The kanji 老孝考長張帳髪抜 “the long hair of elders”


In this post we begin with the three kanji 老孝考 that share the bushu oigashira “old,” the three kanji 長張帳 that have 長 “long” and two kanji 髪抜. They all came from “hair of an elder person.”

(1) The kanji 老 “to become old; to age; old”

History of Kanji 老In bronze ware style, the two samples (a) and (b) had the same shapes in which a man with a long hair (more like a long bang in front of his face) stood slightly stooping and holding something in his hand. The man in (a) had a walking stick whereas in (b) two lines were hanging down from his arm. This shape reminds us of the bronze ware style sample of the kanji 兄 that we saw in an earlier post [on August 20, 2014].

兄(koukotuThe two samples of the kanji 兄 are from that post. One, in oracle bone style, was praying on his knees and the one in bronze ware style had some ornaments to carry out a religious ritual. From that we concluded that the kanji 兄 meant an elder person of the family who carries out a religious ceremony – “elder person” or “older brother.” The kanji 兄 and 老 (and 考, as we are going to see next) tell us that the role of an elder was to carry out ancestral religious ceremony. I have not come across any other explanation for these two lines.

Now back to the kanji 老 — (a) and (b) meant an elderly person who carried out ancestral religious ceremony, the chief of a clan. In bronze ware style, in (c) and (d), his long hair was more emphasized at the top and the bottom had the shape 匕. The shape匕 was a person or fallen person. It appeared in the kanji 死 “death” and 化 “to change.” Together they meant “to become old; to age; old.” In kanji the long hair at the top became the shape 土 with a long slanted line.

The kun-yomi is 老いる /oi’ru/ and means “to become old; age.” The on-yomi /ro’o/ is in 老人 (“old person” /roojin/), 老化 (“aging” /rooka/) and 老後 (“one’s old age” /roogo./)

(2) The kanji 考 “to think”

History of Kanji 考In oracle bone style, (a) was basically the same shape as (a) and (b) of the kanji 老, except that he had both a walking stick and ornaments in his hand. In (b), his hair became long and bushy. In bronze ware style, (c) and (d), the bottom had a shape that signified “bent; not straight,” and had the sound /ko’o/. Together they originally meant a deceased father. The bent shape at the bottom was also suggestive of something that did not come straight. One takes time to think. So it was also used to mean “to think.”

The kun-yomi考える /kanga’eru/ means “to think” and is in 考え (“thought; idea” /kanga’e/.) The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 思考 (“thinking” /shikoo/), 参考になる (“to provide one with useful information” /sankoo ni na’ru/) and 参考書 (“reference” /sankoosho/).

(3) The kanji 孝 “filial duty”

History of Kanji 孝In oracle bone style, only long hair at the top appeared to signify an old person, and the bottom was a child. In bronze ware style and ten style, a long-haired person was stooping over a child. Together they meant a child taking care of old parents or filial responsibility. The on-yomi of the kanji 考 and 孝 are both /ko’o/, but while the kanji 考 is a semantic-phonetic composite, the kanji 孝 is a semantic composite.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi is in 親孝行する (“to act kindly to parents” /oyako’okoo-suru/) and 親不孝者な (“undutiful (to parents)” /oyahu’koona/).

Incidentally, the bushu oigashira means “old,” and in addition to these kanji above, it also appears in the kanji 教. The left side is the kanji 孝, but it had a different origin from “old,” as discussed in an earlier post [October 18, 2015.]

(4) The kanji 長 “long; chief”

History of Kanji 長In the oracle bone style of the kanji 長, it was an old man standing with a cane. What looks like a long “top hat” was long hair. We can also spot a tiny dot under his arm in this kanji too. It meant a chief or elder person of a clan. In bronze ware style, a man standing on the ground was added on the left. In ten style the shape that became 匕in 老 was present. Together they meant “chief; long.” In ten style it was not very easy to see a long hair, but interestingly it became more visible in kanji.

