The Kanji 人仁従縦比皆階陛 – Posture (3)


As the third posting related to a posture that a person made using his entire body, we are going to look at the kanji that used the view from the side. In the last two posts, a standing person that was viewed from the front had his hands spread on his side (大 and 立). The standing person viewed from the side had his hands put forward. Whether the shape contained a single person or two people and which direction the person was facing made a difference in meaning, and eventually kanji shapes. In this post we are going to look at them in three groups: A. A single person facing left; B. Two people facing left, one of which follows the other; and C. Two people facing right.

A. A standing person facing left – 人,仁, 付

(1) 人 “person”

History of Kanji 人For the kanji 人, in oracle bone style, in brown, and bronzed ware style, in green, a person was standing facing left, putting his hands forward. His legs were slightly bent. It meant “person; others; character.” The ten style sample here, in red, is from Setsumon, and his hands became very long and his body bent forward. The three samples in black, (a), (b), and (c), are kanji.  (a) was from a stone stele of rei style writing (隷書体, clerical style), the first kanji style. In rei style, the left line in (a) was very short whereas the right side was extremely long. (b) is in Mincho style, which was used in the Kangxi dictionary and became the standard typeface of publication, usually called 明朝体 /minchotai/, including for Internet use. One of the characteristics of Mincho style was that it utilized all four corners of an imaginary square space. (c) is in kyokasho-tai (教科書体, textbook style) typeface, which is the best approximation of writing style for a kanji learner to emulate.

The kanji 人 and 入 in different typefaceNow I am going to put my old Japanese teacher’s hat on here. The difference between (b) and (c) is alarming. A novice learner of kanji who uses a textbook that is printed in Mincho style may end up learning to write the kanji that looks strange to Japanese. Particularly, the kanji 人 in Mincho style creates a confusion with the kanji 入 “to enter.  The comparison of three typefaces is shown on the right. (I wish that the Japanese government would provide textbook writers and classroom teachers with the appropriate kyokasho-tai style font application that were affordable. Well, this is a different matter that I need to discuss somewhere else.) I admit that being on the Internet the text portion of this blog is shown in Mincho style, which is beyond my control.

The kun-yomi /hito/ is in 人のいい (“good-natured” /hitonoi’i/) and 人のことを言う (“to speak of others” /hitonokoto’ o iu/). The on-yomi /ji’n/ is in 外国人 (“foreigner; foreign national” /gaikoku’jin/) and 人格(“character” /jinkaku/). Another on-yomi /ni’n/ is a go-on, and is in 人間 (“human being; man” /ningen/) and 三人 (“three people” /sanni’n/). Other pronunciations include 一人 (“one person” /hito’ri/) and 二人 (”two people” /hutari/.)

(2) 仁 “benevolent; virtue”

When 人 was used as a component to create new kanji, it took the shape close to the oracle bone style writing of 人. That component also became a katakana イ. As an example of kanji with a bushu ninben, we look at the kanji 仁 here.

History of Kanji 仁In all of the four ancient writing styles of the kanji 仁 shown on the left, it comprised a person facing left and two very short lines. The bronze ware style sample and the “old style” in Setsumon, in gray, suggested that a person was sitting on comfortable double cushions. When the meaning of “pleasant; comfortable” was applied to a person, it gave the meaning “desirable” and “virtuous.” 仁 was the most important virtue one should attain according to Confucianism, but the use of this particular kanji is limited in modern life. There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi ジン is in 仁 (“perfect virtue” /ji’n/) and 仁術 (“benevolent act; healing art” /ji’njutsu/). Another on-yomi /ni’n/ is a go-on and is in 仁王 (“the two Deva kings at a temple gate” that you see when you visit an old Buddhist temple.  /ni’oo/.)

History of Kanji 付(frame)There are numerous kanji that contain a bushu ninben, giving the meaning that it is something to do with a person or human. Among the kanji we have looked at in the past, the kanji 付 was illuminating. Just to refresh our memory, I am showing the development of the kanji 付 on the right side.

–“It had a person and a hand from behind. In (1) the hand was touching the person, and in (1) and (2) there is no short line that would become a third stroke in kanji. From handing something to another person, 付 meant “to hand out; attach.” Giving out documents was what a government office did, so it also meant “to issue.” [June 21, 2015]

B. Two people facing left, one following another — 従 and 縦.   We are going to look at two kanji that contained two people facing to the left as they stood in front or back of each other.

