Kanji Bushu 攵・攴 ぼくづくり (2) 攻改数敬警

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In the last post, we looked at four kanji 枚散故教 that contained a bushu 攵 bokuzukuri. We began by tracing the current shape 攵 to 攴 and all the way to oracle bone style. It consisted of a stick in hand and an act of hitting or pounding something with a stick, and it signified “causing something to happen.” It was also used to mean “performing an act” in general. We continue to look at five more examples 攻改数敬警 in this post.

(1) Kanji 攻 “to attack; master”

History of Kanji 攻 "attack; master"For the kanji 攻, in bronze ware style (in green) and ten style (in red), the left side came from a large carpenter’s tool. The right side had a hand holding a stick. Moving a hand with a stick up and down signified “to hit.” Together they meant making a craft. The writing 攻 included people who were skilled in work with wood, metal, hide, bronze ware work, etc, and it meant “to master.” The skills also included military tactics, and from that it came to mean “to attack.”

The kun-reading 攻める /seme’ru/ means “to attack.” The on-reading /ko’o/ is in 攻撃する “to attack” /koogeki-suru/), 正攻法 (“a direct and fair attack” /seeko’ohoo/). It is also in 専攻 (“major; specialty in study” /senkoo/), an important word for a student.  It makes more sense that 専攻 means one “mastering” in the subject, rather than “attacking,” doesn’t it?

(2)  Kanji 改 “to renew; change”

History of kanji 改In two samples of oracle bone style (1 and 2 in brown) of 改, one side was something coiled, possibly a snake, that was about to straighten itself, and the other side was a hand holding a stick that caused something to happen.  Together they meant “to change; renew.” Two ten style samples (in red) are shown here.  Setsumon Kaiji gave the shape (3) as its ten style, but the accounts in the three references I used seem to refer to the shape (4), which originated from something coiled.

The kun-reading is 改める (“to renew; change” /aratame’ru/).  The on-reading is in 改正 (“revision” /kaisee/), 改良する (“to improve” /kairyoo-suru/) and 改札口 (“ticket checkpoint” /kaisatsu’guchi/).

(3) Kanji 数 “to count; number; many”

History of kanji 数For the kanji 数, the ten style of the kanji 数  had the shape攴. The left side of the kyujitai 婁 (in blue) reflected ten style. 婁 has different accounts among the references that I use.  View (1) –It was a woman’s hairstyle that was raised high, and during an interrogation her hairstyle collapsed, and hairs were numerous and hard to count. From that it meant “to find blame,” “to count” and “many.” [Jito- Shirakawa]  The meaning of “to find blame” is not used in kanji.  View (2) –The left side 婁:  Women caught (for presumably something bad) were tied in a string. Counting them tied on a string one by one meant “to count.” [Kanjigen]  View (3) –The left side 婁 was phonetically used and meant “to pull out.” The right side was a counting stick held in hand. Together they meant “to count.” [Kadokawa dictionary]  In Shinjitai (in black) the upper left was replaced with the kanji 米 “rice” from grains scattered, along with 女 “woman” and a bushu 攵.  The kanji 数 means “number; to count; numerous; a few.”

The kun-reading is in 数 (“number” /ka’zu/), 数える (“to count” /kazoe’ru/) and 数々の (“many” /ka’zukazu-no/).  The on-reading is in 数学 (“mathematics” /suugaku/), 数人 (“a few people” /suunin/) and 数字 (”numerals” /suuji/).

(4) Kanji 敬 “to respect

History of kanji 敬The kanji 敬 has an interesting turn in its history. In oracle bone style it was a person with a sheep’s head kneeling.  A sheep was used as a sacrificial animal for a religious rite, and a sheep is a meek animal. The bronze ware style sample on the left was the same image except it was flipped over. In the second bronze ware style sample, the left side was a person with a sheep’s head and a mouth underneath signifying saying a prayer. The right meant “to hit.”  An act of hitting someone to make him kneel down is admonishing him. Originally the writing meant “to admonish,” then its meek kneeling posture was construed as a posture of showing respect.  So the meaning changed to “to respect.”

The kun-yomi 敬う /uyama’u/ means “to respect.” The on-yomi /ke’e/ is in 尊敬する (“to respect” /sonkee-suru/), 敬礼する (“to salute” /keeree-suru/). The word 失敬する (“to say good bye” or “to steal” /shikke’e-suru/ ) is an expression of saying good by used by a male speaker, but it is also used to mean “to steal” in a light friendly way.

