The Kanji 庫席広黄庭廷序店占座床 – まだれ


A bushu madare 广 and gandare 厂 are similar in shape but their sources are different. A madare came from a house or a building in which one side was against a wall, the other open for access, and a roof. On the other hand a gandare came from a “cliff”; thus it belongs to the category of nature in our study. The type of bushu that has the name /tare/ or /-dare/ has a top and left side and it comes from the verb 垂れる(“to hang down” /tare’ru/). /Ma/ is from the on-yomi for the kanji 麻. In this post we are going to look at the kanji 庫席広庭序店座床 and 黄廷占 as related shapes.

  1. The kanji 庫 “storage; warehouse”

History of Kanji 庫For the kanji 庫, in bronze ware style, in green, it had a wall on one side with a roof and a vehicle, 車. A place that housed a vehicle was a garage for military vehicles. It meant “storage place; warehouse.” The shape did not change through ten style, in red, and kanji. There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ko/ is in 車庫 (“garage” /sha’ko/), 車庫入れ (“driving a car into a garage” /shakoire/), 書庫 (“library; stacks of books” /sho’ko/), 文庫本 (“pocket edition” /bunkobon/) and 在庫 (“inventory” /zaiko/).

  1. The kanji 席 “seat”

History of Kanji 席For the kanji 席, in bronze ware style inside the house was a piece of cloth to spread over a seat. The shape in gray, which the Setsumon gave as an earlier style 古文 /kobun/ than ten style, had a woven mat inside the house. Together they signified “a place to sit; a seat.” In ten style, it took the bronze ware style writing except that a cooking pot was added above a cloth. From people sitting by a cooking pot over a fire, it meant a “seat; a place to sit.” There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi 席 /se’ki/ “seat” is in 座席 (“seat” /zaseki/), 空席 (“empty seat” /kuuseki/), 席順 (“seating order” /sekijun/), 同席する (“to be among company” /dooseki-suru).

  1. The kanji 広 “wide; spacious”

History of Kanji 広For the kanji 広, in oracle bone style, in brown, the inside of a house was a fire arrow with a balancing weight or combustible in the middle. When a fire arrow was shot in the air at night it illuminated a wide area. In bronze ware style the wall on the right side was lost. It meant “wide; spacious.” The ten style writing was reflected in the kyujitai 廣, in blue, in which an arrowhead was separate. In shinjitai, the inside was totally replaced by the katakana /mu/ ム, which was often used to replace a complex shape.

History of Kanji 黄(frame)The kanji 黄: As we can easily guess from the kyujitai of the kanji 広, the kanji 広 was closely related to the kanji 黄 “yellow.” The kanji 黄 came straight out of the pictograph of a fire arrow. The color of a fire was yellow and that became its meaning. The history of the kanji 黄 is shown on the right. The kyujitai shown 黃 is in Mincho style (The kyokashotai font I use does not include the kyujitai for 黄). If we look closely at the kyujitai, we see that there was an extra stroke that showed an arrowhead in ten style.

The kun-yomi 広い /hiro’i/ means “wide; spacious,” and is in 広場 (“square; plaza” /hi’roba/), 広間 (“hall; large room” /hi’roma/) and 手広く (“extensively” /tebiro’ku/). The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 広告 (“advertisement” /kookoku/).

  1. The kanji 庭 “garden” and  廷 “courtyard”

History of Kanji 庭For the kanji 庭, the earliest writing sample available to us is in ten style. It had a wall on one side and a roof, and the inside was 廷 “court.” Fortunately I have found the ancient writing of the kanji 廷, shown on the right.

History of Kanji 廷(frame)The Kanji 廷: 廷 by itself is a kanji and it’s bronze ware style writings are abundant. In (a) and (b) it had a standing person on the upper right, a mound of soil in the middle, and a wall on the lower left side. Together they signified a place where the god of the earth was being celebrated in the courtyard of the palace. It meant “court; courtyard.” In (c) the three lines signified rice wine being sprinkled to sanctify the area. In ten style (d), the lower left became what would become a bushu ennyoo “extended roadway.” It is used in the word 宮廷 (“royal court” /kyuutee/).