(3) 従 “to follow; obey”

History of Kanji 従Many things happened in the development of the kanji 従. In oracle bone style, (a) simply had two people facing left, in which the second person stood behind the first person. In (b) a crossroad (technically speaking, it was the left half of a crossroad) was added to the two people facing to the left. The crossroad suggested that a person was not just standing but walking, with one person following another. So, it meant “to follow.” In bronze ware style, (c), a footprint (止) was added at the bottom, to reinforce the meaning “following someone on foot.” In ten style, (d), a crossroad and a footprint were placed vertically. As we have discussed before, usually a crossroad and a footprint coalesced into a bushu shinnyoo or shunnyuu in kanji, which meant “to move forward.” But in the case of the kanji 従, when it became kanji, as the kyujitai in blue in (e) shows, the footprint moved back to the bottom right and took the shape that was the bottom of the kanji 足. (For the development of the kanji 足, please refer back to the August 3, 2014, posting.) Above the footprint, there were two small 人 placed side by side. That left only a crossroad on the left side, which became the bushu gyooninben “to go; conduct.” In shinjitai, (f), the two people were reduced to two short katakanaソ. What we have in shinjitai is far from (a) — the two people got diminished into two tiny strokes!

The kun-yomi 従う /shitagau/ means “to obey.” The on-yomi /ju’u/ is in 従事する (“to be engaged in” /ju’uji-suru/), 従業員 (“employee; worker” /juugyo’oin/), 服従 (“obedience; submission” /hukujuu/) and 追従する (“to follow” /tsuijuu-suru/). There is another on-yomi /sho’o/. When the word 追従する is read in the second on-yomi, it becomes 追従する and お追従を言う (“to flatter; play up to” /tsuishoo-suru/ /otsuishoo o iu/), a very different meaning.

(4) 縦 “vertical”

History of Kanji 縦By adding a bushu itohen 糸 to the kanji 従, we get the kanji 縦. The ten style sample is the earliest we have. On the left it had a string of silk cocoons with filaments coming out, which signified “thread; continuity.” In the center was a crossroad and a footprint, and the right side was two people facing left. Together they made up the kanji 従 “a person following another,” and was used phonetically for /juu/. Altogether they meant “a continuous line to follow” or “vertical.” Having the thread also added the meaning “to indulge oneself” from “loose threads.” It had the kyujitai, in blue, and shinjitai, which correspond with the kanji 従.

The kun-yomi 縦 /ta’te/ means “vertical; length,” and is in 縦糸 (“warp” /tateito/), and 縦書き (“vertical writing” /tategaki/), which is the traditional way to write Japanese. The on-yom /ju’u/ is in 縦横に (“in all directions” /juuo’oni/) and 縦断する (“to travel through; to divide something vertically” /juudan-suru/) and 操縦する (“to navigate; control” /soojuu-suru/).

C. Two people facing right –比皆階陛.   In this group, the two people were facing right.

(5) 比 “to compare”

History of Kanji 比For the kanji 比, in oracle bone style, it was a mirror image of (a) in the kanji 従 above. Placing two people next to each other meant “to compare.” The bronze ware style and ten style samples looked like what we would expect. However when it became kanji, the shape changed quite a lot. The hands that were put forward were there but the bottom became the shape as if they were sitting. The right side of the kanji shape looks like a katakana ヒ /hi/. The katakana /hi/ was taken from this kanji. (The hiragana ひ came from this kanji in its entirety.)

This bent shape in 比 is not inconsistent with the bottom right shape in another group of kanji 眼根銀, etc., which we looked at in an earlier post [April 7, 2014 post]. The ten style writing of the bottom right of 艮 in those kanji was similar to 比 for having a bending shape, and it meant “a person looking back.” I am wondering if we can say that when facing to the left it signified a forward movement whereas when facing to the right it signified no movement and staying where you were. I may be reading too much into it, but for the fun of it, I am going to keep that in mind for our future discussion.

The kun-yomi 比べる /kuraberu/ means “to compare.” The on-yomiヒis in 比較する (“to compare” /hikakusuru/), 比例して (“proportionately” /hireeshite/), 前年比 (“comparing to previous year” /zenne’nhi/).

