The kanji 暮晩免星晶早旬 – 日 (2)

  1. The kanji 暮 “sundown; twilight; the end of the year”

In the last post we started to look at kanji that have 日 “the sun.” We followed the sun appearing through tall grass by the seashore to midday. Now the sun is going down and we start with the dusk in this post. The sun goes down behind tall grass or plants again. That brings the kanji 暮 to us. The history of the kanji 暮 is shown on the left.

History of kanji 暮In oracle bone style and bronze ware style the writing consisted of the sun in the middle and four grasses or plants in all four corners. It was the time when the sun was about to disappear or “sundown; twilight.” The components remained the same in ten style except that the shapes of grasses were more stylized. In kanji the top became a bushu kusakanmuri “plants; vegetation,” and the bottom became a three-stroke 大-like shape and an additional sun. This additional sun was added because the original writing for evening 莫 came to be used for “nothing” or a negative meaning. When the sun disappears behind grass nothing is visible, thus “nothing.”  In addition to “sundown” the kanji 暮 also means “end (of day, year).” In Japanese, 暮 is also used to mean “to live a life.” How one spends a day is life. It makes me pause to think about daily life.

Various kanji with 莫 – 墓慕募幕模 — There are other kanji that originated from 莫 “the sun disappearing behind grass” in addition to 暮, with 日 a bushu hihen  “evening; end of a day/year; to live a life.”  They include the followings– (1) 墓, with 土 “soil; ground,” means “tomb”; (2) 慕, with a bushu shitagokoro (a variation of 心 “heart”), means “to yearn for; follow; adore”; (3) 募, with 力 “power; strength,” underneath means “to collect (contribution); raise”; (4) 幕, with 巾 “a piece of cloth” underneath, means “screen; curtain”; and (5) 模, with 木 a bushu kihen, means “model; mold; pattern” from an old wooden mold. The original shape 莫 by itself is also a kanji (not included in the Joyo kanji), but it is used in the common word 莫大な (“enormous; incalculable” /bakudaina/) in a phase such as 莫大な損害 (“enormously large loss” /bakudaina songai/).

The kun-yomi /kure/ means “end of a day or year.” Another kun-yomi /ku/ is in 暮らす (“to live a life” /kurasu/), and /gu/ is in 日暮れ (“dusk” /higure/) and 一人暮らし(“living alone” /hitorigu’rashi/). The on-yomi /bo/ is in お歳暮 (”end-of-a-year gift” /oseebo/), the custom in which one gives a gift as a token of gratitude. The type of gift is often not a personal item but rather goods that can be used.

  1. The kanji 免 “to avoid; allow” and 晩 ”evening”

After sundown total darkness of night comes, and it is hard to see things. The kanji 晩 means “evening; night,” which consists of 日 “sun” on the left and 免 “barely” on the right. Because the explanation of 免 is rather tricky, let us look at it first.

History of Kanji 免The kanji 免 – The kanji 免 “to avoid; barely” came from two totally different sources. In bronze style the top was a warrior’s helmet, and the bottom was a standing person with his hand in front. When a soldier came out alive from a battle he would take off his protective headpiece, a helmet. From that it meant “to dodge danger; avoid; barely.” It also means “to be exempted; allow.” The ten style writing is generally interpreted as a woman being in labor- with the top “person,” the middle “waist/hips” and the bottom “legs open for childbirth.” A baby is born by making it through a narrow passage during childbirth, which gave the meaning “barely (making it).”

The kun-yomi 免れる /manugare’ru; manukare’ru/ is “to escape.” The on-yomi /men/ is in 運転免許証 (“driver’s license” /untenmenkyo’shoo/) and 免疫 (“immunity” /men-eki/) prevents one from becoming infected. The expressionsご免なさい (“I am sorry” /gomennasa’i/) and ご免下さい (“Hello” an attention getter at the door /gomenkudasa’i/) are usually written in hiragana.

The kanji 娩 and 勉 — For the original meaning of childbirth, the kanji 娩, with a bushu onnahen “woman; female,” was created and is used in the word 分娩 (“delivery of a baby”/bunben/). It is also used in the kanji 勉, with 力 “power; strength” added, to mean “to put one’s effort into doing something” as in 勤勉な (“diligent” /kinben-na/) and 勉強する (“to study” /benkyoo-suru/).