(5) The kanji 警  “to warn”

History of kanji 警After the kanji 敬 that had originally meant “to admonish” was taken to mean “to respect,” new kanji had to be created for “to warn.”  In a case like that usually another element is added to the original kanji.  (We have seen a good example of this in 右 from 又 a few months ago.)  That was what happened here too.  Adding the kanji, or bush, 言 “word; to say” resulted in a 19 stroke kanji. Together they meant “to admonish; warn.”  It was also used to mean witty remarks. There is no kun-reading.  The on-reading /ke’e/ is in 警告 (“warning” /keekoku/), 警察 (“police” /keesatsu/), 警報 (“alarm” /keehoo/), 警世の書 (“a book that rebukes society” /keesee no sho/) and 警句 (“witty remarks” /ke’eku/).

– – – – – – – –

On the kanji 数 in this post, rather than choosing one, I listed the different accounts from three references.  The Kadokawa dictionary, the view (3), gives you a very abbreviated account.  I find that their explanations by and large follow the accounts in Setsumon Kaiji.  It is a dictionary and it has a small space to discuss the origin. On the other hand, Shirakawa’s work, the view (1), pursued the origin of each kanji relentlessly, making references to all kinds of historical records including some ancient writings that had come to light only during the last century. He took the trouble of verifying the accounts in Setsumon.

The goal of my writing in this blog, and in the Visual Kanji site, is to find a way for a Japanese language learner to make sense of the kanji shape and its meaning in such a way that induces learning. In reality, one can learn a large number of kanji just by memorizing them. But sometimes we crave an explanation.  If the etymological account on a particular kanji does not help us to learn that kanji, we can leave it as it is. That is our prerogative not being a kanji scholar.  Personally, though, I enjoy thinking about what it might have been as I gaze at the ancient writing and read kanji scholar’s accounts.  When they come together, I feel satisfied.  [10-24-2014]

Kanji Bushu 攵・攴 ぼくづくり (1) 枚散故教

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In this post, we are going to look at a few kanji that contain a bushu bokudukuri 攵 that means “to cause an action” or “an action” in general. We will begin this post by examining the development of the shapes and then look at four kanji 枚散故 and 教 that contain this radical.

(1) The kanji radical bokudukuri 攵・攴

History of Kanji Radical 攵攴The shape never seems to have been a writing by itself but was always used as a component. The five shapes shown on the left were taken from various kanji. In oracle bone style (in light brown, 1), it had a single line and a hand. In bronze ware style (in green, 2) and ten style (in red, 3) the top had another line added, probably for emphasis. The shapes meant an act of hitting or pounding something with a stick and causing something to happen. The old kanji (in sepia background, 4) reflected the ten style. In the current kanji style (in black, 5), the first stroke became a katakana shape /no/; the short second stroke got lengthened; and the kanji 又 became a cross shape, resulting in 攵. I have intentionally avoided calling the old kanji (in sepia) kyujitai, which in this blog would have been in blue. In the Kangxi kanji dictionary of the 18th century in China, most kanji already used the style 攵 (5), even though as a radical category (部首 bushu) 攴 (4) was used. Following that, in Japanese kyujitai too, most kanji used the shape 攵 (5). Even now, if you look up a kanji dictionary, both shapes are listed as bush. Currently the only kanji that still contains 攴 (4) that I can think of is 敲 in 推敲 (“polishing sentences” /suikoo/).

(2) The kanji 枚(counter for thin flat objects)

History of Kanji 枚For the kanji 枚 in bronze ware style, the left side was a standing tree and the right side was a hand holding an axe. Together they signified that someone was cutting a tree making thin flat pieces of wood. In ten style the shape was more stylized.

There is no kun-reading. The on-reading /mai/ is used as a counter for thin flat objects such as paper and is in 紙何枚 (“how many pieces of paper” /kami na’nmai/) and 切符三枚 (“three tickets” /kippu sanmai/).

(3) The Kanji 散 “to disperse; useless”

History of Kanji 散In bronze ware style, the top was pieces of hemp plant, which were pounded to make fibers for clothes. The bottom left was a piece of meat; and the bottom right side was a hand with a stick. Tough pieces of meat were pounded to tenderize them. Pounding to reduce to pieces meant “to disperse.” Tough meat that needed to be pounded did not taste good, so it also meant “useless.”

