The Kanji 金全銅同銀鉄鋼針銭-かねへん(1)

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In this and next posts we are going to look at kanji that contain 金 the bushu kanehen “metal.” There are quite a large number of kanji with a kanehen among the Joyo kanji. There seem to be no oracle bone style samples of any kanji for the shape 金.

  1. The kanji 金 “metal; gold; money”

History of Kanji 金The generally accepted explanation of the kanji 金 is the Setsumon’s explanation that the top originated with 今, which was used phonetically for /kin/, and that the bottom was glistening metal nuggets in soil. I imagined a scene in nature or a mine with a roof. (In this blog, oracle bone style writing is shown in brown, bronze style writing is in green, and ten style writing is in red.) I would like to add another explanation (proposed by Shirakawa) – it was the composite of another kanji 全 and pieces of copper for casting. To understand this, the history of the kanji 全 is useful. So let us make a detour to look at the origin of the kanji 全.

The kanji 全 “complete; to fulfill”

History of Kanji 全For the kanji 全, the Setsumon’s explanation for (c) was that it consisted of a bushu hitoyane and 工. It also explained it earlier shapes, (a) and (b), as flawless perfect jewels or gems (王 is the same as 玉 “jewel; gem”). From that the kanji 全 meant “complete; perfect; to fulfill.” Shirakawa explained (a) as 佩玉 /haigyoku/ “gems strung together worn by a noble on the waist in a ceremony.” In this view the whole kanji was a single image of the jewelry rather than a composite of two components.

The kun-yomi 全く/mattaku/ means “completely; entirely.” 全うする /mattoo-suru/ means “to fulfill one’s mission; accomplish one’s purpose.” The on-yomi /ze’n/ is in 全部 (“whole; all” /ze’nbu/), 全体 (“the whole; entirely” /zentai/), 完全に (“completely; perfectly” /kanzen-ni/).

Now back to the kanji 金. In ancient times in China “metal” referred to bronze. It makes sense that the term 金文 is translated as “bronze ware style writing” in kanji history. Five kinds of metal were named by their color —黄金, from “yellow metal,” meant gold [金]: 黒金, from “black metal,” meant iron [鉄] ; 白金, from “white metal,” meant silver [銀]; 赤金, from “red metal,” meant copper [銅]; and 青金, from “blue metal,” meant lead [鉛].

The kun-yomi 金 /kane/ means “metal,” and is in お金 /okane/ meaning “money,” 金持ち “rich; wealthy” /kanemo’chi/). /-Gane/ is in 有り金 (“money left” /arigane/), and 黄金 (“golden; gold” /kogane/). /Kana-/ is in 金物 (“metal” /kanamono/). The on-yomi 金 /ki’n/ is a kan-on and means “gold,” and is in 借金 (“debt; borrowing money” /shakki’n/), 金属 (“metal” /ki’nzoku/), 金髪 (“blond hair” /kinpatsu/). Another on-yomi /kon or gon/ is a go-on and is in 黄金 (“golden” /oogon/). The word 金色 is read in two way — /kin-iro/ “golden” in kan-on reading; and /konjiki/ “golden” in go-on reading.

  1. The kanji 銅 “copper”

History of Kanji 銅For the kanji 銅, the bronze ware style writing had “metal” on the left side, and the right side was used phonetically for /do’o/ to mean “red.” Together they meant “red metal” (赤金), which is “copper.” The kanji 銅 means “copper.” When 金 is used on the left side it is called a bushu kanehen. Bronze is 青銅, which is a yellowish brown color but when rusted 銅 becomes greenish blue (緑青 “verdigris” /rokusho’o/).

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /do’o/ means “cupper” and is in 赤銅色 (“reddish dark color” /shakudooiro/), 青銅器 (“bronze ware” /seedo’oki/), 銅像 (“bronze statue” /doozoo/).

The kanji 同 “same; identical”

History of Kanji 同The right side of the kanji 銅 is the kanji 同 “same.” In oracle bone style and bronze ware style, it had a piece of board at the top and a hole at the bottom. A hole that went through boards enabled them to become one, which signified “the same.” In ten style, a part of the board became a line inside. The kanji 同 means “same; identical.”