History of Kanji 晩The kanji 晩— The right side 免 was used in the kanji 晩. Its ten style writing consisted of the sun 日, and 免, which was used phonetically to mean “something hidden and invisible.” From “the sun being hidden and not visible” it meant “evening; early night.” It is also used to mean “late.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi 晩 /ban/ means “evening; early night,” and is in 今晩 (“this evening” /ko’nban/) and 昨晩 (“yesterday evening” /saku’ban/ – formal style). For the meaning “late” it is used in 晩年 (“one’s last years” /bannen/) and 晩春 (“late spring” /banshun/). I have just come across a word that suits me very well – 晩学 (“learning late in life” /bangaku/). Well, it is never too late to learn. So I keep on doing my 晩学 on ancient Chinese writings to find an answer to help our kanji learners.

  1. 星 “star”

History of Kanji 星What shines or glistens in a night sky is stars. For the kanji 星 “star,” in oracle bone style (a) and (b), at the center was the a plant emerging a new from the ground, which was used phonetically for /se’e/. The small circles or squares around it were glistening stars. It meant “star.” In bronze ware style the small squares had a line in the middle like the sun. As ten style writings Setsumon gave two writings (d) and (e). (d) was originally the authentic writing and (e) was an alternative writing, but the kanji (f) reflects (e). Something in the sky that glistens emerges at night is a star. Or, we can also say that stars are born anew every night.

The kun-yomi 星 /hoshi/ means “(celestial) star.” /Boshi/ is in 流れ星 (“shooting star” /nagare’boshi/), 白星 (“win; success” /shiro’boshi/) and 黒星 (“loss; failure” /kuro’boshi/). The expression 図星だ /zuboshi-da/ means “the bull’s eye.” The on-yomi /se’e/ is in 星座 (“constellation” /seeza/).

  1. 晶 “pure and bright”

History of Kanji 晶Another kanji that came from something glistening is 晶. In oracle bone style it had three squares, which signified many things that shined or sparkled. In ten style lines were placed to indicate that inside was shining.  晶 meant “pure and bright.” It is also worth noting that the kanji 星 in the authentic ten style had three 日.

There is no kun-yomi in the Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /sho’o/ is in 結晶 (“crystal; crystallization” /kesshoo/).

  1. The kanji 早 “early”

History of Kanji 早The etymology of the kanji 早 is not agreed upon. One source (Kanjigen) says that the whole writing was a pictograph of an acorn, and acorn’s black hulls were used as dye for black or dark color. From the time that was still dark in the morning meant “early.” I used this explanation in the Key to Kanji. The second source (Kadokawa) is that the top 日 was the sun, and the bottom 十 was a seed germinating, pushing up, and was used phonetically. Together they meant the time when the sun rises, which is “early” in the morning. The third source (Shirakawa) treated it as a borrowing from “spoon” 是. For lack of earlier writing, it is hard to choose one over others.

The kun-yomi 早い /haya’i/ means “early,” and is in 早めに (“in good time; earlier than usual” /hayameni/). /Baya/ is in 手早く (“quickly; efficiently” /tebaya’ku/) and 足早に (“briskly; at a fast pace” /ashibayani/). The on-yomi /so’o/ is in 早朝 (“early morning” /soochoo/) and 早退 (“leaving work or class early” /sootai/).

History of Kanji 陽 (frame)The kanji 陽— Speaking of the sun rising, we have looked at the kanji 陽 in the earlier post [The Kanji 阜降陟陽陰今雲隊陸ーこざとへん(1) on November 14, 2015]. It is used in the words such as 太陽 (“the sun” /ta’iyoo/) and 陽光 (“sunshine” /yookoo/).  The ancient writings had a hill or mountain receiving the rays of the sun risen high in the sky. The upper right 日 was the sun. (In Shirakawa’s interpretation, the right side was a sacred gem on an altar table.)

  1. The kanji 旬 “ten days of a month; in the season”

History of Kanji 旬In the kanji 旬, 日 was used to mean a “day.” The oracle bone style writing was a dragon with his tail curled up. The bronze ware style writing had the sun added inside the semi-circle. The ancient calendar in China during the Yin (殷) dynasty used a calendar that had a cycle of ten days. A round shape suggested a cycle. With the sun in side, they meant “ten days,” which is one third of a month. It is also used to mean produce and fish that is “in the season,” the best time to eat.