Later on by adding a bushu madare 广 “house with one side open,” 庭 meant “garden.” The kun-yomi 庭 /niwa/ means “garden,” and is in 庭先 (“front garden” /niwasaki/), 中庭 (“inner court” /nakaniwa/), and 庭いじり (“gardening” as a hobby /niwai’jiri/). The on-yomi /te’e/ is in 庭園 (“large garden” /teen/).

  1. The kanji 序 “order; beginning” and 予 “advance; preliminary”

History of Kanji 序In ten style of the kanji 序, the inside shape 予 was a weaving shuttle that was pushed through the loom between the threads. In order for the shuttle to go through, the threads were loosened to make room. From making room in advance it meant “in advance; preliminary.” The shape of a wall and a roof was used to signify the eave or addition to the main house. The extended area next to the main house was used as a place or school where propriety was taught. From that the kanji 序 meant “order; beginning of an order.” The kun-yomi 序でに /tsuide-ni/ means “while (you) are at it; taking the opportunity.” The on-yomi /jo/ is in 順序よく (“in good order” /ju’njoyoku/), 序列 (“order; ranking” /joretsu/), 秩序 (“order; ranking’ /chitsu’jo”).

The next three kanji did not have ancient writing but by adding a bushu madare to an existing kanji, a new kanji was created.

  1. The kanji 店 “shop; store” and 占 “divination; fortune telling”

In the kanji 店, inside the bushu madare is 占, and 占 was used phonetically to mean “a place; to occupy.” Adding a bushu madare, “a house with one side open,” they meant “store; shop.” The kun-yomi 店 /mise’/ means “store; shop,” and is in 出店 “stall; booth.” The on-yomi /te’n/ is in 小売店 (“retail store” /kouri’ten/), 免税店 (“duty-free store” /menze’eten/). Customarily it is also read as /tana’/, and it is in 店子 (“tenant” /tanako/) and 店卸し (“inventorying; stocktaking” /tanaoroshi/).

History of Kanji 占(frame)The Kanji 占: We have oracle bones style samples for the kanji 占, as shown on the right. In the left sample the top was lines that appeared on a tortoise shell or an animal bone when it was heated. In the right sample the exterior line was probably the outline of the tortoise shell or an animal bone. The crack lines were read as the god’s oracle. Together they meant “fortune telling; divination.” How those lines were interpreted by a fortuneteller is not known. It is used in 占い (“fortune telling; divination” /uranai/) in kun-yomi, and 占領軍 (“occupation army” /senryo’ogun/) in on-yomi.

  1. The kanji 座 “a place to sit; company; to sit”

History of Kanji 坐(frame)The kanji 座 does not have ancient writing. It is believed to be the newer form of the 坐 “to sit.”

The Kanji 坐: The kanji 坐 had the ancient writings, as shown on the right. The earlier style, in gray, had two people (人) facing each other and the middle was the ground (土). Together they meant “to sit.” The kanji 坐 is not a Joyo kanji and now the kanji 座 is used in place of 坐.

For the kanji 座, 坐 was used phonetically for /za/ to mean “to sit.” Adding a bushu madare “house” made a kanji that meant “a place to sit.” From people sitting and doing something together, it also meant a “troupe” or “company.”

The kun-yomi /suwaru/ 座る means “to sit,” and is in 居座る (“to stay on for a long time” /isuwa’ru/), usually an unwelcome act. The on-yomi /za/ is in 正座する (“to sit on one’s heels; to sit up straight” /seeza-suru/), 土下座する (“to kneel down on the ground (in begging forgiveness)” /dogeza-suru/), 一座 (“troupe” /ichi’za/) and 座を保つ (“to keep a group entertained” /za-o-tamo’tsu/). The expression 座右の銘 /zayuu-no-me’e/ means “one’s favorite motto.” StrokeOrder座The stroke order is shown on the right.

