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.

2 thoughts on “Hands and Legs – Ninnyoo 儿 (2) 先洗育充統

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

    ” I could not find the explanation for the three lines under the baby’s head in references…”

    Professor Qiu Xigui in his book Chinese Writing (2000)* explains that “The Shuōwén considers 毓 a variant of 育 “give birth to”. The graph depicts a mother giving birth to a child. Later the component 母 “mother” was changed into 毎. An inverted 子 plus dots representing droplets of blood were combined to form the element 㐬.” (page 190)

    When I analyzed that graph, I thought that the droplets represented amniotic fluid instead of blood. Either way, the important thing is to give a personal view of the ancient image taking into account historical grounds. In this regard, I would like to recommend a Master’s Thesis called “kanji no satori” submitted at the University of British Columbia. Link: https://circle.ubc.ca/handle/2429/3870

    * Chinese Writing by Qiu Xigui (2000). Link: http://ieas.berkeley.edu/publications/ecp_qiu.html

    • Thank you for your comments and additional information. The variant of the ten style that was given in Setsumonkaiji (Shuowen) was a more stylized version of the images a, b, c, and d. There was a reason why I was hesitant to include the discussion of 毓 in my post. When I wrote the post a month ago, explaining that the writing consisted of “a mother” and “a newborn baby” behind her, I was thinking, “Hmm, those oracle bone style and bronze ware style images do tell us this story, but that sounds very similar to the account that I wrote about 后 in the Key to Kanji book.” This is what I wrote about 后:
      The account of the kanji 后: “In the ancient form the upper left signified a person, and 口 in the lower right signifies a baby being born. A queen consort is someone who bears a child for her country’s prosperity. The kanji 后 means “empress; queen.” (Williams 2010: 116)
      Sometimes 后 is also used to mean “behind” (the infant was behind her, thus “behind.”) The two images of oracle bone style in the references for the kanji 后 were the same as those of 毓. The kanji 毓 is not used in Japanese, but if we treat 毓 separate from 育, the three kanji 育, 毓 and 后 shared the same oracle bone style.
      As for the three lines under a newborn, since amniotic fluid is specifically related to childbirth, it may be the case. I also went back to Shirakawa’s account again. He stated: “in some old writing the hair was added.” I confess that reading his scholarly writing requires very close readings many times over to understand its full merit. A relatively simple kanji 育 gives us a lot to think about.
      Also, importantly, I strongly agree with you that giving a personal view to the ancient image is important. What I am trying to do in this blog and the video tutorial site that we are building now is exactly for that purpose. To some people, the facts, rather than convenient mnemonics, are more conducive to their own thinking, and thus to learning. I enjoy sharing those with learners facts that can be personalized to suit their own backgrounds and interests. [September 24, 2014]

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