The Kanji 功加労助幼協 – 力 “power” (2)


This post is a continuation of the discussion of the bushu shape 力 from the last post.

1. The Kanji 功  “achievement; skilled work; merit”

History of the kanji 功The bronze ware style (in green) of the kanji 功 was same as the bronze ware style of the kanji 工 “craft” or, more generally, “things that people made or crafted.” In ten style (in red) the shape 工 became minimized, and the shape for a “plough” was added to signify strenuous work in the field. Work that people created and hard work in the fields together meant “achievement, skilled work, or merit.”

The kun-yomi is not in the Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 成功する (“to succeed” /seekoo-suru/), 年功序列 (“seniority system” /nenkoo joretsu/) and 功績 (“merits; achievement” /kooseki/). Another on-yomi /ku/ is a go-on and is in 功徳 (“act of charity” /ku’doku/), a Buddhist term.

2. The kanji 加 “to add”


Katakana /ka/ stroke order


Hiragana /ka/ stroke order

History of the kanji 加In bronze ware style, the top may be interpreted as “a hand and strong arm” placed sideways, and underneath was a “mouth.” In ten style, the left side appeared more like a plough. (Please read the last post about the development of the shape 力.) When one wants to exert himself, adding a shout, such as a one-two-THREE, is helpful. Together they meant “to add.” Both the katakana カ /ka/ and hiragana か /ka/ came from this kanji. A simple kana such as カ or か can create a little embarrassing situation if you write the first strokes in the wrong order — the angle stroke is the first stroke in the katakana カ and the hiragana か (and the kanji 加), as shown on the right.

The kun-yomi 加える /kuwaeru/ means “to add” and its intransitive verb counterpart 加わる /kuwawaru/ means “to join.” The on-yomi /ka/ is in 追加 (“supplement addition” /tsuika/), 加算する (“to add (in caltulation)” /kasan-suru/), 加減する (“adjust; modify; moderate” /kagen-suru/) and 加工品 (“processed goods” /kakoohin/).

3. The kanji 労 “labor; effort”

History of the kanji 労The top of the bronze ware style of the kanji 労 had two bonfires on torches. Bonfires burn intensely. From that it meant “vigorous; energetic.” The bottom was a piece of clothing (a collar) to signify “a person.” In ten style, it had “fires” and “a plough,” which was reflected in the kyujitai (in blue). “Power” (from a plough) and “fires” together meant “working hard at night.” It also meant “to reward for service.” In shinjitai, the two fires were reduced to a shallow katakana ツ /tsu/ shape, just as we have seen previously in 栄 from 榮 and 営 from 營 in the previous post entitled “A Bonfire for Prosperity” (on March 6, 2014.) Replacing a complex shape in kyujitai with a katakana /tsu/ shape in shinjitai can be observed in many other kanji, and we will discuss that at a later time.

There are two kun-yomi that are not on the Joyo kanji list but are used commonly – 労る/itawa’ru/ means “to treat kindly; comfort” and 労う /negira’u/ means “to express one’s thanks; reward for one’s pains”. The on-yomi /ro’o/ is in 苦労 (“trouble; worry; pain” /ku’roo/), 労働 (“labor” /roodoo/), 心労 (“the strain of grief; weight of are” /shinroo/) and 過労 (“strain; overwork” /karoo/).

4. The kanji 助 “to help”

History of the kanji 助In the bronze ware style of the kanji 助, the top was a stack of things and the bottom was a hand. In ten style, the stack of things was placed on the left side and the right side was a plough or a strong hand. Adding a helping hand meant “to help; assist.”

The kun-yomi 助ける /tasuke’ru/ means “to help,” and 助かる /tasuka’ru/ is its intransitive verb counterpart that means “(it) helps me; it saves me; being helpful.” 助かります “Thank you for your help” is an expression you use when someone offers help. 手助けする /teda’suke-suru/ is a verb “to give a hand to help.” There is another kun-yomi /suke/ and it is in 助太刀する (“to lend a helping hand (in a fight).” The on-yomi /jo/ is in 助手 (“assistant” /joshu/), 助走する (“to make an approach run” /josoo-suru/) and 助詞 (“particle” /joshi/) in Japanese grammar.

5. The kanji 幼 ”very young”

History of the kanji 幼In the oracle bone style of the kanji 幼, it was a skein of threads twisted with a stick at the top. In ten style, the left side showed the contrast with the bushu itohen “thread; continuity,” which would have three lines to signify long silk filaments. Without three lines at the bottom, the shape signified that threads were short, or being young. On the right side a plough was added. Together someone who was still short of power meant “young; immature; little; tender.”