There is no kun-yomi in the Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /ju’n/ is in 上旬 (“first ten-day period of month; early part of the month” /joojun/), 中旬 (“second ten days of a month” /chuujun/), 下旬 (“last part of a month; toward the end of a month” /gejun/). Another on-yomi /shun/ is in 旬の野菜 (“vegetable in season” /shun-no-yasai/).

We will continue our exploration of kanji that contain 日 in the next post. [February 28, 2016]

The Kanji 日旦暁朝潮昼−日 (1)


We start our exploration of kanji that originated from nature with the sun. The movement of the sun determines the time of day, from daybreak to sunset. The sun gives light, warmth and heat. There are a lot of kanji that contains the sun, as you can imagine. In this and next post we are going to follow the movement of the sun from dawn tonight.

  1. The kanji 日 “the sun; day; Japan; Japanese”

History of Kanji 日For the kanji 日, the oracle bone style writing, in brown, and bronze ware style writings, in green, had a square shape or a circle with a dot or a short line in the middle. The dot or the short line indicated that the inside was not empty. In ten style, in red, the middle dot became a line across. The kanji 日 meant “the sun; day; date; light.” From the country name 日本 /niho’n/, it also meant “Japan; Japanese.”

The kun-yomi /hi/ is in 月日が経つ (“time/days/years pass” /tsuki’hi-ga ta’tsu/), 子供の日 (“Children’s Day; May the fifth” /kodomonohi/), 日取りを決める (“to fix the date” /hidori-o kimeru/), 日が長くなる (“daylight time becomes longer” /hi-ga naga’ku-naru/). /Bi/ is in 何曜日 (“what day of the week” /nan-yo’obi/), and /pi/ is in 生年月日 (“birth date” /seenenga’ppi/). Another kun-yomi /ka/ is in 三日 (“third day of a month; for three days” /mikka/). The on-yomi /ni’chi/ is in 来日 (“arrival in Japan” /rainichi/), 日常会話 (“every day conversation” /nichijooka’iwa). /Ni/ is in 日本 (“Japan” /niho’n/). /Ni/ with a small /tsu/ is in 日記 (“diary; journal” /nikki/), 日程 (“the order of the day; itinerary” /nittee/), 日系 (“Japanese descent; Japanese-affiliated (company)” /nikkee/). /Jitsu/ is in 過日 (“the other day; some days ago” /ka’jitsu/ writing style). Customarily use includes 今日 (“today” /kyo’o/) and 昨日 (“yesterday” /kinoo/).

  1. The kanji 旦 “sunrise; once; temporarily”

History of Kanji 旦The origin of the kanji 旦 is often explained that the top was the sun and the line below was the land or horizon, and that it meant “sunrise; morning.” The explanation works well with the kanji, but when we look at the oracle bone style and bronze ware style writings, such as those shown on the left, the bottom does not look like the land or horizon. It is more like a cloud (Shirakawa). So, the morning sun rising above the clouds in the sky may be a better interpretation. The kanji 旦 meant “sunrise; daybreak.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ta’n/ is in 元旦 /gantan/ “the first day of a new year.” The kanji 旦 is also used in the word 一旦 (“for a short time; temporarily” /ittan/), as in 一旦家に帰る (“go home once (and will probably return again) /ittan uchi-ni ka’eru/), and 一旦〜すると、B (“once one does ~ , then (inevitable consequence B happens)” /ittan …suru-to/) and 一旦停車 (“Make a complete stop before proceeding to a crossroad”-a traffic stop sign /ittante’esha/). It is also used in words such as 旦那 (“master; keeper” /danna/) and 大旦那 (“old master” /ooda’nna/), used phonetically from a Buddhist term.

元旦 or 元日– One of the often talked about topics among Japanese when writing new year’s greeting postcards (年賀状 /nenga’joo/) is the difference between 元日 /ganjitsu/ and 元旦 /gantan/. Both mean the first day of the year. But if we follow the origin of the kanji literally, 元旦 means “the first sunrise of the year” whereas 元日 means “the first day.” So, if you send out your postcard in December to be delivered in the morning of January 1st, which the reliably efficient Japanese postal service will do, you can date it as 元旦. It would mean you were sending words celebrating the new sun rising high again, bringing a hopefully wonderful new year to us all. If you write a postcard on the January 1, you would date it as 元日. It is only one stroke difference, but formality and tradition matter in new year’s greetings.

