The Kanji 夕月外夜液明盟血-月and 夕 “moon” (1)


In the last three posts we looked at kanji that came from the sun. In this post we move to the moon. There are two shapes that originated in a crescent moon — 夕and 月.

  1. The kanji 夕 “evening; early evening”

History of Kanji 夕In order to discuss the kanji 夕, we also need to look at the kanji 月 because in the early times in oracle bone style, (a) and (b) in brown, they shared the same shapes – a crescent moon with or without a short line inside. The history of the kanji 夕 is shown on the left and the history of the kanji 月 is shown in 2 below. In bronze ware style, (c)s and (d)s in green in both kanji, 夕 did not have a short line inside whereas 月 did. This short line was added to differentiate the two meanings, one for “evening” (夕) and one for “moon” (月). In ten style, (e)s in red, the inner outline of a crescent became a short stroke in both 夕 and 月, for the kanji 月 resulting in having two short strokes inside. The kanji 夕 meant “evening; early evening,” and the kanji 月 meant “moon.”

The kun-yomi /yu’u/ is in 夕方 (“early evening” /yuugata/), 夕べ (“last night; evening” /yuube/), 夕焼け (“red glow of sunset” /yuuyake/) and 夕暮れ (“dusk” /yuugure/). The on-yomi /se’ki/ is in 一朝一夕に (“in a short space of time” /iccho’o isseki-ni/), usually used with a negative ending to mean “for a long time.”

  1. The kanji 月 “moon; month”

History of Kanji 月We have already discussed the history of kanji 月 in 1.   The kun-yomi 月 /tsuki’/ means “moon; month,” and is in お月様 (“moon” /otsuki’sama/ in child’s speaking), 三日月 (“crescent” /mikazuki/), 月毎に (“each month; every month” /tsukigo’to-ni/) and 月見・お月見 (“moon viewing” /tsukimi; otsukimi/). The on-yomi /ge’tsu/ was a kan-on, and is in 一ヶ月 (“for a month” /ikka’getsu/), 月謝 (“monthly tuition” /gessha/), 月曜日 (“Monday” /getsuyo’obi/), 年月をかける (“to put in many years” /ne’ngetsu-o kake’ru/), 月給 (“monthly salary; salary” /gekkyuu/). Another on-yomi /ga’tsu/ was a go-on, and is in 正月 (“New years days; January” /shoogatsu/), and also in the names of the twelve months, such as 一月 (“January” /ichigatsu/), 四月 (“april” /shigatsu/), 七月 (“July” /shichigatsu/), 九月 (“September” /ku’gatsu/). The pronunciations /sho’o/ for 正 in  正月 and /ku/ for 九 in 九月 were go-on. So it makes sense to pronounce 月 as /gatsu/ in go-on.

The characteristics of a moon in the sky were used to make various kanji. Those include: (1) its waxing and waning creating a phase or cycle; (2) being the object that one can look at in the farthest place; (3) providing a light at night, etc. Let us look at some kanji that contained a moon.

  1. The kanji 外 “outside”

History of Kanji 外In the oracle bone style writing for 外 shown on the left, the right side was a baked oracle bone with cracks that were read as “oracle; fortune telling.” For the left, which looked like 工, I have not come across any reference other than a photo in Akai (2010). So I leave it as it is. In bronze ware style and ten style the left side was a moon, signifying “evening.” There are different interpretations of what 夕 “moon; evening” and ト“oracle” together signified — (1) An oracle was done at sunrise. An oracle in the evening would be a deviation from the norm; thus it meant “outside; not right.” (Setsumon); (2) The cracks in an oracle bone appeared on the surface of the bone, so it meant “outside; exterior”; and (3) A crescent was used phonetically to mean “to chip” as in 缺 (欠) /ketsu/. Oracle was done by observing a moon passing through a phase from a full moon to a new moon. A crescent was the outer line of a moon, and the kanji 外 meant “outside; exterior.”

There are three different kun-yomi for 外 — 外 /so’to/ means “outside,” and is in 外側 (“outside; exterior” /sotogawa/). The second kun-yomi 外す /hazusu/ means “to remove; to take off.” The third kun-yomi 外 /hoka/ means “other.” There are two on-yomi for 外 — /Ga’i/ is in 外国 (“foreign country” /gaikoku/), 以外 (“other than” /i’gai/) and 外交 (“diplomacy” /gaikoo/). Another on-yomi /ge/ was a goon, and is in 外科 (“surgery” /geka/) and 外道 (“religion other than Buddhism; way of thinking contrary to the truth” /gedoo/).

  1. The kanji 夜 “night”

History of Kanji 夜The bronze ware style and ten style writings of the kanji 夜 shown on the left had a standing person with his arms and legs spread (大) in the middle, a moon on the right side under his arm, and a short slanted line on the left. This short slanted line is open to different interpretations. One is that it was a person lying at rest; altogether they signified the time when a person rested, that is “night.” Another interpretation is that the short stroke was something that signified repeated occurrence. A moon appears at night and that repeats, thus it meant “night.” In kanji the top portion of a person became a house or roof at the top; a person became a ninben on the left; and the moon on the right. The kanji 夜 means “night.”

