Hands and Legs – Ninnyoo 儿 (2) 先洗育充統


In this post we continue looking at the kanji that had a bushu ninnyoo: 先洗育充 and 統.

1. The kanji 先 “ahead; to precede; past”

Etymology of the kanji 先The oracle bone style (in brown) of the kanji 先 had a footprint at the top and a person at the bottom. When you walk, your feet go before your body, thus “ahead; first” or “to proceed.” In bronze ware style (in green) we can recognize in the top a kanji 止 ”to halt a step; stop”: Its right top was a toe of a left foot. Then in ten style (in red) the footprint became a symmetrical shape 土, instead of 止. A footprint sometimes developed into a symmetrical shape 士, instead of 止, as in the kanji such as 志,  売 (Also notice that it is not 土  but 士).  So, this is not surprising.  However, in kanji an extra stroke (the first stroke in the stroke order) appeared. Many samples of writing after ten style suggest that it was a mere emphasis to signify “the tip of something.”  If so, at one point of this kanji development, it added an element of an indicative formation type (指事) to a semantic composite type (会意), in this case, a combination of a footprint and a person, of the Rikusho 六書 formation types.

The kin-reading 先 /saki/ is in 先にやる (“to do it first” /sakini yaru/) 先程 (“while ago” [formal] /sakihodo/).  Another kun-reading is 先ず (“first of all” /ma’zu/). The commonly used expressions ひとまず (“for the time being” /hito’mazu/) and まずまずの (“passable; tolerably” /ma’zumazu no/) are usually written in hiragana but came from  先ず先ず “lit. as a starter, it is passable.”  The on-reading /se’n/ is in 先人 (“predecessor; pioneer” /senjin/), 先方 (“the other party” /senpoo/) and 先日 (“some days ago” /senjitu/).

2. The kanji 洗 “to wash”

Etymology of the kanji 洗洗の右上のみThe sample of the kanji 洗 in ten style here shows a slight remnant of the footprint, if you try to look for it in the enlargement of a photo in ten style on the right (Akai 2010: 542).  The left side was a bushu sanzui “water.” From “to wash feet,” it meant “to wash.”

The kun-reading /arau/ “to wash” is in 手洗い (“washroom; bathroom” /tea’rai/).  A female speaker would put the prefix /o/, pronouncing it as /otea’rai/. The on-reading is in 洗濯 (“laundry” /sentaku/) and 水洗便所 (“flush toilet” /suisenbe’njo/).

3. The kanji 育 “to raise; bring up; grow”

Etymology of the kanji 育In oracle bone style (a. and b.) and bronze ware style (c. and d.) of the kanji 育, they all had a mother and a child. In c (and another one that is not shown here), between the two arms it had dots to indicate breasts, being a nursing mother. In b, c, and d, a child was upside down, which signified a baby being born. In ten style, a woman disappeared and a bushu nikuduki 月 “flesh” was placed under a child. Together they meant a newborn baby grew as he put on flesh gradually. I could not find the explanation for the three lines under the baby’s head in references, but I am wondering it if added the meaning of a newborn baby putting on hair gradually to emphasize his growth. A kanji took the ten style shape, “a newborn baby” and “flesh.”

The kun-reading is in 育つ (“to grow” /soda’tsu/) and 育てる (“to raise; rear” /sodate’ru/), an intransitive and transitive pair of verbs. Another kun-reading 育む (“to nurture; foster” /haguku’mu/) is also used in more formal expressions such as 子供の想像力を育む (”to foster imagination in children) and 新しい産業を育む (“to foster a new industry.) The on-reading is in 教育 (“education” /kyooiku/), 育児 (“child-rearing” /i’kuji/) and 体育 (“physical education” /ta’iiku./)

[P. S.  The kanji 育 does not contain a bush ninnyoo. But in order to understand the next two kanji 充 and 統, it would be useful to include. This kanji has also prompted a couple of interesting comments below.  10-3-14]

4. The kanji 充 “to fill; full”

History充The top of the ten style for 充 was identical with that of the kanji 育, which we have just seen. The bottom had a ninnyoo, “person” instead of “flesh.” Together they meant changes a newborn baby goes through to become an adult, to fill out of its body. It meant “to fill; full.“ There is another view by Shirakawa (2004), however, which takes the writing as a pictographic type 象形 of a large bellied person, thus “full.” In this view the bottom would be viewed as two legs.

