The kanji 径往律彼得復徒-ぎょうにんべん(2)


In the last post, we revisited some gyoninben kanji that had been discussed before with a focus on a component other than gyoninben. In this post we are going to look at several more kanji that we have not discussed yet – 径往律彼得復徒.

  1. The kanji 径 “narrow bath; pathway”

History of Kanji 径For the kanji 径, the left side of the ten style, in red, was a “crossroad.” The right side depicted a loom which had warps (three wavy lines) that were held with a horizontal bar at the bottom, signifying “lines that go straight,” together with the sound /ke’e/. Going straight on foot along a narrow path meant “narrow path; pathway.” In the kyujitai, in blue, the wavy lines reflected warp that would get straightened on a loom. In shinjitai the right side became the kanji 又and 土, which is also seen in the kanji 経.

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo-kanji. Sometimes it is used in 小径 (“a little pathway” /komichi/) in a literary style. The on-yomi /ke’e/ is in 直径 (“diameter” /chok’kee/) and 口径 (“caliber; aperture” /kookee/).

  1. 往 “to go; past”

History of Kanji 往The kanji 往 appears to be a combination of a gyoninben and 主 “main.” But its history tells us that it had nothing to do with 主, as shown on the left. In oracle bone style, in brown, the top was a footprint, and the bottom was a king, which was signified by a large ornamental axe. In the last post we happened to see two actual samples of oracle bone style for 王 in our discussion of the kanji 従 (shown in the photo in the last post). “A king advancing” meant “to advance.” In ten style a crossroad “to go” was added. The kanji 往 means “to go” or “something that has gone; past.” In kanji the footprint became a small dot, resulting in the same shape as the kanji 主.

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /o’o/ is in 往復 (“return trip; going and coming back” /oohuku/), 往来 (“traffic; street” /oorai/), 往年 (“years gone by; the past” /oonee/) and 往々にして (”more often than not; frequently” /oooonishite/).

History of Kanji 主 (frame)The kanji – In contrast with the origin of the right side of 往, the history of the kanji 主 is shown on the right. In bronze ware, in green, it was a flame of a lamp only. In ten style, it was a whole image of a long-stem oil lamp holder with a burning oil wick at the top. Fire was important and symbolized the master of a house. The kanji 主 meant “master; primary.” By adding a ninben to this origin, we get the kanji 住 “to reside.”

  1. 律 “law; impartially; rules that one follows”

History of Kanji 律For the kanji 律in oracle bone style, the left side was a crossroad, signifying “a way to go” or “to conduct oneself.” The right side was a hand holding a writing brush straight up. It also had the sound /ri’tsu/. Together they signified “to proclaim law.” Law is something that applies to everyone impartially. So it also means “evenly; impartially.” In ten style the right side took the shape that was closer to the current shape 聿, which is called hudezukuri as a bushu. The kanji 律means “law; impartially; rules that one follows.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ri’tsu/ is in 一律に (“impartially” /ichiritsuni/), 法律 (“law” /hooritsu/), 律する (to judge; govern” /rissuru/) and 規律正しく (“in an orderly manner” /kiritsutada’shiku/). Another on-yomi /ri’chi/ is a go-on and is in 律義に (“sincerely; faithfully” /ri’chigini/).

聿 as a bushu in the traditional kanji classification — There are not many kanji that belong to it. The more frequently used kanji are classified in other bushu. For instance the kanji 律 belongs to the gyoninben group, and the kanji 筆 belongs to the bushu takekanmuri group.

History of Kanji 筆 (frame)The kanji is shown on the right side. The oracle bone style was identical to the right side of 律. In bronze ware style, the left one was a straight line for brush handle only whereas the right sample showed brush’s hair at the bottom as well as a handle. In ten style, a bamboo radical, a bushu takekanmuri, was added at the top to signify a writing brush, from the fact that a writing brush had a bamboo handle. By adding the bamboo the kanji 筆means “a writing brush” rather than an act of writing.

  1. 彼 “he; she; over there”

History of Kanji 彼The kanji 彼 is a borrowed kanji called 仮借 /kashaku/. Kashaku is one of the six ways of classification 六書 /ri’kusho/ in the Setsumon Kaiji. Kashaku writing means that a writing shape was borrowed to mean something totally unrelated in meaning and sound. In 彼, it was borrowed to be used as a pronoun for “he; she” and “over there.” Generally speaking a pronoun was a borrowed writing, including 我 “I,” 他 “other,” and 是 “this; pointing something close to the speaker.” In ten style a crossroad was added on the left. The kanji 彼 indicated a direction away from the speaker and listener.

The kun-yomi 彼 /ka’re/ means “he,” and 彼女 /ka’nojo/ mean “she.” The on-yomi /hi/ is in 彼岸 /higan/. Higan literally means “the other shore,” which came from “the realm of Buddhist enlightenment.” In the Japanese calendar there are two 彼岸 (usuallyお彼岸 /ohigan/) — they are a spring equinox day and an autumnal equinox day. Each is a national holiday. On ohigan time people pay a visit to a family cemetery to place flowers and the favorite food of the deceased. (On the other hand, お盆 /obo’n/ in mid-August is the time when the spirit of the dead comes home.)