The kun-yomi 夜 /yo’ru/ means “night,” and is also read as /yo/ in words, such as 夜中 (“midnight” /yonaka’/), 真夜中に (“in the deep of night” /mayo’naka-ni/), and 夜更かしする (“to stay up late at night” /yohu’kashi-suru/). The on-yomi /ya/ is in 今夜 (“tonight” /kon’ya/) and 夜行バス (“night bus” /yakooba’su/).

  1. The kanji 液 “liquid”

In bronze ware style of the kanji 液 the left side History of Kanji 液was running water. The right side was used phonetically for /e’ki/ to mean the sound of dripping repeatedly or “continuous.” Liquid drips repeatedly. It meant “liquid; fluid; solution.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi 液 /e’ki/ means “solution,” and is in 液体 (“liquid” /ekitai/), 溶液 (“solution” /yo’oeki/), 血液 (“blood” /ketsu’eki/) and 乳液 (“milky lotion; milky liquid” /nyuueki/).

  1. The kanji 明 “bright; next”

History of Kanji 明In oracle bone style, (b), and bronze ware style, (c) and (d), next to the moon was a window. The writing depicted moonlight coming through a window that made inside bright. Giving something a light makes it more visible and clearer. The kanji 明 meant “bright; clear.” The ten style writing (f) was a stylized shape that had a window and a moon.

Setsumon also gave the writing (e), in purple, with the sun on the left as old style writing. In fact if we go back to (a) in oracle bone style, the right side looked like the sun. In kanji (g) the left side became 日 “sun.” Some references take the view that the sun signified “bright.” I wondered about this. An often-told mnemonic story that the sun and the moon together are even brighter does not hold well because the sun and the moon do not appear together in reality (except for a short period of time). On the other hand it is true that, as we have seen in the post before last, the shape 日 in the kanji 星 and 晶 was not the sun but something glistening or bright. So if we take 日 as something bright, together with a moon, they could make up the meaning “bright.” Nonetheless that interpretation is hard to use to explain a majority of the old writing that had a window shape. So I tend to go back to the view that the origin of the kanji 明 was moonlight through a window giving the meaning of “bright.”

The kun-yomi /aka/ is in 明るい (“bright; knowledgeable” /akarui/.) /A/ in 夜が明ける (“a new day starts” /yo’-ga akeru/). /Aki/ is in 明らか (“evident” /aki’raka/). The on-yomi /me’i/ came from a kan-on, and is in 明快な (“obvious; evident” /meehakuna/), 解明する (“to make clear; get to the bottom of a problem” /kaimee-suru/), 明白な (“clear; lucid; clear-cut” /meehakuna/), 明言する (“to say definitely; assert” /meegen-suru/). Another on-yomi /myo’o/ was a go-on, and is in 明日 (“tomorrow” /myo’onichi/) and 光明 (“light; hope; prospects” /koomyoo /).

  1. The kanji 盟 “pledge; alliance” and 血 “blood”

The kanji 盟 contains 明 and 皿. In ancient writing what became 皿 in kanji was originally 血. So let us look at the history of 血 first.

The kanji 血 “blood”

History of Kanji 血In the two oracle bone style writings for the kanji 血, it had a deep dish. The circle in the first one and the short line at the top of the second writing were added to signify blood. The blood was from the sacrificial animal for a religious rite. From that 血 meant “blood.” Without blood inside it signified “dish,” which became the kanji 皿. Who would have thought that the two kanji for “blood” and “dish; plate” shared the exactly same origin!

The kun-yomi 血 /chi/ means “blood,” and is in 血筋 (“lineage; descent of” /chisuji/), 血まみれになる (“to be covered in blood” /chimamire-ni-na’ru/), 血みどろな (“bloody” /chimidorona/). /Ji/ is in 鼻血 (“nose bleeding” /hanaji/ はなぢ). The on-yomi /ke’tsu/ is in 血液 (“blood” /ketsu’eki/). /Ke/ with a small /tsu/ is in 血管 (“blood vessel” /kekkan/), 血相を変える (“to become extremely alarmed” /kesso’o-o kaeru/) and 血色のいい (“of good healthy complexion” /kesshoku-no-i’i/).

History of Kanji 盟Back to the kanji 盟. In bronze ware style, (a) and (b), the top had a window on the left and a moon on the right, together signifying “bright light.” The bottom of (a) had the short line above the tall dish, which signified that what was inside the dish was something important, sacrificial animal blood. And the slanted line on the dish could be an emphasis that it had something inside.  It has been explained that in making a pledge, members of an alliance sipped this blood by the window where the clear light of a moon came through. Together they meant “to make a pledge; alliance.” In ten style, (c) lost the moon, and (d) retained the moon. Just as the case with the kanji 明, (d) became (e). Why in kanji 盟 the kanji 皿, instead of 血, was used is not clear.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /me’e/ is in 同盟 (“alliance; confederation” /doomee/) and 連盟 (“league” /renmee/).

We have a few kanji left in discussing the kanji that came from “moon.” We will continue with those in the next post. [March 14, 2016]

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