  1. The kanji 暁 (曉) “dawn”

History of Kanji 暁The ten style writing for the kanji 暁 had the sun on the left, and the right side was used phonetically to mean “to become white.” Together they signified the time when the dark eastern sky became white, which was “dawn.” The kyujitai, in blue, kept the three 土 from the ten style writing, which became simplified in the shinjitai. (We will see this component in 焼 when we look at a bushu hihen 火 later on.)

The kun-yomi 暁 /akatsuki/ means “the light of early morning; dawn.” It is also used in the expression 〜した暁には (“in the eventual outcome of ~” /~shita-akatsuki-ni’wa/). The kun-yomi /gyo’o/ is not in a commonly used word.

  1. The kanji 朝 “morning; dynasty; imperial court”

History of Kanji 朝For the kanji 朝 the oracle bone style writing had tall grass in the four corners, the sun in the middle on the left, and the moon in the center. Together they signified the time when the sun started to appear between the grasses and yet the moon was still in the sky. It meant “early morning.” The bronze ware style sample had water on the right, signifying the morning tide. In ten style water was replaced by a boat, with a flag at the top (also signifying “high”). In kanji the right side has 月. In kanji the component 月 carries a few different meanings in their origins — a “moon,” a “boat,” or “flesh” as in bushu nikuzuki. So, is the 月 in 朝 a “moon” or a “boat”? I would think it could be either because both existed in ancient writing – a moon in oracle bone style and a boat in ten style. In the ancient Imperial Court important protocols and business were held in the morning. From that it also meant “dynasty; imperial court.”

The kun-yomi 朝 /a’sa/ means “morning,” and is in 毎朝 (“every morning” /maiasa/) and 朝ご飯 (“breakfast” /asago’han/). The colloquial expression 朝飯前 means “the task is very easy; It’s a piece of cake.” The meaning “loyal court; dynasty” is in 平安朝 (“the Heian dynasty” /heeanchoo/), 朝廷 (“the Imperial Court” /chootee/), 帰朝 (“returning home from abroad” /kichoo/).

  1. The Kanji 潮 “tide; current; flow”

History of Kanji 潮朝 /cho’o/ is used phonetically in the kanji 潮. The two bronze ware style writings of the kanji 潮 shown on the left had “water; tide,” and the other side was “the sun emerging between grass.” From “morning tide” it meant “tide; current.” In ten style, it had the same components. The water by the sunrise suggested a “morning tide.” So, it meant “tide.” In kanji a boat was added on the right side to the ten style writing. The kanji 潮 also means “trend.”

The kun-yomi is 潮 /ushio/ as in 潮汁 (“a thin soup with a piece of seafood in a fish broth /ushioji’ru/). Another kun-yomi /shio’/ is in 黒潮 (the Japan Kuroshio current” /kuroshio/), 上げ潮 (“flood-tide; incoming tide” /ageshio/) and 引き潮 (“ebb tide” /hikishio/). The on-yomi /cho’o/ is in 最高潮 (“climax” /saiko’ochoo/), 潮流 (“ocean current” /chooryuu/) and 風潮 (“tendency; a drift” /huuchoo/).

  1. The kanji 昼 (晝) “daytime; daylight”

History of Kanji 昼The bronze ware style writing of the kanji 昼 had a writing brush held by a hand at the top and the sun with a cover at the bottom. It is not clear what these originally signified (other than the meaning “noon; day time.”) In ten style the two curved lines on the sides surrounding the sun represented two dark times of the day before and after daylight time. Between those lines is “daytime.” The kyujitai 晝 consisted of 聿, 日 and 一. Then there was a further change to the shinjitai — the sun (日) was placed under a roof (), with another stroke blocking the sun shine. If our reader finds this popular explanation not convincing, you may be right. I do not have a better story for this.

The kun-yomi /hiru’/ means “daytime; noon; lunch,” and is in 昼休み (“lunch break” /hiruya’sumi/), 真昼 (“high noon midday” /hiruma’/), 昼間 (“daytime” /hiruma/) and お昼 (“lunch” /ohi’ru/). The on-yomi /chu’u/ is in 昼食 (“lunch”/chuushoku/), 一昼夜 (“whole day and night; 24 hours” /itchu’uya/).

In the next post we continue with the kanji and to describe the time at and after a sunset. [February 21, 2016]

The Kanji 尚常巾堂賞償党黒当-尚

  1. The Kanji 尚 ”high; and yet; revered’

History of Kanji 尚For the kanji 尚, in the oracle bone style, in brown, and bronze ware style, in brown, it was a house with a window or a kitchen stove with a door to the hearth. The two short lines above that were rising smoke. Smoke rising and staying for a long time gave two meanings. One is that from rising smoke staying for a long time it means “and yet; in additions to.” Another is that it means someone in high respect, or “to revere.” The kanji 尚 meant “high; revered; and yet.”

