The kanji 石 “rock; stone”
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.
The kanji 岩 “rock”
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/.)
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”
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/).
The kanji 研 “to sharpen a knife; grind.”
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.”
The kanji 泉 “spring; fountain”
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.”
The kanji 原 “field; origin; principle”
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/).
The kanji 源 “origin; resource”
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”
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”
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”
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]