The kun-reading is /chiru/ as in 花が散る (“flower pedals fall” /hana’ ga chiru/),  散り散りになる (“to disperse; break up” /chirijiri-ni-na’ru/), 散々な目に遭う (“to have a terrible experience” /sanzan-na me’ ni a’u/).  The word 散歩する (“to take a stroll; take a walk” /sanpo-suru/) must have come from “walking without a particular purpose.”

(4) The kanji 故 “reason; cause; of the past”

History of Kanji 故In bronze ware style and ten style, 故 had 古 “old” on the left side and a hand holding a stick on the right side. Together they meant “of the past.” Old customs or precedents were what were to be followed as norms, so they were the cause of or reason for doing something. From that it meant “reason; cause.”

The kun-reading /yue’/ is in それ故 (“therefore” /soreyue/). The on-reading /ko/ is in 故人 (“deceased” /ko’jin/), 故意に (“intentionally” /ko’ini/) and 故障 (“breakdown” of a machine /koshoo/). The kanji 故 meant “on purpose.” I first thought that the word 事故 (“accident” /ji’ko/) would contradict the meaning of the kanji because an accident is an event that happens without one’s intention. But now I realize that 事故 may mean “an incidence that happened in the past,” even though it is often used to mean “happening without intention.”

(5) The Kanji 教 “to teach”

History of Kanji 教History of Kanji 学In the oracle bone style of the kanji 教, the left side had a hand holding a stick, and the right side had two crosses, meaning “to mingle,” and a child. “Two crosses above a child”— It sounds familiar, doesn’t it? That combination was in the kyujitai of kanji 學 and 覺.  In 學 [shown on the right from our earlier post], in addition to the crosses and a child, it had two caring hands and a house, whereas 教 on the left had a hand holding a stick. “A hand holding a stick to teach?” No, I do not think it meant that children were made to learn with the threat of a stick. Even in oracle bone style time, the writing was sophisticated enough that the combination of a hand and a stick was used to signify a more general sense of causation of an event or action. Teaching is “to cause children to learn.” In kyujitai the two crosses were present, but in shinjitai it took the shape of the kanji 孝 “filial duty” having a bushu oigashira “long time.” It had very little if anything to do with the kanji 孝.

The kun-reading is in 教える (“to teach” /oshieru/) and 教え (“teaching; lesson” /oshie/). The on-reading /kyo’o/ is in 教育 (“education” /kyooiku/), 教師 (“teacher” /kyo’oshi/) and 宗教 (“religion” /shu’ukyoo/).

Stroke Order

Stroke Order

The stroke order of a bushu bokudukuri is shown on the left. As is always the case when two strokes cross, you write the one that starts from the right first so that the second stroke ends at the right bottom.

We will continue to look at a few more kanji that contain this bushu in the next post. I have taken a chance in typing in 攴 and 攵 without converting them into images. I hope your browser shows them correctly. [10-18-2014]

Bushu rumata 殳 and kanji 役投段殺

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In this post, we are going to look at the kanji that have a bushu commonly called rumata 殳.  This bushu has many names including hokodukuri (/hoko/ is a pike or spear.)  The name rumata is easier to remember because it is a katakana ル/ru/ and a kanji 又 /mata/.

1. The Kanji 役 “battle; war; role”

HistoryofKanji役In the two oracle bone style samples of 役,  it consisted of a person on the left and a hand holding a long object that had an emphasis at the top.  This is believed to be a spear-like weapon.  In ten style, the left side became the left side of a crossroad and meant going to a battle to guard the boundary as communal duty. It meant a “battle; soldier.”

There is no kun-reading. The goon, an older on-reading, was /e’ki/ and is mostly used for something that one is forced to do, including 兵役 (“military service” /heeeki/), 服役 (“doing time in prison” /hukueki/). The kan-on on-reading is /yaku/. In Japanese, the use of this kanji was extended to mean “role; someone who has a particular role” in general, such as 役員 (“officer of an organization” /yaku’in/), 役人 (“government official” /yakunin/), 主役 (“leading role” in play /shuyaku/), 役に立つ (“to be useful” /yaku’ni tatsu/) and 役目 (“role; obligation” /yakume’/).

2.The kanji 投 “to throw”

HistoryofKanji投In the ten style writing of the kanji 投, the left side was a hand, signifying an act that one does using a hand; and the right side was a hand holding a spear-like weapon, signifying an action that one does with the weapon.  Together they meant “to throw.”

I had originally found it very difficult to understand from the ancient writing that the top of the ten style was a spear-like weapon. It looks nothing like a long object, unlike the oracle bone style of 役 in 1. But when you think about a weapon in a ceremonial use, it is very likely to have decorative stuff at the top.  The kanji 我 did have a lot of decoration on a halberd.  So, I feel less puzzled about it now.