  1. The kanji 銀 “silver”

History of Kanji 銀(frame)This kanji has been discussed over two years ago in the post Eyes Wide Open (4) 限, 眼, 根, 恨, 痕, 銀 and 退 on April 7, 2014. The ten style writing of the kanji 銀 had “metal” on the left. The right side was used phonetically to mean “white.” “White metal” (白金) meant “silver.” (In modern use, 白金 means platinum.) For sample words, please refer to the earlier post.

  1. The kanji 鉄 “iron”

History of Kanji 鉄黒金 “black metal” meant “iron.” The kanji 鉄 had a kyujitai 鐵, which came from ten style. In ten style the left side was metal; the center and right side together were used phonetically to mean “reddish black.” Together they meant “metal that becomes red when rusted,” which was “iron.” In shinjitai, the right side became the kanji 失, which resembled the pre-ten style writing, in purple.

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /tetsu/ means “iron.” It is in 鉄道 (“railroad; railway” /tetsudoo/), 私鉄 (“private railway” /shitetsu/), as in the nationally owned railway (国有鉄道 or 国鉄), which is now called JR (/jeea’aru/) after privatization in 1987, 地下鉄 (“subway; underground railway” /chikatetsu/), 鉄則 (“iron rule” /tessoku/), 鉄砲 (“gun; firearms” /teppoo/), 鉄火巻き (“sushi roll with pieces of raw tuna inside” /tekkamaki/), from the red color of heated iron and tuna.

  1. The kanji 鉛 “lead”

History of Kanji 鉛For the kanji 鉛, the left side was “metal,” and the right side was used phonetically for /e’n/ to mean “to flow along” (as in the kanji 沿 “to go along; follow”). Lead melts at a low temperature and runs quickly. From that the kanji 鉛 meant “lead.”

The kun-yomi /namari/ means “lead.” The on-yomi /e’n/ is in 鉛筆 (“pencil” /enpitsu/), 亜鉛 (“zinc” /a’en/), 無鉛ガソリン (“unleaded gasoline” /muenga’sorin/).

  1. The kanji 鋼 “steel”

The kanji 鋼There is no ancient writing for the kanji 鋼. The left side 金 was “metal.” The right side 岡 meant “a hardy mold that had been baked at a high temperature.” Together “hard and strong metal/iron” meant “steel.“ Steel, a hard, strong, gray alloy of iron with carbon is used extensively as a structural and fabricating material.

The kun-yomi 鋼 /hagane/ means “steel.” The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 鉄鋼業 (“steel industry” /tekko’ogyoo/).

7. The kanji 針 “needle”

History of Kanji 針The orthodox writing (正字) for the kanji 針 was 鍼. The ten style writing of 鍼 had “metal” on the left, and the right side 咸 was used phonetically. History of Kanji 十This kanji is now used to mean “acupuncture,” an alternative pain treatment using needles. In shinjitai kanji 針, the 十 shape on the right side came from a needle with a bulge in the middle, as in the kanji 十 shown on the right. The kanji 針 means “needle.”

The kun-yomi /ha’ri/ means “needle,” and is 時計の針 (“clock hand” /tokee-no-ha’ri/) and 針金 (“thin wire” /harigane/). /-Bari/ is in 縫い針 (“sewing needle” /nuiba’ri/). The on-yomi /shi’n/ is in 方針 (“guideline” /hooshin/), 秒針 (“second hand” /byooshin/) and メーター検針 (“inspection/reading of a meter” /meetaake’nshin/).

  1. The kanji 鐘 “bell”

History of Kanji 鐘The kanji 鐘 consists of a bushu kanehen and the kanji 童. We have looked at the unusual origin of the kanji 童 in the previous post [The Kanji 東動働重童 on January 6, 2015.] Here it was used phonetically for /do’o/ only. The bronze ware style writings (a) and (b) became (c) in ten style. Another ten style writing (d) was also given in Setsumon as an alternative. The kanji 鐘 means “bell.”

