The Kanji 焦煎烈煮庶遮蒸然燃 –fire (2) れっか/れんが (灬)


This is the second of the three posts on kanji that originated from “fire.” We are going to look at kanji that have a bushu rekka/renga (灬)–焦煎烈煮庶遮蒸然燃. In all of the samples we will see that a bushu rekka was indeed 火 in ten style. It is only in kanji that the shape of four short strokes signifying flames.

  1. The kanji 烈 “fierce; boisterous”

History of Kanji 列The kanji 烈 consists of the kanji 列, which was phonetically used, and a bushu rekka/renga “fire.” The kanji 列 had a gruesome origin (shown on the right). The left side of the ten style writing, in red, had a beheaded head with the hair still attached, and the right side was a knife or sword. Together 列 originally meant “to display beheaded heads.” The gruesome meaning dropped, 列 means “row; a line; file.History of Kanji 烈” The history of the kanji 烈 is shown on the left. The bronze ware style writing, in green, had phonetically the same /retsu/. In ten style a “fire” was added at the bottom of 列 to increase the intensity of the meaning. In kanji 火 became a bushu rekka/renga (灬). The kanji 烈 means “fierce; boisterous.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /retsu/ is in 烈火 (“blazing fire; furious flames“ /re’kka/). The name of the bushu rekka is said to have come from this word. (The other name renga is from 連火 “fires in a row”).  It is also in 強烈な (“intense; strong; severe” /kyooretsu-na/), 熱烈な (“ardent; passionate” /netsuretsu-na/) and 烈風 (“heavy wind; gale” /reppuu/).

History of Kanji 死(frame)The bushu kabane (歹) in 列 and 死: The bushu kabane in the kanji 列 and 死 came from two different sources. We have looked at the history of the kanji 死 “to die; death” earlier in the post [北背死化花真-Posture (4) on April 5, 2015.] As a quick reminder, the history is shown on the right. The origin of 死 was a person mourning over a deceased’s bones, and 歹 was bones of a deceased. I find this to be a moving, sad scene. On the other hand, 歹 in 列 came from a beheaded body with hair still attached, a very gruesome scene. Both became the same shape 歹. (In the traditional kanji dictionary the kanji 列 belongs to the bush rittoo “knife; sword” group.)

  1. The kanji 焦 “to singe; scorch”

History of Kanji 焦For the kanji 焦, the bronze ware style writing had a bird at the top and a fire at the bottom. From “roasting a bird over a fire,” it meant “to scorch; singe.” Of the two ten style writings shown on the left, the left one had three birds whereas the right one had a single bird. The bird in ten style becomes a bushu hurutori/furutori “bird.” The name hurutori came from the fact that the shape was used in the kyujitai 舊 for 旧い (“old” /huru’i/). The kanji 焦 means “to scorch; singe.”

The kun-yomi 焦げる /koge’ru/ means “to scorch; get burned,” and its transitive verb counterpart is 焦がす (“to burn; singe” ‘koga’su/). The verb 焦がれる (“to yearn for; be consumed with emotion” /kogareru/) is in 待ち焦がれる (“to look forward to; anticipate” /machikogare’ru/) and 思い焦がれる (to be ardently in love” /omoikogare’ru/). The on-yomi /sho’o/ is in 焦点 (“focus” /sho’oten/), 焦燥感 (“feeling of impatience; irritability” /shooso’okan/).

  1. The kanji 煎 “to roast; parch”

History of Kanji 煎For the kanji 煎, the ten style writing consisted of 前, which was used phonetically for /se’n/, and 火 “fire.” Together they meant “to roast; parch.”

The kun-yomi /i’ru/ means “to parch; roast.” The on-yomi /se’n/ is in 煎茶 (“green leaf tea” /se’ncha/), 湯煎する (“to warm the vessel containing something in hot water; double-boil” /yu’sen suru/) and in 煎じる (“to infuse; make an infusion of …”) and 煎餅 (“rice crackers” /senbe’e/).

  1. The kanji 煮 “to cook; boil”

History of Kanji 煮The kanji 煮 consists of the kanji 者, which was used phonetically for /sha/, and “fire.” The shape 者 makes up a number of kanji, including 緒諸署暑都著箸. History of Kanji 者 (frame)The history of 者 shown on the right is taken from the earlier post [The Kanji 邑都者郡君群部郵郷–おおざと on November 8, 2015.] In the two bronze ware style writings the top was wooden sticks being burned, with the dots indicating the sparks of a fire, and the bottom was a stove. In most kanji this was used phonetically for /sha/. For the kanji 煮, shown on the left, the bronze ware writing had 者 and 烹. Together they meant “to cook” over a fire. In ten style a fire was added at the bottom. In kyujitai all kanji with 者, in blue, had an extra stroke in the middle.

The kun-yomi 煮る /niru/ means “to cook (over heat),” and is in 煮物 (“stewed/simmered food” /nimono/) and 生煮えの (“half-cooked; underdone” /namanie-no/). The on-yomi /sha/ is in 煮沸消毒 (“sterilization by boiling” /shahutsusho’odoku/).

  1. The kanji 庶 “many; common”

History of Kanji 庶For the kanji 庶, the bronze ware style writing had a house on the top left and the bottom right was a pot over a fire. Together they originally meant “to cook food.” (Shirakawa took 庶 to be the original kanji for 煮 “to boil; cook.”) Another interpretation, which originated in Setsumon, is that it was a fire lighting up inside a house where people were present, and from that it meant “many; various.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /sho/ is in 庶民 (“ordinary people; man on the street” /sho’min/) and 庶務課 (“general affairs section” /shomuka/).

  1. The kanji 遮 “to cut off; block”

History of Kanji 遮By adding a bushu shinnyoo “to go forward” to 庶, we get the kanji 遮. 庶 was used phonetically to mean “to block.” Together they meant “to shut off a way to go.” The kanji 遮 means “to cut off; block.”

The kun-yomi 遮る /saegi’ru/ meant “to cut off; interrupt.” The on-yomi /sha/ is in 遮断する “to cut off; block” and is in 遮断機 “(circuit) breaker; crossing gate (at a railroad crossing)” /shada’nki/) and 遮光カーテン (“shading curtain; blackout curtain” /shakooka’aten/).

