The Online 1100 Video Kanji Lessons Completed


The first stage of the video lessons on an etymology-based kanji study has been completed. The last two tables of kanji are shown at the bottom. The all 1100 lessons are at

Working at the same time on these lessons and on the Kanji Portraits blog has been giving me a chance to revisit the origins of each kanji with more focus on the ancient writings. Ancient writings are great storytellers. They entertain and make us think. I have been sharing my thoughts with you as I do my research. I hope you are enjoying it as much as I have been.

I will be away from the reference materials over the Christmas-New Year break, so the next posting will probably be the second weekend in January.  (Due to the change of my traveling schedule it will be around the third weekend. Updated on January 7, 2016)

I wish you and yours a merry Christmas, a happy holiday for whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year, and the very best of the new year.

メリークリスマス!  どうぞよいお年をお迎えください




The Kanji 迎逆連軍運過速束込入 –しんにょう(2)


We are continuing to look at kanji that contain a bushu shinnyoo. In this post we are going to look at the kanji 迎逆連軍運過速束込入.

  1. The kanji 迎 “to welcome”

History of Kanji 迎For the kanji 迎, the left side in ten style, in red, was a composite of two elements, a crossroad (the three hooked lines from the left half of a crossroad) and a footprint. Together they meant “to move along (beyond a crossroad)” and became a bushu shinnyoo in kanji. The center was a person standing, facing right. By having the component that meant “to move along” right behind him we can imagine that he had travelled. On the right side was another person bowing to his visitor in a humble posture. Altogether they meant “to welcome.”

The kun-yomi 迎える /mukaeru/ means “to receive (person)” and is in 迎えに行く (“to go to pick up someone” /mukae’niiku/). The on-yomi /ge’e/ is in 歓迎 (“welcome” /kangee/) and 送迎バス (“pickup bus” /soogeeba’su/).

  1. The kanji 逆 “to reverse; wrong way; backward”

History of Kanji 逆For the kanji 逆, in oracle bone style, in brown, the left side was a person upside down, and the right side was a crossroad. In bronze ware style, in green, the upside down person and crossroad switched their positions and a footprint was added at the bottom. There are a couple of different views on this. One is that “an upside down person” signified “reverse,” and with “to move along” a person went backward. From that it meant “to reverse; wrong way; backward.” Another is by Shirakawa, who said that an upside down person with a crossroad signified a person coming toward another person who was standing on his foot. Together they originally meant “to receive someone.” Then the writing was borrowed to mean “reverse.” Although I find this view, of an upside down person signifying a movement toward you, intriguing, I would like to think about this more in relation to other kanji that originated an upside down image.

The on-yomi 逆さ /sakasa/ means “upside down; backward.” The on-yomi /gyaku/ is 逆に (“conversely; vice verse” /gyakuni/), 反逆 (”revolt” /hangyaku/).

  1. The kanji 連 “to link; accompany; continuous”

History of Kanji 連For the kanji 連 the bronze ware style sample had a crossroad on the left. The right side had two vehicles connected, and a footprint at the bottom. Together they signified a convoy of vehicles. In ten style the footprint moved to the left and aligned with the crossroad. On the right side there was only one vehicle. From many vehicles moving forward in a connected way it meant “to link; to accompany; continuous.”

The kun-yomi 連れる /tsureru/ means “to bring (someone) with,” and is 連れてくる (“to bring someone” /tsureteku’ru/), 二人連れ (“a party of two” /hutarizure/ ふたりづれ) and 親子連れ (“a parent and a child” /oyakozure/ おやこづれ).  The on-yomi /re’n/ is in 連絡する (“to contact; inform” /renraku-suru/), 一連の (“a series of” /ichiren-no/).

  1. The kanji 運 “to carry; transport; luck” and 軍 “military; troops”

History of Kanji 軍The kanji 軍 — Before the kanji 運, let us look at its component 軍 first because 軍 came before 運. On the right we have two bronze ware style writings. Both had 車 “vehicle.” The question is, what the top of or around the vehicle was about. The left bronze ware style sample was explained as a military flag that marked where the military vehicles were. This shape was similar to a flag for a clan in the kanji such as 族, 旅 and 旗, so it has an appeal to me. Another explanation is that the encircling line (勹 in ten style) simply meant “to wrap around,” and the kanji meant soldiers encircling military vehicles. Either way the kanji 軍 meant “military.” In kanji, the short line at the top was lost, possibly to differentiate it from a ukanmuri () “house.” The shape above 車 is called a /waka’nmuri/, from a katakana ワ and /kanmuri/ “crown.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /gu’n/ means “army; troops,” and is in 軍人 (“military personnel” /gunjin/), 陸軍 (“army; land forces” /riku’gun/), 軍隊 (“military forces; troops” /gu’ntai/).

