The Kanji 令命印即節迎仰昂抑 – Posture (6) ふしづくり


In the last five posts we have looked at kanji or component shapes that originated from an image of a standing person. Is there any kanji that came from a person sitting down? Yes, there are a few. In this post we focus on the shape that is known as a bushu hushizukuri ふしづくり (卩).

1. The kanji 令 “order; law”

History of Kanji 令In the oracle bone style of the kanji 令, in brown, it was a person kneeling with his hands on his knees, each facing the opposite direction. His back was rather straight up. The triangle or a letter “A” shape above him meant “to gather many things or people under one roof.” Together they signified a person or people listening to an order of the ruler or god’s oracle. It meant “order; law.” In bronze ware style, in green, his back tilted forward, demonstrating more reverence in listening. In ten style, in red, the body bent even deeper with his hands still showing and his bent legs stretched longer in a stylized shape that was characteristic of ten style. In Mincho style kanji the bottom became angular shape, which got replaced by a katakana マ in textbook style.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /re’e/ is in 命令 (“order; decree; directive” /meeree/), 法令 (“laws and ordinances” /hooree/), and 辞令 (“written notice of an appointment” /jiree/). Another on-yomi /ryo’o/ is a go-on, and is used in the old words such as 律令制度 (“legal system” in history /ritsuryoo-se’edo/).

2. The kanji 命 “life; order”

History of Kanji 命The oracle bone style writings of the kanji 命 were the same as the kanji 令. In bronze ware style, 口 “mouth; word” was added in front of the person who was kneeling down reverently. Together from a person listening to god’s words, it meant “order.” One’s life is given by the god, thus it also meant “life.” In ten style, the shape was more stylized, which became the kanji with a hushizukuri.

The kun-yomi /i’nochi/ means “life; lifetime; most important thing; order” and is in 命がけで (“desperate; risking one’s life” /inochigake-de/.) The on-yomi /me’e/ is in 命日 (“anniversary of one’s death” /me’enichi/), 使命 (“mission” /shi’mee/) and 一生懸命 (“with all of one’s might; very hard” /isshooke’nmee/) and 運命 (“lot; fate” /u’nmee/).

3. The kanji 印 “seal; stamp”

We looked at the kanji 印 almost a year ago in connection with the left side that came from “a hand from above.” This is what I wrote: The oracle bone style showed a hand from above in front of a person who knelt down. In ten style a hand came above the person who was bowing deeply as if a hand were pushing him down. (May 24, 2014).  Since a few more writing samples are available to us now, we take this up again. History of Kanji 印On the left, the two samples of oracle bone style were mirror images of each other, a hand from above and a person who knelt down being pushed down. We are seeing more and more convincingly the samples that support our hypothesis that in oracle bone style which side an image faced did not matter. We also have two samples of bronze ware style, with the position of the hand differing. The difference corresponds with how the two components are placed in ten style (on the top and the bottom) and in kanji (the left and the right). A hand pushing a person or something down from above gave the meanings “to stamp a seal; or seal.”

The kun-yomi 印 /shirushi/ means “sign; seal; symbol; emblem,” and is in 目印 (“mark; sign; landmark” /meji’rushi/). The on-yomi /i’n/ is in 印刷 (“printing” /insatsu/), 印鑑 (“stamp; seal” /inka’n/) and 印字 (“printing; printed letter” /inji/). It is also used to mean “India” for the phonetic similarity.

4. The kanji 即 (卽) “at once; immediately; to ascend to the throne”

History of Kanji 即In the oracle bone style and bronze ware style of the kanji 即, we recognize that the left side was a part of 食, which was touched in the last post. The kanji 食 came from an image of food heaped on a dish with a lid. In 即, it did not have a lid, and on the right side was a person kneeling or standing with the food in front. From a person taking a seat for celebration meal, it signified ascending to the throne. With a heap of food, it was not an ordinary mealtime, but on a special occasion. Taking a seat for meal signified acting swiftly. The kyujitai, in blue, reflected ten style, in that we see a ladle at the bottom. The right side became simplified and became a hushizukuri.

The kun-yomi 即ち /suna’wachi/ means “that is to say; namely.” Another kun-yomi 即く /tsu’ku/ is in 王位に即く (“to ascend to the throne” /o’oi-ni tsu’ku/). The on-yomi /so’ku/ is in 早速 (“at once; promptly” /sassoku/), 即座に (“immediately; right away” /so’kuza-ni/), 即位 (“enthronement” /so’kui/) and 即売 (“sale on the spot” /sokubai/).