  1. The kanji 蒸 “steam”

History of Kanji 蒸The kanji 蒸 consists of the bushu kusakanmuri “plant; grass” and 烝. In the ten style writing, below the plants, 烝 had “two hands” on the both sides of “stems of hemp plants with barks stripped off” in the center, and a “fire” at the bottom. These stems were used for a bonfire in a ritual. The fire raises the air high. Steam rises. The bushu kusakanmuri was added for an emphasis on plants. The kanji 蒸 was used to mean “to steam.”

The kun-yomi 蒸す /mu’su/ means “to steam; warm (food) in steam,” and is in 蒸し暑い (“hot and humid; hot and sultry; muggy” /mushiatsu’i/, a word that is essential to describe many days in summer in Tokyo. The on-yomi /jo’o/ is in 蒸気 (“steam” /jo’oki/), 水蒸気 (“vapor; steam” /suijo’oki/), 蒸発 (“evaporation; mysterious disappearance of (person)” /joohatsu/).

  1. The kanji 然 “natural; yes”

History of Kanji 然(難)For the kanji 然 there seem to be two different interpretations of the origins. One interpretation, by Shirakawa, is more useful to us –Bronze ware style writing (b) had a piece of meat over a fire on the left side, and a sacrificial dog or animal on the right. Together they originally signified burning meat of a sacrificial dog or animal, or “to burn.” Then the writing 然 was borrowed to mean “natural” or “yes.” Ten style writing (c) kept the dog/animal meat, but the fire was dropped. In kanji (e) the fire was put back at the bottom as a bushu renga/renga.

Another interpretation, in Kanjigen, explains bronze ware style writing (a) and ten style writing (d). (Shirakawa does not take (a) and (d) as the precursors to 然.) The left side of (a) had “an animal over a fire,” signifying “to dry and harden,” and the right side had “a bird over a fire.” Together they originally meant “to burn.”
Kanjigen also says that 然 was closely related to 難 (its history shown on the right) and 熱 (phonetically). The Kanjigen’s leading scholar, Akiyasu Todo, was interested in explaining kanji origin from the point of phonetic developments. The primary interest in our exploration lies in shapes.

The kun-yomi 然り /shika’ri/ is found in a literary style, as in 然りとする (“to consider it correct/true” /shika’ri-to-suru”). The kanji 然 having the meaning “natural manner; what it is like,” it makes up a number of words that describe manner. The on-yomi /ze’n/ is in 自然 (“nature; natural” /shizen/), 自然に (“unassumingly; naturally” /shizen-ni/), 当然 (“naturally; justly; from the very nature of things” /toozen/), 必然的に (“inevitably” /hitsuzenteki-ni/), Xも同然だ (“as good as X; virtually same as X” /X-mo doozen-da/), 平然として (“with composure; unruffled” /heezen-to/), 偶然に (“by chance; coincidentally” /guuzen-ni/) and 突然に (“abruptly” /totsuzen-ni/).

  1. The kanji 燃 “to burn”

There is no ancient writing for this kanji. In kanji, the left side had a bushu hihen 火 “fire,” and the right was the kanji 然. Because the kanji 然, which had originally meant “to burn,” was taken away to mean “natural; nature,” a new kanji to mean to burn was created by adding a fire on the left. The kanji 燃 means “to burn.”

The kun-yomi /moya/ is in 燃やす (“to burn” /moyasu/), a transitive verb, and 燃える (“to burn” /moeru/ ), an intransitive verb. The on-yomi /ne’n/ is in 燃焼する (“to burn” /nenshoo-suru), 燃料 (“fuel” /nenryo’o/), 再燃する (“reignited; revive” /sainen-suru/), 可燃物 (“flammable” /kanensee/), 不燃ゴミ (“non-burnable trash” /hune’ngomi/).

For the kanji 熱 “heat” and 熟 “to ripen,” please read the earlier posts – 熱 in The Kanji 丸熱勢芸執摯幸 – the component 丸凡(1) on May 9, 2015 and 熟 The kanji 孰熟塾享築恐工-the component 丸凡(2) on May 16, 2016.

We will have one more post on kanji that contain “fire” next week. [May 28, 2016  Japan time]

The Kanji 火灰炭災炎談煙炊焼燥灯煩- 火 “fire” (1)


In this and the next posts we are going to look at kanji that originated from 火 “fire” — the kanji 火炭炭災炎談, and the kanji 煙炊焼燥灯煩 with a bushu hihen, a narrower 火 on the left side.

  1. The kanji 火 “fire; Tuesday”

History of Kanji 火For the kanji 火, the oracle bone style writing, in brown, was a fire burning with three peaks of flames. There is no bronze ware style sample available. By the time of ten style, in red, the picture-like image was lost and became like a kanji. The kanji 火 meant “fire.”

The kun-yomi /hi’/ means “fire,” and is in 火花 (“spark” /hi’bana/) and the expression 火の車だ (“in financial difficulties; in dire strait” /hi’nokuruma-da/). /-Bi/ is in 花火 (“firework” /ha’nabi/). The on-yomi /ka/ is in 火事 (“fire” /ka’ji/), 出火する (“a fire breaks out” /shukka-suru/) and 火力 (“heating power” /karyoku/).

  1. The kanji 灰 “ash”

History of Kanji 灰For the kanji 灰, the ten style writing had a “hand” on the upper right side and a “fire” at the bottom. Together they signified “gathering by hand what was left after a fire dies out,” which is “ash.” In kanji the hand was replaced by a bushu gandare 厂. The kanji 灰 meant “ash.”

The kun-yomi /hai/ means “ash,” and is in 灰皿 (“ash tray” /haizara/) and 灰色 (“gray” /haiiro/). The on-yomi /ka’i/ is in 石灰 (/se’kkai/ “lime”). 灰 is also used in 灰汁 (“scum; lye; harshness” /aku/), as in 灰汁を取る (“to remove scum” /aku-o-to’ru/) and the expression 灰汁の強い (“poisonous; harsh” /aku-no-tsuyo’i/).

