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]

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