In the last post we looked at the kanji that originated from a baby. Now we return to a posture made by an adult, but this time with two additional arms in focus — “a person kneeling down with his arms stretching forward.” What he was doing using the two hands is the focus of this and the next posts. It may be a little messy because these kanji look so alike, and some kanji are outside the 1100 kanji that I discuss (but they are mostly Joyo kanji, and therefore are used regularly).
The kanji we are going to look at — 熱勢芸(藝)執摯孰熟塾築恐 — had the common shape of either 丸 or 凡 on the right side or upper right side of the kanji. They came from the same ten style shape, as shown on the right side in red. In ten style in the middle are two hands, and the long contour that surrounded the two hands was a person kneeling down. There are at least four different components that were teamed up with this shape. We are going to look at them as [A. Top of the kanji 熱勢芸(藝)] and [B. 執 in 執摯] in this post, and the components [C. 享 in 孰熟塾] and [D. 凡 in 築恐] in the next post.
1. The kanji 丸 “round; whole”
Before we begin to look at the component 丸 in kanji, we need to know that this shape standing alone is the kanji 丸 /maru/. The kanji 丸 came from a totally different origin, and is not related to kanji that takes 丸 as its component. The history of the kanji 丸 is shown on the left. In both bronze ware style, in green, and ten style, in red, it was a person with his back bending forward facing a cliff. From a body in a coiled up position under a cliff, it meant “round.” In Japanese, a round shape also meant “whole; entirety.” The kun-yomi /maru/ means “circle” and is in 丸い (“round“ /marui/) and 丸焼き (“roasting whole” /maruyaki/), 丸ごと (“whole; altogether” /marugoto/), 丸つぶれ (“complete destruction; utter failure” /marutsubure/), and 日の丸 (“Japanese rising sun flag” /hinomaru/). The on-yomi /ga’n/ is in 弾丸 (“bullet” /dangan/).
Now we begin our exploration of 丸 as a kanji component.
A “Plant and soil” in 熱勢藝(芸)
The writing whose development of is shown on the left side is not a kanji in Japanese. Since Some kanji only have ten style writing, this well-documented writing helps us to understand the development of the shapes and meaning of the kanji that we are interested in now.
In oracle bone style, (a) and (b), and in bronze ware style, (c), it had a person who was kneeling down as he held a young plant in a pot with two hands. In kanji origin, doing something with both hands generally signified “with care and attention,” as we have seen in the earlier posts about two hands. So, these writings meant “to take care of a young plant carefully.” From sample (d) on, the plant was placed on the ground (土) directly. The bulge we see under a plant in (d) signified a lump of soil to celebrate the god of the earth, as shown in the development of the kanji 土 shown on the right. The right side of (d) looks similar to a “dog” in ancient writing, but I cannot find any explanation in the references. In (e), the upper right was a crouched body with two hands and the lower right was a woman. In ten style, (f), the right side went back to having just a crouching person with two hands. In kanji shape, (g), the plant became 土 and ハ. So the component A consist of 土, ハ, 土 and 丸 in kanji. It meant “to nurse a plant” and “hand skills to grow plants; hand skills.”
2. The kanji 熱 “heat; warm; hot”
In the ten style writing of the kanji 熱, in addition to a plant on the ground and a person kneeling down with his two hands, it had 火 “fire” to signify “heat; warmth.” The writing we have just seen above (which is not a kanji now) was the original writing for this meaning. Plants grow better in a warm environment. Together they meant “warmth; heat.” In kanji, the bottom became the bushu called renga or rekka “fire,” which had four dots. We can view those four dots as small flames. Most writing that had “fire” at the bottom have this bushu in kanji. The kun-yomi is 熱い /atsu’i/ (“hot”). The on-yomi 熱 /netsu’/ means “heat” and is in 熱がある (“to have a fever” /netsu’ga aru/), 熱っぽく (“intently; enthusiastically” /netsuppo’ku/), 熱気 (“enthusiasm” /nekki/), and 熱狂的な (“exuberant; enthusiastic” /nekkyooteki-na/).
3. The kanji 勢 “vigor; momentum; impetus”
In the ten style writing of the kanji 勢, in addition to a plant on the ground and a person kneeling down with his two hands, a plough or hoe was added at the bottom. Together they signified that by using a plough or hoe to till the soil plants grew vigorously. As we have discussed, the kanji 力 came from either “strong hand” or “plough; hoe.” In this writing, 力 makes sense to view this as a tool to cultivate the field, a plough or hoe. It meant “vigor; momentum; impetus.”
The kun-yomi /ikio’i/ “rigor” is in 勢いのいい (“vigorous; to have good momentum” /ikioi-no-i’i/). The on-yomi /se’e/ is in 勢力 (“power; force” /se’eryoku/), 加勢する (“to support; back up” /kasee-suru/), and 気勢をそぐ (“to discourage” /kisee-o so’gu/). Another on-yomi /ze’e/ is in 大勢 (“many people” /oozee/ as a noun; /ooze’e de/ as an adjective). Two different word accent patterns, depending on how it is used in a sentence.