(6) 皆 “everyone; all”

History of Kanji 皆For the kanji 皆, in the only bronze ware style sample available to us, the two people were facing left, not right. (All other samples of later time seem to face right.) The bottom was 曰 (e’tsu) to “talk.” From many people talking, it meant “everyone; all.” The bottom also has a different view that it was 自 “self” from one’s nose. People (or faces) in a row also meant “everyone; all.” In ten style the two people faced right. In kanji now the bottom is the kanji 白. The kun-yomi /mina/ or /minna/ means “everybody; all” and is in 皆さん (“everyone; you all” /mina’san/), which is a polite style. The on-yomi /ka’i/ is in 皆目分からない (“to have no clue; in complete mystery” /kaimokuwakara’nai/) and 皆無 (“nonexistence; complete absence” /ka’imu/).

(7) 階 “stairs; floor; class”

History of Kanji 階The ten style of the kanji 階 had “mounds of soil; stairs” on the left side that signified “stairs; gradation.” The kanji 皆 on the right was used phonetically for /kai/. It meant “stairs; gradation; story.” There is no kun-yomi in the Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /ka’i/ in 階段 (“stairs; stairways” /kaidan/), 二階 (“second floor; upstairs” /nikai/), 階下 (“downstairs; lower floor” /ka’ika/) and 階級 (“class; caste” /kaikyuu/).

(8) 陛 “majesty”

History of Kanji 陛The ten style of the kanji 陛 also had “stairs; gradation” on the left side, which became a bushu kozatohen . The right side had 比 “people standing in a row” and 土 on the ground. In the imperial court, subjects stood in line under the stairs that led to where the emperor was. It meant “Your Majesty.” There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /he’e/ is 陛下 (“Your/His Majesty” /he’eka/), 両陛下 (“Their Majesties; the Emperor and Empress” /ryoohe’eka/). The use of this kanji is quite limited, but it is necessary in reading newspaper articles.

This post runs longer than I have intended. In the next post, we continue to explore the kanji that contain two people, including standing with their backs to each other. [March 28, 2015]

The Kanji 立位泣粒並普譜 – Posture (2)


In the last post, we looked at the kanji that came from a front view of a person with hands and legs spread wide, which was 大. In this post we are going to look at the kanji that came from the same image except that it included the ground. A person, 大, and standing on the ground, 一, together became the kanji shape 立.

(1) The kanji 立 “to stand”

History of the kanji 立In the oracle bone style of the kanji 立, in brown, a man standing on the ground was viewed from the front. Where one stood in court signified his position or rank. From that it originally meant “position” and “to stand.” In bronze ware style, in green, the person on the left appeared to be twisting his body with his two feet apart. The sample on the right side had a person and the ground. In ten style, in red, the two standing legs were emphasized.

The kun-yomi 立つ /ta’tsu/ means “to stand,” and is in 立ち上がる (“to rise up” /tachiagaru/), 目立つ (“to stand out” /meda’tsu/), 立場 (“standpoint; situation” /ta’chiba/) and 成り立ち (“beginning; origin” /naritachi/). Our Kanji Portraits blog examines kanji from the viewpoint of  漢字の成り立ち (“makeup of kanji; history of kanji” /kanji no naritachi/). The on-yomi /ri’tsu/ is in 直立 (“upright” /chokuritsu/), 立法 (“legislation; law making” /rippo’o/), 立派な (“praiseworthy; impressive” /rippa-na/). It has another on-yomi /ryu‘u/ in the word 建立する (“to erect a temple or shrine” /konryuu-suru/).

(2) The kanji 位 “position; status; approximately; ranking”

History of the kanji 位By adding a bushu ninben, “person,” we get the kanji 位 “position; status,” which was also a part of the original meaning of the kanji 立. In fact in oracle bone style and bronzed ware style, they were the same — None of the many samples of oracle bone style or bronze ware style  had a person on the left. (There were four oracle bone style samples and seven bronze ware style samples in the reference.) In addition to the meaning of “position; status” it is also used for approximation when used with quantity words such as どの位 (“how much” /donogurai/ or /donokurai/), 二十人位 (“approximately 20 people” /nijuuningu’rai/). In the Japanese keigo system (敬語 /keeo/), rather than directly addressing to a person, you often refer to the place where the person is situated, such as どちら様 (“who” honorific word, /do’chira-sama/) from the literal meaning of a person of which direction, The kanji 位 is also used when referring to people unspecified, such as お客様各位 (“Dear customers” /okyaku-sama ka’kui/) in writing. 位 is also used as a suffix for ranking from where one stands.