In kun-yomi /nage’ru/ is in 投げつける (“to fling; hurl” /nagetsukeru/),  放り投げる (“to toss” /hoorinage’ru/).  The on-yomi /too/ is in 投手 (“pitcher” /to’oshu/), 投資 (“investment,” from you put in capital, /tooshi/).

3. The kanji 段 “step; grade; paragraph”

HistoryofKanji段In the bronze ware style writing of the kanji 段, the left side was the stacks of stones, and the right side was a hand holding a pounding tool. It was a scene of a blacksmith forging metal to make weapon by a stone hearth.  It meant “step; grade” and it was also used for “paragraph.”

There is no kun-reading. The on-reading is in 階段 (“stairs” /kaidan/), 段階 (“dankai” /stage; step/). For martial art, and other competitive games, 段 /da’n/ shows the level of achievement.

4. The Kanji 殺 “to kill”

There are various different views on the origin of the kanji 殺.  The right side seems to be agreed by many scholars that it was a hand and a weapon that meant “to hit with a weapon.” But the views on the left side differ. One view is that on the left side メ was “scissors” and 木 (ホ) was “millet stalk”; together they signified “to harvest and strip millet” or further, “to kill.” This view is found in the kanji book called Kanjigen.

HistoryofKanji殺Another view I would like to discuss in this blog using the ancient writing samples on the left is a modified view from Shirakawa’s explanation.  In oracle bone style and bronze ware style, it was an animal that harmed people (with an evil curse, according to Shirakawa.)  The third shape, in purple here, was an earlier style that the Setsumon in the 2nd century included along with the ten style, in red. Being an earlier writing it presumably was closer to its origin.  In that the left side was an animal and the right side was a hand with a weapon. Together they meant “to kill an animal that harms people.”  From that it meant “to kill.”  It also meant “to reduce.”

The kun-reading 殺す (“to kill” /korosu/) is in 見殺しにする (“to leave in the lurch” /migoroshi-ni suru/), 殺し文句 (“clincher; killing expression” /koroshimo’nku/).  The on-reading /sa’tsu/ is in 殺人 (“murder” /satsujin/).  Another on-yomi /sa’i/ is in 相殺する (“to compensate; to balance” /soosai-suru/).  The word 殺風景 (“desolate; bleak” /sappu’ukee/) literally meant “a scenery whose beauty is reduced.”

Well, for a kanji for which we learn four little components, メ, 木, 几 and 又, it leaves us in a maze.  The important thing for us is just to know that the kanji 殺 has a bushu rumata 殳 that means “to hit.”

There are a number of other kanji that have a bushu rumata, including 設 “to set up”; 殻 “shell: hull” (after threshing, which is hitting the grain) and 穀 “grain” (threshing required.  Do you see a bushu nigihen “rice plant” at the left bottom?); 殿 “feudal lord,” originally “buttock” (we touched this story in the previous post on September 26, 2014); and 殴 “to hit; knock; beat.”

In the next two posts, I would like to talk about kanji that have a bush bokuzukuri “to cause an action,” including the kanji 改攻枚教.  [October 10, 2014]

Hands and Legs – Ninnyoo 儿 (4) 売読続出買

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We have been looking at the kanji that contain a bushu ninnyoo (儿), “a person.” The kanji we have looked at were: 先洗充統 (August 30, 2014) and 説税脱(September 10, 2014), some kanji that contain 見 in relation to the “eye” 現親視規覚 (April 12, 2014) and 元完院見光児 (August 20, 2014). The ancient writing for most of the kanji here suggested that the shape 儿 had come from the image of a person kneeling down with his hand in front, and it meant a “person.” In this post, we are going to look at three kanji 売読続 that have a bushu ninnyoo but their origins were unrelated to the original meaning of a bushu ninnyoo. We will see that the shape ninnyoo in shinjitai was what replaced the bottom of a kanji 貝 used in kyujitai.