  1. The kanji 炭 “charcoal”

History of Kanji 炭Even though the kanji 炭 consists of  山 and 灰, its origin was slightly different from 灰 in 2. In ten style, below 山 “mountain” were a cliff (厂) and a fire (火) underneath. Together they meant someone burning wood under an overhang of a mountain to make charcoal. The kanji 炭 meant “charcoal.”

The kun-yomi 炭 /sumi’/ means “charcoal,” and is in 炭火 (“charcoal heat” /sumibi/). The on-yomi /ta’n/ is in 炭素 (“carbon” /tan’so/), 一酸化炭素 (“carbon monoxide” /issankata’nso/), 二酸化炭素 (“carbon dioxide” /nisankata’nso/), 石炭 (“coal” /sekita’n/), and 炭化する (“to become carbonized” /tanka-suru/).

  1. The kanji 災 “calamity; disaster; misfortune”

History of Kanji 災For the kanji 災, in oracle bone style, (a) had a weir or dam that blocked the flow of a river, resulting in a flood, and the bottom was a fire. (b) was a weir in a river. A flood and a fire caused by a lightning and spontaneous combustion in a mountain together signified “natural disaster; calamity.” In ten style, the upper right component was used phonetically for /sa’i/. In kanji the top (巛) signified “river.” The kanji 災 meant “calamity; disaster; misfortune.”

The kun-yomi /wazawai/ means “disaster; misfortune.” The on-yomi /sa’i/ is in 天災 (“natural disaster” /tensai/), 人災 (“man-made disaster; disaster caused by human error” /jinsai/), 災害 (“calamity; disaster” /saigai/), 災難 (“calamity; mishap” /saina’n/) and 火災 (“fire; blaze” /kasai/).

5. The kanji 炎 “blaze; flame”

History of Kanji 炎For the kanji 炎, from the very beginning in oracle bone style, bronze ware style, in green, through to the kanji it was a towering blaze expressed with two fires stacked on top of the other. The kanji 炎 means “blaze; flame.” It is also used for “inflammation.”

The kun-yomi /ho’noo/ meant “blaze; flame.” The on-yomi /e’n/ is in 炎天下 (“sweltering heat under the sun” /ente’nka/), 炎症 (“inflammation” /enshoo/), 炎上する (“to go up in flames” /enjoo-suru/), 気炎を上げる (”to argue heatedly” /ki’en-o ageru/), 胃炎 (“gastric catarrh” /ien/) and 肺炎 (“pneumonia” /haien/).

  1. The kanji 談 “to talk”

History of Kanji 談The origin of the kanji 談 is far from the intensity of a towering blaze — 炎 was used phonetically for /ta’n/ to mean “light pastel; cool,” which is found also in the kanji 淡, as in 淡い (“light; faint” /awai/). Together with 言 “word; to say” on the left side, they meant “to talk in a calm normal way.” The kanji 談 meant “to talk” in general.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /da’n/ is in 相談 (“consultation” /soodan/), 談話 (“talk; an informal expression of opinion” /danwa/) and 会談 (“talks; conference” /kaidan/).

When 火 is used on the left side it becomes a bushu hihen, a narrower shape of the kanji 火. We are going to look at the kanji 煙炊焼燥灯煩 next.

  1. The kanji 煙 “smoke”

History of Kanji 煙For the kanji 煙, the two ten style writings, (a) and (b), are shown on the left. Both had fire on the left. In (a) the bottom of the right side had bricks piled high in the kiln and the top right was a smoke rising. The right side was used phonetically for /e’n/ to mean “to burn.” In (b), which was considered to be a popularly used alternative, the right side signified air-like matter, such as smoke, filled in a closed space. In kanji, (c) 煙, from (a), is used to mean “smoke,” and (d) 烟, from (b), means “to be filled with air.” (The kanji 烟 is not included in Joyo kanji.)

The kun-yomi 煙 /kemuri/ means “smoke.” /Kemu/ is in 煙い /kemui/ and 煙たい /kemutai/, both meaning “(unpleasantly) smoky,” 煙たがる (“ill at ease in someone’s presence” /kemutaga’ru/) and in the expression 煙に巻く (“to confuse someone; make a smokescreen” /kemu-ni-maku/). The on-yomi /e’n/ is in 禁煙 (“smoking prohibited” /kin-en/), 喫煙所 (“smoking area” /kitsuenjo/). Customarily it is also used in 煙草 (“tobacco; cigarette” /tabako/).

  1. The kanji 炊 “to cook”

History of Kanji 炊For the kanji 炊, in ten style the left side was 火 “fire,” and the right side was “a person with his mouth open to breathe the air.” From a person blowing air to keep a fire going it meant “to cook.” In kanji the right side became 欠.

The kun-yomi 炊く /taku/ means “to cook (rice); boil,” as in 御飯を炊く (“to cook rice” /go’han-o taku/), and is in 炊き込み御飯 (“rice cooked with vegetable and/or meat” /takikomigo’han/). The on-yomi /su’i/ is in 炊事 (“to cook” /suiji/), 電気炊飯器 (“electric rice cooker” /denkisuiha’nki/) and 自炊する (“to cook for oneself” /jisui-suru/).

  1. The kanji 焼 “to burn; bake”

History of Kanji 焼For the kanji 焼, in ten style the left side was a fire. The right side had bricks piled high in the kiln, and was used phonetically to mean “to burn.” Together they meant “to burn; bake.” The kyujitai, in blue, reflected the ten style. In shinjitai, the top on the right was slightly reduced. Our reader may recall an earlier discussion on the right side in the kanji 暁 “dawn.” [The Kanji 日旦暁朝潮昼–日 (1) on February 21, 2016]

The kun-yomi 焼く /yaku/ means “to bake; burn,” and is in 焼き魚 (“grilled fish” /yakiza’kana/), 日焼けする (“to get sunburned; get a tan” /hiyake-suru/). It is also used in 世話を焼く (“to make oneself useuful; meddle” /sewa’-o yaku/) and やきもちを焼く (“to be jelous of” /yakimo’chi-o yaku/).