The kun-yomi 鐘 /kane/ means “bell.” The on-yomi /sho’o/ is in 警鐘 (“alarm bell” /keeshoo/).

  1. The kanji 銭 “money”

History of Kanji 銭For the kanji 銭, the left side in ten style was “metal.” The right side had two halberds, 戔, giving the sound /se’n/ and also meant “shaving something thinner.” Together they originally meant a plough that had thin blades. There were plough-shaped coins. From that it meant “money.” The kyujitai 錢, in blue, reflected ten style. The shinjitai simplified the right side, and it means “money; small change; coin.”

The kun-yomi 銭 /ze’ni/ means “money,” and is in 小銭 (“small change” /kozeni/) and 身銭を切る (“to pay for from one’s own pocket” /mizeni-to-ki’ru/). The on-yomi /se’n/ is in 金銭 (“money” /ki’nsen/), 一銭 (“one-hundredth of a yen” /isse’n/), 守銭奴 (“miser; scrooge” /shuse’ndo/).

There are many more kanji with a bushu kanehen. We will continue with them in the next post. [June 25, 2016]

American University Japanese program blog

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While my soul is slowly transiting from Tokyo to the east coast of North America (mostly recovering from jetlag) I would like to bring your attention to something current and practical — the blog site of the American University Japanese Program in Washington, D. C. The link is: http://japnau.blogspot.com.

The blog was created and is maintained by my former colleague and friend, Ken Knight. The site reflects Ken’s wide range of personal and professional interests as a Japanese language teacher, as well as his working experiences in Tokyo. The information includes current topics relating to Japan, employment in Japan, Japanese language learning resources and many more.

-Noriko [June 20, 2016]

The kanji 凡帆汎鳳風嵐 –“wind”

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We are discussing kanji that originated from nature. There is one more important kanji that is related to metrological phenomenon — 風 “wind.” The kanji 風 was closely related to the kanji 凡and 鳳 in its origins. The shape 凡 is also in other Joyo kanji including 帆 and 汎. We first look at the three kanji 凡帆汎, then 鳳 before 風嵐.

  1. The kanji 凡 “all; common; spreading”

History of Kanji 凡In the history of the kanji 凡, shown on the left, the writings in oracle bone style, (a) in brown, and in bronze ware style, (b) and (c) in green, were explained as “a large piece of cloth or board.” The two vertical lines were the masts and the two short horizontal lines were the outline of a sail. Covering a large area meant “all; nearly all; approximation.” The shape is also viewed as the same as 盤 /ba’n/. 盤 is a type of a shallow bowl or a boat having the function of transporting stuff to another place. From that it also meant “to extend; spread.” The kanji 凡 meant “all; common; spreading.”

The kun-yomi 凡そ /oyoso/ means “roughly all; approximately.” Another kun-yomi凡て /su’bete/ means “all.” The on-yomi /bo’n/ is in 平凡な (“mediocre; commonplace” /heebon-na/), 凡人 (“ordinary person” /bonjin/), 非凡な (“extraordinary; unique” /hibon-na/), 平々凡々な暮らし (“ordinary life; living uneventfully” /heeheebonbon-na-kurashi/). Another on-yomi /ha‘n/ is in 凡例 (“legend (on a map); guide (to a dictionary) /hanree/).

  1. The kanji 帆 “sail of a boat”

For the original meaning of “sail of a boat,” a new kanji 帆 was created by adding a piece of cloth 巾on the left. There is no ancient writing for 帆. The kun-yomi 帆 /ho/ means “sail of a boat,” and is in 帆掛け船 “a sail boat.” The kun-yomi /pa’n/ is in 出帆する “to set sail.”

  1. The kanji 汎 “all; covering all; pan-”

History of Kanji 汎When “water” was attached to 凡, it created the kanji 汎. Together from “water spreading to a wide area” it meant “all; covering all; pan-.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /han/ is in 汎用する (“to overuse” /han-yoo-suru/), 汎用性 (“universal use; versatility“ /han-yoosee/), 汎アジア主義 (“pan-Asianism” /ha’n-ajiashu’gi/) and 汎太平洋 (“pan-pacific” /ha’n-taihe’eyoo/).