History of Kanji 運For the kanji 運, a bushu shinnyoo “to move forward” and 軍 “military” that was used phonetically signified to “transport military equipment.” It meant “to transport.” Because a luck comes around, it also meant “luck.”

The kun-yomi /hakobu/ means “to carry; transport.” The on-yomi /u’n/ is in 運動 (“movement; exercise” /undo/), 運賃 (“fair” /u’nchin/), 運のいい (“fortunate; lucky” /u’n-no-ii/).

  1. The kanji 過 “to pass through; excessive; mistake”

History of Kanji 過For the kanji 過 in the bronze ware style, in addition to a crossroad and a footprint we see an unusual shape at the top right. It was explained in references as “joint of bones of a deceased person.” Together with “to move along” they meant “to pass through.” Something that goes through could easily end up being excessive, which also may result in a mistake. From that it also meant “excessive; making a mistake.” The kanji 過 means “to pass through; excessive; mistake.”

The kun-yomi /sugi’ru/ means “to pass through” and is in 食べ過ぎる (“to overeat” /tabesugiru.) Another kun-yomi 過ち /ayama’chi/ means “mistake; fault; sin.” The on-yomi /ka/ is in 過去 (“past” /ka’ko/), 過激派 (“radicals; extremist group” /kagekiha/), 超過料金 (“excessive charges” /chookaryo’okin/).

  1. The kanji 速 “fast” and 束 “bundle”

History of Kanji 速For the kanji 速 in bronze ware style, the top was stuff tied with a rope and the bottom was a crossroad which was used phonetically to mean “speedy.” The bottom had a crossroad and footprint, the makings of a shinnyoo. In ten style the tied stuff with strings became 束. Together they meant “fast.”

The kun-yomi /haya’i/ means “fast.” The on-yomi /so’ku/ is in 速度 (“speed” /so’kudo/), 早速 (“at once; right away” /sassoku/), 速達 (“special delivery” /sokutatsu/) and 快速電車 (“rapid train” /kaisokude’nsha/).

History of Kanji 束The kanji 束-– The upper right component of 速 by itself is the kanji 束. For 速, all of the ancient writing styles was a bundle of stuff tied together. It meant “to bundle.” The kun-yomi /ta’ba/ means “a bundle,” and is in 束ねる (“to bundle up” /tabane’ru/) and 花束 (“flower bouquet” /hana’taba/).

7. The kanji 込 “to come into; become crowded” and 入 “to enter”

The kanji 込 is kokuji, a kanji that was created in Japan; therefore no ancient writing existed. All kokuji are semantic composites. The kanji 込 was created by combining 入 “to enter or to put in” and a bushu しんにょう “to move forward.” It meant “to put something in.” When you put too many things in, it becomes crowded. So it also means “to be crowded.”

The kun-yomi /ko/ is in 込む (“to become crowded” /ko’mu/), 込める (“to put in; charge; concentrate” /kome’ru/), 閉じ込める (“to lock in; confine” /tojikome’ru/), 入り込む (“to come into; gain an entrance to” /hairiko’mu/) and 申し込み (“application” /mooshikomi/). Being a kokuji, it does not have an on-yomi.

History of Kanji 入The kanji 入   In all ancient styles, it was the shape of an entrance to a house. It meant “to enter.” In kanji you write the shorter stroke towards the left first.

We will continue more kanji with a shinnyoo in the next post. [December 13, 2015]

The Kanji 進達返退迷逃近-しんにょう(1)


Among the 1100 kanji in The Key to Kanji book, there are 26 kanji that contain a bushu shinnyoo or shinnyuu. For our exploration on the origin of shinny with a focus on ancient writings, we have oracle bone style writing samples in five kanji and bronze ware style writing samples in 18 kanji. So with these samples, we will be sure about where a bushu shinnyoo was coming from. It began with the left side of a crossroad and a footprint together, or one of the two alone. A crossroad suggesting a “road” and a footprint suggesting “walking” together signified “moving forward (along a road).” The table below shows the history of a bushu shinnyoo from the time of oracle bone style through shinjitai style.