The kun-yomi /na’o/ is in 尚 “furthermore; additionally,” 尚且つ (“and yet; but at the same time” /na’okatsu/) and 尚の事 (“all the more” /naonokoto/). These words are often written in hiragana. The on-yomi /sho’o/ is in 高尚な (“advanced; sophisticated” /kooshoona/) and 和尚 (“Buddhist priest in charge of a temple” /o’shoo/) from a revered Buddhist priest.

  1. The Kanji 常 “always; usual”

History of Kanji 常For the kanji 常, the bronze ware style writing (a) shown on the left was same as that of the kanji 尚. Even though it was used phonetically in this kanji, sharing the same earlier writing indicated that the meanings of 尚 was inclusive of 常. Setsumon listed two samples of ten style writings for this kanji (b) and (c). (b) had 尚 with its sides stretched down very long and 巾 was placed inside. 巾 was a long ceremonial scarf that was worn around the waist. The meaning “lasting long” from 尚 and long piece of cloth got the meaning “always; constant.” (b) became the kanji 常 (d).

On the other hand (c) had 衣 “clothes” from the shape of a collar that was folded in the front. Together with 尚 they formed the meaning a piece of clothes that trailed long. (c) became the kanji 裳 (e). I do not know how 裳 /mo/ was used in Chinese, but in the history of Japanese clothes it meant a formal trailing skirt-like kimono” that was worn to show respect. The kanji 常 meant “always; constant.”

The kanji 巾  “cloth; (width)”

History of Kanji 巾All three ancient writing styles and the kanji were basically the same shape. It was a piece of ceremonial scarf that was worn around the waist. From that it meant “a piece of cloth.” There is no kun-yomi in shinjitai, even though 巾 was used informally for the kanji 幅 /haba/ “width” in the kyujitai system. The on-yomi /ki’n/ is in 布巾 (“kitchen cloth” /huki’n/), 雑巾 (“(quilting) cleaning cloth; dust cloth” /zookin/) and 頭巾 (“hood; headscarf” /zu’kin/)

  1. The Kanji 堂 “temple; hall”

History of Kanji 堂For the kanji 堂, the ten style writing sample had 土 “soil” under 尚, a house with smoke rising high. A tall house that was built on a foundation of soil meant a “hall; temple.” A tall building was impressive, so it also meant “stately.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /do’o/ is in 講堂 (“lecture hall” /koodoo) and お堂 (“temple; shrine” /odoo/). The expression 堂々巡り (“going around in circles” /doodoome’guri/) originated with the practice of monks circling around the temple many times in praying. 堂 is also in 堂々とした (“stately; dignified” /doodootoshita/), 堂に入る (“to become master of; be quite at home at” /do’o-ni iru/).

  1. The Kanji 賞 “award; reward”

History of Kanji 賞For the kanji 賞, the bronze ware style top had 尚 “high,” even though it lacked the window, and it was used phonetically for /sho’o/. The bottom was a cowry “money; valuable items.” Money or prizes given to praise someone’s achievement or merit meant “to give an award; reward.” The ten style writing consisted of 尚 and 貝. The kanji 賞 meant “award; prize; reward.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi 賞 /sho’o/ means “award; prize,” and is in 入賞する and 受賞する (“to become an awardee” /nyuushoo-suru/ and /jushoo-suru/). It is also in the word 賞与 (“bonus payment” /sho’oyo/). In a Japanese company, an employee receives /sho’oyo/ in June or July and December based on the company’s previous semi-annual performance. Every employee receives relatively same amount within the company, usually varying from a month to three month’s payment depending on their company performance. It is not a reward for individual achievement but it is a part of the wage system.

  1. The kanji 償 “to compensate; atone for”

History of Kanji 償The kanji 償 consists of a bushu ninben “person” and the kanji 賞. The bronze ware style writing was the same as 賞. The other side of 賞 “award; reward” is that the awardee made some sacrifice in order to make that achievement. By adding a ninben, the kanji 償 differentiated the two sides of one thing. In order to correct a wrong, one also needs to make a right. The kanji 償 meant “to make up; compensate; stone for.”