  1. The kanji 燥 “to dry”

History of Kanji 燥For the kanji 燥, in ten style the left side was fire, and the right side was used phonetically for /so’o/. Together they meant “to dry.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /so’o/ is in 乾燥する (“to dry; become dry” /kansoo-suru/).

  1. The kanji 灯 “light”

History of Kanji 灯The kanji 灯 had the kyujitai 燈, which further went back to the kanji 鐙. The ten style writing for 鐙 is shown on the left. It had a bushu kanehen 金 “metal” on the left and the phonetically used 登 /to’o/ on the right. Together they were used to mean a metal lamp stand with a tray at the bottom. It was also used for stirrups on a horse. In kyujitai the bushu kanehen was replaced by 火 “fire.” Now the kanji 鐙 is used only for one of the original meanings “stirrups” (the metal to put a foot into when mounting a horse) and is read as /abumi/, a word very specialized and of no use for most of us. For the meaning “lamp; light” the kanji 灯 is used. Before 灯 came to used as the replacement of 燈, 灯 meant “fiercely burning fire.” The kanji 灯 means “light; torch.”

The kun-yomi /hi/ is in 灯をともす (“to turn on a light” /hi-o-tomo’su/). Another kun-yomi /tomoshibi/ means “light.” The on-yomi /to’o/ is in 灯台 (“lighthouse” /toodai/). The expression 灯台下暗し (/toodaimotoku’rashi/ means “It is harder to see what is right under your nose.”)

  1. The kanji 煩 “annoying; nuisance; worry”

History of Kanji 煩For the kanji 煩 in ten style the left side was 火 and the right side was 頁 “head.” The Kanjigen’s explanation is that it came from one’s head irritated like a fire burning in the head. The kanji 煩 means “nuisance; annoying.”

(This kanji is a last-minute addition to this post. I hope to add other interpretations when I have access to references other than Kanjigen in my electronic dictionary that I carry with me.)

The kun-yomi 煩い /wazura-i/ (“worry; anxiety” /wazurai/) is also in 煩わしい (“bothersome; annoying” /wazurawashi’i/) and 手を煩わす (“to cause someone trouble” /te’o-wazurawasu/).  The on-yomi /ha’n/ is in 煩雑な (“complicated; bothersome” /hanzatsu-na/). Another on-yomi /bo’n/ is in 子煩悩 (“doting on one’s children” /kobonnoo/).

In the next two posts we continue to look at kanji that have different shapes for “fire,” including a bushu rekka. [May 22, 2016, Japan time]

The Kanji 石岩砂研泉原源願気汽谷

  1. The kanji 石 “rock; stone”

History of Kanji 石The explanation of the kanji 石 appears to be straightforward if we take the bottom 口 as a rock, as many references do. From “rocks under a mountain cliff” it meant “rock; stone.” There is another interpretation. As we have seen in many kanji, Shirakawa interpreted the shape 口 to be a “box in which prayer words are placed,” rather than more prevalent views that it was a mouth, box, rock or window. His interpretation has a sweeping implication on the interpretation of many kanji. The kanji 石 is one of them – A prayer box placed under a mountain cliff to pray to the god of the rock or mountain came to mean “rock.” When we look at the ten style writing, a rock or stone has an appeal, but when we go back to oracle bone and bronze ware style the interpretation as a rock or stone has less appeal.

The kun-yomi /ishi’/ means “stone,” and is in 小石 (“pebbles”/koishi/) and 石ころ (“stone; gravel” /ishiko’ro/). The on-yomi /se’ki/ is in 化石 (“fossil” /kaseki/), 宝石 (“jewel; gem” /hooseki.), 石器時代 (“Stone Age” /sekkiji’dai/). In Japanese history 石 /koku/ was used as the quantity of rice.

  1. The kanji 岩 “rock”

History of Kanji 岩History of Kanji 巌The kanji used in the Japanese kanji for “rock; boulder,” 岩, was an abbreviated form of the kanji 嵒. In Japanese 嵒 is not used. 岩 is also used as the abbreviated form of 巌 (“rock” /iwao/), as shown on the right. Both嵒and岩signified “many boulders piled up in the mountain.” The kanji 岩 means “rock.”

The kun-yomi /iwa’/ means “rock; boulder,” and is in 一枚岩の (“monolithic” /ichima’iiwa-no/), 岩場 (“rocky area” /iwaba/) and 岩だらけの (“rocky; rugged” /iwada’rake/). The on-yomi /ga’n/ is in 岩石 (“boulder; rock” /ga’nseki/.)

  1. The kanji 砂 “sand” and 沙 “small; granule”

There is no ancient writing for the kanji 砂. The right side少 was used phonetically to mean “very small.” From “very small rocks” the kanji 砂meant “sand.”

The kun-yomi /suna/ means “sand.” The on-yomi /sa/ from kan-on is in 砂漠 (“desert” /sabaku/), 砂丘 (“dune” /sakyuu/) and 砂糖 (“sugar” /sato’o/). Another on-yomi /sha/ from go-on is in 土砂 (“dirt and sand” /do’sha/), and /ja/ is in 砂利道 (“gravel road” /jarimichi/). The three kanji in this and last posts 土 砂 and 崩 make up a word 土砂崩れ “mud slide.”

The kanji沙 “small as granule”

History of Kanji 沙The Kadokawa dictionary takes the view that the origin of the kanji 砂 was in 沙, and that “water” was replaced by 石 later on. The kanji 沙had bronze ware style samples shown on the left. The left side was water and the right side had three or four small dots, which became 少 in ten style. The kanji 沙 means “granular; very small.” Shirakawa explains that the kanji 沙 was something granular that was smaller than 砂.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /sa/ is inご不沙汰しています (“I have not been in touch with you for a long time” /gobusatashiteima’su/), 音沙汰無し (”Nothing has been heard of him” /otosatana’shi/).

  1. The kanji 研 “to sharpen a knife; grind.”

History of Kanji 研For the kanji 研 the left side of the ten style writing was 石 “rock,” and the right side had two sticks of an equal length. The right side was used phonetically for /ke’n/. Together, “two sticks ground to an equal length” gave the meaning “to sharpen by grinding; horn.” 研 meant “to grind; sharpen; horn.”