The kun-yomi /kurai/ means “position; status.” When used as a suffix of quantity words, such as 一週間位で (“in about a week” /isshuukangu’rai de/), 二ヶ月位かかる (”it takes approximately two months” /nikagetsu-gu’rai kaka’ru/), the kanji 位 can be pronounced either /ku’rai/ or /gu’rai/. The on-yomi /i/ 各位 (“dear all” in writing /ka’kui/), 地位 (“position; status” /chi’i/), 位置 (“location” /i’chi/), 第三位 (“the third place” /da’i-sa’n-i/),

(3) The kanji 粒 “granule”

History of the kanji 粒For the kanji 粒, in pre-ten style, in gray on the left, the left side 立 was used phonetically for /ryu’u/, and the right side was “food.” It meant “rice; grain; food.” In ten style the left side 米 was “rice,” and the right side 立 was used phonetically. Together they originally signified “rice.” The small pieces such as rice and other grains gave the meaning “granule.”

The kun-yomi /tsu’bu/ means “granule,” and is in the phrase 粒よりの〜 (“handpicked ~; select ~” /tsubuyori-no ~/) and 一粒の (“a single grain of” /hito’tsubu-no/). The on-yomi /ryu’u/ is in 粒子 (“particle” /ryu’ushi/) and 顆粒の (“granular” /karyuu-no/).

(4) The kanji 泣 “to cry”

History of the kanji 泣For the kanji 泣, the left side of the ten style sample was “water,” and the right side was used phonetically, originally for /ryu’u/, which changed to /kyu’u/. The Setsumon Kaiji’s explanation was that 泣 meant “crying with tears without voice.” Now it means “to cry,” with or without tears.

The kun-yomi /naku/ means “to cry,” and is in 泣きつく (“to implore” /nakitsu’ku/), 泣きじゃくる (“to sob” /nakijaku’ru/) and 泣き言を言う (“to complain; whine” /nakigoto-o-iu/). The on-yomi /kyu’u/ is in 号泣する (“to cry loudly” /gookyuu-suru).

(5) The kanji 並 “ordinary; to queue; equal”

History of the kanji 並Placing two people standing side by side facing the front created a writing that meant “to stand side by side; queue; equal.” All of the ancient writing shown on the left gave us quite convincing pictures of what they meant. Even after it became kanji, in kyujitai 竝, in blue, it consisted of the two kanji 立, and the meaning was evident. In shinjitai 並, however, the two discreet components coalesced into one shape, and it is no longer easy to see the origin. When two people stand side by side, not standing out from the rest, they are “equal” or “ordinary.”

The kun-yomi 並ぶ /narabu/ means “to queue; line up.” Another kun-yomi 並みの /name-no/ means “ordinary,” and is in the phrase 人並みの生活 (“a decent life like others’” /hitonami-no-seekatsu/), 軒並みに (“at every house” /nokinami-ni/), 並木道 (“a street lined with trees” /namiki’michi/). The on-yomi /he’e/ is in 並列 (“parallel” /heeretsu/).

(6) The kanji 普 “universal”

History of the kanji 普In the ten style of the kanji 普, the top was two people standing side by side (並), and the bottom was the sun (日). Together the sun shining across people meant “universal.” Universal could also mean nothing stands out, thus “ordinary.” Even though the two kanji 並 and 普 share the same origin of having two people standing side by side, and the kanji 並 had the kyujitai 竝, as far as I could search for, there was no earlier shape that contained 竝 for 普. The kanji 普 was already in use in the Kangxi dictionary. Kyujitai is based on the Kangxi dictionary.

The kun-yomi /amane’ku/ means “universal; everywhere” in a literary style. The on-yomi /hu/ is in 普通 (“ordinary” /hutsuu/), 普遍的な (“universal” /huhenteki-na/), 普及する (“to spread; permeate” /hukyuu-suru/) and 普段 (“everyday; habitual” /hu’dan/).

