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
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)
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”
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”
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”
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/).
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]