1. The Kanji 売 “to sell”

History of Kanji 売For the kanji 売, the ten style writing (in red) shown on the left consisted of three components: a footprint with an outline underneath, a fishing net in the middle and a cowry at the bottom. Let us look at these components one by one. [Top] The shape was the same as the ten style writing of the kanji 出. History of Kanji 出The history of the kanji 出 is shown on the right side: in the two oracle bone style writings, a right foot or a left foot had a receptacle-shaped line around the heel. This receptacle-like shape signified a deeper footprint impression made by the first step when one walked out. 出 meant “to go out.” [Middle] The crisscross shape was a fishing net. [Bottom] It was a 貝 “cowry.” History of kanji貝.jpgThe history of the kanji 貝 is shown on the right. A cowry is a type of mollusk that has a glossy dome-like shell. Beautiful and rare cowries from the southern sea were treasured in ancient times and were sometimes used for money. In the archaeological excavations, a number of ornamental bronze ware containers that kept those precious cowries were found.  They were called 貯貝器 (“cowrie keeper” /choba’iki/.)

History of Kanji 買The kanji 買 —  The bottom two elements in the kyujitai 賣 for 売 were also the same as the kanji 買. The history of the kanji 買 is shown on the right. The top was a fishing net and the bottom was a cowry. Together a netful cowries signified a lot of money with which you can purchase something, thus the kanji 買 means “to buy.”

Now, back to the kanji 売 or its kyujitai 賣. With 士 “footprint; to go out” and 買 “a bagful of cowries” together, they meant goods, a person with goods, going out in exchange for money, that is, “to sell to make profit.” In shinjitai, the net and a shell 貝 lost their shapes completely, and the bottom was replaced by 儿 a bushu ninnyoo with the remnant of a fishing net above.

The kun-reading /uru/ “to sell” is in 安売り(“a sale” /yasuuri/), 押し売り (“aggressive selling or a person who does a pushy sale” /oshiuri/). The on-reading /ba’i/ is in 売店 (“concession; booth” /baiten/) and 販売員 (“sales person” /hanba’iin/).

2. The Kanji 読 “to read”

History of Kanji 読The next two kanji 読 and 続 both contain 賣 In kyujitai (讀 and 續 in blue) on the right side, which is the same shape as the kyujitai for 売.  So, the transition from the kyujitai to shinjitai seems to be consistent among the three kanji. However, when our eyes move to the left to see its ten style, we notice that the right sides were different. What the right side of the ten style originally was is not known. It was used phonetically for /toku/ to mean “to read.” Its left side 言 was a bushu gonben “word; language.” Together they meant “to read a book.” In shinjitai the right was changed to 売.

The kun-reading is /yo’mu/ “to read.” The on-reading /do’ku/ is in 音読 (“reading aloud” /ondoku/), 難読な (“difficult to read” /nandokuna/). Another on-reading /to’o/ is in 句読点 (“punctuation” /kuto’oten/).

3. The kanji 続 “to continue”

History of Kanji 続In ten style of the kanji 続, the left side had silk cocoons strung together with their long filaments coming out, which signified “thread” or “continuity.” This shape became a bush itohen (糸). The right side was used phonetically for /zoku/ to mean “to continue.” Together they meant “to continue.” What is common between the two kanji 読 “to read (book)” and 続 “continue”?  Both have an activity that requires continuation. In shinjitai, the right side changed to 売 (糸).

In other words, both 売 (賣) and 買 contained the contained the original meaning of a cowry (money), whereas the shape 売 in the kanji 読 and 続 had little to do with a cowry and was probably used in the process of shape reduction in kanji.

The kun-reading is in 続く (つづく) (“(it) continues” /tsuzuku/) – an intransitive verb, and 続ける (“to continue” /tsuzukeru/) – a transitive verb. With a verb stem つづ /tsuzu/, it makes a verb “to continue doing something,” such as しゃべり続ける (“to keep on chatting/talking” /shaberitsuzuke’ru/), 守り続ける (“to continue to protect” /mamoritsuzuke’ru/). The on-yomi /zo’ku/ is in 継続する (“to continue” /keezoku-suru/), 相続する (“to inherite” /soozoku-suru/).  An adverb ぞくぞくと (“one after another” /zokuzokuto/) comes from this kanji.

Kanji貝_草書体“Why a ninnyoo?”  We have just seen that the three kanji 売読続 that contain a ninnyoo in fact were not related to the original meaning “person.” Then, how did the shape of a ninnyoo come to be used in those kanji?  I could not find any plausible explanation in references. This is just my guess but it might have come from a fast informal writing style called grass style writing 草書 (“fast fluid writing style” /soosho/) in calligraphy. The samples on the left are in grass style 草書. In the grass style samples of the kanji 貝, 買 and the kyujitai 賣, the bottom was reduced to two strokes a ハ-shape. When 賣 was further reduced in shinjitai by losing 目, the ハ-shape might have stretched out to a ninnyoo shape.  [October 3, 2014]