History of kanji 皮 (frame)The kanji 皮 – The kanji 彼 was a borrowed kanji, but when the right side, 皮, is used by itself it is used in the original meaning. The history of 皮 is shown on the right. In bronze ware style the top was an animal head. The bottom right was a hand. (We can see that the bronze ware style writing of 彼 came from 皮). It depicted a scene in which an animal was being skinned by hand. The kanji 皮 meant “skin” or “surface skin” and when it is used as a component it usually carries the sound /hi/ or /ha/, as seen in the kanji 波, 破.

  1. The kanji 得 “to gain; make a profit”

History of Kanji 得For the kanji 得 in oracle bone style, (a) was a combination of a cowry, signifying money or valuables, and a hand at the bottom. (b) had a crossroad added. They meant “to obtain something valuable in one’s hand” and “going out to make a gain.” In bronze ware style, in (c) and (d), the three components were the same as (b). Ten style, (e), had the shape 寸 for a hand. From “going out to gain something valuable in one’s hand,” it meant “to gain; make a profit.” In kanji (f), the cowry became 日 “the sun” that had a line underneath.

The two kun-yomi for 得る, /e’ru/ and /u’ru/, mean “to obtain; gain.” The on-yomi /toku/ is in 得する (“to gain; profit” /tokusuru/), 得意がる (“to congratulate oneself; be full of oneself” /tokuiga’ru/), 得意げに (“looking self-satisfied” /tokuige’ni/), Xが得意だ (“to be strong in” /X ga toku’ida/) and得意先 (“customer” /tokuisaki/).

  1. The kanji復 “to repeat; return way; again”

History of Kanji 復For the kanji 復, in bronze ware style a middle cylindrical shape had a small shape at both ends. This was a tool which one flipped repeatedly to measure grain. Underneath this measuring tool was a “footprint” that signified walking back and forth, also a repeated motion. Together they signified “to repeat.” In bronze ware style, the measuring tool became more elaborate and a crossroad was added to signify repeated going and coming. In ten style, it became two round shapes. The kanji 復 meant “to repeat; return way; again.” The same oracle bone style and bronze ware style shapes appear in other kanji such as 複 and 腹, all three of which have the same sound /hu’ku/.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /huku/ is in 復習 (“review learning” /hukushuu/), 回復 (“recovery” /kaihuku.), 復元 (“restoration” /hukugen/) and反復 (“repetition” /hanpuku/).

  1. 徒 “on foot; follower; in vain”

History of Kanji 徒For the kanji 徒, in both samples of bronze ware style the left side was a crossroad, the right side was a mound of soil, and the right bottom was a footprint. Together they meant “going on dirt on foot.” In ten style, the footprint shifted to the left side, but in kanji it went back to the original position. In travelling, an accompanying servant walked while his master was on a vehicle. So it meant someone who followed a master or follower. It was also used to mean “without purpose; in vain.”

History of Kanji 走 (frame)The kanji –The kanji 徒 looks like it comprised of a gyoninben and the kanji 走 “to run.” But the origin of the kanji 走 is not closely related, as shown on the right. In bronze ware style the top was a person running energetically with his hand up, and the bottom was a footprint, emphasizing that this writing was about the use of feet. In ten style, a footprint got extended toward the bottom right. It meant “to run.” In kanji, this running person took the shape 土 “soil” and the last stroke of the footprint got extended

There is one more kanji I hoped to include in this post, 御. However I do not have enough reference materials with me at the moment. Maybe I will have a chance to look at 御 in connection with other components in the future. [October 31, 2015]

The Kanji 徳待役後従 – ぎょうにんべん(1)


In the last post we have seen that an image of a crossroad became a bushu yukigamae (行) in 行街術衛. A crossroad was where an action took place. On the other hand, when half a crossroad () was used, the move or motion seemed more apparent. We would imagine that half a crossroad () must have derived from the full shape of a crossroad (行). But, from what I see in oracle bone style samples, both shapes already existed by then, as we will see in 1. The name gyooninben comes from the on-yomi /gyo’o/ of the kanji 行, even though the kanji 行 belongs to the bushu yukigamae group in the traditional kanji dictionary.

Since our exploration on this blog started almost two years ago, we have touched several kanji that had a gyooninben as component. This post is to revisit those kanji from the point of view of the gyooninben. (For sample words, please see the original posts.)

  1. The kanji 徳 “virtue; merit; good (acts)”

The first kanji that we came across that contained the bushu gyooninben was the kanji 徳 in connection with an eye (Eye Wide Open (2) 直値植置徳 posted on March 25, 2014.) We saw that the shape 直 originally came from an eye looking straight ahead that was signified by a vertical line. The horizontal line at the top (十) was originally a bulge in the vertical line to emphasize that the line was straight. The angle at the left bottom below 目 was an emphasis of  being straight.

