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]

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