History of Bushu しんにゅうExplanation of the table above: In the bronze ware style sample (a) in brown for the kanji 達, the left side was a crossroad, and the right bottom was a (forward-facing) footprint. In the bronze ware style sample (b) in green for the kanji 道, the crossroad was in a full shape, and the footprint at the bottom began to change to the shape that we see in (c). In the second bronze ware style sample (c) for the kanji 過, the crossroad had only left side, which in ten style (d) in red became three hooked shape lines. The bottom was 止. The shape 辵 (e) in purple was taken from the section header in the Kangxi dictionary (康熙字典). In the dictionary, however, the kanji entries themselves had a more simplified shape with two dots, such as (f) for 近 in blue. The last stroke was stretched out to the right side at the bottom. The shape (f) remained as kyujitai (kyujitai was basically the style of the Kangxi dictionary), and in Japanese it was called shinnyuu/shinnyoo. After the Japanese language reform the shape (g) in black replaced it. A bushu shinnyoo has quite a history!

A few additional notes on shinnyoo:

(1) Shinnyoo or shinnyuu?  I have been using the names shinnyoo (しんにょう) and shinnyuu (しんにゅう) interchangeably. A bushu 遶 /nyo’o; にょう/ is a component that starts on the left side and continues at the bottom to the right. Other bushu that have nyoo include an ennyoo (廴) in 延, 庭, 建, a soonyoo (走) in 起, 超, 越 and a suinyoo (夂) in 後, 夏. Most Japanese people still use the older name shinnyuu. The “elegance” of a neatly arranged name is not quite winning over the old name.

(2) Where did the name /shin/ in shinnyoo come from?   /Shin/ was from the kanji 之 /shi/. Shinnyoo meant a “之-like nyoo.” When we see the kyujitai (f) , we can see a similarity to 之 in shape.

(3) Two Different Typefaces of ShinnyooMincho style writing for a shinnyoo — The shapes in Mincho style (a) on the right table and textbook style (kyookasho-tai) in (c) are different. The second stroke of shinnyoo in kai style (b), orthodox style in brush writing, and textbook style (c) is a wavy line whereas in Mincho style (a) it is not.  When you write,  you are expected to write it with a wavy line.

All right. Now that we have taken care of the shapes and its histories, let us look at some kanji 進達返退迷逃近.

  1. The kanji 進 “to advance”

History of Kanji 進The history of the kanji 進 is shown on the left. In oracle bone style, the top was a bird, which was used phonetically, and the bottom was a footprint signifying “walking.” In bronze ware style, a crossroad was added to the left side. Adding a crossroad suggesting “one choosing to go straight past at a crossroad” meant “to advance.” The footprint was taking the shape of 止. By itself it made the kanji 止, and  meant “to stop; halt,” from stopping one’s feet. When used as a component 止 carried the meaning of “foot; moving forward.” In ten style, the crossroad and a footprint were aligned vertically forming a single meaningful unit to mean “to move forward.” The shape “bird” on the right side appeared in many other kanji that eventually becomes 隹. 隹 is called fututori, and the name comes from the kyujitai kanji 舊 for /huru’i/ (旧 in shinjitai), and /tori/ “bird,” and it was frequently used phonetically.

The kun-yomi 進む /susumu/ means “to advance; make one’s way.” The on-yomi /shi’n/ is in 進歩 (“advancement” /shi’npo/), 進化する (“to evolve; develop” /shi’nka-suru/), 後進国 (“underdeveloped country” /kooshi’nkoku/), 急進的な (“radical” /kyuushintekina/) and デモ行進 (“demonstration march” /demoko’oshin/.)

  1. The kanji 達 “to reach; attain; arrive”

History of Kanji 達 (frame)We discussed the kanji 達 in January when we looked at kanji that contain 羊 (sheep). [The Year of Sheep 羊洋逹鮮群-Radical 羊 ひつじ(1) January 11, 2015] The year of the sheep is almost over now. At that time I wrote the following: “In oracle bone style, the left side was a crossroad, and the right side had a person and a footprint. Together they meant “to go; something goes without a hitch.” In bronze ware style, the right side was a sheep to signify the scene in which a lamb was born smoothly.” This time a disconnection between a person in (a) and a sheep (b) started to bother me, so I went back to the references with more critical eyes. The “alternative writing” in Setsumon (d) with a person on the right caught my eye. With (d), (a) is explained better now. With the two components that signified “going forward” and the easy birth of a lamb or a person walking ahead, the kanji 達 meant “to reach; attain; arrive.” (For sample words please refer to the previous post.)