History of Kanji 徳rFor this post I have added a couple of  samples for the kanji 徳. The two oracle bone style sample (a) and (b), in brown, are mirror images − We have seen many times that in oracle bone style whether a component faces right or left did not carry a particular meaning. Each had an eye looking straight ahead, and a crossroad. The writing meant that one behaved oneself in a straight manner. In the second bronze ware style sample, (d), in green, a heart was added. One had to act straight using not only his eyes but also his heart. In ten style (e), in red, a crossroad became more prominent. In kyujitai (f), in blue, the extra line above 心 was the remnant of an angle that 直 had. So the kanji 徳 is a heavy loaded kanji that meant “a way of life in which one should follow his own heart in a straightforward way.” If you live that way you would be someone of “virtue; merit; good (acts).” I am overwhelmed by morality of this kanji every time I see it.

  1. The kanji 待 “to wait”

History of Kanji 待The kanji 待 was discussed along with kanji that contained 寺 as its component (The Kanji 寺-持待侍特時詩等 “to hold; sustain” on January 24, 2015.) In that post, we noted that even though the kanji 寺 “temple” had lost its original meaning, when 寺 was used as its component it kept the original meaning of “to sustain; hold.” In the kanji 待 in bronze ware style, the left side was a crossroad. The right side was a footprint at the top and a hand at the bottom, signifying “to sustain; hold.” Holding back from crossing a crossroad meant “to wait.”

  1. The Kanji 役 “battle; military service; role”

HistoryofKanji役The kanji 役 was discussed with the kanji that contained the bushu rumata/bokuzukuri (The kanji 役投段殺-rumata posted on October 10, 2014.) The bushu rumata/bokuzukuri generally means “to hit,” from someone hitting with a stick. The two oracle bone style samples did not contain a crossroad at all. Instead they had a person on the left, either standing or kneeling. The right side was a hand holding a long object, which was a weapon, with an emphasis on its tip. Together they meant a person readying to go to battle or patrol of the border. It was an ordinary person conscripted for military duty. In ten style the left side became a crossroad, signifying “to go to the front; a soldier leaving for battle.” The kanji 役 originally meant “battle; military service.” From a call to duty, it also meant “role one assumes.”

  1. The kanji 後 “rear; back; behind; after”

History後rThe kanji 後 was discussed in One Foot at a Time (1) 後夏降麦来 on July 5, 2014. That was the first of several articles that discussed various shapes that came from a footprint (footmark). We also compared a forward facing footprint, such as 止, and a backward facing footprint, such as suinyoo 夂. For the kanji 後, the two bronze ware style samples shown here shared a crossroad and a skein of threads without fringes and a backward foot. The left sample had a forward foot as well, which in ten style was dropped. The skein of threads without the fringes signified “short or small.” Together they meant taking short steps or walking backward that resulted in “coming behind or be late in time.” The kanji 後 means “rear; back; behind; after.”

  1. The kanji 従 “to follow”

History of Kanji 従The kanji 従 was discussed in connection with two people standing side by side (The Kanji 人仁従縦比皆階陛 – Posture (3) on April 5, 2015.) The first oracle bone style sample (a) was just two people standing viewed from the side, signifying “a person following another.” In the second oracle bone style sample (b), a crossroad was added on the left side, giving the sense of forward motion. In bronze ware style (c) a footprint was further added below the two people adding the sense of walking. In ten style (d) this footprint was moved to the left, just below a crossroad. When a crossroad and a footprint were aligned vertically, they usually became the precursor to the bushu shinnyoo. However something interesting took place in this kanji. In kyujitai (e) this footprint moved back to the original position, below two people, leaving the crossroad back in its original shape. The two people were kept as two small 人, which became the two stroke ソ shape in shinjitai.  Unless we are shown the original shapes we would never have guessed that the current shape 従 originated from just two standing persons.

Yesterday in Tokyo I had a chance to see a few actual pieces of oracle bone writing that dated from the 13th century B. C. The visit to this small museum (Taito-ward Calligraphy Museum 台東区立書道博物館 in Tokyo near the Uguisudani station on the Yamanote Line) was on my agenda for my visit to Japan this time, but for various reasons it was only yesterday that I was able to visit it. This museum originated from a private collection by an artist-calligrapher before the WWII and was donated by his family to the Taito-ku (ward) in Tokyo more recently. Unlike many art museums in Japan, which started as private collections of wealthy art loving industrialists who had amassed a fortune in modern times, this collection is a modest one and the layout of of the exhibit is rather outdated and not as easy for a visitor to see the objects because of poor lighting. Nonetheless the opportunity to see first-hand the actual archeological pieces was exciting to me. It was also very timely for discussing the kanji 従 in today’s post.