5. The kanji 節 “section; tune; moderation; holiday; envoy”

History of Kanji 節The kanji 節 comprises of a bushu takekanmuri “bamboo” and the kanji 即, which was used phonetically for /se’tsu./ The development is shown on the left. This kanji has a number of different meanings — A bamboo joint punctuates something that is continuous [“section”; “tune” of a song], and it prevents something from becoming excessive [“moderate”]. It was the time to sit down for a feast [“holiday or occasions”]. A foreign envoy to the imperial court had a bamboo tally that proved that he was on a genuine mission [“mission; envoy”].

The kun-yomi 節 /hushi’/ means “section; tune; occasion,” and is in 節目 (“turning point” /hushime’/). The on-yomi /se’tsu/ is in 節度を持つ (“to have restrained good behavior” /se’tsudo-o motsu/), 関節 (“joint” /kansetsu/), 節電 (“energy conservation” /setsuden/) and 使節 (“mission; envoy; delegate” /shi’setsu/).

6. The kanji 迎 “to welcome; receive”

Now we are going to look at four kanji that share the same component – 迎仰昂 and 抑 on the right side. History of Kanji 迎In ten style the left side of the kanji 迎 had a crossroad and a footprint, which became a bushu shinnyuu/shinnyoo in shinjitai. The center and right side were two people facing each other – a standing person and another person kneeling down with his back arched humbly and head lowered. Together they meant “to receive or welcome (a visitor).” A clever use of two different postures.

The kun-yomi 迎える /mukaeru/ means “to welcome; receive,” and is in 迎えに行く (“to go to pick up someone” /mukae’ni iku/) and 出迎える (“to go out to meet” /demukae’ru/). The on-yomi /ge’e/ is in 歓迎 (“welcome; reception” /kangee/), 送迎バス (“courtesy bus” /soogeeba’su/), and 迎合する (“to go along with someone’s view without own opinion” /geegoo-suru/).

7. The kanji 仰 “to respect; look up”

History of Kanji 仰For the kanji 仰, the ten style sample had a person facing left on the left side, which is a bushu ninben, “matter or act that is related to a person.” The center and right side together were used phonetically, and also had the meaning of “to look up,” from a sitting person looking upward to face a standing person, as in the kanji 迎. Altogether they meant “to respect; to look up to; to look up.”

The kun-yomi 師と仰ぐ /shi’-to ao’gu/ means “to look up to as a mentor,” and is in 天を仰ぐ (“to look up in the sky” /te’n-o ao’gu/) and 仰ぎ見る (“to look up a tree” /aogimi’ru/). Another kun-yomi is 仰せになる (“to say” /oose-ni-na’ru/) in a very honorific style. Sometimes the honorific verb おっしゃる (“to say” /ossha’ru/) is also written as 仰る. The on-yomi /gyo’o/ is in 仰天する (“to be astounded” /gyooten-suru/) and 大仰な (“exaggerated” /oogyoo-na/). Another on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 信仰 (“belief; faith” /shinkoo/).

8. The kanji 昂 “to be exalted”

History of Kanji 昂For kanji 昂 in ten style the bottom left was a standing person and the bottom right was a sitting person. A sitting person looking up to face a standing person signifying “to look upward” also created the kanji 昂, by adding the sun (日). Together with the sun 日 at the top they described the sun risen high. From that it meant “to rise; exalted.” The kun-yomi 昂る /takabu‘ru/ is in 気分が昂る (“to feel exalted” /ki’bun-ga takabu’ru/). The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 昂揚する (“to be exalted; get invigorated” /kooyoo-suru/).

9. The kanji 抑 “to restrain; press down”

History of Kanji 抑The last kanji 抑 for this post contains the shape that is common in 迎, 仰 and 昂, and yet the meaning (“to restrain; press down”) is quite opposite of those kanji. Why is that? The answer lies in its history. The oracle bone style and ten style writings shown on the left look identical or similar to the kanji 印 “seal; to stamp; sign.” Even though the two components, a kneeling person and a hand, were placed in the reverse position of the kanji 印, some scholars suggest this to be a variant of the kanji 印. So, there seem to two explanations for the kanji 抑 — one from 印, originally “a hand pushing down another person,” and another from the reverse placement of the two components that signified “to look up” — giving the meaning of a person or hand pushing down another. Both are consistent with the meaning of “to restrain; press down.”

The kun-yomi 抑える means “to press down; restrain (someone’s action.” The on-yomi /yo’ku/ is in 抑圧的 (“oppressive” /yokuatsuteki/), 抑制する (“to restrain” /yokusee-suru/) and 抑揚 (“inflection; modulation” /yokuyoo/). In Japanese pronunciation, the correct /yokuyoo/, tonal contour in this case, is very important. The name of the bushu ふしづくり must have come from the kanji 節, even though the kanji 節 belongs to the bushu takekanmuri group in the traditional classification. There are many other kanji that take this bushu shape, but we will move to other shapes in the next post. [April 18, 2015]

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