  1. The kanji 床 “floor: bed”

The kyujitai for the kanji 床 was 牀, in which the left side was a vertically placed bed with legs, and the right side was the kanji 木 “wood.” Together they meant a wooden bed, a wooden surface or floor. In shinjitai, the bed has been replaced by a bushu madare “house.” It meant “bed” or “floor.” The kun-yomi 床 /yuka/ means “floor.” Another kun-yomi /toko/ is in 床につく (“to go to bed; to be sick in bed” /toko-ni-tsu’ku/), 床屋 (“barbers shop; barbers” /tokoya/), 床の間 (“an alcove in Japanese house” to hang art work or to place flowers and objects. /tokonoma/) and 寝床 (“a place to sleep; bed; futon laid out on tatami” /nedoko’/). The on-yomi /sho’o/ is in 病床 (“sick bed” /byooshoo/).

In the next three postings, we are going to look at the kanji that contain 田 “rice paddies” and the related kanji. [June 27, 2015]

The Kanji 穴空究突窓探深写 – あなかんむり


In this post we are going to look at kanji that originated from “an opening in a cave dwelling”– 穴空究突窓探深写. The bush is called anakanmuri.

  1. The kanji 穴 “hole”

History of Kanji 穴The earliest writing sample for the kanji 穴 that I was able to find was in ten style, shown in red. It was explained in Setsumon as comprised of an opening in a cave dwelling and the phonetically-used shape 八. Another view treats it as a single pictograph of a cave dwelling with an entrance. Either way, the outer line was a cave dug out for a dwelling, rather than a free-standing house that people built like the origin of the bushu ukanmuri. When it is used by itself as a kanji, 穴 meant a “hole.” When used as a bushu, it meant “a hole; emptiness,” and the lines on both sides became much shorter in the kanji. The kun-yomi /ana’/ 穴 “hole” is in ほら穴 (“cave” /horaana/), 穴埋めする (“to make up the deficit” /anaume-suru/), 穴場 (“good unknown spot” /anaba/). The expression 穴があったら入りたい /ana’-ga-attara hairita’i/ means that you are so embarrassed that you wish you could sink through the floor. The on-yomi /ke’tsu/ is in the expression 墓穴を掘る (“to dig one’s own grave” /boketsu-o-ho’ru/).

  1. The kanji 空 “sky; empty”

History of Kanji 空In bronze ware style of the kanji 空, in green, the shape 工 (a) was used phonetically to mean “an arch-like shape,” as in in the kanji 虹 “rainbow.” In (b) 工 was placed inside a large dome shape. The inside of the dome shape was empty. Together they signified “large emptiness.” The sky was viewed as having a dome shape that was empty, so it also meant “sky.” The ten style writing (c) was the stylized version of (b). In kanji (d), the two elements were separated and the cave opening became a bushu anakanmuri (/anaka’mmuri/). The kanji 空 has four different kun-yomi. /So’ra/ 空 means “sky,” and is in 絵空事 (“pipe dream” /esora’goto/), 空々しい (“transparently false” /sorazorashi’i/). /Kara’/ 空 means “empty,” and is in 空っぽ (“empty” /karappo/). The third kun-yomi /aku/ 空く means “to become empty,” and is in 空き部屋 (“room vacancy” /akibeya/). The fourth kun-yumi /munashi’i/ 空しい means “empty; vain.”  The on-yomi /ku’u/ is in 空港 (“airport” /kuukoo/) and 空中 (“in the air” /kuuchuu/).

  1. The kanji 究 “to investigate thoroughly”

History of Kanji 究In ten style, the outer component was “a dwelling entrance; to dig a hole in a cave.” The inside 九 /kyu’u/ was used phonetically to mean something winding or bent. Together, digging deep in a winding shape meant “to investigate throughly to find the answer.” The kun-yomi 究める /kiwame’ru/ means “to investigate thoroughly.” The on-yomi /kyu’u/ is in 究明 (“thorough investigation” /kyuumee/), 研究 (“research” /kenkyuu/), and 究極的な (“ultimate” /kyuukyokutekina/).

  1. The kanji 突 “to thrust; sudden move”

History of Kanji 突For the kanji 突, the oracle bone style sample, in brown, had a cave opening at the top and a dog at the bottom. A dog? Really?  If we look at the ten style sample, the bottom  was a dog. A dog thrusting out of a hole meant “to thrust; sudden move.” In kyujitai, in blue, the top was a bushu anakanmuri, and the bottom was the kanji 犬 “dog.”  In shinjitai the kanji 犬 lost a dot and became the kanji 大. So, now it is as if the two components would mean a person thrusting out of a hole. The kun-yomi 突く (“to push; thrust; shove” /tsu’ku/) is in 突き落とす (“to push someone off/over” /tsukioto’su/). The on-yomi /to’tsu/ is in 唐突に (“abruptly” /toototsu-ni/), 突然 (“all of a sudden” /totsuzen/) and 突風 (“gust; a flurry of wind” /toppuu/).

