The Kanji 略各当(當)尚番米巻券 – 田 (2)


In this post we continue to look at kanji that contain 田 and related kanji — 略各当(當)尚番米巻券.

(1) 略 “summary; tactic”

History of Kanji 略For the kanji 略, in ten style, the left side was 田 “rice paddies.” The right side was the kanji 各 that was used phonetically to mean “to divide.” When a new land was conquered, a strategy for how to manage the new land or tax its new rice fields was drawn up. From strategy, it meant “tactic.” It was also borrowed to mean “summary.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /rya’ku/ is used in 省略 (“omission” /shooryaku/), 略図 (“outline; sketch” /ryakuzu/), 計略 (“trick; strategy” /keeryaku/), 略す (“to shorten; take out” /ryaku’su/). The expression 前略 /ze’nryaku/ is the greeting phrase that you write at the beginning of a hurriedly written letter, without putting in an expected seasonal greeting.

History of Kanji 各(frame)The kanji 各: The top of the kanji 各 came from a foot that faced backward or downward. It is a bushu suinyoo . For the explanation of “backward foot” please refer to the July 5, 2014, posting. Even though we spent four postings looking at “a backward foot” a year ago, I did not discuss the kanji that contain 各. The reason was that 各 by itself as a kanji was a borrowing that meant “each; individual.” There was not much for me to add. 各 as a component was mostly used phonetically with little relationship with the original meaning. Several kanji that contain 各 as its component have the following meanings and on-yomi: 格 (“standard; class” /kaku; koo/), 客 (“guest” /kyaku; kaku/), 落 (“to fall” /raku/), 絡 (“to intertwine; contact” /raku/), 路 (“road” /ro/), 略 (“summary; tactic” /ryaku/) and 閣 (“tall important building” /kaka/).  (Kun-yomi is omitted here.)  We can see the phonetic connections in on-yomi.

(2) 当 (當) “appropriate; correct; the very X”

History of Kanji 当The kanji 当 does not have 田, but 当 had the kyujitai 當 that contained 田. The kyujitai, in blue on the left, faithfully reflected its ten style. In ten style the top was 尚 “high,” which was used phonetically to mean “to be appropriate” (we are going to look at its history below.)  The bottom was 田 “rice paddies.” From an appropriate value for rice paddies, it meant “appropriate; correct.” It was also used to mean “this; the very X.” I am wondering why the bottom of the shinjitai was so drastically abbreviated to ヨ, when the kyujitai was not that complex. I have not encountered a good explanation in reference for this.

The kun-yomi 当たる /ataru/ “to hit (a target)” is in 思い当たる (“to recall; remember” /omoiata’ru/), 八つ当たりする (“to take out on someone” /yatsua’tari-suru/), 当たり前 (“natural; of course; obviously” /atarimae/). The on-yomi /to’o/ is in 当然 (“naturally; of course; obviously” /toozen/), 当人 (“the person in question” /to’onin/), 当事者 (“person concerned; party involved” /tooji’sha/) and 正当化する (“to justify” /seetooka-suru/).

History of Kanji 尚(frame)The kanji 尚; This kanji is not a Joyo kanji or a traditional bushu. But it appears as a component in other frequently used kanji including 常 and 党 in addition to the kyujitai 當. (尚 and other related kanji 常堂賞償党 are discussed in a later post on human habitats.) The history is shown on the right. In oracle bone style, bronze ware style and ten style, the bottom was a kitchen stove with a door to the furnace. The top was smoke or steam rising straight up. From rising straight up high, this shape signified “high.”

(3) 番 “turn; watch; number”

History of Kanji 番There are different views on how the kanji 番 came about. One view is that the top meant to scatter seeds and the bottom was rice paddies. The top was interpreted as grain such as rice. Growing rice involves different steps in a set order, and gave the meaning “turn; a number in a series.” Thus, the kanji 番 meant “to turn; a number; a watch; pair.” It makes good sense to me. However, as I looked at several samples of bronze ware style writing, I began to feel a little uncertain about that. The problem is that the history of the kanji 米 showed a very different shape, as shown on the right.

History of Kanji 米(frame)The kanji 米: The oracle bone style sample had three grains on both sides of a diagonal line. It meant a stalk of millet on which grain was still attached. No bronze ware style sample is available to us. In ten style, it became a cross with grain scattered in four directions. It looks similar to the top of the ten style of 番. But there is an important difference — the tip of the center line in 番 in ten style was bent whereas 米 was straight. So, the top of 番 might not have had been scattered rice grains at the top. That bring to us another view here.

The another view originated from Setsumon. It treated the whole shape as a single image of an animal paw, with claws at the top and palm below. I would never have thought of that. But the power of suggestion is working on me now. An animal paw signified a step for a person, and it signified a person stepping out for his watch duty. It meant “duty watch.” A watch duty was done taking turns, thus “order; a number in a series” and also done in pairs, thus “pair.”

There is no kun-yomi for 番 in the Joyo kanji, but /tsugai/ is used in 鳥の番 (“a pair of birds” /tori no tsugai/) customarily. The on-yomi 番 /ba’n/ means “watch; turn,” and is in 一番 (“the first; most” /ichi’ban), 番をする (“to be on watch duty” /ba’n-o-suru/), 留守番 (“house sitting; staying home” /rusuban/), 番人 (“watch; guard” /banni’n/), 当番 (“duty; watch” /to’oban/) and 番組 (“TV/radio program” /bangumi/).

One more thing about the top of the ten style writing of 番: I have come across in a few kanji that had the same shape at the top of ten style writing. In those kanji it is interpreted as “a paw” or “a human hand.”  Let us look at two examples here, 巻 and 券.

History of Kanji 巻(frame)The kanji 巻: The history of the kanji 巻 is shown on the right. One view, from Shirakawa, was that in ten style the top was an animal paw that signified animal hide. The bottom had two hands outside, and the inside was a person in a crouched position. Together they signified hands rolling an animal hide into a scroll. Another view, from the Kadokawa dictionary, is that it had two hands making a rice ball in the shape of a crouched person. It meant “to roll.” This view appears to take the top as grain or rice.

History of Kanji 券(frame)The kanji 券: The history of the kanji 券 is shown on the right. In ten style the top was an animal paw and the bottom had two hands and a knife. Together they meant cutting an animal hide that had a pledge written on it in half to keep as a tally. Another view is that it was used phonetically to mean “to make a notch.” With a knife at the bottom, it meant a tally. The kanji 券 means “ticket; tally.”

There are a little more matter that I would like to explore on 田. We will continue in the next posting. [July 11, 2015]

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