  1. The kanji 鳳 “mythological sacred bird”

History of Kanji 鳳For the kanji 鳳, we have two oracle bone style writings here, (a) and (b). (a) was a mythological bird which was believed to create wind, called 鳳凰 /hooo’o/ or おおとり /ootori/. (b) was the same as the oracle bone style writing for 風, which we look at next in 5, and had a sail of a boat on the right. In ten style the sail was placed on top of this bird. In kanji the sail became a three-way enclosure, and the bird had the kanji 鳥 “bird” with an extra stroke at the top. The word 鳳凰 is said to be a pair of birds – a male (鳳) and a female (凰).

The kun-yomi /ootori/ means same as the on-yomi word 鳳凰 /hooo’o/ and mean “mythical sacred bird.”

  1. The kanji 風 “wind; breeze; style; manner”

History of Kanji 風When we look at the oracle bone style writings 風, (a) and (b), and the ten style writing 風, (c), shown on the left, the two styles do not look alike. We now know from 1. 凡 and 2. 鳳 that (a) and (b) consisted of a mythical bid and a sail. The mythical bird had a large crown on the head, which signified being divine, big wings with long feathers and a long trailing tail. When this large bird flapped its large wings, it brought forth wind. This bird was considered to be “the god of wind.” The god of wind and a sail to catch wind together meant “wind.”

Setsumon explained (c) as “when winds in all eight directions blow, 蟲 are brought forth.” Some scholars think that 蟲, which is the kyujitai for 虫, was not just a “worm” but was more inclusive of all creatures. Shirakawa treated it as a dragon 龍 (/ryu’u/), another mythical creature. Wind gave breathing air for creatures large and small. A dragon rose up the sky riding on wind, thus the kanji 風 meant “wind.” (Our reader may recall that Setsumon’s explanation of the ten style 雲 was that a dragon was also in the clouds. The Kanji 雨雲曇雪霜霧露—あめかんむり(1) [March 27, 2016])

So the kanji 風 had two different origins. One was a sail of a boat that catches wind and a mythical divine bird 鳳 and the other was a sail and a dragon 龍. Ancient people used a mythical creature to describe an invisible entity that they could only see when they saw things moving and their skin feeling sensation. Wind, being movement of air, never staying the same, also described trend, style and manner. The kanji 風 meant “wind; breeze; style; manner.”

The kun-yomi 風 /kaze/ means “wind; breeze,” and is in 春風 (“spring breeze” /harukaze/), 風邪を引く (“to catch a cold” /kaze-o-hiku/). Another kun-yomi /kaza-/ is in 風上 (“the windward” /kazakami/) and in the expression 風上に置けない (“intolerable; insufferable” /kazakami-ni-okenai/). The on-yomi /hu’u/ is in 台風 (“typhoon” /taihu’u/), 風景 (“scenery” /hu’ukee/), 風俗 (“customs; conventions; sex-oriented business” /hu’uzoku/), 和風 (“Japanese style” /wahuu/) and 風化する (“to weather; fade with the passage of time” /huuka-suru/).

Mythical Animals

平等院の鳳凰像1
Mythical birds on the rooftop in Byodoin Temple
十円玉
Ten-en coin

Throughout history a divine mythical bird 鳳 was considered to be auspicious, and it appeared in many types of art work to signify a heaven, a wish for eternal prosperity and a blissful life. The recent restoration work on the Heian era villa called Byoodooin Temple/Villa 平等院 /byoodo’oin/ (びょうどういん) outside Kyoto city, has a building called 鳳凰堂 /hoooodoo/ (ほうおうどう). The building had a pair of hoooo birds on the rooftop. The picture on the left is a golden replica of a standing figure of hoooo—it had long colorful crowns, sharp eyes, and a long feathered tail, and the body was gilded. (Photo: Asahi Shinbun) The building was built in 1053, at the time when, after many natural disasters, thoughts of doomsday were prevalent. People of the Heian era must have looked at a pair of hoooo birds as a symbol of a Buddhist promise of heaven and afterlife. The 鳳凰堂 building itself is particularly familiar to all Japanese people because it is on a ten-yen coin, as shown on the right.