The kun-yomi 償う /tsuguna’u/ means “to atone for; compensate.” The on-yomi /sho’o/ is 弁償する (“to compensate; make up for” /benshoo-suru/), 賠償 (“compensation; indemnity” /baishoo/) and 補償 (“compensation” /hoshoo/).

  1. The Kanji 黒 “black; dark” and 党 (黨) “party; a fan of”

The kyujitai 黨 for 党 consisted of 尚 and 黒 (黒). We have a bronze ware style sample of 黒, shown below, which will be helpful to understand 党. So, Let us look at the kanji 黒 first.

The Kanji 黒 “black; dark”

History of Kanji 黒 (黑)For the kanji 黒, in bronze ware style the bottom was a flame. The top had different interpretations – One is that it was a chimney that was viewed from the top and the soot was visible as dots. In this interpretation the origin of the kanji 黒 was a stove with a sooty chimney. Soot is black; thus the kanji 黒 meant “black.” Another interpretation, by Shirakawa, is that the top was a bag of stuff or fabric that was wrapped up by a string to be smoked. The smoking dyed the fabric a dark color or black. In this view the origin was a smoker for dyeing cloth. In ten style the top looked more like a chimney top, and the bottom became two fires. In kyujitai 黑, in blue, there were two black dots for soot, and the fire at the bottom became four dots. In most cases of kanji having a fire, when a fire appeared at the bottom of a kanji, it became four dots, and it is called a bushu renga or rekka. We will look at this bush later when we discuss nature. The kanji 黒 means “black; dark.”

History of Kanji 党(黨)Now the kanji 党. In ten style, the writing for 黑 was completely enclosed inside 尚 that was used phonetically. The two sides of 尚 were elongated, but I think this was just a stylistic modification common to ten style. The two meanings — smoke rising high and a cooking stove (with sooty chimney) –signified a group of people who shared food that was prepared in this kitchen. It meant “party; a group of people who share the same idea and act together.” In kyujitai 黨, the side of 尚 became very short and the bottom was 黑. In shinjitai, the shape for “black; dark” was replaced by a bushu ninnyoo “person.” Together with a window in 尚, they ended up in the shape of the kanji 兄. The kanji 党 means “political party; a group of people banded together.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi 党 /to’o/ means “party,” and is in 政党 (“political party” /seetoo/), 与党 (“ruling party” /yo’too/), 野党 (“opposition party” /ya’too/) and 悪党 (“villain” /akutoo/). It is also used to mean “a person who is fond of” in the words such as 甘党 (“a person who prefers sweets to alcoholic beverages” /amatoo/) and 辛党 (“a person who prefers alcoholic to sweet things” /karatoo/.)

  1. The Kanji 当 (當) “just; right”

History of Kanji 当 (frame)The origin of the kanji 当 has been discussed earlier in the context of 田 “rice paddies” (The Kanji 略各当(當)尚番米券巻 – 田 (2) on July 11, 2015). In the ten style sample we can see that it consisted of 尚 and 田. In this kanji 當 (the kyujitai for 当) 尚 was used phonetically to mean “to be appropriate.” The bottom was rice paddies. From an appropriate value for rice paddies it meant “to be appropriate; correct.” It was also used to mean “this; the very X.” In shinjitai, the top three strokes remained the same but the bottom got simplified to a katakana /yo/.

Since June last year we have been looking at the kanji that originated from things that people built in ancient life. It encompasses life and things constructed varying from a kitchen stove, a door in a house to village to a country. It also included infrastructure such as roads and agricultural fields. From the next post, I would like to start exploring the kanji that originated from nature. [February 14, 2016]

The Kanji 京景影就涼鯨高稿亭停


In this post we are going to focus on three shapes, 京高亭, and other kanji that contain those shapes — 景影就涼鯨稿停. All of these kanji, whose meanings differ, show a common shape at the top, a bushu nabebuta “top; cover” and 口 “mouth; opening.” Does this mean anything? The best way to find out is to look at ancient writing. So, let us begin.

  1. The kanji 京 “capital; large”

History of Kanji 京The origin of the kanji 京 was explained by Setsumon two thousand years ago as a very tall hill where people lived. Following that many references explain that the bottom was a tall hill and the top was a town. Ancient people chose a bright tall hill to live where they could avoid floods or humidity, and such an area of concentration became the capital, thus 京 meant “capital.” I took this view in the Key to Kanji. On the other hand, from the earlier writings (oracle bone style, in brown, and bronze ware style, in green) Shirakawa viewed the bottom as a tall arch gate, rather than a hill, and the top as a watchtower. A tall arch gate with a watchtower was built at the entrance of a military quarter or a castle town. From that it came to mean “capital.” A capital was a large town; thus it also meant “large.”

