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]

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