甲骨文(王従)台東区立書道博物館rrOn the right, (A) is a piece of an animal bone with oracle bone writing carved, taken from the article in Yomiuri Shinbun (October 20, 2015). (B) is what I  reproduced from the photo. The left side may be incomplete because it is not legible. (C) is the kanji based on my reading with the help of the accompanying article in the paper. (This exhibit did not give out any literature that I was able to bring home.)  It reads vertically from the right top to the left bottom. It says “The king (王) asked for a forecast (貞) on whether he would make a certain tribe chief (sanzui and 止) follow (従) him or not.” A new sentence starts from the third writing 王, 従, then moves to the left writing. Even in this tiny piece of cow’s bone (the piece is only one inch-wide), we see two samples of the kanji 従 – They were two people standing, one following another.

Oracle bone writing was the record of fortune-telling or divination in answer to a prayer or question made to the god by a ruler. The belly side of a tortoise or a piece of animal bone was heated, and the cracks that appeared were read as the answer from the god. From the contents of this piece, we glimpse the nature of 甲骨文 /kookotsubun/, literally “shell and bone writing,” to be divination. English name goes by its function and it is called “oracle bone” writing. Oracle bone writings were “discovered” as ancient writings only in 1899. The discovery of oracle bone style writing since then has changed the understanding of the ancient Yin 殷 (Shang 商) dynasty and the origin of Chinese characters. Some were brought to Japan. I am hoping to see several more items at the Tokyo National Museum next week. (For bronze ware style writing, I was able to see some items of superb quality at the special exhibit brought from China held at the same museum several years ago.)

This post was revisiting the kanji we had looked at before from the point of a gyooninben. I will continue with a few new kanji with gyooninben next time. [October 25, 2015]

P.S. I have learned that there are various collections of oracle bones in Japan. Most notable one is in Kyoto University. The photos of “rubbing” of these bones were published by Shigeki Kaizuka in 1960, 1968. Another collection is with Tokyo University. I do not know if these collections can be viewed if we make a request in advance.  I would like to try that in my next stay in Tokyo. An experience of looking at real pieces is so different from looking at the “rubbing” of the pieces in print.  [January, 2017}

The Kanji 行街術衛 – ゆきがまえ


In this and next posts, we are going to look at kanji that contain a bushu yukigamae (行) and bushu gyooninben (). The two bushu come from an image of crossroad.

1. 行 “to go; carry out; line”

History of Kanji 行For the kanji 行, in oracle bone style, bronze ware style and ten style, it was a crossroad. The vertical direction was thicker and suggested rather than turning to the right or left, one went ahead straight. From that it meant “to go; way” and also meant “to carry out” and “to conduct oneself,” when that principle was applied to a person. A straight line also was used to mean “line” in writing.

There are a couple of things I need to mention here. The word 行く “to go” has two pronunciations いく /iku/ and ゆく /yuku/ and have been used interchangeably way back in history. Another example that /i/ and yu/ are used interchangeably is the word 言う (“to say” いう /iu/ and ゆう /yuu/).

Another thing is that the kanji 行 has three different on-yomi with its own history. Yes, three on-yomi. This is on top of another kun-yomi /okona/ in 行う (“to carry out” /okonau/). As you know, the Japanese language adopted the Chinese writing over a long stretch of centuries. Even among the people in China kanji was pronounced differently depending on the regional dialects from which the ruling dynasy came from.  What Japanese had learned as the correct Chinese pronunciation became outdated or came to be viewed as “country-style” when the new power came in in China. So during the Tang (唐) dynasty, to bring the on-yomi up to date the Japanese Heian court officially changed the on-yomi in line with the contemporary Chinese pronunciation. That was called kan-on  (“sounds of the Han people”). A large portion of on-yomi words that we use now is kan-on based. At the same time the pronunciation prior to that, called go-on, remained in words that were deeply rooted in Buddhism and people’s daily life. The sounds that were brought in after that were called too-on (“Chinese sound”). They are small groups of words.

So, the kanji 行 ended up with five different pronunciations in Japanese. /i/ い or /yu/ ゆ is in 東京行き(Tokyo-bound /tookyooiki; tookyooyuki/). Even though kun-yomi /i/ or /yu/ is interchangeably used, words such as 行方知らず (“whereabouts unknown” /yukueshi’razu/), 行く末 (“one’s future” /yukusue/) are pronounced as /yu/. Another kun-yomi 行う /okonau/ means “to carry out; conduct,” and is in 行い (“conduct; behavior; deed” /okonai/).

Among the on-yomi, the kan-on /ko’o/ is in 行為 (“action; behavior; deed” /ko’oi/), 銀行 (“bank” /ginkoo/), 旅行 (“travel; trip” /ryokoo/); the go-on /gyo’o/ is in 行列 (“queue; file; procession” /gyooretsu/), 行 (“religious training” /gyoo/), 行 (“line” /gyo’o/) and 行儀 (“manners; deportment; etiquette” /gyoogi/); and the too-on /a’n/ is in 行脚 (“pilgrimage; tour” /a’ngya/), 行灯 (“paper-shade lamp stand” /andon/).