The capital of Japan, where the emperor resided, was in 京都 (“Kyoto” /kyo’oto/) for over a thousand years from 810 (Heian period) through 1868 (Tokugawa/Edo period). With the return of political power to the Emperor by the last Tokugawa shogun, the Emperor moved into the Edo castle in 江戸 /edo/, which was renamed 東京 /tookyoo/ “eastern capital.” The other meaning of the kanji 京 “large” is read as /ke’e/ in go-on. It is used for the number that is ten thousand times 兆 (“trillion” /cho’o/). I have no idea for any practical use of that big a number, except as the name 京 /ke’e/ for the super computer that Fujitsu and Riken created.

There are several kanji that contain 京. Let us look at the kanji 景影就涼鯨. None of them has writing samples that predated ten style.

  1. The kanji 景 “fine view”

History of Kanji 景In the ten style writing, in red, of the kanji 景, the top 日 was the sun, and the bottom 京 was used phonetically for /ke’e/, and meant “bright light.” In a high place where the sun is bright, the view is good and clear. The kanji 景 meant a “fine view; good scene.” It is also used to mean good economic condition.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ke’e/ is in 光景 (“spectacle; scene” /kookee/), 背景 (“background” /haikee/), 景気 (“economy; business cycle” /keeki/), 不景気 (“recession; economic slump” /huke’eki/). Another on-yomi /ke/ is in 景色 (“scenery” /ke’shiki/) and 景色ばむ (“to become angry; start to show anger” /keshikiba’mu/).

  1. The kanji 影 “shadow”

There is no ancient writing for the kanji 影. The left side 景 was “bright light,” and the right side was a shape that generally showed that something was a “pretty design or shape.” Bright sun shine creates a clear silhouette which casts a shadow. From that 影 meant “shadow.” Looking at the two kanji 景 “bright scene” and 影 “shadow” together always makes me think that light, shape and shadow are, elusive as it may be, really one thing. My wondering thought on those two kanji always takes me to a couple of old Japanese master filmmakers, Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu, who tried to capture images in their memorable and powerful monochromic films. The word 撮影 (“filming; photography” /satsuee/) means capturing by hand (撮, the right side 取 used phonetically) silhouettes or shadows made by the sun (影). The kun-yomi /ka’ge/ means “shadow,” and is in 人影のない所 (“empty place” /hitokagenona’itokoro/). The on-yomi /e’e/ is in 影響 (“effect; influence” /eekyoo/).

  1. The kanji 就 “to take up a job/position”

History of Kanji 就The origin of the kanji 就 remains a mystery. The left side of the ten style sample was 京 “capital,” but what about the right side? Different interpretations include that it was a dog or animal, a hand, or just a phonetic use for /shu’u/ with no particular meaning. Whatever the origin of the shape, phonetically /shu’u/ had the meaning “people gathering.” So let us leave it as meaning “people coming to the capital to take up a job.” The kanji 就 meant “to take up a job; to be engaged in work.”

The kun-yomi 就く /tsu’ku/ means “to take up a position or job.” The on-yomi /shu’u/ is in 就職する (“to find employment” /shuushoku-suru/) and 就任する (to assume a position” /shuunin–suru/).

  1. The kanji 涼 “cool”

History of Kanji 涼The ten style of the kanji 涼 consisted of a bushu sanzui “water” on the left and 京 used purely phonetically to mean “cold.” Together they meant “cool.”

The kun-yomi 涼しい /suzushi’i/ means “cool,” and is in 夕涼みする (“to enjoy the cool of evening” /yuusu’zumi-suru/). The on-yomi /ryo’o/ is in 清涼飲料水 (“carbonated drink; soda” /seeryooinryo’osui/). A simple word soda is a mouthful ten-mora word in Japanese.

  1. The kanji 鯨 “whale”

History of Kanji 鯨The left side of the kanji 鯨 in ten style was “fish.” The bottom was not a fire but a tailfin. The right side 京 was used phonetically for /ke’e; ge’e/ to mean “big.” Together a large fish meant “whale.” (A whale is not a fish but mammal, but that is irrelevant here.) The kun-yomi /kujira/ means “whale.” The on-yomi /ge’e/ is in 捕鯨船 (“whale catching vessel” /hogeesen/).