The kun-yomi /to’gu/ means “to sharpen; horn.” The on-yomi /ke’n/ is in 研究 (“research” /kenkyuu/) and 研修 (“employee training” /kenshuu/).

The next four kanji 泉原源願share 泉, that came from water welling or seeping out between rocks in a mountain, signifying “source of water.”

  1. The kanji 泉 “spring; fountain”

History of Kanji 泉For the kanji 泉, the oracle bone style writing had water seeping out of the cracks of rocks in a cave in a mountain. It meant “spring; fountain.” In ten style, the outside was probably a cave, and the letter T-shape inside was spring water. It was a pictographic writing, 象形文字 /shookeemo’ji/. 象形文字 was a writing that came from a single image. But in kanji, it became two separate elements, the kanji 白 ”white” and 水 “water.” The kanji 泉 means “spring; fountain.”

The kun-yomi 泉 /izumi/ means “spring.” The on-yomi /se’n/ is in 水泉 “water fountain,”  源泉 “source.”

  1. The kanji 原 “field; origin; principle”

History of Kanji 原For the kanji 原, in the two bronze ware style samples, the left top was a cliff and underneath was water welling up. The ten style is that of the kanji 泉, to which a cliff was added. While 泉 was about water, 原 pointed at the place or area where water originated. So it meant “origin.” Then, it changed its meaning to include a surrounding area and meant “wilderness; field” as well as “origin; principle.”

The kun-yomi /hara/ is in 野原 (“field” /no’hara/) and 原っぱ (“open field space” /hara’ppa/). The on-yomi /ge’n/ is in 原料 (“raw materials; ingredient” /genryo’o/), 原発 /genpatsu/ from 原子力発電 (“nuclear power generation” /genshiryokuha’tsuden/).

  1. The kanji 源 “origin; resource”

History of Kanji 源For the kanji 源, Setsumon gave two writing samples. One has three fountains under a cliff, and another was the same as the kanji 原. Because the kanji 原 changed to mean “wilderness; wild field,” a new kanji was created to express the original meaning “source; origin.” In kanji a bushu sanzui was added to put the focus on the original meaning as a place where water originated. The kanji 源 means “source” and it also meant “origin” in general.

The kun-yomi /minamoto/ means “source; origin.” The on-yomi /ge’n/ is 資源 (“resource” /shi’gen/), 財源 (“financial resources” /zaigen/) and 源泉徴収(“taxation at the source; withholding tax” /gensencho’oshuu/).

  8. The kanji 願 “wish; request”

History of Kanji 願(frame)We have looked at the kanji 願 earliar in connection with its tsukuri (the right component of a composite kanji), a bushu oogai “head”. [Kanji Radical 頁 おおがい-順顔頭願 on November 15, 2014.]  In ten style the left side was 原 with the original meaning “a place where water wells out.” What comes out of one’s head is his wish. For the sample words, please refer to the earlier post.

  9. The kanji 気 “air; spirit”

History of Kanji 気The history shown on the left is actually what I combined from two separate entries in Akai (2010). The first two were for the kanji 气, which is not used in Japanese –the oracle bone style writing (a) and bronze ware style writing (b) signified “steam or air rising.” (c) through (f) are for the kanji 気, which derived from 气 –In ten style (c) grains or rice scattered in all directions was added to the three wavy lines that signifies steam rising. It meant “air; spirit.” Another ten style writing (d) had food on the left side. The kyujitai had 米 “rice” inside, which was replaced by a katakana /me/, a device to simplify complex shape in shinjitai.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ki/ is in 元気 “spirited; peppy; in good health,” 気持ち “feeling; sentiment; frame of mind,” 活気のある (“lively” /kakki-no-aru/) and やる気のある (“motivate” /yaruki-no-a’ru/). Another on-yomi /ke/ is in 気配 (“sign; indication” /ke’hai/)

 10. The kanji 汽 “steam; vapor”

For the kanji 汽, no ten style sample is available. But we can easily reconstruct how it was created — The left side was water and the right side was air rising. Together they meant “steam; vapor.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ki/ is in 蒸気 (“jo’oki” /steam/) and 汽車 (“steam locomotive” /kisha’/).

  11. The kanji 谷 “valley; ravine; gorge”

History of Kanji 谷For the kanji 谷, in oracle bone style and bronze ware style, what looked like two katakana ハ signified steep mountain ridges. What was underneath was the bottom of a ravine where a river ran. It meant a “valley; ravine; gorge.”

The kun-yomi /tani’/ means “valley; ravine” and in 谷底 (“bottom of ravine” /tanizoko/). The on-yomi /ko’ku/ is in 渓谷 (“canyon” /keekoku/).

We will continue with kanji that originated from nature in the next few posts. [May 15, 2015]

The Kanji 街崖涯封山岸崩岳丘


In the last post we look at the component 土 in kanji. In this post we begin with a component that has two 土 stacked up and related kanji 街崖涯封. Then we look at the component 山 in the kanji 山岸崩岳 and 丘.

The shape 圭

History of Kanji 圭There are several kanji that contain the shape 圭. The history for 圭 is shown on the left. There are two different interpretations. One is that it was two mounds of dirt stacked up, signifying land that stood high. Another is that it was a gem that an ancient Chinese ruler gave to his subject when giving him land. It is related to feudalism. The older writing, in purple, given in Setsumon, reflected that the left side 王 was “jewel; gem.”

  1. The kanji 街 “town; major street”

History of Kanji 街(frame)We have already touched upon the kanji 街 in connection with the bushu yukigamae “crossroad.” The left and right components together were a crossroad in a full shape, rather than only the left side, as in 彳, the bushu gyooninben. The center was dirt piled up or crossing, signifying a street. Together they meant an area in which streets crisscrossed, which is a “town.” For the sample words please see the earlier post.

