The Kanji 至室屋到致台(臺)-至


In this post we are going to look at kanji that contain 至 “an arrow reaching the ground.” They are the kanji 至室屋到致台(臺).

  1. The kanji 至 “an end; to reach an end”

History of Kanji 至For the kanji 至 in oracle bone style, in brown, and bronze ware style, in green, it was an arrow coming downward, and the line at the bottom was the ground. When an arrow hits the ground that is as far as it can go. So, it meant “an end; to reach an end.” In ten style, in red, the arrowhead was stretched, and became a part of the component 土 in kanji. The kun-yomi 至る /ita’ru/ means ”to reach an end.” It is in the phrase 至れり尽くせり (“boundless hearty hospitality” /itare’ri tsukuse’ri/) and 至る所 (“throughout; everywhere” /ita’rutokoro/). The on-yomi /shi/ is in 至急 (“without delay” /shikyuu/) and 必至の (“inevitable; sure” /hisshi-no/).

2 The kanji 室 “room”

History of Kanji 室For the kanji 室, in all three ancient writing styles, the outside was a house. The oracle bone style sample did not have a short dot at the top whereas the bronze ware style and ten style samples had it. Inside was an arrow hitting the ground, whose development was virtually the same as 至. When an arrow was shot inside a house, it would hit the wall of a room. It meant “room.” In kanji a house became a bushu ukanmuri “house.” The kun-yomi 室 /muro’/ means “cellar; greenhouse,” and is in 氷室 (“icehouse” /hi’muro/). The on-yomi /shi’tsu/ is in 洋室 (“western-style room” /yooshitsu/), 室内 (“inside a room” /shitsu’nai/), 研究室 (“research room; professor’s office” /kenkyu’ushitsu/) and 暗室 (“darkroom” /anshitsu/.)

  1. The kanji 屋 “house”

History of Kanji 屋For the kanji 屋 in ten style the bottom was an arrow reaching the ground, as seen above. The upper left shape尸, however, is a problematic shape for us if we look for a one-on-one correspondence between a shape and the meaning. As a bushu in kanji it is called shikabane. It appeared in a number of kanji, and there are a few different interpretations, including “deceased person,” “roof” and “buttock.”

History of Kanji 尸(frame)The shape 尸 shikabane: The shape 尸 is not a currently used kanji, but its history was well-documented, as shown on the right. It was a person in a sitting position – a person in a sluggish posture or a deceased person. The name shikabane means a dead body. There is a non-Joyo kanji 屍, which consists of a bushu shikabane and the kanji 死 “death.”

The Setsumon account of the kanji 屋 mentions two meanings, “a deceased person” and “a house.” How are the two meanings related? Shirakawa’e explanation is that 屋 was a mortuary where a deceased person was temporarily enshrined. The component 至 added the meaning that the location was indicated by the god with an arrow. The Kadokawa dictionary’s explanation is more appealing to us in modern life even though it lacks the explanation of where it came from. It says that 尸 was a draped cloth and 至 signified a place deep in the back of a house, that is a sleeping chamber in the back. From that it came to be used to mean “house.”

The kun-yomi /ya/ is not used by itself but it is in 屋根 (“roof” /ya’ne/), 本屋 (“bookstore” /ho’nya/). The on-yomi /o’ku/ is in 家屋 (“house” /ka’oku/), 屋上 (“rooftop” /okujoo/).

 4. The kanji 到 “to arrive”

History of Kanji 到For the kanji 至, in the two bronze ware style samples on the left both had an arrow that reached the end, and a standing person on the side. Together they signified a person reaching the end or goal. So far it makes sense, doesn’t it. But then, something happened in ten style — the right side became a knife or sword. In ancient writing the shape for a person and the shape for a sword looked very similar. The Setsumon’s account of 到 took the right side as a phonetic component for /to’o/ from 刀 “knife.” Looking at the bronze ware style sample, it appears more likely that it was miscopied as a sword. That makes the formation of this kanji to be a semantic composite writing, rather than a semantic-phonetic composite writing. In kanji, the right side further changed to a bushu ritto /rittoo/, “vertical sword.” It means “to reach an end; arrive.” The difference between these two kanji 至 and 到 could be that 至 is the end itself whereas 到 concerns a person reaching the end, meaning “to reach; arrive.” The kun-yomi 到る /ita’ru/ means “to arrive; reach; arrive.” The on-yomi /to’o/ is in 到着 (“arrival” /toochaku/), 到底できない (“cannot possibly” /tootee deki’nai/) and 殺到する (“to rush out” /sattoo-suru/.)

  1. The kanji 致 “to do; make; cause”

History of Kanji 致For the kanji 致 in ten style the left side was now familiar shape to us. The right side was “footprint” signifying “walking.” Together they originally meant “to go to the destination on foot.” The meaning changed to “to do; make; cause.” The “correct” kanji shape, in light blue, originally had a bushu suinyo 夂 (/suinyoo/) on the right. It was not a kyujitai, however. The current kanji uses a bushu bokuzukuri, which means “to act upon.” A bushu bokuzukuri originated from “a hand holding a stick.” It is interesting to think that the old kanji had a footprint whereas the shinjitai came from a hand. The kanji 致 means “to do; make; cause.” The kun-yomi 致す /ita’su/ is a humble verb of する to mean “to do,” as in 私が致します (“I will do it.” /watakushi-ga itashima’su/.) The on-yomi /chi/ is in 致命的な (“fatal” /chimeeteki-na/) and 一致する (“to correspond with; fall in line with” /itchi-suru/).

  1. The Kanji 台 (臺) “stand; raised level”

History of Kanji 台 (臺)There is one more kanji that I would like to put in among kanji that contain 至 even though the shinjitai does not. In bronze ware style and ten style on the left the top was a tall tower to watch enemy. It shared the same origin with the kanji 高 “tall.” The bottom showed a house where an arrow ended and stayed. Together they meant “stand; tower; raised level.” The kyujitai, in blue, consisted of the kanji 吉 and 室. In shinjitai, it was replaced by the shape 台. The history of the shape 台 is shown on the right.

History of Kanji 台(frame)The kanji : The top was a haw and the bottom was a mouth or words. Together they meant “to begin communal fieldwork.” It was the original shape of the kanji 始 “to begin.” So the shape 台 had no relationship with the meaning “stand; platform.” I would think that people were using this shape as a simplified writing for a very complex kanji such as 臺.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi 台 /da’i/ means “stand; platform,” and is in 台所 (“kitchen” /daidokoro/.)  /tai/ is in the country name Taiwan, which is written both in 台湾 in shinjitai and 臺灣 in kyujitai. On this blog I am afraid that the text font size is too small to make out the kyujitai.

I think we have covered a house enough for now. Next we will go back to outside the house to look for other origins. [August 8, 2015]

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