捕鯨 (“catching a whale” /hogee/) is a touchy phrase nowadays. Japan seems to be standing almost alone on this matter. It is ironic to think about what happened in Japanese history. We all know very well that what forced opening of Japan in the mid-nineteenth century, which lead to the change of the power, the Meiji Restoration, was the arrival of U. S. Commodore Matthew C. Perry. His mission was to find ports in Japan that allow U. S. whaling vessels in the Pacific to replenish provisions. It was important to the whaling industry in the industrialization of the U. S. economy at that time. Commodore Perry succeeded to get Japan to open two ports (Hakodate in Hokkaido and Shimoda south of Edo) for that purpose in 1854. A video clip of kanji history that I made a few years ago touched on that bit of history. If you have a chance to go on the iTune U site, I invite you to view the Part One (Bakumatsu) of the four part series entitled as “Discover Kanji Precursors in Modern Japan” on American University iTunes U.

  1. The kanji 高 “high; tall; expensive”

History of Kanji 高Now we are going to move to the kanji 高. In the samples of ancient writings for the kanji 高 on the left, we see what we saw in 京 – a tall arch gate with a watch tower at the top. At the bottom there was 口, which appeared in almost all the ancient writing samples of 高. And yet the explanations in many reference do not touch upon 口. So I go back to Shirakawa. Shirakawa treated all the 口 shapes as “a box that contained prayers,” rather than a mouth. He explained the kanji 高 as a tall arch gate of a powerful clan where a prayer or pledging was conducted. From the powerful clan it meant “high; tall.” The kyujitai 髙, in blue, reflected bronze ware style better than ten style, which is reflected in shinjitai. It means “tall; high.”

The kun-yomi 高い /taka’i/ means “high; tall; expensive,” and is in the verbs such as 高まる (”to heighten” /takama’ru/) and 高める (“to raise” /takame’ru/). /Da’ka/ is in 割高な (“comparatively more expensive” /waridaka-na/) and 円高 (“strong yen” /endaka/). The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 高校生 (“high school student” /kooko’osee/), 高血圧 (“high blood pressure” /kooke’tsuatsu/).

  1. The kanji 稿 “manuscripts”

History of Kanji 稿The kanji 稿 consists of two components side by side, a bushu nogihen (禾) “rice plant” and 高, used phonetically for /ko’o/ for “dry.” On the other hand the ten style sample had a rice plant inside 高. We see this kind of dislocation of different elements in oracle bone style and bronze ware style all the time, but it is very unusual at this late stage of kanji formation. In the Kangxi dictionary, the orthodox kanji for 稿 had 高 at the top and 禾 at the bottom (not inside 高). “Rice plants” and “dry” together originally meant “straw.” Straw scattered is similar to scattered scribbles or notes for manuscripts. From that it means “manuscripts; draft.” (The current kanji for “straw” is 藁, consisting of a bushu kusakanmuri, 高 and 木, vertically placed).

  1. The kanji 亭 “pavilion; house”

History of Kanji 亭The third writing that shares an origin with 京 and 高 is the kanji 亭. It does not have an oracle bone style or bronze ware style sample. Inside a tall arch gate with a watchtower was 丁 “straight up,” used phonetically for /te’e/. Together they originally meant a house that stood alone or “pavilion; arbor.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /te’e/ is in 料亭 (“Japanese-style expensive restaurant” /ryootee/). The word 亭主 (“master of a house” /te’eshu/) is also used to mean “husband,” often referring one’s own husband in a humble way.

  1. The kanji 停 “to stop”

History of Kanji 停The kanji 停 consisted of a bushu ninben “person” and 亭 “house that stands alone; station,” which was also used phonetically for /te’e/. Together a place to stop meant “to stop; stay.”

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The kun-yomi /te’e/ is in 停車駅 (“station at which a train stops” /teesha’eki/), 停戦 (“cease fire” /teesen/), 停電 (“power outage” /teeden/) and バス停 (“bus stop” /basutee/).

In this post we have seen that three kanji –京 高 and 亭 — that have totally different meanings in fact came from the same origin of a tall structure with a watchtower. Knowing the ancient writings, we can see now that the shape that is common in the top not accidental but came from the same source, “watchtower.” [February 6, 2016]