KirinBeerCan東京青山通り

Incidentally another imaginary mythical animal that we are familiar with is kirin 麒麟 /kirin/, sometimes called a Chinese unicorn. The legend is that a kirin had the head of a dragon with a single horn, and the body of a deer with golden scales on the body. Sighting a kirin was considered to be lucky because a sage or great ruler would appear soon.
The famous Japanese beer called Kirin Beer uses an image of a kirin as its company logo.  (P.S. While walking along the Aoyama-dori street in Tokyo yesterday, we came across a giant Kirin’s beer can in front of a beer garden, as shown on the right.June 15, 2016)

  1. The kanji 嵐 “storm”

There is no ancient writing for the kanji 嵐. In kanji the top is 山 “mountain” and the bottom is 風 “wind.” Together they meant “fresh wind that comes down from a mountain.” In Japanese it meant “storm; stormy wind.”

The kun-yomi 嵐 /a‘rashi/ means “stormy wind; storm,” and is in the expression 嵐の前の静けさ (“lull before a storm” /a’rashi-no-mae-no shizuke’sa/). There is no on-yomi in Joyo kanji.

Next time when you have a glass of Kirin beer on your outside porch chair, as you feel a pleasant breeze, you might have a sighting of a 鳳凰 (ほうおう) crossing the sky or a 龍 (りゅう) climbing through the clouds. [June 12, 2016 Japan time]

The Kanji 照昭黒点黙墨薫勲赤栄労営蛍 – “fire” (3)

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This is the third post on kanji that originated from “fire.” We continue with kanji with a bushu rekka/renga 照黒点黙墨薫勲 and discuss other kanji 赤栄労営蛍.

  1. The kanji 昭 and 照 “to shine”

Before we look at the kanji 照, which has a bushu rekka/renga, let us look at its top, which is the kanji 昭.

History of Kanji 昭The kanji 昭 –The right side of the kanji 昭 is 召 “to summon; invite,” from a person and a mouth, and was used phonetically for /sho’o/ to mean “bright.” The bronze ware style writing, in green, had 召 on the left and the right side was another person. In ten style, in red, the position was reversed and the person was replaced by the sun. Together they meant “bright.”

The imperial era name 昭和 (“Showa era (1926-1989)” /shoowa; sho’owa/) is about the only use of 昭 other than for a personal name. In Japan when an emperor passes away a new era is named immediately, usually taken form a classical Chinese text, and the new imperial era name begins the following day. The Showa emperor passed away on January 7, 1989, and the new era name 平成 (“Heisei” /heesee/) was announced by the government. So someone who was born on January 7, 1989, is 昭和64年生まれ (“born on Showa 64” /sho’owa rokujuuyonen-u’mare/), and someone who was born on the next day, January 8, is 平成元年生まれ (“born on Heisei 1” /heeseegannen-u’mare/). The (imperial) era name is used on all documents, governmental or non-governmental.

The kanji 照 “to shine; illuminate”

History of Kanji 照For the kanji 照, in ten style the left side had the sun and a fire. The right side was used phonetically for /sho’o/. Both the sun and a fire illuminate the surroundings. Together they meant “to shine.” In kanji, the fire was moved to the bottom and became a bushu rekka/renga. It meant “to shine, illuminate.”

The kun-yomi /te/ is in 照る(“to shine” /teru/), an intransitive verb, 照らす (“to illuminate” /terasu/), a transitive verb. The on-yomi /sho’o/ is in 日照時間 (“hours of sunlight” /nisshooji’kan/), 照明器具 (“lighting apparatus” /shoomeeki’gu/), 照合する (“to verity; collate with” /shoogoo-suru/), 参照する (“to refer to; compare with” /sanshoo-suru/).

