The Kanji 限除余防方険剣障章際祭隣 – こざとへん(3)


This is the third post on kanji with a bushu kozatohen. We are going to look at 限除余防方険剣障章際祭隣.

(1) The kanji 限 “boundary; bounds; to limit”

History of Kanji 限The kanji 限 was discussed earlier in connection with 艮 “to halt; go against; immobile.” [Eyes Wide Open (4) 限眼根恨痕銀退 on April 7, 2014]  艮 has been given a number of different interpretations among references. One is that the top was an eye and the bottom was a “person facing backward,” and together they meant a situation in which a person was unable to move forward facing a big evil eye. Another is that the bottom was a “knife,” instead of a person, and a cut around the eye made by a knife became a scar, thus signifying “to remain; stay.” A third view is that 艮 was used only phonetically to mean “to remain.”  The history of 限  is shown above in two bronze ware styles, in green, and ten style, in red. Whichever explanation we take on the right side, the left side was a mountain or a stack of dirt raised high that deterred one from going forward. From one’s inability to move forward, the kanji 限 meant “boundary; bounds; to limit.”

The kun-yomi 限る /kagi’ru/ means “to limit” and is in 見限る (“to abandon; turn one’s back on” /mikagiru/), 限りない (“endless; best” /kagirina’i/.) The on-yomi /ge’n/ is in 最大限 (“maximum” /saida’igen/), 制限 (“restriction” /seege’n/), 上限 (“upper limit; cap”/joogen/), and 期限 (“time limit” /ki’gen/).

(2) The kanji 除 “to remove”

History of Kanji 除In the bronze ware style sample of the kanji 除, the right side 余 was used phonetically to mean “(time/money/space) to spare; latitude.” How did the shape 余 get that meaning? The history of the shape seems to have been well documented, and example are shown on the right.

History of Kanji 余(frame)The kanji : One view is that for the oracle bone style (a) and bronze ware style (b), it was a surgery needle with a handle to remove lesions. In (c) and ten style (d) the two ハ-like lines were added to mean “to open a wound to remove soemthing.” Removing something that was not wanted came to mean “to have extra space; what is left; latitude.” Another view is that it was a spade that removed dirt and meant something extra. The two ハ shapes signified dirt that was removed to make a hole. (One view of the origin of the kanji 穴 “hole” is consistent with this.)

In the kanji 除, a kozatohen providing “dirt,” and 余 used phonetically together meant 除 “to remove extra dirt.” I must admit that this explanation is not as convincing as it is with some other kanji. But we must be prepared to accept that fact that not all kanji can be explained logically.

  1. The kanji 防 “to prevent; defend”

History of Kanji 防For the kanji 防, the ten style sample (the middle one) had a kozatohen on the left and the kanji 方 on the right. The 方 was used phonetically to mean something that went sideways. An alternative ten style in Setsumon (the left one) had 土 “soil” at the bottom to emphasize “dirt.” Together they signified a high dirt wall on all sides to prevent an enemy from coming in. The kanji 防 meant “to prevent; defend.” The kun-yomi /huse’gu/ means “to prevent.” The on-yomi /bo’o/ is in 防止 (“prevention” /booshi/), 予防 (“preventive” /yoboo/) and 防衛 (“defense”/booee/).

History of Kanji 方(frame)The kanji 方 — There are many different views on the origin of 方. One is that it was a hoe with a long handle and that the handle pointing on either side and the pole at the top and the bottom together signified “four directions.” A different direction is an “option.” Four directions make a “square.” Another view is a little disturbing. It was a body that was hanged in a public display. As I look at the oracle bone style (a) and bronze ware style samples (b), I am beginning to see how they were explained that way. The sideways line with two short lines at the end is very similar to the origins of the kanji 央 ”center,” and the shape in the center looks like a person viewed from the side. Why did a hanging dead body in a public display mean “direction”?  Shirakawa explained that it was placed at the boundaries of surrounding barbarian countries, thus denoting various directions. When the explanation goes to mystic ancient customs, there is no way for us to judge it. So i leave it as it is. The kanji 方 means “direction; option; square.”

  1. The kanji 険 “danger”

History of Kanji険%0D%0D 険%0D%0DHistory of Kanji 険For the kanji 険, the right side in ten style was an interesting shape – under a cover there were two sets of a box and a person placed side by side. The kyujitai, in blue, retained those elements (僉) in any of the kanji that took this shape (検剣験倹). It is explained as people grading goods under a cover, signifying “to examine; check,” or “people listening to an order of the god” (from the kanji 命). It was used phonetically in many kanji. It is true in the kanji 険 that a kozatohen “mountain; hills,” phonetically used on the right right side together meant “perilous; danger.”