4. The kanji 芸 (藝) “skill; art”
The kyujitai 藝 of the shinjitai kanji 芸 has a fuller documentation than 熱 and 勢, as shown on the left. In oracle bone style, the two samples were almost identical to what we saw in (a) and (b) above. The bronze ware style and ten style samples were exactly the same, suggesting that the two writings came from the same writing whose meaning had originally been more inclusive. In this writing, it meant “skills and art for which one used hands.” In the kyujitai, in blue, the bushu kusakanmuri “plants” was added at the top, which came from the original meaning of growing plants. At the bottom the shape 云 was also added. Hmm… What does the shape 云 mean? We wonder.
The Kadokawa dictionary says that it came from the kanji 耘 “to cut grass” (耘 is not a Joyo kanji, but is used in 耕耘機 /koou’nki/ “tilling machine”). Shirakawa says 耘 is not related, but he did not explain why 云 was added. So, using my miniscule brain and knowledge I have to come up with something. The kanji 云 originally came from “clouds rising” and meant “cloud.” For the kanji 雲 “cloud,” later on the bushu amekanmuri (雨) “meteorological phenomenon, such as rain that falls from the sky” was added. So, could it mean that the plants grew like clouds? I only speculate – I do not have the answer. (The kanji 云 is sometimes used to mean “to say” as in 云う /iu/, but it was just a borrowing.) In shinjitai, the entire component of “two hands growing plants; hand skills that enable to grow plants or create art” disappeared, and became 芸. It has become an empty shape and does not convey much content. It is ironic that what matters most to its meaning was dropped entirely.
There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi 芸 /ge’e/ means “skill; art,” and in 芸術 (“art; fine arts” /geejutsu/), 芸人 (“performer; entertainer” /geenoo/), 芸能 (“performing art” /geenoo/), 手芸 (“needle craft” /shugee/), and 園芸 (“gardening” /engee/), which originated this writing in the first place.
B. 執 “to grab; have a power to carry out”
5. The kanji 執 “to grab; have a power to carry out”
The component B type has 幸 in the kanji 執 and 摯. The kanji 執 is also well documented as shown on the left. In oracle bone style, (a) and (b), a person kneeling down was putting his hands out to get his hands shackled. Restraining a criminal with hand shackles signified “to retain; take; grab” and it signified the authority’s act. You might say, “Wait! The kanji 幸 means good luck or happiness. How is it related to the meaning a hand shackle or handcuff?” The story of the kanji 幸 has a twist. Let us make a little detour on this.
The history of the kanji 幸 is shown on the right side. In the two oracle bone style writing samples, the symmetrical shape vertically placed was a handcuff for two hands locked on the both sides. It meant “calamity; misfortune” — to be caught as a criminal. In ten style, it took different components – the top was a person being struck in the head 夭 (do you see his head tilted?), and the bottom was the ten style shape for the kanji 逆 “reverse,” which originated from a person upside down. A reversal of one’s calamity meant “good luck.” It means “luck; happiness.”
Now back to the kanji 執. So, from having the meaning of a prisoner putting his hands out to be shackled, the writing was used for an action by the authority. The kun-yomi is 執る (“to assume the power” /to’ru/). The on-yomi /shi’tsu/ is in 執務中 (“at work; during work” /shitsumu-chuu/), 執権 (“regent” /shikken/), 刑の執行 (“execution of punishment” /ke’e-no shikkoo/), and 執刀 (“surgical operation” /shittoo/). Another on-yomi /shu’u/ is used in words that involve holding onto something for a long time, such as 執念深い (“vengeful; spiteful” /shuunenbuka’i/) and 執着する (“to be deeply attached” /shuuchaku-suru/).
6. The kanji 摯 “very earnest; very sincere”
This kanji was added to the Joyo Kanji list in 2010. It is used in only one but an important word – 真摯な (“very earnest: very sincere” /shi’nshi-na/), the virtue that Japanese culture values. (When I agreed to write a letter of recommendation in Japanese for my student, the word 真摯 was certainly essential in writing a positive letter.) The selection of the government kanji list usually focuses on how productive a kanji is in terms of making up words. The kanji 摯 is so limited in use that it had been excluded from the old Joyo Kanji list.
We have two oracle bone style samples shown above. In them on the upper right corner do you see a hand placed above the person kneeling? This extra hand is the key to this kanji. It signified “to grab a person or matter by hand firmly.” The kanji 摯 means “to grab something and work on it seriously.” In ten style, a grabbing hand was moved to the bottom.
We will continue to discuss more kanji that came from a person sitting down with his two hands stretched out in the next post. [May 9, 2015]