2. 街 “town; street”

History of Kanji 街For the kanji 街, in ten style, the outside was a full shape of a crossroad. The inside was two mounds of dirt stacked up neatly, signifying an area that people built. Together they meant a town with many major streets running through.

The kun-yomi 街 /machi’/ means “town; street,” and 街角 “on the street” /machikado/. The on-yomi /ga’i/ is in 街灯 (“street light” /gaitoo/) and 街路樹 (“tree lining a street” /gairo’ju/)

3. 術 “skill; art”

History of Kanji 術Many different views exist for this kanji. We look at a couple of them. The first one is that in the center was millets sticking to the stalk, signifying “to follow” and the outside a crossroad, signifying “way” to go. From the ways people would adhere to carry out things it meant “means; skills; art.” Another account is by Shirakara that in the center was an animal spell curse and the outside was a crossroad, where an evil spirit was exorcised. An art of casting out spells came to mean “means; skills; art.” It meant “method; means; art.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ju’tsu/ is in 芸術 (“fine arts” /geejutsu/), 手術 (“surgical operation /shu’jutsu/) and 技術 (“technology” /gi’jutsu/)

4. 衛 “to protect”

History of Kanji 衛The kanji 衛 was discussed in the post dated July 13, 2014. (One Foot at a Time (2) 韋衛圍(囲)違偉) with a focus on the middle component 韋. 韋 came from two feet walking in opposite directions around an area, and signified soldiers patrolling the city wall. In Akai (2010), we can see many samples of ancient style for the kanji 衛, several of which are shown above. The oracle bone style samples (a) and (b) had a plough in the middle and the bronze ware style (c) had something else. Even though there may be a more complicated story than two feet walking in opposite directions patrolling, we leave it as it is. There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /e’i/ is in 衛生 (“hygiene; cleanliness” /eesee/), 防衛 (“defense” /booee/).

In the next post, we will look at kanji that have a bushu gyooninben, which is the left side of a crossroad. (October, 18, 2015)

The Kanji 困因囚圏囲(圍)古固個回四 – くにがまえ (2)


As the second post on kanji that have the bushu kunigamae “enclosure” and related kanji, we are going to look at the kanji 困因囚圏囲(圍)古固個回 and 四.

  1. The kanji 困 “to be in trouble; be inconvenienced”

History of Kanji 困For the kanji 困, in oracle bone style, in brown, and ten style, in red, it was a standing tree inside an enclosure, and it is commonly explained as “a tree inside a tight space that could not move,” thus it meant “to be in trouble.” Setsumon also gave the shape (b) as its old style, in gray. In it the top was a footprint (止) and the bottom was wood (木), together signifying a wooden latch that stopped someone from coming in through an entrance. Shirakawa takes the original meaning to be “closing time; lockup,” and by extension it meant “to be in trouble; be inconvenienced.”

The kun-yomi 困る /koma’ru/ means “to be troubled; be inconvenienced.” The on-yomi /ko’n/ is in  困難 (“difficulty” /ko’nnan/) and 貧困 (“poverty” /hinkon/).

  1. The kanji 因 “to depend; based on; relatedly”

History of Kanji 因For the kanji 因, inside was a “person” (大) in oracle bone style, bronze ware style, in green, and ten style. The outside rectangle shape signified a floor mat for a person to sleep on. So it was an image of a person sleeping that was viewed from above. From something that one used in daily mundane life such as a place to sleep on, it meant “conventional,” and then it was extended to mean “to be based on; depend on” (Shirakawa). Another explanation (the Kadokawa dictionary) is that a sleeping mattress was something one was on, and from that it gave the meaning “to be based on; depend on.”

The kun-yomi 因る /yoru/ is used in Xによると (often in hiragana) “based on X; according to X.” And another kun-yomi 因む /china’mu/ is used in Xに因んで (“after X” /X ni china’nde/). The expressionちなみに /chinamini/ means “while we are on the subject; in connection with.” The on-yomi /i’n/ is in 原因 (“cause” /gen-in/), 死因 (“cause of death” /shiin/) and 因果関係 (“cause and effect” /ingaka’nkee/).

  1. The kanji 囚 ”captor; to be seized; be shackled by”

History of Kanji 囚The kanji 囚 has the kanji 人 “person” inside an enclosure. The kanji 人 originally comes from a standing person who was viewed from the side, in contrast to 大, which was an image of a person viewed from the front. The oracle bone style and ten style samples on the left exactly showed the shape of 人. It signified a person who was captured or confined. It meant “prisoner; captor; to be seized.”

The kun-yomi 囚われる /toraware’ru/ means “to be shackled by; to be gripped by,” and is in 囚われの身 (“being/falling in enemy’s hands” /toraware-no-mi/). The on-yomi /shu’u/ is in 囚人 (“prisoner” /shuujin/), 死刑囚 (“condemned criminal; death-row convict” /shike’eshuu/).

