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.
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.
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.
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/).
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.
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/).
晶 “pure and bright”
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/).
The kanji 早 “early”
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/).
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.)
The kanji 旬 “ten days of a month; in the season”
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]