(7) The kanji 譜 “score; chronological records”

History of the kanji 譜The last kanji we look at in this post is the kanji 譜. It has a bushu gonben “word; language.” The right side 普 was used phonetically to mean “to lay things in sequence; line up.” Together from the meaning that something was stated in an orderly manner, it meant “family lineage chart” or “chronological records.” Now it is also used for “music score” because it spreads sideways.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /hu/ is in 年譜 (“annuals” /nenpu/), 楽譜 (“music score; sheet music” /gakuhu/), 譜面台 (“music score stand” /humendai/) and 暗譜で弾く (“to play music from memory” /anpu de hiku/).

In the next posts, we will look at the kanji in which a person is viewed from the side. [March 25, 2015]

The Kanji 大太天夫央英映笑 – Posture (1)


In the next few posts, we are going to look at the kanji that originated from the shape of the posture of a person using his entire body. They vary depending on how the posture was viewed, from the front or from the side.

(1) The kanji 大 “large; grand”

History of the kanji 大For the kanji 大, in oracle bone style, in brown, bronze ware style, in green, and ten style, in red, it was a person standing with his arms and legs spread, who was viewed from the front. Spreading the arms and legs makes a person look large. The kanji 大 means “large.” When it is used as a component, it keeps the original meaning of a “person.”

The kun-yomi 大きい /ooki’i/ means “large; grand,” and is in 大げさな (“exaggerated” /oogesa-na/), 大いなる (“great” /o’oinaru/). The on-yomi /da’i/ is in 莫大な (“huge; enormous” /bakudai-na/. Another on-yomi /ta’i/ is in 大作 (“monumental work” /taisaku/) and 大河ドラマ (“a saga that runs a great many episodes” /taiga-do’rama/). Other reading includes 大人 (“adult; grown-up” /otona/.)

(2) The kanji 太 “peaceful; thick; fat; big”

History of the kanji 太For the kanji 太, in oracle bone style and bronze ware style, it was the same as the kanji 大. For ten style, there were two shapes, (a) and (b) on the left. The shape (a) was treated as an older style and (b) as ten style in Setsumon. The account by the Kadokawa kanji dictionary is that (a) had a person, and two short lines inside signified “doubling.” Together they signified “even larger; very large.” Shirakawa and the Kanjigen treated the writing (a) as a simplified shape from (b). (b) had a person at the top, two hands and water inside. Together they signified two hands rescuing a person from drowning. From that, it meant “living in security; peaceful.”

In current use, two different kanji are used -太 and 泰. The kanji 泰 means “peaceful” and is used in 安泰 (“peace and security” /antai/). Other than that it is rarely used. (It is used for a name.) The kanji 太 is more inclusive of the original meaning “peaceful; thick; fat; big.”

The kun-yomi 太い /huto’i/ means “thick,” and is in 太る (“to gain weight” /huto’ru/) and 図太い (“bold; impudent” /zubuto’i/). The on-yomi /ta’i/ is in 太平洋 (“the Pacific ocean” /taihe’eyoo/) and 太陽 (“the sun” /ta’iyoo/). One tricky thing to remember when writing kanji for the Pacific ocean 太平洋 /taihe’eyoo/ and the Atlantic ocean 大西洋 /taise’eyoo/ is that, even though both are pronounced as /ta’i/, the Pacific ocean uses the kanji 太 whereas the Atlantic ocean uses the kanji 大. It must have been transliterated from the word pacific, “peaceful.”

(3) The kanji 天 “heaven; sky”

History of the kanji 天For the kanji 天, in all ancient styles, it was a person, facing front, with his head emphasized. The first line at the top was the head itself, but it meant something above his head, that is “heaven; sky.”

The kun-yomi /a’me/ in 天地の (“heaven and earth” /a’metsuchi-no/), a literary phrase. Another kun-yomi /a’ma/ is in 天降り or 天下り (“high-ranking government official landing an industry job” /amakudari/). The on-yomi /te’n/ is in 天下 (“world” /te’nka/), 天火 (“cooking oven” /te’npi/), 天日干し (“sun-drying” /tenpiboshi/), and 天引き “check off from (salary, etc.)” /tenbiki).

(4) The kanji 夫 “husband”

History of the kanji 夫We looked at the origin of the kanji 夫 in connection with the kanji 妻 “wife” in the post on November 24, 2014. In all ancient writing styles, it had a man with an ornamental hairpin, which signified a bridegroom. In both 妻 and 夫, the line at the top was an ornamental hairpin for a wedding. It meant “husband; man.”

