The kanji 田 “rice paddies”
We have looked at the origin of the kanji 田 “rice paddies” earlier when we discussed the kanji 男 [December 19, 2014, post]. Since then several bronze ware style samples have come to my attention, so I am adding a couple of bronze ware style samples here, in green. The oracle bone style samples, in brown, had more than a single line vertically and/or horizontally inside the rectangular shape. It was rice paddies and the lines signified levees. In the beginning stage of growing rice, fields are immersed in water inside raised ridges. Those strips of raised land also served as a footpath. The writing meant “rice paddies.” In bronze ware style, the rice paddies were simplified to four paddies. The proportion of the ten style sample, in red, was typical of ten style, which was longer than it was wide.
The kun-yomi /ta/ is in 田んぼ (田圃) /tanbo/ “rice paddies.” The on-yomi /de’n/ is in 水田 (“irrigated rice paddies” /suiden/), 油田 (“oil field” /yuden/), 炭田 (“coal field” /tanden/). It is also customarily used for the word 田舎 (“countryside” /inaka/).
The kanji 画 “drawing; plan”
For the kanji 画, in bronze ware style, it had a hand holding a brush at the top, and rice paddies at the bottom. An official recording a boundary of rice paddies meant “boundary; to draw.” In ten style, the lines surrounded rice paddies to show the boundaries in four directions. In kyujitai, in blue, it consisted of 聿 “to write” from a hand holding a brush, 田 “rice paddies,” and another line underneath 一. In shinjitai, the top was reduced to just 一, and below that 由, instead of 田, was placed inside a receptacle shape 凵.
There is no kun-yomi for 画 in the Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /ga/ is in 画家 (“painter” /gaka/), 画面 (“screen” /ga’men; gamen/), and 漫画 (“comics” /manga/). Another on-yomi /ka’ku/ is in 企画する (“to make a plan; propose a project” /kikaku-suru/), 画数 (“number of writing strokes” /kakusu’u/), 九画 (“nine strokes” /kyu’ukaku/), and 画する (“to mark an epoch or boundary” /kaku-su’ru/).
The kanji 畑 “agricultural field; specialty”
No ancient writing existed because this was created in Japan. It is a 国字 (“kanji that was created in Japan” /kokuji/). All kokuji are a composite of two semantic components. The kanji 畑 is no exception – it consists of the kanji 火 “fire” and the kanji 田 “rice paddies.” The agricultural fields that were not immersed in water would occasionally be burned to give the soil certain nutrients. Together they signified an agricultural field that was not necessarily irrigated. It meant “agricultural field.” The word /tanbo/ 田んぼ is used for rice paddies whereas the word /hatake/ 畑 is used for field that is not immersed in water. 畑 is also used for a more general sense of one’s field, such as a specialty of one’s work.
The kun-yomi /hatake/ 畑 means “agricultural field,” and is in 田畑 (“farm; field” /ta’hata/), 畑仕事 (“field work” /hatakeshi’goto/), 花畑 (“flower field” /hanaba’take/), 畑違い (“different area of expertise” /hatakechi’gai/), 化学畑 (“chemistry field” /kagakuba’take/).
The kanji 留 “to stay; remain; fasten”
For the origin of the kanji 留, we discuss two different interpretations here. One from Shirakawa is that in bronze ware style the left side was a stream of water with two pools of water on both sides, and the right side was rice paddies. The pools of water signified something “to stay in one place” like water in rice paddies. It meant “to stay; remain.” In ten style the two elements were placed up and down.
Another interpretation is from the Kadokawa dictionary. It does not refer to the bronze ware style sample above. Instead, it appears to be based on writing from later time, including from official seal samples and a stele, as shown on the right side. In this account, the top was explained to be the kanji 卯 “horse’s bridle” and the bottom 由 was used phonetically to mean “to put a bridle on firmly.” Together tying a horse to a tree by the bridle to keep it in one place signified “to fasten” and “to remain.” In the Key to Kanji book I took the latter view. Now I am wondering if both accounts can be possible to explain “to remain” and “to fasten.” In shinjitai kanji the symmetrical shapes at the top (卯) were replaced by two different shapes.
The kun-yomi 留める /tomeru/ means “to fasten.” Another kun-yomi 留まる /todoma’ru/ means “to stay in a place.” The on-yomi /ryu’u/ is in 留学 (“study in a foreign country” /ryuugaku/), 留意する (“to pay enough attention to” /ryu’ui-suru/). Another on-yomi /ru/ is in 留守にする (“to be absent from home” /ru’su-ni-suru/) and 留守番 (“house sitter; staying home” (during a family is away) /rusuban/).
The kanji 界 “world; area” and 介 “to help; mediate”
The Kanji 介; In oracle bone style a person was standing sandwiched by two dots on both sides. It signified a person wearing armor in the front and on the back. A hard casing such as armor was also used for shellfish, as in the word 魚介類 (“fish and shellfish” /gyoka’irui/). A person sandwiched between two sides signified someone who “mediates two sides” or “help.” So the kanji 介 meant “to help; mediate.”
For the kanji 界, 田 ”rice paddies” and 介 “a person in the middle” together signified the area inside the boundaries. What is inside a boundary is also a world. It meant “world.” In shinjitai, the rice paddies 田 is placed on top of 介.
There is no kun-yomi for 界. The on-yomi /ka’i/ is in 世界 (“world” /se’kai/), 限界 (“limit” /genkai/), 境界 (“boundary” /kyookai/), 財界 (“financial world; business circle” /zaikai/), 他界する (“to die” /takai-suru/).
The kanji 町 “town”
The kanji 丁: In the oracle bone style of 丁, it was the top of a nail that was viewed from the above. In bronze ware style, the nail was viewed from the side. A nail is pounded down in a right angle. In ten style it became stylized. 丁 meant something that had a right angle such as a block. (We discussed 丁 when we looked at the kanji 打 in the June 7, 2014, post.)
For the kanji 町, 田 “rice paddies” and 丁 “block” together meant the land that had blocks and junctions, that is a “town.” /Cho’o/ used to be used as the measurement of land in olden days.
The kun-yomi 町 /machi’/ means “town” and is in 町中に出る (“to go into the town” /machinaka-ni-de’ru/), 町外れ (“outer edge of a town” /machiha’zure/) and 下町 (“downtown; shitamachi.” /shitamachi/). The word Shitamachi usually refers to the low area of Tokyo on the east of the Sumida River. In the Tokugawa era, large residences where samurai class people lived were on the west side of Edo Castle and commoners lived on the east side toward the waterfront. The on-yomi /cho’o/ is in 町内会 (“neighborhood association” /choona’ikai/), 町人 (“merchant” (in old class system, as contrasted to samurai); townspeople” /choonin/).
There are several more frequently used kanji that contain 田, so we will continue this topic in the next post. [July 4, 2015]