The two kun-readings are 充ちる (“to become filled” /michi’ru/)  and 充てる (“to appropriate; set aside” /ateru/). The on-reading is in 充分な (“plenty; ample” /juubu’n-na/) and 補充する (“to replenish” /hojuu-suru/).

5. The kanji 統 “to unify”

History統The kanji 統 has the kanji 充 on the right side, which was used phonetically and to mean “to fill.”  In ten style, the left had a bushu itohen which came from silkworm cocoons with three (many) filaments being pulled out. A bushu itohen meant “thread; continuity.” Together the kanji 統 means “to unify.”

The kun-reading /sube’ru/ means “to unify”. The on-reading is in 統一する  (”to unify” /tooitsu-suru/), 系統 (“line” /keetoo/), 統計 (“numerical statistics” /tookee/), 正統な (“legitimate; orthodox” /seetoo-na/) and 大統領 (“the president of a country” /daito’oryoo/).

In the next post, we will continue with a bush ninny00 (儿), including the kanji 説税脱.

Hands and Legs – Ninnyo 儿 (1) 元完院兄光児


We have been looking at the kanji component shapes that originated with a hand or a foot.  In this and probably next few posts I would like to discuss the shapes that came from a hand and foot that signify “a person.”  This bushu [儿] is called /ninnyoo/にんにょう(literally, “a person” that extends from left to the right bottom) or /hitoashi/ ひとあし  (literally, “a person” at the bottom).

1. The kanji 元 “head; to begin; origin; formerly”

History元For the kanji 元, in oracle bone style (in brown), the short line at the top was the head; the line below that was a neck, emphasized; and a body that had a hand put forward in the middle. He was facing right. In bronze ware style (green), the person faces to the left. In ten style (in red), because the hand touched the ground it looked like another leg. But from the point of view of the historical progress, as we see in the earlier two shapes, we are going to treat them as a hand and a leg kneeling down. It meant “the neck or the head.” As a body part, a neck 首 /kubi/ and a head 頭 /atama’/ are used.

A head is where one’s thought originates or begins. So, it meant “head; origin; source; to begin.” It also meant “formerly.” There are two different on-readings: /gan/ is a go-on 呉音 and /gen/ is a kan-on 漢音. The go-on /gan/ is in words such 元日 (“the first day of a year” /ganjitsu), 元来 (“originally” /ga’nrai/); and the kan-on /gen/ is in 元気 (“healthy; energetic” /ge’nki/), 元首 (“head of a country” /ge’nshu/).  The kun-reading /ne/ is in 根元(”root” /nemoto’/) and 元社長 (“former company president” /mo’to shachoo/). A frequently used wordもともと (“originally” /motomoto/) comes from 元々, but it is usually written in hiragana because it is an adverb.

2. The kanji 完  “complete” and 院 “institution”

Hisstory完&院By placing the kanji 元 under a bushu ukanmuri “house”, we get the kanji 完. 元was used phonetically for /kan/. A bushu ukanmuri in ten style completely surrounded a person, and it gave the meaning of “complete.”  The on-reading /kan/ is in 完全 (”perfect; complete” /kanzen/), 完了(“completely finished” /kanryoo/.)  There is no on-reading in Joyo kanji.

Further, by adding a bushu kozato-hen “a high stack of soil” on the left side to 完, we get the kanji 院. The right side 完 was used phonetically, which later on changed to /in/. It meant a large house that was surrounded by a tall fence.  It means an institution such as 病院 (“hospital” /byooin/), 衆議院 (the Lower House in the Japanese Diet, /shuugi’in/) and 大学院 (“graduate school” /daigaku’in/).

3. The kanji 兄 “older brother”

History兄For the kanji 兄, we have an example that, within the same oracle bone style, one faced right and the other faced left.  In later examples of bronze ware style on, if a person faced right it usually meant “backward.”  But in oracle bone style, the direction that a person faced did not seem to make a difference. In the second oracle bone style here, a person was kneeling down. In bronze ware style, a person was standing with some ritual ornaments in his hand. Both suggested that a person with a large head sat or stood to say a prayer. In ten style, a person was kneeling down again. The person who said a prayer at the ancestral altar was an older brother or senior male member. From that it means “elder brother” or someone elder who is in the position to protect a young child.

This kanji had two on-readings: the go-on /kyoo/ is in 兄弟; and the kan-on /kei/ is in 父兄 (“parent of a student” /hu’kee/). The kun-reading is in 兄 (“older brother” /a’ni/), 兄貴 (“older brother” used by a male speaker /a’niki/)  It is also customarily used in お兄さん (“older brother” /oni’isan/).