  1. The kanji 返 “to reverse; put it back; restore”

History of Kanji 返In the last post, in discussing the kanji 阪 we touched on the different explanations of the origin of 反. In ten style the kanji 返 consisted of the two elements that signified “to move forward” on the left and 反 on the right, which was used phonetically to mean “to reverse.” The kanji 返 meant “to reverse; put it back; restore.”

The kun-yomi 返す /ka’esu/ means “to return,” and is in 繰り返す (“to repeat” /kurika’esu/). ひっくり返す (“to turn over; turn upside down” /hikkurika’esu/) has the intransitive counterpart verb ひっくり返る /hikkurika’eru/). The on-yomi /he’n/ is in 返事 (“response” /henji’/), 返金 (“repay; reimbursement” /henkin/), 取り返しがつかない (“there is no mending; can’t be undone” /torikaeshi-ga-tsuka’nai/), 見返りがある (“there is a reward/collateral” /mikaeri-ga-a’ru/).

  1. The kanji 退 “to move backward; retreat”

History of Kanji 退Even though the upper right component of the kanji 退, 艮, is the same as the right component of the kanji 限 discussed in our last post, their origins were different – In 限 艮 consisted of an eye and a person or a knife whereas in 退 艮 consisted of a raised bowl of food or the sun, and a backward-facing footprint (夂 suinyoo) below that. The bronze ware style sample showed a bowl of food and a backward footprint. A person walking backward not showing his back in taking down the food offering from the altar table was the explanation given by Shirakawa. The other explanation given by the Kadokawa dictionary is that, from “the sun going down,” it meant “to retreat; recede; move backward.” Now where did the shinnyoo in kanji come from? Interestingly the combination of the crossroad and the backward footprint together gave the meaning the shinnyoo “to move backward” rather than “to move forward.”  (The oracle bone style sample here is the origin of the alternate ten style given by Setsumon (not shown here).)

The kun-yomi 退く /shirizo’ku/ means “to retreat; move backward.” Another kun-yomi /no/ is in 立ち退く (“to get out; vacate” /tachinoku/). The on-yomi /ta’i/ is in 後退 (“retreat” /kootai/), 退職 (“resignation or retirement from a job” /taishoku/), and 退屈な (“boring” /taikutsuna/.)

  1. The kanji 迷 “to be perplexed; lose one’s way”

History of Kanji 迷For the kanji 迷, the bronze ware style sample had a crossroad (left side of 行), 木 and a footprint 止. In ten style the footprint moved to the left, and the right side became 米, which was used phonetically. This kanji is also popularly explained as “one loses one’s way like rice grains scattered in all directions.” The kanji 迷 means “to be perplexed; lose one’s way.”

The kun-yomi 迷う /mayo’u/ means “to be perplexed; lose one’s way,” and is in 迷い子 or 迷子 (“lost child” /mayoi’go/ or /ma’igo/). The on-yomi /me’e/ is in 迷惑な (“annoying; troublesome” /me’ewakuna/), 混迷する (“to be stupefied; be confused” /konmeesuru/) and 迷信 (“superstition” /meeshin/).

  1. The kanji 逃 “to run away; sidestep”

History of Kanji 逃For the kanji 逃, in ten style the right side 兆 came from a pictograph that was the crack lines on a heated tortoise shell or animal bone for divination. When crack lines appeared on the heated bone, they appeared very quickly. The left side “to move forward” and cracks running fast together meant “to run away; dodge.”

The kun-yomi 逃げる /nige’ru/ means “to run away,” and is in 逃げ回る (“to run about” /nigemawa’ru/). Another kun-yomi 逃れる /nogare’ru/ means “to dodge; sidestep,” and is in 言い逃れ (“excuse” /iinogare/). The on-yomi /to’o/ is in 逃亡者 (“fugitive; runaway” /toobo’osha/).

  1. The kanji 近 “close; near”

History of Kanji 近In the ten style of the kanji 近, the right side was a hand axe with a shaped handle, but here it was used phonetically for /ki’n/ to mean “a little.” With the left side “moving forward” a short distance to go forward meant “near.” The kanji 近 meant “near; close.”

The kun-yomi /chika’i/ means “near,” and /jika/ is in 間近に (まぢかに) (“nearby; at close quarters” /ma’jikani/) and 身近な(みぢかな) (“close to oneself; familiar” /mijikana/). The on-yomi /ki’n/ is in 近所 (“nearby place; neighborhood” /ki’njo/) and 最近 (“recently; lately” /saikin/).

We will continue with more kanji that contain a shinnyoo in the next post. [December 5, 2015]