  1. The kanji 崖 “cliff; bluff”

History of Kanji 崖The top of the ten style writing for the kanji 崖 was a mountain. Below that were 厂 “overhanging cliff” and a tall stack of dirt. Altogether they signified “cliff” (in a mountain). The shape became a bushu gandare. The name probably comes from the kanji 雁 /ga’n/ — it meant a tare/dare that was in the kanji 雁. (The kanji 雁 in fact belongs to the bushu furutori 隹 “bird.”) A bushu name in Japanese is what Japanese people created based on Japanese use of kanji. They are different from Chinese names.

The kun-yomi 崖 /gake’/ means “cliff,” and is in 崖っぷち (“the edge of a cliff; the brink of (catastrophe)” /gakeppuchi/). The on-yomi /ga’i/ is in 断崖 (“cliff” /dangai/).

  1. The kanji 涯 “cliff (against water); end”

History of Kanji 涯The left side of the kanji 涯 was “water.” The right side was the same as the bottom component of the kanji 崖, which was used phonetically for /ga’i/ too. The two kanji were different in that the kanji 崖, with 山, was a cliff in a mountain whereas 涯, with a sanzui, was a “tall shore; bluff” overlooking a river or sea. The kanji 涯 is also used in the word 生涯 “one’s lifetime.” I was curious where this word came from, but was not able to find an explanation. I suspect that it comes from the view that the end of one’s life on earth ends where the land ends, and the kanji 生 was a goon is also suggestive.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ga’i/ is in 生涯 (“lifetime; for life; throughout one’s life” /sho’ogai/) and 天涯孤独 (“having no family, all alone in the world” /te’ngai kodoku/).

  1. The kanji 封 “to close; feudal’

History of Kanji 封The kanji 封 appears to share the shape 圭 among  the three kanji that we have just seen. It reveals that it has a different history, however.In oracle bone style, in brown, (a) was a young plant. In (b) the bottom of the young plant had a ball of “soil; dirt (the loop) attached that was placed on the ground (the horizontal line). On the right side a hand was added – together, a hand planting a young plant with a dirt ball was placed on the ground (for a ceremony). The two bronze ware style samples (c) and (d), in green, were exactly the same as oracle bone style samples (a) and (b) respectively. The difference came from how the writing was inscribed — carving the inscription on an animal bone with a knife, and founding the inscription in bronze. Together they signified a ruler’s hand planting a young plant in the ground, which was giving a fief for feudal service. From that it meant “feudal.” The land has a boundary, thus it also meant “seal; closure.”

There is no kun-yomi. There are two on-yomi. The on-yomi /ho’o/ is in 封建主義 (“feudalism” /hookenshu’gi/), 封建的な (”feudal; fuidalistic” /hookentekina/). Another on-yomi /hu’u/ is in 封をする (“to seal” /hu’u-o suru/), 封印する (“to seal; put something down” /huuin-suru/), 封鎖 (“blockage” /huusa/) and 封筒 (“envelop” /huutoo/).

Now we are going to move to the kanji that contain 山.

  1. The kanji 山 “mountain; peak; heap”

History of Kanji 山The history of the kanji 山 shown on the left does not require any explanation. Any Japanese learner knows that the kanji 山 came from a mountain range with three peaks. The kanji 山 meant “mountain; peak; heap.”

The kun-yomi 山 /yama’/ meant “mountain,” and is in 山登り (“mountain climbing” /yamano’bori/), 山積みになる (“to pile up” /yamazumi-ni-na’ru/) and 山場を迎える (“to reach the climax” /yamaba-o-mukaeru/). The on-yomi /sa’n/ is in 火山 (“volcano” /ka’zan/) and in mountain names such as 富士山 (“Mount Fuji” /Fu’jisan/). Sometimes the word たくさん (“a lot; abundantly” /takusan/) is written as 沢山.

  1. The kanji 岸 “shore; bank”

History of Kanji 岸For the kanji 岸, the ten style writing consisted of 山 a “mountain” at the top, 厂 a “cliff hanging over” in the middle and a phonetically used component, 干 for /ka’n/. Altogether they meant “shore; bank.”

The kun-yomi 岸 /kishi’/ means “shore,” and is in 川岸 (“riverbank” /kawagishi/), 向こう岸 (“the other side of a river/lake” /mugoogishi/). The on-yomi /ga’n/ is in 沿岸 (“seashore” /engan/), 岸壁 (“quay; wharf” /ganpeki/) and 彼岸 (“the other shore; the realm of Bhuddist enlightment” /higan/). In Japan お彼岸 /ohigan/ is the equinoctial week during which Buddhists have memorial services. The expression 暑さ寒さも彼岸まで /a’tsusa sa’musa-mo higan-ma’de/ means “No heat or cold lasts over the equinox.”

  1. The kanji 崩 “to collapse; crumble”

History of Kanji 崩The ten style of the kanji 崩 had 山 “mountain” on the left whereas the older writing, in purple on the left, had a kozatohen “hill; stack of dirt piled high.” What was the right side? Shirakawa viewed that it was an imaginary auspicious bird 鳳 /ho’o/, which Setsumon incorrectly took for 朋 /ho’o/. Other references treat 朋 as two strings of necklaces that came apart, which was used phonetically. A mountain that collapsed meant “landslide.” The kanji 崩 meant “to collapse; crumble.” As a special use, it is also used to describe the death of an emperor or empress.

The kun-yomi 崩れる /kuzure’ru/ means “to collapse; crumble,” and is in 山崩れ (“mountain landslide” /yamaku’zure/). The on-yomi /ho’o/ is in 崩壊 (“collapse” /hookai/) and 崩御 (“demise of an emperor or empress” /ho’ogyo/).

  1. The kanji 岳 (嶽) “mountain: ragged mountain”

History of Kanji 岳The kanji 岳 with its kyujitai 嶽 has a peculiar history. The kyujitai,in blue, was 嶽, which directly came from ten style. It had 山 “mountain” at the top, and the bottom 獄 had two dogs on both sides and 言 ”word; language” in the center. 獄 /go’ku/ by itself is the kanji “prison” (as in 地獄 “hell” /jigoku’/ and 監獄 (“prison” /kangoku/). Together 嶽 signified “ragged harsh mountain.” The earlier writing, in purple, was very different, and reflected the oracle bone style writings. In oracle bone style, the sample shown here had a sheep’s head at the top and the bottom was a mountain. Ragged mountains were a sacred place for sheep herding people. So the origin of the shape of the shinjitai 岳 was found all the way back in oracle bone style. The kanji 岳 (嶽) meant “mountain: ragged mountain.”

