Kanji Radical 頁 おおがい-順顔頭願

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In the four posts previously, we looked at different uses of a bushu ninnyoo にんにょう (儿) “a person kneeling with a hand in front.” The kanji with this shape we discussed were 元完院兄光児 (posted on 8/20/2014), 先洗育充統 (8/30/2014), 説税脱 (9/10/2014) and 売読続p (10/3/2014). In today’s post we are going to look at the kanji in which what would have been a ninnyoo got trimmed back to a katakana ハ shape because the top carried a more prominent meaning. I am talking about the bushu おおがい (頁). It means “head” and had nothing to do with 貝 (“shell” /ka’i/) in its origin.

The shape by itself, 頁 /ke’tsu/, is not in the Joyo kanji but it is commonly used to mean “page,” as in a page of a book. In fact in the Microsoft Word that I am using on a Mac, typing p-e-e-j-i will change to 頁. Typing in /ketsu/ will do the same, but for us Japanese, because it is not a kanji, it is hard to remember how it is pronounced in on-yomi. I always find this hidden conversion a little puzzling. But come to think of it, the same thing happens if you type /yajirushi/, which brings up an arrow such as ↓ and →. Even though it is not used as a kanji in Japanese, I have found a few ancient writings for 頁 in Akai (2010) that give us rather vivid images of the original meaning. So we start with 頁.

(1) The kanji 頁 “head”

History of Kanji 頁In the two oracle bone style samples (in brown), the top was the same as the oracle bone style of the kanji 首 “head; neck.” The history of the kanji 首 is shown on the right in a blue box. History of Kanji 首(f)In oracle bone style (in brown) it was an outline of a face with an eye inside and the hair at the top. (It also looks like an eye with an eyebrow.) In bronze ware style (in green) the hair got separated and in ten style (in red) the hair became three wiggly lines, which became the first two strokes in the kanji.

Now back to the kanji 頁 on the left side. We see that the top of 頁 in both oracle bone style and bronze ware style closely correspond with the top of 首. The bottom was the body, with one continuous line depicting the torso and a kneeling leg, and a short stroke for a hand in front. With this oversized head, the writing meant “head.” In bronze ware style the head became central and the body shrunk at the bottom. Ten style writings generally had more regulated shapes and became stylized in set ways. In 頁, the top became the same as that of 首, except the three wiggly lines. The bottom was the shape that was common in the ten style of the kanji that later on contain a bushu ninnyoo. In other words up to the ten style time, the bushu頁 shared the exactly same shape as the kanji with a bushu ninnyoo that we looked at in the four posts before.

In kanji, however, the shape got reduced to a mere ハ to give space for a head.  The long horizontal line at the top was a ceremonial hat that a man of position wore. What did the head or headdress look like? We wonder. An image search of, say, the first emperor 始皇帝, /shikootee/ “Shi Huangdi,” on the Internet gives us plenty of different images of him with different hats or headdress on his head. Of course these were drawn much much later with artistic license, but it does give some hint. I imagine that the hat that has a big square top and cloth or long braids hanging down in front is close to this kanji.

(2) the kanji 順 “order; orderly”

History of Kanji 順We already touched on the kanji 順 when we looked at the kanji 訓 (11-1-2014). The kanji 順 provides us with a few earlier shapes than ten style, so let us start with 順. We have three samples of the bronze ware style here. In the left-most one, a person with a big eye was bending his knees and looking at water flowing. In the middle one the head became closer to the kanji 自, which came from the nose in the center of one’s face. In the right one, on the left was “the stream of water” (川) and “word” (言), and on the right was a man with a tattooing needle at the top (a slave) kneeling. They all meant “to follow something in an orderly manner like the flow of a river.” In ten style it had water running into one direction and the shape for 頁. In kanji, the left side became the kanji 川 “river” and the right side was a bushu oogai. The kanji 順 means “order; orderly.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /jun/ is in 順番 (“order” /junban/), 順々に (“in turn” /junju’n-ni/), 順調に (“smoothly; without a snag” /junchoo-ni/.)