4. The kanji 光 “light; to shine” (revised)


In the oracle bone style of 光, the top was the flames of a fire and the bottom was a person kneeling. In bronze ware style, the top was less representational but still showed the flames. In ten style, the top was taking the shape that would become the kanji 火 “fire” and the bottom “a person” was simplified. Burning flames emit intense light. A person who kept a fire was important. The kanji 光 meant “light”. The on-reading is in 日光 (“sunlight” /nik’koo/), 月光 (“moonlight” /gekkoo/) and 光沢のある (“glossy; sheeny” /kootaku-no-a‘ru/). The kun-reading is in 光 (“light” /hikari’/), 稲光 (“flash of lightning” /inabikari/) and 親の七光り (“capitalizing having a famous parent” /oya-no nanahi’kari/).

Notes: The discussion of the kanji 光 was revised after I realized that I had missed some wonderfully “illuminating” (no pun intended) samples in oracle bone style and bronze ware style. Thank you very much. (8/28/2014))

5. The kanji 児 “young child”

History児Among the writings shown on the left, all but the shinjitai kanji showed that the top had a gap. There are two different explanations for this gap. One is that the top was a baby’s head with its fontanel not closed yet, and from that it meant a young child. Another explanation is that the top showed a particular hair style of a girl in which hair was bound into two tufts, and it meant “young child.” I have not been able to find the explanation of the small round shape on the back of the child in bronze ware style.  In kyujitai (in blue), the top was also the same as the part of the kyujitai 舊 for the kanji 旧 “old.” Both the kyujitai kanji 舊 and 兒 were replaced with 旧 in shinjitai. This kanji also has two on-readings. The kan-on /ji/ is in 児童 (“elementary school pupil” /ji’doo/), 乳児 (“infant” /nyu’uji/); and the go-on /ni/ is in 小児科医 (“pediatrician” /shoonika’i/)

We will continue to see the kanji that have a bushu ninnyoo, probably 先洗充統育. A bushu ninnyoo (儿) will appear in Lesson 7 in the Visual Kanji video tutorials.  [8/20/2014]

One Foot at a Time (6) 走起越超趣赴


In this post, we are going to take a look at another shape that contains an extended footprint:  走起越超趣 and 赴. They all have 走, and when it is used as a component, the last stroke is extended to the bottom right of the kanji.  The top appears to be the kanji 土, which may fit with the meaning of “to run,” but the ancient writings tell us that is not the case. Let us look at them.

(1) 走 “to run”

History走For the kanji 走, a couple of writings in bronze ware style  and one in ten style had a person (大) running with his hands moving vigorously — one upward and one downward. This became 土. Underneath was a footprint, indicating that the writing was about the use of foot. The shape of the footprint went through the same development as that of the bottom of 足, in which the last stroke extended to the bottom right. It meant “to run.”

The kun-reading /hashi’ru/ is in 走って来る (“run toward (speaker)” /hashit’tekuru/), 走り書き (“hasty script; scribble” /hashirigaki/), 小走りに (“tripping down” /koba’shiri ni/).  The on-reading is in 脱走 (“escape” /dassoo/),  二百メートル走 (“200-meter run” /nihyakumeetoru’soo/).

(2) 起 “to rise”

History起rIn ten style for 起, the left side was identical to the ten style for the kanji 走; the right side 己 was a serpent raising its head, which added the sense of a sudden rising motion. Together they meant “to get up; arise; begin.” In kyujitai, shown in blue in this blog, the shape 己 was 巳 “serpent.”   The kun-reading /o/ is in a pair of verbs 起きる(“to get up; occur”) [intr. v.] and 起こす (“to wake (a person) up: raise; start” /oko’su/) [tr.v.]. The on-reading キ is in  起立する (“to rise (from one’s seat) /kiritsu-suru/), 起因する(“to originate from” /kiin-suru/), and 起業家 (“entrepreneur” /kigyooka/.)