The kun-yomi 幼い /osana’i/ means “very young; immature.” The on-yomi /yo’o/ is in 幼稚な (“immature” /yoochina/) and 幼稚園 (“kindergarten” /yoochi’en./

6. the kanji 協 “to cooperate”

History of the kanji 協In the ten style of the kanji 協, the left side was a shape that meant “to bundle up.” On the right side was three hands or three ploughs. Together they meant many people “cooperate.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /kyo’o/ is in 協力する (“to cooperate” /kyooryoku-suru/) 生協 (“co-op” /se’ekyoo/) from 生活協同組合 (/seekatsu kyoodoo ku’miai/) and 経済協力 (“economic corporation” /keezaikyo’oryoku/).

In the next post, I am planning to discuss the kanji 動働重 and 東. 東, as in “east”? Yes, surprisingly, they share the same origin for the shape. [December 29, 2014]

The Kanji 男 and 田力甥舅虜勇湧- 力 “power” (1)


In the last two posts we looked at the kanji that were related to 女 “woman.” What about the kanji that are related to man? Unlike 女 “woman,” the kanji for “man” was not a single pictographic writing, but a semantic composite of 田 “rice paddies” and 力 “power; strength.” So in order to understand the kanji 男, it would be helpful for us to look at these two components beforehand.

(1) The kanji 田 “rice paddies”

HistoryoftheKanji田Many of the oracle bone style samples for the kanji 田 (such as the two in light brown on the left) had multiple grids. It was an image of rice paddies. The account in Setsumon Kaiji (100 AD) was that it was the image of the footpath that ran from south to north and from east to west in four directions. Most rice plants grow in paddies in which plants get immersed in irrigation water when they are young. The kanji 田 meant “rice paddies; field.”

The kun-yomi for 田 /ta/ is in 田んぼ (田圃) (“rice paddies” /tanbo/) and 田畑 (“agricultural fields” /ta’hata/). The on-yomi /de’n/ is in 田園 (“pastoral field” /den-en/), 油田 (“oil field” /yuden/). It is also used in 田舎 (“country side” /inaka/).

(2) The kanji 力 “power; strength”

HistoryoftheKanji力For the kanji 力, there are two different views that are of interest. One view, by Setsumon, is that it was muscles in an arm. The bottom was a hand. It meant “a strong hand.” The bronze ware style sample (in green) showed a bump at the top that was interpreted as muscle in the upper arm. But in ten style (in red), I find it somewhat hard to view the bottom as fingers. Another view, that it was “a plough for field work,” by Shirakawa, appeals more to me. (There are many other kanji that can be explained better if we look at the origin of the component 力 to be a plough in the field, as we will discuss in the next post.) When I go back to the earlier four writings, the idea of “plough” still works for me. Whether it originally was a strong hand or a plough in the field, it meant “power; strength.”

The kun-yomi is in 力 (“power; strength” /chikara”/) and 底力 (“real ability” /sokojikara/). The on-yomi /ryo’ku/ is in 努力 (“effort” /do’ryoku/) and 電力(“electric power” /de’nryoku/).Another on-yomi /ri’ki/ is a go-on and is in 力量 (“ability” /rikiryoo/).

(3) The kanji 男 “man; male; masculine”

HistoryoftheKanji男Now we are ready to look the kanji 男. In oracle bone style, it had rice paddies and a plough or strong hand. In bronze ware style, the right one had something on the right side. Could it be a handle of a plough? In ten style the two components were placed vertically, which became the kanji shape. The person who does manual hard work in the field using a plough was a man. It means “man; male; masculine.”

The kun-yomi /otoko’/ means “man,” and is in 男の子 (“boy” /otoko’noko/), 男らしい (“manly” /otokorashi’i/) and 男勝り (“strong-minded (woman)” /otokoma’sari/). The on-yomi /da’n/ is in 男性.  Another on-yomi /na’n/ was a go-on and in 長男 (“firstborn son” /cho’onan/) and 下男(“manservant” /ge’nan/).

According to Atsuji (2004), 男 was a bushu in Setsumon. Only two kanji, 甥 and 舅, are included among Joyo kanji. In the current kanji in Japanese, it is not a bushu, but there are other kanji that contain 男 — 虜 and 勇 (and 湧). We are going to look at those kanji now.

(4) The kanji 甥 “nephew”

HistoryoftheKanji甥In ten style of the kanji 甥, the left side was a growing plant, which becomes the kanji 生 “life.” The right side was the kanji 男.  Together, they originally meant sons of one’s sisters, meaning only a female side. But in Japanese it means “nephew.”

The kun-yomi is 甥 (“nephew” /oi/) and is also in 甥子さん (someone else’s “nephew” /oigo-san/.)  The on-yomi /se’e/ is not used in Japanese.