(3) The Kanji 顔 “face”

History of Kanji 顔In the bronze ware style of the kanji 顔, the top was a pattern (the origin of the kanji 文); the angle with a wiggly line below that meant a well-defined forehead of a handsome man; the right bottom was a face. Together they meant a handsome face of a man. In ten style the left bottom had three diagonal lines, which meant pretty patterns. The right side was a person kneeling with his head emphasized. In kyujitai kanji, the top kept the original shape of 文 but in shinjitai kanji it got somewhat simplified. The kanji 顔 means “face.”

The kun-yomi 顔 means “face” and in 笑い顔 (“smiling face” /waraigao/), 顔色 (“facial color” /kaoiro/), 顔が利く (“to have a lot of influence” /kao-ga-kiku/) and 顔を出す (“to put in an appearance” /kao-o-da’su/). The on-yomi ガン is in 顔面 (“face” /ganmen/). Incidentally the left side of 顔, 彦, is not a Joyo kanji but is used in a male name that parents intends to “good; capable man.” ひこ [possibly 日子] for a male name coming from yamatokotoba, old Japanese words before kanji were introduced, as contrasted to ひめ [possibly 日女] for a female name (姫).

(4) The kanji 頭 “head; chief”

History of Kanji 頭In the ten style of the kanji 頭, the left side was used phonetically, but it was originally an image of a tall bowl. It may have been chosen because the shape looks like a head above a long neck. The right side was the head. Together they meant “head.”

The kanji 頭 has a number of pronunciations. The kun-yomi /atama’/ 頭 “head” is in 頭がいい (“to have a good mind; smart” /atama’ ga i’i/), 頭に入らない (“cannot understand” /atama’ ni haira’nai/), 頭ごなしに (“mercilessly; without listening well” /atamago’nashi-ni/), 頭でっかち (“top-heavy” /atamadek’kachi/ [colloquial]). Another kun-yomi is /kashira’/ (“head; chief.”) The third kun-yomi /koobe’/ is in 頭を垂れる /koobe’ o tare’ru/ and it means “to hang down one’s head.”

The on-yomi /to’o/ is in 頭角を現す (“to distinguish oneself; stand out” /tookaku o arawa’su/). Another on-yomi /zu/ is a go-on and in 頭痛 (“headache” /zutsuu/). It is also used as the counter for a large animal such as 馬二頭 (“two horses” /uma ni’too/).

(5) The kanji 願 “wish; pray”

History of Kanji 願The left side of the kanji 願 is 原. The history of the kanji 原 is shown on the right. We make a small detour here too. History of Kanji 原 (f)In bronze ware style the left top was a mountain cliff. Underneath was water dripping out from the cracks in rocks where water originated in the ground. It originally meant “fountain; the source of water.” The inside by itself became the kanji 泉 (“spring fountain” /izumi/). Then it came to be used to mean “field; wild field.” (For the original meaning of “spring water; fountain” a new kanji with a bushu sanzui, 源, was created.) In ten style, it became a bushu gandare “mountain cliff” and the water became a straight line. In kanji it took the shape close to 泉, except the water became 小.

Now back to our kanji 願. The left side signified something that came from inside, and the right side was a head. Together they meant “wish; prayer” because one makes a wish in his head. The kun-yomi is in 願う/nega’u/ “to wish; pray” and お願いする “to make a request for a favor.” The expression よろしくお願いします /yoroshiku onegai shima’su/ that you say any time when you ask someone to do some sort of favor literaly means “I pray your favorable treatment of my request.” That is very flowery and stale, isn’t it. In real communication it would be “Thank you very much for helping me.” The on-yomi /ga’n/ is in 願書 (“application documents” /ga’nsho/), 願をかける (“to make a wish” /gan o kake’ru/)

There are a surprisingly large number of kanji that have a bushu 頁 including 頑 (/ga’n/ “stubborn” as in 頑固な (“stubborn” /ga’n kona/), 頬 (/ho’ho/ “cheeks”), 傾ける (/katamuke’ru/ “to tilt”(one’s head)), 頸 (/ke’i; kubi/) “neck”), 頂 (/cho’o; itadaki/ “the top; summit; to hold it above one’s head”), 領 (/ryo’o/ “to control” as in 大統領 “president” of a country) and 類 (/ru’i/ “kind,” which comes from samples of grains 米 and animals 犬).

In the next post, I am thinking about taking up kanji that contain 女. [November 15, 2014]

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