  1. The kanji 窓 “window”

History of Kanji 窓The kanji 窓 was a variant of the kyujitai 窗 (d). There were three different ten style writings for 窗 given in Setsumon. (a) was a skylight or an air vent in the ceiling. (b) had a cave dwelling or a house with an opening on the exterior, and the inside was a skylight or an air vent in the ceiling. In (c) a heart was added to (b) at the bottom. From a skylight or air vent in the ceiling, it meant “window.” Why a ”heart” was added in (c) is not clear. In the kyujitai 窗, inside the air vent was replaced by a katakana /ta/ タ. In shinjitai (e), the middle in (c), or the bottom in (d), was further replaced by a katakana ム shape, which was used to simplify a complex shape, and a heart was kept. The kun-yomi 窓 /ma’do/ means “window,” and is in 天窓 (“skylight” /te’nmado/) and 窓口 (“window; teller” /mado’guchi/). The on-yomi /so’o/ is in 車窓 (“view from a train or bus window” /shasoo/), 同窓会 (“school reunion” /doosookai/) and 同窓生 (“someone who went to the same school” /dooso’osee/).


The next  two kanji 探 and 深 have a bushu wakanmuri (ワかんむり /waka’nmuri/), instead of ukanmuri (ウかんむり) or 穴かんむり, because it lacks a dot at the top. But if we look at their ten style writings, we see that it did have a dot at the top having the original meaning of a cave opening.

  1. The kanji 探 “to search”

History of Kanji 探The ten style writing of the kanji 探 had a hand on the left, which signified “an act one does using a hand.” On the right side, below the cave dwelling opening, there was a what we are calling in this blog sideways hand (ヨ) and a fire (火).  Together they signified a hand looking for something in the darkness of a cave using a torch. From that it  meant “to search, to look for.” In the kanji on the right, the bushu anakanmuri lost the top and became a wakanmuri with 八, and the bottom lost a hand, and the fire became 木. The kun-yomi /sagasu/ 探す means “to search for; hunt; seek,” and is in 探し出す (“to find; locate” /sagashida’su/), 探し当てる (“to find out; locate” /sagashiate’ru/), 探し物をする (“to look for something missing” /sagasimono-o-suru). The on-yomi /ta’n/ is in 探検 (“exploration” /tanken/) and 探検家 (“explorer” /tankenka/).

7.  The kanji 深 “deep”

History of Kanji 深For the kanji 深, in ten style, the left side was “water.” The right side was “to search for something deep in a cave with a light from the fire. Together with “water” they signified “to search for something deep in the water.” From that it meant “deep.” The kun-yomi 深い /huka’i/ means “deep” and is in 根深い (“deeply-rooted” /nebuka’i/), 奥深い (“profound” /okuhuka’i/), and 深み (“hole; depth” /hukami’/). The on-yomi /shi’n/ is in 深刻な (“serious; grave” /shinkokuna/) and 意味深長な (“profound; meaning; significant” /i’mi shinchoona/).

8. The kanji 写 “to copy”

History of Kanji 写I am adding the kanji 写 here even though it is not related to a bush anakanmuri. The kanji 写 had the kyujitai 寫, which reflected the ten style writing more closely. In ten style, the exterior was a house. The shape inside has different views, including a slipper that people wore inside a palace. From changing shoes, the meaning of “to take it to somewhere else” may have been created. It came to mean “to copy.” In shinjitai, the top lost a dot, becoming a bushu wakanmuri, and the bottom was replaced by the kanji 与 ”to give; provide,” a totally unrelated kanji. The kun-yomi 写す /utsu’su/ means “to copy; take a picture,” and is in the noun 写し (“copy” /utsushi’/), 生き写しの (“life-like” /ikiutsushino/), 書き写す (“to copy down” /kakiutsu’su/). The on-yomi /sha/ is in 写真 (“photograph” /shashin/), 描写 (“description” /byoosha/), 写生 (“sketch” /shasee/), and 写実的な (“naturalistic; realistic” /shajitsutekina/).