The kun-yomi 険しい /kewashii/ means “steep; challenging; grim.” The on-yomi /ke’n/ is in 危険 (“dangerous” /kikenna/), 保険 (“insurance” /hoken/) and 陰険な (”sly; double-dealing” /inkenna/).

History of Kanji 剣(frame)The kanji 剣– I was curious about where the right side of the kanji 険 came from. The kanji 検 験 and 倹 came in ten style only, but the kanji 剣 “bayonet; sword” came in bronze ware style, as shown on the right. The left sample consisted of a roof at the top, two people at the bottom and a shape in the middle, which I cannot recall seeing elsewhere. (I have a feeling that I will come across it one day) In the second bronze ware style sample the left side was minerals buried in mine. The right side had the same component of ten style, but the curious thing is that the feet of the people were tied together. No semantic explanation on these can be found in references. So, this did not help us much to understand the origin of the right side of the kanji 険, 検, 験, 倹, and the left side of 剣. The shared pronunciation /ken/ in Japanese tells us that it was used phonetically in those kanji, but I would certainly like to know what happened before that.

  1. The kanji 際 “peripheral; edge”

History of Kanji 際In ten style the kanji 際 had a kozatohen “boundary” and the kanji 祭 “festival” that was used phonetically for /sa’i/. It meant “edge; peripheral.”

The kun-yomi 際 /kiwa’/ means “boundary; peripheral” and is in 際どい (“dangerous; bordering on the immoral” /kiwado’i/). /GIwa/ is in 窓際 (“window side” /madogiwa/), 〜瀬戸際 ( “the critical moment of doing” /setogiwa/). The on-yomi /sa’i/ is in 国際的 (“international” /kokusaiteki/) and 交際 (“acquaintance; relationship” /koosai/).

History of Kanji 祭(frame)The kanji  The origin of the kanji 祭 has no relationship in meaning with the kanji 際, but it reminds us what a festival was about. In oracle bone style (a) and (b) it contained a hand and a piece of meat (in a reverse position), and droplets of sake in the middle. It was sacrificial animal meat being sanctified with sake. A sacrificial animal played an important role in ancient Chinese society, including a cow, sheep, pig and dog. In (c) and (d) in bronze ware style, an altar table was added. A festival was a prayer to a god and a celebration of him. The kanji 祭 means “festival.”

  1. The kanji 障 “to block; hinder”

History of Kanji 障For the kanji 障, the ten style sample had a mountain or stack of dirt on the left, and the right side was the kanji 章, which was used phonetically for /sho’o/ to mean “fence.” Together they meant “to block; hinder.”

The kun-yomi 障る /sawaru/ means “to interfere with; irritating” and is in 差し障り (“adverse effect; obstacle” /sashisawari/). /zawa/ is in 目障りな (“offensive to the eye” /meza’warina).  The on-yomi /sho’o/ is in 故障する (“to break down” /koshoo-suru/). 障害 (“hindrance; obstacle” /shoogai/) and 障子 (“shoji paper screen” /shoji/).

History of Kanji 章(frame)The kanji The kanji 章 and 障 are not semantically related. Our reader may find the origin of 章 a little surprising, shown on the right. It was a pictograph, i.e., the entire shape was a single image. The image was a tattooing needle with a big handle at the top and a large ink reservoir in the middle. The needle tattooed a pattern clearly and distinctly, and it signified something that was drawn or written beautifully, such as a badge, chapter, etc. The kanji 章 means “badge; chapter.”

  1. Additional notes on the kanji 隣 “neighbor”

History of Kanji 隣 (frame)In the four postings we have looked at kanji that had the shape . When this shape appeared on the right it meant “village” and was called a bushu oozato, whereas when it appeared on the left side it meant “mountain; hills; ladder; soil stacked up high,” and was called a bushu kozatohen. Generally the side on which it appeared was so important that they never switched their positions. There is a possible exception to this. That is the kanji 隣 [One Foot at a Time (4) 傑燐憐隣 – Two feet off the ground posted on July 28, 2014] The kyujitai for 隣 was 鄰 with a oozato. Many treat 隣 with a kozatohen as “informal variant.” Shirakawa gave samples of bronze ware style, as shown on the right (a) and (b), and said that 隣 was the correct writing. Sample (b) is convincing, but I cannot find the same shape in Akai or other references. So for the time being, we can imagine that onibi in a mountain or hills was used phonetically for “neighborhood; people live in a cluster,” and a village was added to solidify the meaning.

We have spent a lot of time in the last four posts to poke around kanji that have a oozato and kozatohen. We can expect similar findings in other kanji that we did not look at, such as 隙 隆 陥 among the Joyo kanji. We continue our exploration of ancient writing that originated from human habitat. Maybe we should revisit the bushu shinnyoo/shinnyuu, which had the two elements “footprint” and “crossroad” coalesced into one bushu. Thank you very much for your interest. -Noriko   [November 29, 2015]

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