The kun-yomi is /take/, and is used in a name such as 八ヶ岳 (“Mount Yatsugatake” in Nagano prefecture  /yatsuga’take/). (I also look at this kanji with a little nostalgia, because my old junior high school has this kanji in its name.) The on-yomi /ga’ku/ is in 山岳地帯 (“mountainous area” /sangakuchi’tai/). It is also in 岳父 (“the father of one’s wife” /ga’kuhu/.)

  1. The kanji 丘 “hill”

History of Kanji 丘The kanji 丘 is the same as the top of the kanji 岳 “mountain” that we have just seen, but it does not share the same origin. In oracle bone style, 丘 had two hills or a hill with a hollow in the middle. The bottom line was the ground level. The bronze ware style writings (b) and (c) look like two people standing back to back on the ground, which were similar to the origin of the kanji 北. The ten style writing also reflected the bronze ware style writing. Incidentally, the kanji shape 丘 is found not just in 岳 but also in the kanji 兵 “soldier,” but the two kanji,i 丘 and 兵, have nothing in common. [The kanji 兵 was discussed in the earlier article —Two Hands from Below: 共, 供, 異, 興, 兵 and 具 on May 30, 2014]

The kun-yomi /oka/ means “hill.” The on-yomi /kyu’u/ is in 砂丘 (“sand dune” /sakyuu/) and 丘陵 (“hilly land” /kyuuryoo/).

In the next post, we continue with kanji that originated from topographical features, including 石泉谷. [May 7, 2016]

The Kanji 土圧吐場湯揚 and Keiseimoji


In this post, we are going to look at a few kanji that contains 土 “dirt; soil; ground.”  The component 土 appears in a few different positions- on yje lest side, right sode and at the bottom. We are hoing to look at 土圧吐, and 場, which has been touched on earlier along with 陽傷. [The Kanji 阜降陟陽陰今雲隊陸ーこざとへん(1) November 14, 2015] In relating to 場, we also look at the kanji 揚湯 that share the same component 昜so that we will have five kanji 揚湯場陽傷 that share the same right side component, but with a different left side component. This is a good place for us to think about different roles that each side of a composite kanji played.

  1. The kanji 土 “dirt; soil; indigenous”

History of Kanji 土For the kanji 土, the writing in oracle bone style, (a) in brown, was the outline of a lump of dirt placed on the ground to celebrate the god of the earth. It meant “soil; dirt; ground; land.” In bronze ware style, (b) in green, the vertical line had a bulge, and in (c) the bulge became a line, which became (d) in ten style, in red. Something that is attached to a land also gave the meaning “indigenous.”

The kun-yomi /tsuchi’/ means “dirt; soil,” and is in 土がつく (“to suffer a defeat” /tsuchi’-ga-tsuku). The on-yomi /do/ is in 国土 (“territory; ream; domain” /ko’kudo/), 土足 (“without wearing footwear on” /dosoku/), 土台 (“foundation” /dodai/), 土木工事 (“civil engineering work” /dobokuko’oji/) and 土着の (“indigenous; native” /dochaku-no/). Another on-yomi /to/ is in 土地 (“land; lot” /tochi/).

  1. The kanji 圧 (壓) “to press; pressure”

History of Kanji 厭The shinjitai kanji 圧 was a drastically trimmed shape from kyujitai 壓. The ten style writing, below, consisted of 厭 at the top and.土 at the bottom. The top 厭 by itself is a kanji that means “to press from above; weary.” Its history is on the right. The left side of thebronze ware style writing had a bone at the top and meat/flesh at the bottom, and the right side was a dog — Together they signified sacrificial dog meat. In ten style a cover or something hanging over () was added. From a cover pressing something down, the kanji 厭 meant “to press from above; weary of.” It is not a Joyo kanji but is used in the word 厭世 (“weary of the world/life” /ensee/). It is also used for 厭な /iya’na/ “to dislike” and 厭う (“to loathe; detest” /ito’u/).

History of Kanji 圧For the ten style writing of 壓 for 圧, in addition to 厭, 土 “dirt” was added at the bottom. One interpretation is that together they signified a sacrificial dog placed on or in the ground to quell or appease the ground. It meant “to oppress; push down; pressure.” Fortunately for us, in shinjitai only the two essential elements, the pressing cover (厂) and the soil (土), were kept. So simple mnemonics would be that something pressed between a cover and the ground means “to press; pressure.” The etymology above is just for curiosity.

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji reading. The on-yomi /a’tsu/ is in 圧力 (“pressure” /atsu’ryoku/), 圧迫する (“to press; to bear down on” /appaku-suru/), 電圧 (“voltage” /den-atsu/), 圧政 (“tyranny” /assee/), and 圧勝 (“landslide victory; overwhelming victory” /asshoo/).

  1. The kanji 吐 “to vomit; spew; spit out”

History of Kanji 吐The kanji 吐 is a simple kanji with 口 and 土 together. The right side 土 was used phonetically for /to/ to mean “ground.” Something that comes out of one’s mouth to the ground means “to vomit; spit out.”

The kun-yomi /ha’ku/ means “to vomit; spit out,” and in 吐き捨てる (“to spit out” /hakisute’ru/).  The on-yomi /to/ is in 吐血する (”to cough up blood” /toketsu-suru/) and the phrase 真情を吐露する (“to express one’s true sentiments /shinjoo-o to’ro-suru/).

Other kanji in which 土 appears at the bottom or on the right side of a kanji that we have looked at include the following:  至 “end” from “an arrow hitting the ground” [August 8, 2015]; 塾 “juku; private tutoring class” from “a place where knowledge is fostered to mature” [May 16, 2015]; 座 from “two people facing each other sitting on a dirt floor in a house [June 27, 2015]; 在 “to exist” from “dirt accumulated in a weir” [August 15, 2015]; and 塞 “to block” from “dirt blocking cold air coming inside a house” [April 17, 2016]. The component 土 in those kanji all contributed the meaning “ground; dirt; place.”