(5) The kanji 舅 “father-in-law”

HistoryoftheKanji舅The ten style of the kanji 舅 consisted of 臼, which gave the pronunciation, and 男 “man; male.” Together they originally meant a maternal uncle. In Japanese it means “father-in-law.”

The kun-yomi 舅 /shuuto/ means “father-in-law.” The on-yomi /kyu’u/ is not used in Japanese.

(6) The kanji 虜 “captive; prisoner”

HistoryoftheKanji虜In ten style of the kanji 虜, the top and the middle were used phonetically for /ro/ to mean “to tie on a rope” and the bottom was 力. Captives in battle were tied together on a rope and often became slaves. Together they meant “captive; prisoner.” The kyujitai (in blue) reflected the ten style writing. In kanji the middle became 田.  So, the kanji 虜 did not share the origin of the kanji 男 even though in kanji the shape 男 appears.

The kun-yomi /toriko’/ means “captive; prisoner.” The on-yomi /ryo/ is in 俘虜 (“prisoner of war” /hu’ryo./)  [We touched this word when we discussed the kanji 俘 in the post entitled as “A Hand From Above (2): 浮, 乳, 争, 静 and 印” on May 24, 2014]

(7) The kanji 勇 “courageous; gallant”

HistoryoftheKanji勇(2)Another kanji that did not have the same origin as 男 but contains it now is the kanji 勇. The kyujitai (which I am unable to find a typeface for) had 甬 at the top and 力 at the bottom. Let us look at the development on the left.

In bronze ware style, (1), the top meant a hand bucket of spring water and the bottom was a plough. Together they meant “spirit” that sprang out. The pre-ten style, (2), had a heart at the bottom. The Setsumon variant, (3), had a halberd (戈) on the right, whereas the primary ten style in Setsumon, (4), had 力. The kanji variant, (5), reflected the variant style in Setsumon, consisting of 甬 and 力. The kyujitai (not shown here) had マ at the top, 用 in the middle and 力 at the bottom. In the current kanji, (6), the middle 用 was replaced by 田.  By adding a bush sanzui, we get the kanji 湧く/waku/ “to gush out; spring out.” So, from the point of the view of origin, it would be wrong to connect “bravery; courage” (勇) to “manliness” (男). Rather, courage is something that wells out of one’s heart.

The kun-yomi 勇ましい /isamashi’i/ means “courageous; valiant; gallant” and also in 勇んで (“in full of spirits” /isa’nde/.)  The on-yomi /yu’u/ is in 勇気 (“courage” /yu’uki/) and 勇退する (“to retire voluntarily” /yuutai-suru/).

In the next post, I would like to start to look at the kanji that contain 力 now that it has been introduced in this post. [12-19-2014]

Kanji Radical 母毋はは – 母毎海悔梅毒


 (1) The kanji 母 “mother”

The two kanji shapes 女 and 母 show little resemblance to each other. But the meanings “woman” and “mother” are closely related; A mother is a woman who has a child. When a woman becomes a mother, the first thing that she does is to nurse a baby. That was what creators of the ancient writing focused on to differentiate the two meanings.

History of the Kanji 母On the left is the development of the kanji 母 from oracle bone style (brown), bronze ware style (green), ten style (red). It was a woman keeling down with her hands crossed in front, with two dots added to the ancient writing of 女.  In those shapes two dots signified a nursing woman’s breasts. History of the Kanji 女(frame)The development of the kanji 女 from the last post is shown on the right for comparison. When we compare the two kanji in each of the three ancient styles, they show direct correspondence, except that for the kanji 母 two dots had been added. Even in the two kanji shapes that did not appear to have a resemblance, similarity starts to show up.

The kun-yomi /ha’ha/ (“mother”) is in 母方の (“maternal side” /hahakata-no/). The on-yomi /bo/ is in 父母 (“parents” /hu’bo/), 母校 (“one’s alma mater” /bo’koo/) and 分母 (“denominator” /bu’nbo/). It is also customarily used for お母さん (“mother” /oka’asan/) and 母屋 (“o’moya” /main house/.)

(2) The kanji 毎 “every”

History of the Kanji 毎The kanji 毎, 海, 悔, 梅 and 毒, have 毋 in common. The shape 毋 came from 母. We are going to look at those five kanji now. In the kanji 毎, in all three ancient styles, at the top of 母, a line of different contours (straight, wiggly, or curving upward) was added. There seems to be different interpretation on what this extra line signified, including “a plant that grew profusely” and “a hair accessary on a woman who was busily engaged in religious ceremony.” Together with the meaning that a mother could give a birth to a child one after another, it signified something “multiplying, proliferating.” From that it meant “every.” Throughout the ancient writings, there were two dots that were breasts, but in kanji they became a long single line.