The kun-yomi 夫 /otto/ means “husband.” The on-yomi /hu/ is in 夫妻 (“married couple” /hu’sai/) and 夫人 (“wife of; Mrs.” /hujin/). Another on-yomi /pu/ is in 人夫 (“laborer” /ni’npu/). A third reading /hu’u/ is in 夫婦 (“married couple” /hu’uhu/) and 工夫する (“to devise” /kuhuu-suru/). The word 夫人 (“wife of; Mrs.” /hujin/) is an honorific word and you never use it for your own name. When an English-speaking person, say Mr. Smith, says something like “I will discuss it with Mrs. Smith,..” when referring to his own wife, it does not sound odd. (It may be used more in British English.) But it sounds odd to a Japanese speaker, because we tend to translate it as スミス夫人. Chines look at this the same way Japanese do. A young Chinese tutor I knew was frustrated because her female student kept on referring to herself as /furen/, the Chinese pronunciation of /hujin/. I immediately understood what she was talking about.

(5) The kanji 央 “center; central”


History of Kanji 央The next three kanji 央 英  and 映 have 央 in common. In the oracle bone style of the kanji 央, it was a man facing front with a yoke around his neck, which meant “bad luck.” Then its original meaning had been dropped and it was used to mean “center; central,” from the fact that the neck was the center of the body. The bronze ware style writing had a short stroke under an arm, but what it signified is not clear. In ten style we see that the shape for “person” was the same as that for 夫. In kanji in both 夫 and 央, “person” returned to the shape 大, in which is easier for us to see the original meaning being “person.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /o’o/ is in 中央 (“center; central” /chuuo’o/), 中央出口 (“central exit” /chuuoode’guchi/) and 震央 (“epicenter” /shin-oo/.)

Note: This section on the kanji 央 has been revised as new information came to my attention. Thank you. Noriko (February 5, 2016)

(6) The kanji 英 “excellent; English”

History of the kanji 英In the ten style of the kanji 英, the top was “plants; grass,” and the bottom was 央 “center,” which was used phonetically. The center of a flower is the most beautiful part. It meant “beautiful; flourishing; excellent.” The use of this kanji for “English language” 英語 /eego/ came from the Chinese word for England 英吉利. Unlike Japanese language, which developed two phonetic letter systems, the Chinese language does not have phonetic letters to express a new word. So, existing kanji gets chosen phonetically. My observation is that when they assign kanji to a foreign name, the kanji combination tends to carry a flattering meaning. The literal meaning of the Chinese word for America is 美国 “beautiful country” and for England is 英国 “flourishing beautiful country.” The kanji 英 means “excellent; English.”

The kun-yomi is not in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /e’e/ is 英訳 (“English translation” /eeyaku/), 英和辞典 (“English-Japanese dictionary” /eewaji’ten/) and 英雄 (“hero” /eeyuu/).

(7) 映 “to be reflected; be imaged”

History of the kanji 映In the ten style of the kanji 映, the left side was 日 “the sun,” and the right side meant “the center” of a person’s body. From the outline of a person in the sun, it meant “to be reflected; to be imaged.”

The kun-yomi 映る /utsu’ru/ means “to reflect; to be imaged. ” Another kun-yomi 映える /hae’ru/ means “to glow; shine; look better.” The on-yomi /e’e/is in 映画 (“movie” /e’ega/), 反映する (“to reflect” /han-ei-suru/) and 上映される (“to be shown/screened” /joosee-sareru/).

(8) The kanji 笑 “to smile”

History of Kanji 笑Let me add one more kanji that has the shape 大 to mean “person.” In the ten style of the kanji 笑, the top was bamboo. The bottom 夭 “young; to die young” by itself has a fuller history, shown on the right side. History of Kanji 夭

The kanji 夭 In oracle bone style and bronze ware style, a person was swaying his hands and head in dancing, and the pliant posture originally meant “young.” The meaning “young” came to be used to mean “to die young” in the word 夭折する (“to die young” /yoosetsu-suru/). On the other hand the kanji 笑 with bamboo at the top, a pliant plant swaying easily in wind, gave the meaning “to smile” from easily smiling.

