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]

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