In the next post we are going to look at another bushu that pertains to a house or a part of a house — a bushu madare. [June 20, 2015]

The kanji 家宇宙宮官管館–うかんむり


Now that we have finished with physical features of a person and postures, we begin shapes that originated from human habitats. The first shape we look at is a house. The most common shape for a house is what is known as a bushu ukanmuri (宀) – a truncated shape of a katakana /u/ ウ and a kanmuri (冠) “crown; cap.” A bushu ukanmuri is often explained as a “roof,” but we will see that in the ancient writing it was a house with walls reaching the ground or a huge cover that wrapped around completely.

1 The kanji 家 “house; family”

History of Kanji  家The kanji 家 is a familiar kanji even to a beginning learner. On the left, In oracle bone style, in brown, bronze ware style, in green, and ten style, in red, it had a house, and inside that was a pig. Together they meant a house that had domesticated animals such as pigs. Then it meant a “house” where people live. The bottom by itself is the kanji 豕 (“hog; pig” /i’noko/), which we do not use much at all. StrokeOrder家The stroke order is shown on the right.

History of Kanji 豕 (frame)The history of 豕 is shown on the right. In the oracle bone style sample we can recognize the shape as some sort of animal that was placed vertically. The second bronze ware style sample was unmistakably a picture of a pig. In ten style, it was the skeleton of a pig.  Using this shape, we get the kanji 豚 (“pig” /buta/) by adding a bushu nikuzuki “fresh; meat.”

The kun-yomi is 家 /ie’/ “house; home.” Another kun-yomi /uchi/ (“house; home” /uchi/) is in 家中で (“the entire family” /uchijuu-de/.) The on-yomi /ka/ is in 家族 (“family” /ka’zoku/), 家庭 (“home; family” /katee/) and 一家 “the entire family” /i’kka/).  Another on-yomi /ke/ is a go-on and is in 家来 (“vassal” /ke’rai/) and 石川家 (“the Ishikawa family” /ishikawa’ke/).

2  The kanji 宇 “space”

History of Kanji 宇For the kanji 宇, inside was 于. History of Kanji 于 (frame)The development of 于 is shown on the right. 于 came from supporting poles in making a bent shape, and had the sound /u/. 于 meant “a large bent shape.” A universe was viewed as a space that was covered by an imaginary huge semi-circular cover, like a dome. So in this kanji, the bushu ukanmuri was the semi-circular cover of the space, rather than a house. The kanji 宇 meant “roof; space.” There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /u/ is in 宇宙 (“universe” /u’chuu/).

3 The kanji 宙 “in the air”

History of Kanji 宙For the kanji 宙, the oracle bone style and ten style samples had a house or big cover. Inside the cover, 由 came from an empty gourd. When a gourd ripens, its oily substance leaks out and the inside becomes hollow. Emptiness under a big cover meant “space; suspended in the air.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /chu’u/ is in 宙ぶらりんの (“pendant; unsettled” /chuuburarin-no/), 宙返り (“somersault; tumble” /chuuga’eri/), 宙吊り (“suspension in the air” /chuuzuri/) and 宙に浮く (“to float in the air” /chu’u-ni uku/), 宇宙飛行士 (“astronaut” /uchuuhiko’oshi/).

4  The kanji 宮 “palace; prince”

History of Kanji 宮In oracle bone style and bronze ware style, inside the house were two square shapes, which signified rooms or houses. In ten style the two squares became connected with a short line. “A house or estate that had many rooms or houses” meant a “palace.” It also meant the royalty who lived in a palace or mansion – “prince or princess.” The kun-yomi 宮 /miya’/ “prince; princess” is in 宮様 (“loyal prince or princess” /miyasama/) and 宮仕え (“court service; life of a government official” /miyazu’kae/). The on-yomi /kyu’u/ is in 宮殿 (“palace” /kyuuden/), 王宮 (“royal palace; court” /ookyuu/). Another on-yomi /gu’u/ is in 明治神宮 “the Meiji Shinto shrine” /meejijingu’u/).