(3) 越 “to cross over”

History越In the oracle bone style for 越, the left side was a person and a footprint, and the right side was a halberd that was used phonetically for /etsu/ to mean “to cross over.”  In ten style, the left side was that of 走, and the right side was /etsu./  In kanji the last stroke of the footprint was extended to make a bushu soonyoo. The on-reading is in 越える (”to cross over” /koeru/), 引っ越す (“to move” /hikkosu/), 繰り越し (“transfer; carry-over” /kurikoshi/) and 年越しそば (“New Years eve buckwheat noodle“ /toshikoshiso’ba/.) The on-reading エツ is in a very polite expression 僭越ながら (“with your permission; it would be presumptuous of me, but…,” /senetsu-na’gara/), that you use when you make a suggestion to someone senior or in a self-deprecating or humorous way. The kanji 僭 /sen/ is not a Joyo Kanji but as a verbal phrase it is not an unusual one.  (In writing, you can always use the kanji conversion on your computer.)

(4) 超 “to exceed”

History超The ten style of the kanji 超 had a bushu soonyoo, and the right side was used phonetically. It meant “to exceed” in a way that does not ordinarily happen. The kun-reading is 超える “to exceed.” The on-reading is in 超過する (”to exceed” /chooka-suru/), 超越する (“to rise above; transcend” /chooetsu-suru/), 超然として (”detachedly; aloofly” /choozen-to-shite/).

(5) 趣 “flavor; effect; appearance”

History趣In ten style, the kanji 趣 also had a bushu soonyoo “to run,” and its right side 取 was used phonetically to mean “grab by hand.” From “to go swiftly to obtain,” it meant “what one likes.” The kun-reading is in 趣 (”flavor; effect; appearance” /omomuki/), and 趣のある (“quaint; aesthetic” /omomuki-no-aru/). The on-reading /shu/ is in 趣味 (“hobby; pastime; interest.”/shu’mi/). So, one’s hobby or pastime is something one’s mind tends to rush to.

(6) 赴 “to proceed; head for”

History赴In ten style, the kanji 赴 also had a bushu shinnyoo “to run.’ The right side meant “to fall; collapse”  Together they meant “to head for.” The kun-reading 赴く/omomu’ku/ means “to leave for (a particular place).” The on-reading is in 赴任 (”to leave for one’s new assignment/post” /hunin-suru/).

In the last six posts, we have looked at the kanji that contain a component from a footprint. There were many different types: a backward or downward facing foot (a bushu suinyoo); patrolling feet; dancing feet; feet on a tree or off the ground; legs; running feet, etc. In the next post, I would like to take a look at a shape that contains both a hand and a foot such as 元兄先説, etc.

Next week we will be in transit again (North America is a big continent to travel across!) and it is likely that the posting will be delayed. I appreciate your understanding. Many of the topics that I have been discussing are in the new VISUAL KANJI tutorial course.  The process of writing these posts has been helpful for me to finalize my scripts for each lesson.  This week’s topic will be discussed in Lesson 8 in Part 2, which will be released beginning of September, if not earlier.   – 憲子 [August 11, 2014]

One Foot at a Time (5) 足促捉・路踊距跳躍


In an earlier post we saw that a bushu shinnyo (shinnyu) came from a combination of a crossroad and a footprint.  There are other shapes that came from a combination with a footprint, one of which is 足 /ashi’/. Ashi has two different bottom shapes from the footprint 止, depending on its position in the kanji: (1) 足, as shown with a blue background, if it is by itself or on the right side, such as 足促捉; and (2), as shown in a green background, if it is on the left side as a bushu ashi-hen, such as 路踊距跳躍. The term /he’n/ means a bushu that comes on the left side.ashi&ashihen

(1) The Kanji 足 “leg”

History足2The kanji 足, in oracle bone style, bronze ware style and ten style, had a square and a (forward facing) footprint. Our readers may recall that this shape is the same as the oracle bone style of the kanji 正. For 正, the square shape represented a town wall (together with a footprint, they meant conquering a town.)  Here the top was a kneecap. 足 was a part of the body from the knee to the foot, and meant “leg.” It also meant “to suffice” and “to add,” and its use goes back to ancient times. I have not been able to find how “leg; foot” and “to suffice; add” are connected in any reference.

