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]

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