In this final post regarding “hand,” we are going to look at 寸, 付, 府, 守, 対 and 討.
1. The kanji 寸 “a little”
The origin of the kanji 寸 has puzzled me for a long time, particularly the origin of the third stroke. Following a view that was based on the first century explanation in Setsumon-kaiji, I wrote that it was “a finger pointing at a wrist where one’s pulse was taken. The distance between a hand and that point is small, so this portion signified a little…” (Williams 2010: 183) This time I searched for earlier ancient writing, hoping that it might give us better evidence for that explanation. Strangely enough, there was no sample for 寸 earlier than the ten style on the left. Let us look at a few kanji that may contain earlier styles.
2. 付 “to attach; issue”
The three bronze ware styles for the kanji 付 (1), (2) and (3), have a person and a hand from behind. In (1) the hand was touching the person, and in (1) and (2) there is no short line that would become a third stroke in kanji. From handing something to another person, 付 meant “to hand out; attach.” Giving out documents was what a government office did, so it also meant “to issue.” The kun-reading /tsu/ is used in 付ける (“to attach” tr. v. /tsuke’ru/) and 付く (“to attach itself to; adhere; touch” intr. v. /tsu’ku/), 受け付ける (“to accept“(application, etc.) /uketsukeru/) The on-reading /hu/ is in the words such as 交付する (”to issue; to grant” /koohu-suru/), 送付する (”to serve (someone) with~” /soohu-suru/) and 添付ファイル (“file attached” /tenpufa’iru/.)
3. 府 ”government ”
The kanji 府 looks like the kanji 付 inside a bushu called madare 广, which means a house that had one side open for people walking in and out. That would explain the meaning “government” that 府 has. However the two bronze ware style samples on the left add a little more story to it. They had a cowry at the bottom, representing important documents. Thus it originally meant a vault for important documents and money. In Ten-style there was no cowry. The kanji 府 means “government office.” In Japan it is a jurisdiction smaller than 都 (“metropolitan government” /to’/) but larger than 県 (“prefecture” /ke’n/). Only 大阪府 (“Osaka prefecture” /oosaka’hu/) and 京都府 (“Kyoto prefecture” /kyooto’hu/) have this designation. There is no kun-reading. The on-reading /hu/ is in 政府 (“government” /se’ehu/), 幕府 (“military government” /ba’kuhu/.)
4. 守 “to protect”
The kanji 守 has 寸 under a bushu ukanmuri. A bushu ukanmuri was originally a house or complete cover that securely protects something inside. It meant “to work inside a house or to protect what is inside a house.” The two bronze styles differ in that one has the extra dot and one does not. The kun-reading is in 守る (“to protect” /mamo’ru/), 見守る (“to watch over” /mimamoru/) and the on-reading is in 守衛 (“watch guard” /shuee/), 保守的な (“conservative” /hoshuteki-na/.)
5. 対 (對) “opposing; pair”
The kyujitai for the kanji 対 is 對. As I laid the three styles side by side like this, I realize that the shinjitai is closer to the oracle bone style. I do not have time right now to look into this, and at the moment we are interested in the right side 寸．The story of the left side varies. Whether it was “a notched stand to hang musical instrument,” as I wrote in 2010, or a building foundation made between boards by pounding dirt and gravel (Shirakawa), the right side is clearly a hand. Neither of the bronze ware style samples shows an extra stroke, but both ten style samples do. The kanji 対 means “opposing; pair.” There is no kun-reading. /Tsui/ is go-on on-reading and is used in words by itself as in 対になっている (”They are in a pair.” /tsui ni na’tteiru/) and 一対 (“one pair” /ittsui/.) /Ta’i/ is a kan-on on-reading and is used in 反対する (“to oppose” /hantai-suru/), 対立 (“confrontation” /tairitsu/) and 対象 (”target; aim” /taishoo/.)
6. 討 “to inquire thoroughly; attack”
The left side is a bushu gonben 言 “language; to say.” (言 itself deserves a post so we will look into the origin of 言 at later time.) Phonetically 寸 was close to 誅 /chuu/ “to kill” and 肘 /chuu/ ”elbow,” a body part that controls use of the hand. The kanji 討 means to inquire thoroughly; attack.” The kun-reading is in 討つ (“to attack” /u’tsu/.) The on-reading is in 討論する (“to debate; contend”/to’oron-suru/), 検討する (”to investigate; examine thoroughly” /kentoo-suru/) and in the sense of attack, 討伐する (“to put down”/toobatsu-suru/.)
Returning to the question of where the little stroke in 寸 come from, we do not seem to be getting anywhere other than that in bronze ware style both shapes appear, possibly with the extra stroke in a later one. So, I just take the explanation of two thousand year ago that it is a finger, or the width of a finger, and meant “a little.” I am going to leave the topic of hand for now with another post today that shows in a table the shapes from hand that we looked. Thank you very much for reading those posts about hands. [June 22, 2014]
P. S. For a madare, I used a symbol (广) that I had used in my book. (I had thought this would come out in mojibake on this site before. If browsers can take this, it will make it easier to see and write.) I hope your browser shows it correctly.