When I started this blog in December in 2013, it was the time when I had just completed making hand-copied ancient writings for the 1100 kanji in The Key to Kanji (Williams 2010), which was the first half of the 2136 Joyo kanji.
The goal of the 2010 book was to show a beginning through pre-advanced-level kanji learner that kanji study did not have to be dry rote memorization of a meaningless complex shape of lines. In my over thirty years of Japanese teaching in university programs in the U. S., I saw that beginning and intermediate-level standard textbooks lacked such information.
The Key to Kanji was designed to use as supplementary reference. Since the publication, I have received kind comments from many readers that the illustration of original meaning was “an icebreaker” in overcoming their weariness of learning new kanji. I am very grateful to Ayako and Hiromi, who had put in countless hours of hard work in creating line-drawn images based on often conflicting interpretations in references. Without their help, the book would not have existed.
Earlier in 2013, I decided to prepare for a new kanji study guide for mature advanced learners that included the second half of the Joyo kanji. For this, I decided to use ancient writings directly. I thought that by seeing historical images beside a brief English explanation a reader could make his or her own judgment that would help kanji study. A process of hand-copying ancient writings in references, largely from the Akai (1985 and 2010) books, began then.
There were a couple of important reasons why I chose hand-copying rather than using photo-copying. One is to avoid any possible misuse of copyrighted materials. Another is that hand-copying gives me a chance to re-experience the thought and logic that might have gone into in creating a new writing system — Why did the creators of Chinese ancient writings choose this particular shape to represent this particular meaning? How did they add another item to expand its meaning? How clever of them to do this and that! This must be how ancient society was like, and so on. I have enjoyed so many different experiences last few years.
Some years ago I read an interview in which Shirakawa mentioned the benefit of similar experiences. Another account reported by someone else says that Shirakawa made 10,000 hand-copies of oracle bone style writings. I appreciate Shirakawa’s gigantic lifework even more.
So, for this week’s post, I am showing a screenshot from my desktop folder for the newly finished hand-copied ancient writing for the second half of the Joyo kanji. I expect to add more as my work progresses. [April 24, 2016]