The Kanji 望期夢朗湖間—月 and 夕 “moon” (2)


This is the second post on kanji that originated from a “moon.”

  1. The kanji 望 “to look far; wish; hope; desire”

History of Kanji 望rFor the kanji 望, there were two different streams of origins. The alphabets below ancient writings are shown in two tiers –A with 臣; and B with 亡. We begin with A.

The oracle bone style writings, (a) and (b), in brown, had a standing person with a big watchful eye viewed from the side. The emphasis was also on his feet on the ground– he was tiptoeing trying to look far. The watchful eye became a component 臣 in many kanji, as we discussed earlier [Eyes Wide Open (3) 臣臨覧緊蔵臓 on March 31, 2014]. The posture of stretching one’s body with watchful eyes meant “to look at a distance.” When one wishes or longs for something, it is also like looking at the distance, so it also meant “to wish for; long for.” The bronze ware writing, (c) in green, had the same components. In (d), a moon was added on the upper right, giving a scene of someone gazing at a moon in a distance. (d) became the ten style writing (f), in red ,– (f) had 臣 and a slanted 月 at the top, and at the bottom a person with his feet emphasized with a short stroke. This tiptoeing person shape became 壬. We have seen the shape 壬 in the kanji 廷 and 庭. The kanji shape from (f) is not available to us.

The second stream [B亡] began in bronze ware style, as shown in (e). In (e) the upper left side亡 was used phonetically to mean “to look far.” The standing person was extremely simplified in (e), but in ten style (g), it got revived to a more descriptive shape, with the hands elongated and the ankles with an emphasis. (g) became the kanji (h). In kanji (h) the moon is slightly tilted and the bottom 壬 changed to 王, which means “king” but has no relation to it. In terms of formation, stream A was a semantic composite writing (会意文字), whereas stream B created a semantic-phonetic composite writing (形声文字). The moon is a distant thing to gaze at. So it aptly signifies one’s long-cherished wish. The kanji 望 means “hope; wish; to look far.”

The kun-yomi 望む /nozomu/ means “to look in the distance; hope for; wish,” and is in 望み (“hope” /nozomi’/) and 待ち望む (“to anticipate; look for” /machinozomu/). The on-yomi /bo’o/ is in 希望 (“hope” /kiboo/), 失望 (“disappointment” /shitsuboo/), 望遠レンズ (“telephoto lens” /booenre’nzu/), 展望 (“outlook; prospect” /tenboo/), and 望郷の念 (“homesickness” /bookyoo-no-ne’n/).

  1. The kanji 期 “term; specific time”

History of Kanji 期For the kanji 期 in bronze ware style the top was the sun, the middle was an apparatus to winnow, and the bottom was a table. To winnow means to force air through grain in order to remove the chaff. The whole shape 其 was used phonetically for /ki/. In ten style a moon was added to the right side. A moon has a phase or a cycle of waning and waxing. Together they meant “a specific time or period.” The kanji 期 means “specific time; period of time.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi/ki/ is in 期待する (“to expect” /kitai-suru/), 期限 (“time limit; deadline” /ki’gen/), 学期 (“school term” /gakki/), 画期的な (“epoch-making; breakthrough” /kakkiteki-na/) and 万全を期す (“to make absolutely sure” /banzen-o-ki’su).

  1. The kanji夢 “dream”

History of Kanji 夢The kanji for a dream began with a bed to sleep on. The two oracle bone style writings, (a) and ( b), shown on the left had a bed with legs, vertically placed. What was the figure next to the bed? Many references take the view that the kanji 夢 originally consisted of two writings – one phonetically for /bo’o/ for “not being able to see” and another 夕 “night.” Something you see at night when you cannot see is a dream. Another explanation involves a medium – a medium conjured up spirits for a nightmare (Shirakawa). Could the figure next to a bed be a medium at work? I have not been able find explanations that include those oracle bone style writing samples. The ten style writing, (c), had “eye” and “moon; night” 夕. The top above an eye may be something that prevented one from seeing.

The kun-yomi 夢 /yume/ means “dream,”and is in 夢見る (“to ream” /yume’miru/). The on-yomi /mu/ is in 夢中になる (“to become preoccupied;” /muchuunina’ru/), 悪夢 (“nightmare” /a’kumu/), 夢物語 (“fantastic story; empty story” /yumemonoga’tari/).

  1. The kanji 朗 “cheerful; bright”

History of Kanji 朗For the kanji 朗 the left side of the ten style writing was a moon. The right side was used phonetically for /ro’o/ to mean “clear and bright.” (Brightness with moonlight coming in meant “cheerful; lively.”

The kun-yomi /hogaraka/ means “cheerful.” The on-yomi /ro’o/ is in 朗読する (“to read aloud (clearly)” /roodoku-suru/), 明朗な (“clear and transparent” /meeroo-na/), 朗報(“good news” /roohoo/).

  1. The kanji 湖 “lake”

History of Kanji 湖For the kanji 湖 in bronze ware style the left side was running water, and the right side was used phonetically for /ko/ to mean “large.” Together they meant “lake.” In ten style 胡 was used to mean “large.”  This canji has nothing to do with a moon. The kanji 湖 means “lake.”

The kun-yomi /mizuu’mi/ means “lake.” The on-yomi /ko/ is 湖水 (“lake water” /kosui/), and is used for the name of a lake such as 琵琶湖 (“Lake Biwa” /biwako/) and 湖畔 (“lakeside” /kohan/).

  1. The kanji 間 “duration; gap”

History of Kanji 間 (frame)The kanji that originally had a moon but lost it is 間. We have discussed this in an earlier post [The Kanji 戸所門問間開閉関閣 –もんがまえ on August 1, 2015]. Just to refresh our memory, the history of ancient writings and kyujitai is shown on the right. We see a moon through the kyujitai time. A moon coming through a gap between two closed doors meant “gap; in-between; duration; room; timing.” The kanji with 日 inside a bushu mongamae had been used as a 俗字 (“non-standard character” /zokuji/), but during the Post-WWII language reform it was designated as the standard kanji.

In the two posts, we have seen that a moon became 月 and 夕. The shape 月 is also used for other meanings, such as a tray or bowl, as in 服 and 勝, and a part of a body, such as 胃腸. We will take up those topics later. [March 19, 2016]

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