The kanji 足 has two kun-readings; /ashi’/ leg; foot” and /ta(riru)/ “to suffice; adequate.” The on-reading is /so’ku/.  In addition to words describing the body parts such as 手足 (”hands and legs” /te’ashi/), 足首 (“ankle” /ashiku’bi/), and 足跡 (“footprint; footmark” /ashia’to/), the kanji 足 makes up a number of useful expressions: 足手まといになる  (“to become a drag or burden” /ashidema’toi ni naru), 一足毎に(“at every step” /hitoashigo’to ni), 足が出る (“to overrun the budget” /ashi’ga desu/), 人の足元を見る (“to take mean advantage of” /hito no ashimoto’ o mi’ru/), 土足で上がる (“to go inside a house without taking shoes off” /dosoku de agaru/).  For the meaning “to suffice,” 足りない (“not enough” /tarinai/),  満足する (“to be satisfied” /ma’nzoku-suru/), 不足する (”not enough” /fusoku-suru/). For the meaning “to add,”;  〜を足す(“to add~” /~o tasu/) and 足し算 (“addition” /tashi’zan/.)

(2) The Kanji 促 “to urge; prompt”

History促Adding a bushu ninben “person” to 足 makes up the meaning of prompting or urging someone (from behind) to do something. The kanji 促 means “to urge; prompt; inspire.” The kun-reading is 促す (“to prompt” /unaga’su/). The on-reading /so’ku/ is in 催促する (“to press; urge” /sa’isoku-suru/ ), and 促進する (“to promote” /sokushin-suru/.)

(3) The Kanji 捉 “to grab; catch”

History捉Adding a bushu tehen “an act one does using a hand” to 足 makes up another kanji 捉. From “someone from behind trying to catch up by hand” it meant “to grab; catch.”  Its kun-reading /torae’ru/ is used in an expression such as 意味を正しく捉える  (“to understand the meaning correctly” (/i’mi o tadashi’ku torae’ru/.) The on-reading is /soku/ but it is not used very commonly.

In the second group (a bushu ashihen in green background), the footprint looks more like that of the kanji 止, except that the last stroke goes up.

(4) The Kanji 路 “road”

History路For the kanji 路, in bronze ware style, the right side 各consisted of a backward/downward foot and a rock, and was used phonetically to mean a road. In ten style the shape showed an elongated shape that was typical of ten style.   Interestingly the kanji shape returned to bronze ware style, except that the last stroke of the footprint went up.  The kun-reading is /michi./ The on-reading /ro/ is used in 道路 (“road” /do’oro/) and 路面  (“road surface” /romen/).

(5) The Kanji 踊 “to dance”

History踊In ten style, the right side meant water welling up, or something going through from bottom to top. It was used phonetically for /yoo/. With a bushu ashihen added, the kanji 踊 meant “to dance.” The kun-reading is 踊る/odoru/.  In last post we just saw the kanji 舞, a graceful dance that involves a shuffling feet movement in traditional dance form. The kanji 踊 is a more energetic dance. The two kanji 舞 and 踊 make up a word 舞踊 (“dance” /buyout/) in general.

(6) The Kanji 距 “distance”

History距For the kanji 距, in bronze ware style the footprint extended toward the bottom right.  In ten style the right side was a large carpenter’s tool. It was used phonetically to mean jumping a long distance. From that the kanji 距 means “distance.”  There is no kun-reading. The on-reading /kyo/ is in 距離 (“distance” /kyo’ri/).

(7) The Kanji 跳 “to jump around; hop”

History跳In ten style, the right side 兆 was a cracked tortoise shell used for divination.  The underside of the tortoise shell was heated, and the lines that appeared were read. Once the heat was applied lines ran quickly on the surface. It was used phonetically. With ashihen added, they meant to “jump around; hop.” By itself the right side 兆 means “sign; omen; trillion.” The kun-reading is 跳ぶ (“to jump” /tobu/)  and the on-reading is /cho’o./

(8) The Kanji躍 “to leap”

History躍In ten style, the top was two wings and the bottom was a bird.  It signified a bird about to take off, and was used phonetically for /ya’ku/. We know this component very well in the kanji 曜 “day of the week.” With a bushu ashihen added, the kanji 躍 meant “ to leap.”  There is no kun-reading. The on-reading /yaku/ is in 活躍する (“to play an important role” /katsuyaku-suru/), 飛躍する (“to take a large step; jump (logic)/ hi yaku-suru/), and together with the kanji 跳 in (7), 跳躍 (“jump; leap” /chooyaku-suru/).

Going through the developments of 足 and ashihen, we have noticed that:  (1) When used on the left side it takes a shape closer to the kanji 止, and when used on the right the last stroke is extended; and (2) in the first group, 足 was used phonetically for the sound /so’ku/, and in the second group a bushu ashihen provided the meaning.

In the next post, I would like to look at the kanji 走 and the kanji that has a bushu /soonyoo/. [August 3, 2014]