  1. The kanji 圏 “garden”

History of Kanji 圏History of Kanji 巻(frame)The kanji 圏 has 巻 inside. We have discussed earlier two different interpretations of the upper part of 巻 (The Kanji 略各当(當)尚番米巻券 on July 11, 2015), in the discussion os 番 and 巻 in particular. The bottom was a person with his back round, thus it meant “to roll.” With the enclosure “fence” added to 巻, it meant “a block; to encircle.” Just as with the case in the kanji 巻, in shinjitai a crouched person changed the shape to the inside of 厄, but then in kanji it went back to 己 in shinjitai.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ke’n/ is used only with other kanji, such as 大気圏 (“the atmosphere” /taiki’ken/), 安全圏 (“safety zone” /anze’nken/).

  1. The kanji 囲 (圍) “to encircle; surround”

History of Kanji 囲(圍)History of Kanji 韋(frame)The 囲 has the kyujitai 圍. The inside component 韋 is a familiar shape that we discussed earlier (One Foot at a Time (2) 韋衛圍(囲)違偉 on July 13, 2014). The history of 韋 is shown on the right. Two footprints facing opposite directions around a circle signified patrolling around the wall of a fortress or town. For 圍, by adding an outline of a town, they meant “to encircle.” In shijitai the inside was replaced by 井. The kanji 囲 means “to surround; enclosure.”

The kun-yomi 囲う /kakou/ and 囲む /kakomu/ mean “to surround; besiege,” and 囲い /kakoi/ means “enclosure; fence; wall.” The on-yomi /i/ is in 周囲 (“the circumference; those around one” /shu’ui/), 範囲 (“extent; scope; accessible limit” /ha’n-i/) and 雰囲気 (“an ambience; an atmosphere” /hun-i’ki/).

  1. The kanji 古 “old”

History of Kanji 古Before we look at the kanji 固 and 個, let us look at their inside component 古. There are different views about this simple shape — View (A) It was a crown on the ancestral god, and from that it meant “ancient; old”; View (B) The bottom was an old skull of an ancestor and the top was a crown or hair accessory. From that it meant something “old and hard”; View (C) In oracle bone style, the top was a shield and the bottom was a prayer box that was protected with the shield above. Prayers that were protected aged and became authentic precedents to follow. From that 古 originally meant “therefore.” In bronze ware style the vertical line showed a bulge to signify a shield. In ten style, the top became the shape 十. The kanji 古 means “old.” The view (C) is by Shirakawa. If we take the oracle bone style sample into the account, (C) may make more sense to me.

The kun-yomi 古い /huru’i/ means “old,” and is in 古びた (“old and worn” /huru’bita/), お古 (“hand-me-down; used article” /ohu’ru/). Just a reminder that the kanji 古い is not used for people’s old age. Another kun-yomi 古 /inishie/ is a literal word and means “ancient; olden days.” The on-yomi /ko/ is in 古代  (“ancient times” /ko’dai/), and 古典 (“classical work; classics” /koten/).

  1. The kanji 固 “hard; solid”

History of Kanji 固For the kanji 固, in ten style the kanji 古 was placed inside an enclosure. The outside line signified to protect something important and old. Old things became hard, so it meant “solid: hard.”

The kun-yomi 固い /katai/ means “hard; solid; stiff; firm,” and in 固める (“to make hard; solidify; strengthen” /katameru/) and its intransitive verb counterpart 固まる (“to harden; become solid” /katamaru/). The on-yomi /ko/ is in 頑固な (“obstinate; stubborn” /ga’nkona/) and 堅固な (“firm; strong” /ke’ngona/).

  1. The kanji 個 “individual; piece”

There is no ancient writing available for the kanji 個 because this was created at a later time. In kanji, the left side is a bushu ninben “person.” The right side 固 was used phonetically to mean something solid and individual. It is used as a counter for an object. In modern times it came to be used for “individual” as in person. There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ko/ is in 一個 (“one object or item” /ik’ko/), 個数 (“number of items” /kosu’u/), 個人 (“indivisual person” /ko’jin/).

The rectangular shape of the next two kanji, 回 and 四, is wide rather than long unlike other kunigamae kanji and their origins differ from other kanji with kunigamae. Nonetheless they are among the kunigamae kanji in the traditional kanji dictionary.

  1. The kanji 回 “to whirl; time”

History of Kanji 回For the kanji 回, in oracle bone style and bronze ware style, it was the image of whirling water or something coiling. The directions of coiling were not uniform among these earlier styles. It meant “to whirl; to coil.” Coiling also meant “times” because it always returns to the same place.

The kun-yomi 回る (/mawaru/ means “to go around”), an intransitive verb, and 回す/mawasu/ is the transitive verb (“to run in a circle; go around” /mawasu/). It is also iin 遠回り (“detour” /tooma’wari/). The on-yomi /ka’i/ is in 一回 (“once” /ikkai/), 回数 (“number of times” /kaisu’u/).

  1. The kanji 四 “four”

History of Kanji 四For the kanji 四, the writing for “four,” had originally four bars placed horizontally in oracle bone style and bronze ware style. It is in line with 一 “one”, 二 “two” and 三,”three.” Later on the shape 四 was borrowed to mean “four,” and also meant “all (four directions).”