The kun-yomi 笑う/warau/ means “to laugh; smile,” and is in 笑い声 (“laughter” /waraigo’e/), 苦笑いする (“to smile a wry smile” /nigawa’rai-suru/), 大笑いする (“to roar; to laugh hard” /oowa’rai-suru/). Another kun-yomi /e’mu/ is in 笑顔 (“smiling face” /e’gao/). The on-yomi /sho’o/ is in 冷笑する (“to sneer at” /reeshoo-suru/), 爆笑する (“to burst into laughter” /bakushoo-suru/).

In this post we have looked at kanji that originated from the image of a standing person viewed from the front – 大. In the next post, we will look at the kanji whose original image included the ground that a person was standing on – 立. [March 14, 2015.]

The Kanji 悪亜惑忘忙忍認恭 – 心こころ (5)


(1) The kanji 悪 “bad; vice” and 亞 “secondary; Asia”

History of the kanji 悪For the kanji 悪, the top of the bronze ware style, in green, and ten style, in red, was a foundation or base of a mausoleum, with columns at the four corners. By itself it is the kanji 亜.

History of the kanji 亜The kanji 亞 — The history of the kanji 亜 is shown on the right side. (Oracle bone style, in brown)  From a foundation of a structure it signified something being suppressed. In kyujitai, in blue, the four corners showed better than the shinjitai (亜). Having the meaning of something underground, the kanji 亜 meant “secondary; not authentic.” It was also used phonetically for /a/ in the words such as 亜細亜 (“Asia” /a’jia/) and 亜流 (“secondary; imitator; follower” /aryuu/). I always find the use of the kanji 亜 for “Asia” puzzling. I have not had a chance to look into it.

For the kanji 悪 the bottom had 心 “heart.” Together they signified “bad feelings that were suppressed” and it is used to mean “bad; vice; evil.” The kun-yomi /wa’ru/ is in 悪い (“bad” /waru’i/) and 意地悪な (“wicked; spiteful” /iji’waruna/). Another kun-yomi /a/ is in 悪しき(“bad” /a’shiki/). The on-yomi /a’ku/ is in 悪 (“evil; badness; vice” /a’ku/), 悪人 (“villain” /akunin/), and 悪事 (“evil deed” /a’kuji/). Another on-yomi /o/ is in 嫌悪感 (“feeling of abhorrence” /ken-o’kan/) and 悪寒がする (“to shiver; shake (with a fever)” /okan-ga-suru/).

(2) The kanji 惑 “to be confused; bewildered” and 或 “or”

History of the Kanji 惑In bronze ware style of the kanji 惑, the top 或 was “an area that was protected with a halberd”, and the bottom was “a heart.” The top 或 by itself had the meaning “to have a doubt,” and is in the word 或は (“perhaps;  maybe; or” /aru’iwa/). Together they meant the state of mind that was not certain. The kanji 惑 means “to be confused; bewildered.”

The kanji 或 “perhaps; or”:  The kyujitai 國 (the kyujitai for 国) “country” and 惑 came from the same origin — “an area protected by a halberd” or “to exist.” The kanji 或 is not included on the Joyo kanji list, even though the word /aru’iwa/ is an everyday word in speaking.

The kun-yomi /mado’u/ 惑う means “to be confused; go astray,” and is in 惑わされる (“to be misled by” /madowasare’ru/) and 戸惑う (“to be puzzled; feel at a loss” /tomado’o/). The on-yomi /wa’ku/ is in 迷惑な (“annoying; inconvenient; troublesome” /me’ewaku-na/) and in 惑星 (“primary planet” /wakusee/)– because it circles around the earth!  The expression 不惑 /hu’waku/ means “to be at the age of forty,” from the belief that this is when one is supposed to be free from vacillation. Hmmm….

(3) The kanji 忘 “to forget” and 忙 “busy”

The History of the Kanji 忘The top of the kanji 忘 by itself is the kanji 亡 “not to exist; to disappear.” The History of the Kanji 亡The history of the kanji 亡 is shown on the right.

A couple of different views on the origins here. One is that it was a person and a screen, and that one disappeared when he died, thus “to disappear.” Another view is that it was a deceased with his bones bent and signified “to disappear.” The kanji 亡 meant “to pass away; to die.”

Now back to the kanji 忘. With a “heart” added at the bottom, it meant that something disappeared from the mind, that is, “to forget.” The kun-yomi 忘れる /wasureru/ means “to forget,” and is in 忘れ物 (“leaving something behind inadvertently; lost article” /wasuremono/.) The on-yomi /bo’o/ is in 忘年会 (“end-of-the-year party” /boone’nkai/), a party letting the year pass by.