5  The kanji 官 “official; governmental; sense”

History of Kanji 官For the kanji 官, in oracle bone style and bronze ware style, inside a house was a shape in which two round shapes were connected. This shape was traditionally viewed as mounds of dirt or a hilly area where many people gathered and worked (based on the Setsumon account). Together they meant “government office; official.” There is another view (Shirakawa) that inside was a piece of meat that was offered at the altar in a military ceremony before going to a battle. It was a place where only military leaders were able to go inside. The kanji that contain this, such as 師 and 追,  also had a military origin. Bureaucracy is an organization of many offices, each having its own function in a huge network. Interestingly this meaning of having a network was applied to senses in a human body. The 官 also meant “body senses.” StrokeOrder官The stroke order is shown on the right.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ka’n/ s in 官民 (“governmental and non-governmental” /ka’nmin/), 官僚 (“bureaucrat” /kanryoo/), 官吏 (“government employee” /ka’nri), 官立 (“government-supported or -run” /kanritsu/) and 教官 (“instructor” /kyookan/). For the meaning of organ, it is in 器官 (”organ” /ki’kan/), 五官 (“five organs; five senses-目耳鼻舌身” /gokan/), and 官能的 (“sensual”/kannooteki-na/).

6  The kanji 管 “pipe”

History of Kanji 管We have two more kanji that contain 官 – 管 and 館 for this post. In the ten style of 管, the top was a bushu takekanmuri “bamboo.” The inside of a bamboo stalk is hollow, like a pipe. The bottom 官 was used phonetically for /ka’n/. Together they meant a pipe. It also meant “to control, administer.” The kun-yomi 管 (“pipe; tube” /ku’da/) is in the expression 管を巻く (“to talk incoherently over drink” /ku’da-o-maku/), an interesting expression, isn’t it. The on-yomi /ka’n/ is in 管理する (“to manage; administer” /ka’nri-suru/), 保管 (“custody; safekeeping” /hokan/), 水道管 (“water pipe” /suidookan/) and 血管 (“blood vessel” /kekkan/).

7  The kanji 館 “large building; mansion”

History of Kanji 館In the ten style of 館, the left side came from food in a bowl. It became a bushu shoku-hen “to eat; food.” The right side was 官, which meant many people inside a house. Together they signified a place where many people gathered and ate. It means “large building; mansion.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ka’n/ is in 旅館 (“Japanese-style inn” /ryokan/), 図書館 (“library” /tosho’kan/).

In the next post, I am thinking about discussing the bushu anakanmuri and others. [June 13, 2015]

The Kanji 民眠盲衆自面首道導

  1. The kanji 民 “people”

The origin of the kanji 民 was closely related an eye and I could have discussed this kanji more than a year ago when we looked at “eye” in five posts (from March through April in 2014.) But the origin of the kanji 民 is so gruesome and would cast such a shadow on our values that I have avoided discussing it until now. But it is time for us to face the historical fact. So let us look at it.

History of Kanji 民The two bronze ware writings, in green, had an eye at the top and a needle piercing an eye to make one blind. It signified that people without ability to see things would follow the order of their ruler blindly. Ten style sample is in red. According to the reference I have used said that this reflected the slavery of ancient times in which captives from conquered foreign tribes were made slaves. Then it became more inclusive of newly conquered subjects to rule or just “people.” From the fact that the ancient Chinese writing originated as the writing for a ruler to communicate with a god in ruling his country, this standpoint of treating people as “those who obey blindly” is not entirely surprising. Nonetheless for us who breezily accept democracy 民主主義 (/minshushu’gi/) as a principle of governance by the people in our life, it makes us to pause to think a little about the word-formation – “those who obey the master blindly.”  The kanji 民 means “people; civil; non-governmental.”

The kun-yomi 民 /ta’mi/ by itself is the word for “people; subject.” The on-yomi /mi’n/ is in 国民 (“people; nationality; citizen” /kokumin/), 民主的な (“democratic” /minshuteki-na/) and 民間 (“non-governmental; civilian; people-level” /minkan/), as contrasted to the word that has the kanji 官 /ka’n/ “governmental; bureaucratic.”

