hands from below (2): 算戒械弁and 葬鼻升昇 -“hand” (7)


We have seen previously that two hands from below created a two-stroke ハ shape that was present in 共供興兵具 (and 異.)  In this post we are going to see another shape that came from two hands from below: it is a three-stroke shape at the bottom of 算戒械弁. The shape is called /niju’uashi/ “two-ten bottom” in a kanji dictionary. Japanese people rarely use bushu names, except a handful of common names such as ninben, shinnyuu (nowadays shinnyoo), kihen, etc. We just say “the bottom of the kanji san,” hoping that the hearer knows which kanji /sa’n/ being referred to. For convenience, I am going to use the name nijuuashi.

1. 算 “to calculate; count”

History算In ten style, the top was a takekanmuri “bamboo.” The middle and the bottom were the same as that of the ten style shape of the kanji 具 “contents; filling.” In the development of the kanji 具 what looks like 目 in fact came from a pot for cooking a sacrificial animal and other food. The bottom was two hands holding it up. [Link to 具]  Bamboo sticks were used for counting. From “counting the contents” the kanji 算 meant “to count.” Two hands from below became a ハ shape in 具 whereas they became a nijuuashi in 算. The kanji 算 does not have a kun-reading. The on-reading /san/ is in 計算 (“calculation” /keesan/), 算数 (“reckoning; arithmetics” /sansu’u/), 予算 (“budget” /yosan/) and 打算的 (”calculating; prudent” /dasanteki/.)

2. 戒 “to admonish”

History戒In the kanji 戒 ”to admonish” the oracle bone style had a halberd in the middle and a hand on both sides. In bronze ware style, a halberd was raised by two hands and pushed to the right, and in ten style the halberd was placed on top of the two hands. (A halberd is a weapon that has two functions, for thrusting and cutting. [The Oxford dictionary: a combined spear and battle-ax].)History戈(金文)  The bronze ware style of the kanji 戈 /ho’ko/ “halberd” is shown on the right side.

Shirakawa (2004) notes that: (1) Two hands raising an axe made the kanji 兵 “weapon; soldier” and; (2) two hands raising a halberd made the kanji 戒 “to admonish.” It is interesting to see a parallel here, that two hands from below ended up with two different shapes ハ in 具 and nijuuashi in 算, and the same thing happened in 兵 and 戒 [Link to 具 and 兵.] The kun-reading is 戒める (“to admonish” /imashime’ru/) and 戒め (“admonition; caution” /imashime/.) The on-reading /kai/ is in 戒律 (“commandments; religious precepts,” /kairitsu/), 十戒 (“the Ten Commandments” /jikkai/) and 懲戒処分 (“disciplinary measure“ /chookai-sho’bun/.)

3. 械 “machine; gadget”

History械By adding a kihen “tree; wood” to 戒, we get the kanji 械 as in 機械 (“machine; machinery” /kika’i/) and 器械 (“instrument; apparatus” /kika’i/). From “wooden apparatus that admonishes” the original meaning was “wooden shackle.” In kanji, the meaning of “admonishing” dropped and it means “gadget; machine.” There is no kun-reading in joyo kanji.

4. 弁 “flower petal; to defend; speak; dialect”

History弁The shape of the kanji 弁 came from two hands trying to put on a hat, which came from the left side of the ten style writing. According to Shirakawa, a black hat was worn by a civilian officer and a white hat by a military officer. In shinjitai the kanji 弁 has assumed various meanings from different kanji in the kyujitai – 瓣, 辨 and 辯.

弁の旧字体In order to understand different meanings of 弁, it may be useful to look at these three kanji in an enlarged view on the right side. If we compare the first three shapes, we notice that only the middle component is different. The outer shape had two 辛, which were tattooing needles. They meant two people pledging something with understanding that they would get tattooed as a punishment if they broke the pledge. From that it meant “to pledge.” The shape (a) 瓣 had 瓜 “gourd” in the center. Inside the gourd seeds are packed neatly in rows. It came to mean “flower petal.” The shape (b) 辯 had 言 “word; language” in the center, and it meant two people argue side by side. The shape (c) 辨 had a bushu shape called /rittoo/ “knife,” which divided something equally. It meant separating the two sides in court and making balanced judgment. In shinjitai, all three kanji uses the kanji 弁.

The on-reading /be’n/ is in the expressions such as 花弁 (“flower petal” /kaben/), 弁が立つ (“to speak eloquently” /be’n-ga ta’tsu/,) 答弁 (“answer; account” /to’oben,) 弁護士 (“legal attorney”/bengo’shi/) and 関西弁 (“Kansai dialect” /kansaiben/.)  弁当 (“boxed lunch” /bento’o/) appears not to be related (The Kojien dictionary suggests that it may be phonetic or for the meaning of convenience /ben/.) The kun-yomi 弁える /wakimae’ru/ means “to discern; have good knowledge of” and and is used in the phrase 場所を弁えない (“not bear in mind of the occasion” /basho-o wakimae’nai/.)

Now, not all the bushu nijuuashi shapes came from two hands from below. Here are a few kanji that I have found that do not share its meaning in our brief exposition of “hand” in kanji.

5. The kanji 葬 ”to bury; entomb”; and (2) 鼻 ”nose”

History葬In 葬 “to bury; entomb,” the ten style had two pairs of grasses or plants, the top for the bush kusakanmuri and the bottom in the same shape, and the precursor of 死 in the middle. A body hidden in tall grasses is a burial. From the kanji shape I had thought that the deceased being buried with tender care made sense. After I copied the ten style, I still thought they were hands. But I seem to be wrong.

In the kanji 鼻” nose,” the top 自 was “self” from a nose. The middle and the bottom together were used phonetically from kanji that was not used in Japanese. In the kyujitai 鼻 the two vertical strokes did not go above the long horizontal line in suggesting a table.

6. The kanji 升 “ladle; unit of measuring mass” and 昇 “to rise”

History升I became curious about the kanji 升 and 昇, because they contained the shape nijuuashi right in the middle. I had never paid attention to these kanji before.  (They are not among the “first half” of the Joyo kanji, so I did not include them in The Key to Kanji.) The development of 升 is shown on the left. When we think about its meaning, the shapes on the left make sense to me. It was a ladle to measure grains and liquid. It even points to the fact that the ladle has something inside. The kanji 升  /sho’o/ was an old unit of measuring grains and liquid before Japan switched to the metric system. Even after that the words 米一升 (“one sho of rice” /kome-i’sshoo/) or 一升瓶 (“a bottle of one sho; 1.8 liter” /issho’obin/) were words that were used in daily life.

History昇The kanji 昇 means “the sun rising.” It had the sun 日 and the bottom 升 was used phonetically. The kun-reading is 昇る (“to rise” /noboru/) and the on-reading /sho’o/ is found in 上昇 (“rising” /jooshoo/) and 昇進する (“to get promoted to a higher position” /shooshin-suru.)

So in this post, we have seen that not all the kanji that contain the bushu shape called nijuuashii came from the same origin. In the next post I am planning to discuss one more shape 寸 that came from a hand (or two hands, depending on the interpretation.) [June 15, 2014]

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