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]

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