A fire not only gives heat and light but also creates smoke and soot. The next six kanji, 黒点黙墨薫勲, all come from that.

  1. The kanji 黒 “black”

History of Kanji 黒For the kanji 黒, in bronze ware style, in green, the top was a chimney with black soot (the dots were deposits), a bag to collect black soot, or a bag of stuff wrapped around to be smoked to dye fabric. The bottom was a burning fire. From black soot created by a fire, it meant “black; dark.” In ten style, it had a chimney or a bag, and two fires. In kyujitai, in blue, black dots for soot were still present, and the towering fire became a bushu rekka/renga. In shinjitai, the top became 里.

The kun-yomi 黒 /ku’ro/ means “black” and is in 黒い (“black; dark” /kuro’i/), 黒ずむ (“to blacken; become dark” /kurozu’mu/), and 黒っぽい (“blackish; dark” /kuroppo’i/). The on-yomi /ko’ku/ is in 黒板 (“blackboard” /kokuban/) and 暗黒 (“darkness; blackness” /ankoku/).

  1. The kanji 点 “dot; speckle; point; mark”

History of Kanji 点For the kanji 点, in ten style, the left side was the same as 黒 in 2, which had a chimney or a bag with specks of black soot at the top, and two fires. The right side 占 was used phonetically. They meant “small dot; point; to add a small note.” The kyujitai consisted of 黒 and 占. In shinjitai only the fire for 黒 was kept as a bushu rekka/renga below 占.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi 点 /ten/ means “dot; point; mark,” and is in 弱点 (“weak point” /jakute’n), 盲点 (“blind spot” /mo’oten/), 欠点 (“shortcoming” /kette’n/), 疑問点 (“question; questionable point” /gimo’nten/), 合点が行く (“to understand” /gaten-ga-iku/) and 点数 (“point; mark” /tensu’u/).

  1. The kanji 墨 “ink”

History of Kanji 墨For the kanji 墨, the top of the ten style writing was the same as 黒 in 1, and the bottom was “soil; dirt.” Black deposits from smoke was collected in a bag and got mixed with dirt-like powdery materials to make a ball of ink. The ink was used to write on materials such as silk cloth, bamboo sticks and wood. The kanji 墨 means “ink.”

The kun-yomi 墨 /sumi’/ means “ink,” and is in 墨絵 (“ink painting” /sumie/). The on-yomi /bo’ku/ is in 水墨画 (“painting in black ink” /suibokuga/) and 墨汁 (“liquid ink” /bokujuu/).

  1. The kanji 薫 “aroma; fragrance”

History of Kanji 薫For the kanji 薫, the ten style had “plants” at the top, below that were a bag that was tied with strings in the middle and fires at the bottom – “to fume.” (In this writing, the strings were explicit.) Together they signified that plants were yielding agreeable scent, and from that 薫 meant “fragrance; aroma.” The kanji 薫 is often used for the non-Joyo kanji 燻 “to moulder,” because 燻 is not a Joyo kanji.

The kun-yomi /kaori/ means “fragrance.” The on-yomi /ku’n/ is in 薫陶 (“educational nurturing; moral instruction” /kuntoo/) and 薫製 (“smoked (food)” /kunsee/).

  1. The kanji 勲 “merit”

History of Kanji 勲For the kanji 勲, the old style writing, in purple, and the ten style writing were historically used interchangeably (Shirakawa). The right side of both writings had a plough, but the origin is not clear. The kanji 勲 meant “merit.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /kun/ is in 勲章 (“decoration; order; medal” /kunshoo/), 叙勲 (“decoration; bestowal of an order” /jokkun/), and 元勲 (“outstanding statesman; an elder statesman” /genkun/).