The kun-yomi /yo’n/ or /yo/ is in 四つ (“four pieces” /yottsu/), 四日 (“four days; fourth day of month” /yokka/), and 四人 (“four people” /yonin/), 四時 (“four o’clock” /yo’ji/). On-yomi /shi/ is in 四方 (“all directions” /shiho’o/). The Japanese language kept both Japanese counting systems (kun-yomi) and Chinese kanji counting systems (on-yomi) from one through ten. Some words contain both kun-yomi and on-yomi, such as 二十四日 (“twenty four days; 24th day of month” /ni’juu yokka/), in which 二十 /ni’juu/ is the on-yomi and 四日 /yokka/ is the kun-yomi, even though 二十日 “twenty days; twentieth of month” by itself is in kun-yomi /hatsuka/.

We have seen quite a few kanji that have an enclosure shape. The meaning of the rectangular shape ( ) varied — as a boundary of a country or land, as a fence to corral animal or confine a prisoner, to surround, etc. There are other kanji, such as 団 (團), that have a kunigamae. We will look at them at a later time when we discuss other related kanji. [October 10, 2015  Japan time]

The Kanji 国(國)或域惑図(圖)園遠 -くにがまえ(1)


In this post and the next, we are going to look at kanji that have a bushu kunigamae (囗) “an enclosure; boundary” and other related kanji.

1 The Kanji 国 (國) “country”

The kanji 国 has the kyujitai 國. The inside of the kyujitai is 或. 或 appeared in other Joyo kanji such as 或 域 and 惑 without a kunigamae. Because the four kanji shared the same origin, we are going to look at them all here, staring with 或.

(1-a) The kanji  或 “perhaps; or; maybe”

History of Kanji 或The oracle bone style sample of the kanji 或, (a) in brown, consisted of a box which represented a wall around a fortress or town, and a long stake to mark the boundary of a capital. In the bronze ware style sample, (b) in green, the area or city wall was marked with a line at the top and the bottom to emphasize the range or outline of an area. The right side became a halberd (戈), signifying “weapons.” In ten style, (c) in red, the top boundary line and the top of the halberd became a continuous line. Setsumon’s explained that 或 was weapon (戈) protecting land (一). Setsumon also gave the shape with a bushu tsuchihen (土) “soil” on the left as its variant, as in (d), which became the kanji 域. So, 或 originally meant “area; domain.” Then later on 或 came to be used to mean “to exist.” “To exist” also extended to mean “certain” in the sense “specific but not explicitly stated.” The kanji 或 meant “or; perhaps; maybe; alternatively.”

The kun-yomi /a/ or /a’ru/ is in 或る人 (“certain person” /a’ruhito/) and 或は /aru’iwa/ means “or; perhaps; maybe; alternatively.” There is no on-yomi.

The original meaning of “area; range” remained in two Joyo kanji — 域and 國 (国), which we are going to look at next.

(1-b) The kanji 域 “area; limit; range”

History of Kanji 域As we have just seen, 或 and 域 shared the same origin. The first bronze ware style sample shown on the left was exactly the same as that of 或 in (1-a). In the second bronze ware style sample, a new component was added — a small circle signifying an “area,” and a “person” at the bottom. In the history of kanji, generally speaking if we see a small circle or a box placed above a person in bronze ware style, we can expect them to become the kanji 邑 “village” or a bushu oozato “village,” as in the right side of 都, 部. But in this case, a bushu tsuchihen (土) “soil; ground” appeared in ten style, probably to focus on the land itself, rather than people. The kanji 域 meant “area; limit; range.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /i’ki/ is in 地域 (“area; region” /chi’iki/), 区域 (“zone; segment” /ku’iki/) and 領域 (“domain; territory” /ryooiki/).

(1-c) The Kanji 国 (國) “country; territory; realm; homeland”

History of Kanji 国(國)Another kanji that retained the meaning “area; domain” that 或 originally had is the kanji 國, which is the kyujitai for 国. In the history of the kanji 国 shown on the left, the oracle bone style writing (a) and the first bronze ware style (b) were the same as those of 或, as in (1-a) above. Another bronze ware style sample (c) had an enclosure (囗) around 或. Sometime during the bronze ware style time when 或 changed its meaning to “to exist; certain,” a new kanji for country 國 was created by adding an enclosure line, to mean “country; domain.” The ten style sample (d) and the kyujitai (e), in blue, reflected that shape. In shinjitai (f), however, 玉 “jewel,” instead of 或, was adopted for the inside. It seems that 国 had been used as an abbreviation of 國, but I have not been able to find in the references when the simplified kanji emerged.

The kun-yomi 国 /kuni/ means “country; nation; one’s hometown; home country.” It is also in 国元 (“one’s home country” /kunimoto/). The on-yomi /ko’ku/ is in 日本国 (the official name of Japan /niho’nkoku/), 国民 (“people” /kokumin/), 国語 (“national language; Japanese” /kokugo/), 国際 (“international” /kokusai/), and /kok-/ is in 国家 (“nation; state; country” /kok’ka/), 国交 (“diplomatic relations” /kokkoo/).