A related kanji we should not leave out here is the kanji 忙 “busy.” There is no ancient writing available because it did not exist in ancient times. The components of the kanji are a heart (in this case, the bushu risshinben) and the kanji 亡 “to disappear.” Together they originally meant “to be dazed; with a blank look.” When one is very busy he becomes absent-minded. The kanji 忙 means “busy.” A clever use of the two existing components.

The kun-yomi 忙しい means “busy.” The phrase ご多忙中のところ /gotaboochuu-no-tokoro/ “during the time when you are very busy” is used in the polite expression for thanking someone for “taking so much of your valuable time.”

(4) The kanji 忍 “endurance”

Historty of the Kanji 忍The top of the kanji 忍 in ten style was a knife with a dot, which pointed out the blade. By itself 刃 /ha/ means “blade.” Its on-yomi /ji’n/ also had the meaning “something strong and resistant.” With a heart at the bottom, the kanji 忍 meant “to endure; brave out.”

The kun-yomi 忍ぶ /shino’bu/ means “to endure; brave out.” The on-yomi /ni’n/ is in 忍耐 (“endurance” /ni’ntai/) and 忍者 (“ninja spy” /ni’nja/). Out of curiosity I have just looked up the Oxford American Dictionary for ninja. The definition was “a person skilled in ninjutu.” Then what is /ni’njutsu/ (忍術)?  It says, “The traditional Japanese art of stealth, camouflage, and sabotage, developed in feudal times for espionage and now practiced as a martial art” (New Oxford American Dictionary).  That covers it all!

(5) The kanji 認 “to accept; recognize”

The History of the Kanji 認The two ten style writings for the kanji 認 had “word; language” on the left. The right side had either a blade of knife, or a heart with a knife, and was used phonetically for /ji’n/ to mean “to ensure.” Together they meant to listen patiently to what another person had to say and accept it. The kanji 認 meant “to accept” or “to recognize.”

The kun-yomi 認める /mitomeru/ means “to accept; acknowledge; recognize,” and is in 認め印 (“stamp for receipt” /mitomein/). When you receive a package, the delivery person asks you, saying,「認め印お願いします」(“Please press your name stamp here.” /mitomein onegai-shima’su/), instead of your signature. A Japanese person buys an inexpensive stamp of family name in kanji for this kind of informal purpose, which would not be used for a bank account or other important documents. The on-yomi /ni’n/ is in 確認する (“to confirm” /kakunin-suru/), 認定 (“certification” /nintee/), 否認する (‘’to deny” /hinin-suru/) and 認可する (“to grant permission” /ni’nka-suru/).

(6) The kanji 恭 “respectfully; reverentially”

We have been looking at the kanji that have two bushu, the bushu kokoro 心, which comes at the bottom, and the bushu risshinben, which comes on the left side. There is one more bushu shape that came from a heart. The inside of the bottom of the kanji 恭 is called /shitago’koro/ and has four strokes, the second of which is longer, perhaps for the artery in the ancient shape of a heart.

The History of the Kanji 恭In the ten style of 恭 the top had the making of the kanji 共, in which two hands were raising something to show the humbleness of the bearer. Inside the two hands was a heart. Together they meant “respectfully; reverentially.” It is not a productive kanji other than the kun-yomi word 恭しく (“respectfully; reverentially” /uyauyashi’ku/) and the on-yomi word 恭順 (“dutiful submission (to an order)” /kyoojun/). The word 恭順 /kyoojun/ is not an everyday life word at all. The occasion that comes to my mind is the term that historians used to describe the act of transferring power when the last Tokugawa Shogun submitted to the Emperor in 1868. [We have looked at the kanji 共 in the May 31, 2014 posting.]

Well, I think we stop our exploration of the kanji that have a heart here. There were a quite a lot already. We need to move on to other kanji. We have learned in the last five postings, in terms of shape in kanji, it comes in three different shapes, kokoro, risshinben and shitagokoro. In terms of meaning, these kanji deal with physical features of a heart, emotion, and the state or activity of one’s mind.

In the next several pots, we continue to look at the component that originally comes from a physical feature. [March 7, 2015.]