The Role of Hen (扁) in Keiseimoji 形声文字

When 土 appears on the left side it becomes a bushu tsuchihen, in which the third stroke goes up slightly. A left-side kanji component is generally called 扁 /hen/. Combining a hen and tsukuri 旁 (literal meaning is “beside; on the side”) on the right side was a very productive and economical way of expanding kanji inventory. In many 形声文字 /keeseemo’ji/ (commonly spelled as keiseimoji) “semantic-phonetic composite writing,” the general principle is that the hen gave the meaning, and the tsukuri gave the sound. The term, which consists of 形 “shape” and 声 “sound,” is translated as “semantic-phonetic writing” in English. (A number of terminologies exist but the gist of them is “meaning” and “sound; pronunciation”). In other words, “shape” was synonymous with “meaning” in keiseimoji in ancient writing. Our effort in exploring the connection between ancient writing shapes and meaning is in line with this.

In earlier posts we have looked at the kanji 陽 in connection with a bushu kozatohen along with 場 and 傷. There are a couple of more that have 昜 that we did not touch on then. So while the term keiseimoji is in our mind, let us look at two more kanji 湯 and 揚 (and also revisit the kanji 場) and come back to review them.

  4. The kanji 揚 “to raise high; deep fry”

History of Kanji 陽 (frame)In the earlier post, in discussing 陽 (its history is shown on the right), 昜 signified “the sun (top right) rising high (bottom right).” 昜 and “the sun hitting the mountains (on the left side) together meant “being made bright by the sun.” There is another interpretation — the top of 昜 was a jewel and the bottom was a tall alter table from which holy rays illuminated. From the sacred light that elevates people, 昜 meant “to elevate; heighten.”

History of Kanji 揚For the kanji 揚, if we look at bronze ware style writings (b) and (c) shown on the left, the interpretation of “jewel” rather than “sun” seems to fit better because it was held high by a person with two hands. One cannot hold the sun in his hands. The writing (d) was given as an older style in Setsumon. The right side of (d) had a hand. In ten style (e) five-fingers were recognizable, which in turn became a bushu tehen in kanji (f). The kanji 揚 means “to raise high (by hand).”

The kun-yomi 揚がる and 揚げる mean “to rise high” and “to raise” respectively. In Japanese it also meant “to deep-fry,” as in 天ぷらを揚げる (“to fry tempura” /tenpura-o ageru/). A piece of fried food lifts up out of hot cooking oil. The on-yomi /yo’o/ is in 国旗掲揚 (“hoisting of National flag” /kokkikeeyoo/) and 抑揚 (“intonation” /yokuyoo/) and 抑揚のない (“monotonous” /yokuyoo-no-na’i/).

  1. The kanji 湯 “hot water”

History of Kanji 湯For the kanji 湯, the left side of the bronze ware style writing was “(running) water,” which became a bushu sanzui in kanji, as we have seen in the posts in April. The right side 昜 was used phonetically for /to’o/ and to mean “rising.” What rises from water is steam from boiling water, and from that kanji 湯 meant “hot water.”

The kun-yomi /yu/ means “hot water; hot bath.” 湯を沸かす/yu’o wakasu/ or お湯を沸かす /oyu-o wakasu/ means “to boil water.” The on-yomi /to’o/ is in 熱湯 (“boiling water; very hot water” /nettoo/) and 給湯室 (“office kitchenette” /kyuuto’oshitsu/).

  1. The kanji 場 “place; venue”

History of Kanji 場 (frame)The kanji 場 has only the ten style sample shown on the right. The left side was 土 “soil; ground”, and the right side 昜 was used phonetically to mean a sun rising high. From a place where a sun rose high it meant“place; venue” in general.

The kun-yomi /ba/ means “place; venue,” and is in その場しのぎ (“stopgap; make-do” /sonobashi’nogi/), 場合 (“case; occasion” /baai/), 場面 (“situation; scene” /ba’men/), 場所 (“place” /basho/). The on-yomi /jo’o/ is in 会場 (“venue; place” /kaijoo/) and 駐車場 (“parking lot” /chuushajoo/).

For a later discussion: If we use two phonetic letter systems (the kana systems) to differentiate on-yomi and kun-yomi for words such as 場面 and 場所, we see an interesting point: ばメン and ばショ — The first kanji is read in kun-yomi and the second in on-yomi. This is the reverse of 台所 ダイどころ and 重箱 ジュウばこ, which is an on-kun combination, commonly known as 重箱読み /juubakoyomi/. This topic is something we can come back to in a later post.

Now let us compare the five keiseimoji 揚湯場陽傷 and see how the left side and the right side played their different roles in making these new kanji.

The different left side hen (氵土and ):  (1) 揚 “to raise high (by hand)” had a tehen扌 “hand” that raised something high. (2) 湯 “hot water” had a sanzui 氵“water,” that rises as steam when boiling. (3) 場 “place; venue” had a tsuchihen “dirt; soil; ground” where the sunshine hit. In previous post (4) 陽 “sun shine” had a kozatohen 阝“hill,” that receives bright light from the sun that is risen high. And (5) 傷 “wound; cut” had a ninben イ “person,” with 昜 used just for the sound, or a cover above 昜 preventing the rays of a jewel from emitting, thus “harm.”

The identical right side or the tsukuri 昜: In keieimoji, this component provided the sound. Sounds change over time. All the more, in transfering one phonetic system of a language (Chinese) to another language with a totally different sound system (Japanese), many changes took place. So, it is not that easy to see a direct correlation between the related kanji by reference to sound. Nontheless, /yoo/ for 揚, /too/ for 湯, /joo/ for 場, /yoo/ for 陽 and /shoo/ for 傷 show clear phonetic correlations in vowels. Another point to keep in mind about a recurring component that is used primarily phonetically is that its original meaning was also often reflected in the new kanji as well. Some were for a totally phonetic use.

We will continue another formation of 土, 圭 in the next post. [May 1, 2016]