(1-d) The kanji 惑 “to be bewildered; to be confused”

History of Kanji 惑There is one more kanji we discuss that contains 或 here. For the kanji 惑, in bronze ware style and ten style the top 或was used phonetically for /waku/. When 心 “heart” was added, they described the state of mind of the heart wondering about existence. An oscillating state of mind means “to be bewildered; confused.”

The kun-yomi 惑う/mado’u/ means “to be bewildered; confused,” and 戸惑う /tomado’u/ means “to become disoriented; become perplexed.” The on-yomi /wa’ku/ is in 疑惑 (“suspicion; doubt; mistrust” /giwaku/), 誘惑 (“temptation” /yuuwaku/), 当惑する (“to feel lost; to be confused” /toowakusuru/). An interesting use for this kanji is in 惑星 (“planet” /wakusee/) because the planet circles around the sun as if being lost.

  1. The kanji 図 (圖) “drawing; to plan; scheme; contrive”

History of Kanji 図(圖)For the kanji 図 in both bronze ware style samples (a) and (b), there was a granary inside the enclosure. The whole image was a map or drawing that showed where the granary was located in the village. The drawing served an important role in managing farming fields. From “discussing how to manage the land using the plan of the field,” it also meant “to plan; scheme.” The ten style sample (c) was reflected in the kyujitai (d). In shinjitai, the inside component was replaced by a katakanaツ and a short slanted stroke, a device that was seen in other simplified kanji. The kanji 図 means “drawing; to plan; scheme; contrive.”

The kun-yomi 図る /haka’ru/ means “to plan; attempt,” and is in 図らずも (“unexpectedly; accidentally” /hakara’uzumo/). The on-yomi (go-on) /zu/ is in 地図 (“map” /chi’zu/), 図星 (“the bull’s eye” /zuboshi/), 図式 (“diagram; graph” /zushiki/). Another on-yomi (kan-on) /to/ is in 図書 (“book” /to’sho/) and 意図 (“intention” /i’to/).

  1. The kanji 園 “garden”

History of Kanji 園For the kanji 園, the inside of an enclosure (囗) in the ten style sample had 袁, which was used phonetically for /en/ to mean “roomy.” (More on the origin of 袁 in the next kanji 遠.) Together they meant an enclosed area that was roomy. From that it meant “garden,” and a roomy place where people gather such as a school.

The kun-yomi is 園 /so’no/ and is in 花園 “flower garden” /hanazono/). The on-yomi /e’n/ is in 公園 (“park” /kooen/), 庭園 (“(large) garden” /teeen/), 動物園 (“zoo” /doobutsu’en/), 幼稚園の園児 (“kindergarten pupil” /yoochi’en-no e’nji) and 学園 (“(private) school” /gakuen/).

  1. The kanji 遠 “far; distance”

History of Kanji 遠The Kanjigen dictionary explained that 袁 came from “clothes/collar (衣) loosely wrapped around the body (○),” and that the kanji 遠 was “辵 (semantic composite) + 袁 (phonetically /en/ and means roomy and having latitude).” Together they meant “far; distant.” I am a little troubled by the fact that this view does not appear to touch upon 土 in 袁. On this point, Shirakawa’s explanation is more inclusive of all the elements in the bronze ware style sample — The upper left was a “crossroad” (); the upper right was a footprint that signified “footwear”; the middle had a collar with a jewel that was used for awakening the dead; and the bottom was another “footprint.” According to Shirakawa in ancient times, before sending the deceased on the long journey to the afterlife a jewel was placed inside the collar of the deceased and footware was placed above the head (which would explain 土); the crossroad and the bottom footprint signified a journey. Altogether they meant “far; long.”

Those who criticize Shirakara’s etymological analyses are primarily concerned about his premise that the meaning of kanji and the origins of writing derive from the practices of magic and incantation that were prevalent at the time the kanji were created. Our readers may have noticed this tendency in some of the earlier posts as well as on 遠 here. We cannot contribute to the discussion among kanji historians about whether that premise is correct. We can only note it, and in his instance it seems to explain more of the kanji than other views.

By the time the writing had reached ten style, the crossroad and footprint were aligned vertically, which eventually became the bushu shinnyoo, “to move forward.” The kanji 遠 meant “far; distant.”

The kun-yomi 遠い /tooi/ means “far; distant.” In hiragana it is とおい, rather than とうい. It is also in 遠出する (“to go for outing” /toodesuru/). The on-yomi /en/ is in 遠距離の (“distant” /enkyo’rino/), 遠慮する (“hold back; be modest” /enryo-suru/), 敬遠する (“to keep at a respectful distance” /keeen-suru/).

We will continue to look at kanji that have a bushu kunigamae – 困因囚固個団回 and others – in the next post. [October 3, 2015  Japan time]