History of Kanji 盲The kanji 盲 “blind”– The kanji for “blindness; blind person” is 盲. The top is 亡 “to disappear; loss; die,” and the bottom is 目 “eye,” as shown in ten style on the right. Together “loss of eye” meant “blindness.” The kun-yomi 盲 /mekura/ means “blind,” and the on-yomi /mo’o/ is in 盲目 (“blind” /moomoku/), 盲目的に (“blindly” /moomokuteki-ni/) and 文盲 (“illiterate person” /monmoo/).

  1. The kanji 眠 “to sleep; sleepy”

The kanji 眠 contains the kanji 民. There is no ancient writing for this kanji, which suggests that it was created at a later time. But with the original making of 民 “one cannot see” and an eye, 目, together,  the kanji 眠 means “to sleep.” The kun-yomi 眠る /nemuru/ means “to sleep; slumber; lie dormant,” and is in 眠い or 眠たい (“sleepy” /nemui/ or /nemutai/), and 居眠り (“doze” /ine’muri). The on-yomi /mi’n/ is in 睡眠(“sleep” /suimin/), 睡眠不足 (“lack of sleep” /suiminbu’soku/) and 仮眠を取る (“to take a nap” /kamin-o to’ru/).

  1. The kanji 衆 “people; mass”

History of Kanji 衆Another kanji for people en mass is 衆. In the three ancient styles on the left, the bottoms all had three people standing in the same direction, signifying “people following.” In kanji, two usually means “many,” so having three are really a “mass of people.” There are different interpretations for the top, however – (1) an enclosed area in oracle bone style; (2) the sun in bronze ware style; and (3) an eye in ten style. The top and the bottom together signified “many people working under watchful eyes following the order under the sun.” From that it meant “a lot of people; mass.” Like the kanji 民, in 衆 we have a glimpse of the fact that the writing was created from the standpoint of a ruler. Not surprising at all. StrokeOrder衆In kanji the top became 血 “blood,” instead of a sideways eye as seen in the ten style sample. It is interesting to see how a person was represented in three different shapes in three different writing styles at the bottom. The stroke order is shown on the right.

There is no kun-yomi. The two on-yomi are /shu’u/ (and /shu/), and is in 大衆文化 (“popular culture” /taishuubu’nka/) and 群衆 (“crowd; throng” /gunshuu/).

  1. The kanji 自 “oneself”

History of Kanji 自We have touched upon the kanji 自 in connection with the kanji 息 “to breathe.” [February 21, 2015 post] — The top of the kanji 息, was a nose, through which one breathed. The meaning of a nose as a physical feature was dropped completely in the kanji 自, and it means “oneself.” The kanji for a “nose” is 鼻.

The kun-yomi 自ら /mi’zukara/ means “oneself; personally,” used for a person, and 自ずと /onozuto/ means “spontaneously; by itself,” used for a situation. The on-yomi /ji/ is in 自分 (“oneself” /jibun/), 自由 (“liberty; freedom” /jiyu’u/), 自立 (“independence; self-supportive” /jiritsu/), 自他共に (“to everyone’s eyes; apparently” /ji’tatomoni; ji’ta tomoni/). Another on-yomi /shi/ is in 自然 (“nature” /shizen/).

  1. The kanji 面 “face; mask”

History of Kanji 面For the kanji 面 in oracle bone style, in the center was an eye placed diagonally, with an outline. The outline was the outline of a face. It meant “face.” In ten style the inside was the same shape as the kanji 自, which originally was a nose, rather than an eye, and the line was extended at the top, signifying a face. A square shape that surrounded the face was a mask. The kanji 面 meant “face; mask.” If you have to choose only one feature to signify a face in an ultimate minimal way, which one of the two, “an eye” or “nose,” would you choose? A tough choice, isn’t it.