The kun-yomi /goto/ is in 〜する毎に (“every time one does something” /suru-go’to ni/), 一週間毎 (“every week; by the week” /isshuukango’to/). The on-yomi /ma’i/ is in 毎日 (“every day” /ma’inichi; mainichi/) and 毎月 (“every month” /maitsuki/.)

 (3) The kanji 海 “ocean; sea”

History of Kanji 海In the kanji 海, the left side was a bushu sanzui “water” and the right side 毎 was used phonetically to mean “dark; unknown.” From unknown water it meant “ocean; sea.” The kun-yomi /u’mi/ is in 荒海 (“rough sea” /araumi/) and 海や山 (“the sea and mountains” /u’mi ya yama/).

The on-yomi /ka’i/ is in 北海道 (”Hokkaido Island” /hokka’idoo/), 日本海 (“the Japan Sea” /niho’nkai/) and 海水 (“sea water” /kaisui/.)

(4) The kanji 悔 “to regret; to repent; vexing”

History of the Kanji 悔In the ten style of the kanji 悔, the left side was a vertical shape of a heart. This bushu is called risshinben “vertical heart.” When the heart 心 was used on the left side it took this shape to make room. The right side was used phonetically for /kai/ which meant “dark; regret; vex.”

The kun-yomi /ku/ is in the verb 悔いる (“to repent; regret” /kui’ru/ ), 悔やむ (“to regret” /kuya’mu/) and the adjective 悔しい (“vexing; regretful” /kuyashi’i/.)  The on-yomi /ka’i/ is in 後悔する (“to regret” /ko’okai-suru/.)

 (5) The Kanji 梅 “plum”

History of the Kanji 梅In the ten style of the kanji 梅, the left side 木 was a bushu kihen “tree.” The right side was the same as that of 毎., and was used phonetically to mean a tree that bears sour fruits such as a plumb tree. In the Key to Kanji, I referred to the view that associated the tart acidity of plums with relieving morning sickness and the kanji 梅. Now I am wondering if this story was added at a later time.

Plum flowers bloom very early in the spring before other spring flowers, and Japanese people appreciate them as a sign of the arrival of a new spring. Every year, from the end of January through February, TV news features blooming plum flowers, starting form Kyushu Island and gradually moving to the north, just as they do with cherry blossoms. Because it blooms early, it is also appreciated as an auspicious tree together with the pine tree 松 and bamboo 竹  in the word 松竹梅 (“auspicious combination of trees”/shoochiku’bai/.)

Plum fruits are also popular. During the rainy season, which is mid-June through mid-July in the Tokyo area, green fruits are sold and some people pickle them to make 梅干し/umeboshi/ that are salty and sour but very pungent. The fruits also make a flavorful drink called umeshu “plum drink” which is popular among women.

The kunyomi /ume/ is in 梅干し (“pickled plum /umeboshi/), 梅酒 (“plum drink” /umeshu/). The on-yomi /ba’i/ is in 梅雨 (“rainy season”/ba’iu/). The word 梅雨 is also pronounced as /tsuyu‘/ and in 梅雨時 (“rainy season” /tsuyudoki/).

 (6) The kanji 毒 “poison”

History of the Kanji 毒For the the kanji 毒, the ten style added two lines to the ten style of the kanji 毎. What did the additional lines mean? There are two different interpretations. One is that the top was poisonous plants. This view may have come from the pre-ten style given in the Setsumon Kaiji (shown in gray here) that had two grasses growing at the top. Another is that this was three elaborate hair accessories on the hair of a woman, 母. Too many hair accessories was gaudy, and from that it meant “poisonous; poison.” Another thing to note about the ten style writing is that all the five kanji above had two dots for breasts, but for 毒 it had already become a single horizontal line. The kanji 毒 means “poison; poisonous.” There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /doku’/ means “poison” and is in 毒々しい (“gaudy; excessively showy” /dokudokushi’i/), 無毒 (“not harmful” /mu’doku/) and 毒味 (“tasting before serving for poison” /dokumi’/).

Stroke order of the kanji 女

Stroke order of the kanji 女

Stroke order of the kanji 母

Stroke order of the kanji 母

Stroke order of the kanji 毎

Stroke order of the kanji 毎

The stroke order of the three kanji 女, 母 and 毎 are shown for comparison. The first two strokes of 女 correspond to those of the kanji 母, which is repeated in 毎.

In these last two posts we have seen that the shapes 女, 母 and 毎, 毋 are all closely related to the origins of “woman.” In the next post, we are going to look at the kanji 男 “man; male.” [December 10, 2014]