The kun-yomi /naga’i/ 長い means “long. ” Another kun-yomi 長 “osa” means “chief; elder.” The kun-yomi /cho’o/ is in 身長 (”(one’s) height”/shinchoo/), 長男・長女 (“first born male child; first born female child” /cho’onan/cho’ojo/.) 市長 (“mayor” /shi’choo/), 長幼の序 (“order of senior and junior” /chooyoo-no-jo/.)

(5) The kanji 張 “to stretch; extend; paste”

History of Kanji 張The kanji 長 was used phonetically in the next two kanji 張 and 帳 for /cho’o/. In the ten style of the kanji 張 the left side was a bow (弓) – something that stretches. The right side kanji 長 /cho’o/ was used phonetically and also meant “to stretch.” Together they originally meant “to draw a bow to the full.” Then it was extended to mean “to stretch; to extend.”

The kun-yomi /haru/ means “to stretch; tighten; pitch.” It is in verbs such as 我を張る (“to assert oneself” /ga-o-haru/), 欲張る (“greedy; to make a pig of oneself” /yokuba’ru/), 頑張る (“to exert oneself” /ganba’ru/.) The on-yomi /cho’o/ is in 拡張する (“to expand” /kakuchoo-suru/) and 出張 (“business trip” /shucchoo/). Until the 2010 revision of Joyo kanji, we used to use this kanji to mean “to paste; stick to” for the kanji 貼.

 (6) The kanji 帳 “book; account”

History of Kanji 帳In the ten style of the kanji 帳, the left side was a piece of long cloth draped or folded. The right side gave the sound /choo/ that meant “long.” Together they originally meant a long surrounding drapery. Something that was long and folded or bound together was a booklet or ledger. So, it also meant “drapery; booklet; ledger.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /cho’o/ is in 手帳 (“picket book” /techoo/), 帳面 (“notebook” /cho’omen/), 几帳面な (”exact; methodical” /kicho’omenna/), 帳簿  (/choobo/ “account book”).

 (7) The kanji 髪 “hair”

History of Kanji 髪In bronze ware style it had a dog on the left side and a person’s head with hair on the right side — a very peculiar combination at a first look. In ten style, the left side was 長 “long.” On the right side the diagonal three lines meant “a beautiful shape” and at the bottom a dog was used phonetically for /ha’tsu/ to mean ”to pluck hair.” Together they meant “hair.” In kyujitai, the positions shifted a little – “long” and “beautiful” came at the top. If we look at the bottom closely, we see that it is not the kanji 友 but has a cross with a dot at the top. It reflected more a dog in ten style. In shinjitai, the bottom was replaced by the kanji 友.

The kun-yomi 髪 /kami’/ means “hair” and is in 髪型 (”hair style” /kamigata/) 黒髪  (“black hair” /kurokami/). It is also customarily used for 白髪 (“gray hair” /shiraga/). The on-yomi /ha’tsu/ is in 散髪する (“to have a hair cut” /sanpatsu-suru/) and in the phrase 間一髪 (“a narrow squeak” /ka’n ippatsu/.)

(8) The kanji 抜 “to pull out; stand out”

History of Kanji 抜In ten style, the left side had a bushu tehen “hand; an act that one does using a hand” and the right side was used phonetically for /ha’tsu/ to mean “to pluck hair; to pull out.” Pulling a person out from the group meant “outstanding; eminent.” The right side of the kyujitai was the same as the bottom of the kanji 髪. In shinjitai the right side became the kanji shape 友 with no relevance to its meaning.

The kun-yomi 抜く /nuku/ means “to pull out; to exceed” and also is in the verbs such as 引き抜く (“to pull out; headhunt” /hikinu’ku/), 追い抜く (“to come from behind” /oinu’ku/) and in 手抜きをする (“to cut corners” /tenuki o suru/). The on-yomi /ba’tsu/ is in 選抜チーム (“all-star team” /senbatsu-chi’imu/) and 抜群の (“preeminent” /batsugun-no/).

In this post, we have seen that long hair signified an elder person of a clan. According to Shirakawa, only an elder person of a clan was allowed to have long hair. For the next post, I am thinking about the kanji 心 “heart.” [January 30, 2015]

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