The kun-yomi /tsura’/ by itself means “face” and is in rough male speech. It is in 面当て (“out of spite” /tsuraate/) and 上っ面 (“exterior; surface” /uwattsura/). Another kun-yomi 面 /omote’/ means “face; mask,” and /omo/ is in 面白い (“interesting” /omoshiro’i/). The on-yomi /me’n/ is in 仮面 (“mask” /kamen/) and 面目をつぶす (“to be disgraced; lose one’s face” /menboku-o-tsubusu/) and 面食らう (“to be bewildered; be taken aback” /menkurau/). It is also in 面倒な (“troublesome” /mendo’o-na/), and 面倒くさい (“very troublesome” /mendookusa’i/) (Colloquially we say めんどくさい /mendokusa’i/). StrokeOrder面The stroke order is rather difficult to figure out. The sixth stroke is the key as shown on the right.

  1. The kanji 首 “neck; head”

History of Kanji 首For the kanji 首, in oracle bone style, (a), it was a face with an eye inside and the hair on top. In bronze ware style in (b, c, d) the hair got detached from the face. It meant “head; chief.” In (d) and (e) inside the face appeared to be the shape that signified a nose, instead of an eye. In ten style (e) the top three wavy lines were the hair. So the transition from “eye” to “nose” that we saw in the kanji 面 above is evident here too. Even though it originally came from “head,” when it is used by itself, the kanji 首 /kubi/ means a “neck,” not a “head.” For “a head” as in a physical feature, /atama’/, we use the kanji 頭.

The kun-yomi 首 /kubi/ is used in 首になる (“to be fired” /kubi-ni-na’ru/) and if you are an employer it would be 首にする (”to fire” /kubi-ni-suru/). Either act is not a pleasant experience for the both parties. The on-yomi /shu/ is in 首都 (“capital of a country” /shu’to), 首相 (“prime minister” /shushoo/) and 自首する (“to surrender oneself to the police”/jishu-suru”).

  1. The kanji 道 “road; way”

History of Kanji 道In the bronze ware style for the kanji 道 (a), inside a crossroad there was a head with hair sticking out, as we have just seen above in 首, and a footprint at the bottom. Together they signified that one stopped his feet at the crossroad with his head facing the way to go – thus it meant “road; way.” The sample (b) had a hand at the bottom, instead of a footprint. There are a few more samples in the reference that I use that had a hand at the bottom like this. The kanji 道 and  a hand,寸, make up another kanji 導 “to guide,” as we are about to look at next. So, in the beginning the kanji 道 was inclusive of the meaning “to guide.” (c) was a later sample in bronze ware style and had a crossroad on the left side and a head on the right and a footstep at the bottom.  In ten style (d) it was more in line with the components in (c). In shinjitai kanji the left side becomes a bushu shinnyoo “to move forward.”

The kun-yomi 道 /michi/ “road” is also in 近道 (“short cut” /chika’michi/) and 道草を食う (“to loiter on the way; waste time” /michikusa-o-ku’u/). The on-yomi /do’o/ is in 道路 (“road” /do’oro/), 歩道 (“pedestrian’s walk; side-walk” /hodoo/) and 道理で (“it is no wonder” /dooride/). Many Japanese traditional art forms have the kanji 道, such as 茶道 (“tea ceremony” /sa’doo/), 柔道 (“judo” /ju’udoo/), 剣道 (“Japanese swordsmanship” /ke’ndoo/), 華道 (“flower arrangement” /ka’doo/), 武道 (“marshall arts” /bu’doo/) and 書道 (“calligraphy; brush writing art” /sho’doo/). Well, whatever the traditional art form is, if it has 道 at the end, a student is expected to have years of practice, often with disciplined devotion with no particular end in sight!  So, it requires spiritualism and means a way of living a life.

  1. The kanji 導 “to lead the way; guide”

History of Kanji 導The kanji 導 has a hand (寸) at the bottom of the kanji 道. A hand showing the way to move forward meant “to lead the way; guide.” As mentioned above in 道, 道 and 導 were one writing originally, then later on the two meanings came to have different kanji.

The kun-yomi 導く /michibi’ku/ means “to lead the way.” The on-yomi /do’o/ is in 指導する (“to guide; teach someone” /shi’doo-suru/) and 導入する (“to introduce or bring in something new” /doonyuu-suru/).

Since the posts in March, 2014, we have focused on kanji that originated from a physical feature of a person and a posture. Undoubtedly there are other points we could take up, but it is time for us to move onto other origins. I am planning to start to discuss the kanji that originated from human habitats in the next post. [June 6, 2015]