  1. The kanji 黙 “to mute; silence”

History of Kanji 黙The kanji 黙 consists of 黒 and 犬. It is a very puzzling makeup and there are different views on its origin —A dog chasing a person (Setsumon): 黒, phonetically used to mean “not to say,” and a dog with his mouth closed together meant “to mute” (Kadokawa); “dark, unknown” from 黒 and a dog together signified “not known,” because if something is unknown, it keeps “silence” (Kanjigen). In place of mourning during which silence was expected for three years, a sacrificial dog was buried as a stand-in (Shirakawa). I do not have a preference on which one makes sense. The kanji 黙 means “to mute; silence.”

The kun-yomi 黙る /dama’ru/ means “to become silent; shut one’s mouth,” and is in 黙って使う (“to use something without telling or asking” /dama’tte tsukau/). The on-yomi /mo’ku/ is in 沈黙 (“silence” /chinmoku/), 黙殺する (“mokusatsu-suru” /not to adopt; ignore/), 黙秘権 (“a right of silence; the privilege against self-incrimination” /mokuhi’ken/).

  1. The kanji 赤 “red”

History of Kanji 赤From oracle bone style, in brown, through ten style, the top was a “person” and a the bottom was “fire.” For this combination it is generally viewed that the top was “large” and the bottom was “fire” and that the color of a large fire was “red.” It meant “red.” Shirakawa gives a different explanation – there might have been a ritual in which a fire purified a person. A fire leaves completely nothing. His view explains words such as 赤貧 (“extreme poverty” /sekihin/) and 赤裸々な (“frank; unvarnished” /sekirara-na/).

The kun-yomi 赤 /a’ka/ means “red,” and is in 真っ赤な (“very red” /makka’-na/), 赤ん坊 (“baby” /akanboo/) 赤字 (“deficit” /akaji/) from a bookkeeping practice of writing the deficit in red ink, as contrasted to 黒字 (“surplus; positive balance” /kuroji/). The on-yomi /se’ki/ is in 赤道 (“the equator” /sekidoo/). Another on-yomi /sha/ is in 赤銅色 (“brick red”/shakudooiro/).

(The kanji 赦 — I was planning to discuss the kanji 赦 in connection with 赤 in this post. After going over the references and ancient writings I feel more research is needed. So, I will come back to this kanji later.)

When two 火 were placed on top of the other, it was “flame” 炎. On the other hand when two 火 were placed side by side on stands, they meant “bonfire; beacon fire.” The kanji 栄 and 営 were discussed a couple of years ago in A Bonfire for “Prosperity” – 栄 on March 7, 2014.

  1. The kanji 栄 “flourishing; prospering”

History of Kanji 栄For the kanji 栄, the bronze ware style writings, (a) and (b), had two intersecting stands holding beacon fires. The ten style writing had beacon fires at the top but the stands became a boundary around trees. Brisk, intense flames of beacon fires illuminated a large property with lot of trees. From that it meant “flourishing; prospering.” The kyujitai, (d), reflected ten style (c). In shinjitai, (e), the two 火 side by side were reduced to a katakana ツ /tsu/ shape. For sample words please refer to the earlier post.

  1. The kanji 労 “trouble; labor; to reward for one’s service”

History of Kanji 労The kanji 労 also had a bronze ware style writing, which was very similar to 栄 – two beacon fires with long stands that intersected, signifying “vigorous; energetic.” Underneath was a collar that signified a person. Together, a person working energetically meant “trouble; labor; to reward for one’s service.” In ten style, a collar was replaced by a plough, which signified hard work in the field. The Kadokawa dictionary gives a different explanation — people working hard at night under light gave the meaning “to work hard.” The kyujitai reflected ten style. “It also meant “to reward for one’s service.”

The kun-yomi 労う /negira’u/ means “to reward one’s service.” Another kun-yomi /itawa’ru/ means “to treat kindly.” The on-yomi /ro’o/ is in 苦労する (“to experience difficulties; have a hard time” /kuk’roo-suru/”), 労働 (“work force; labor force” /roodoo/), 疲労 (“fatigue” /hiroo/), 労をとる (“to take trouble” /ro’o-toru/).

  1. The kanji 営 “to conduct business”

History of Kanji 営The kanji 営 must have been created later than the previous two kanji because the earliest writing was in ten style. In ten style, the top had fires and a boundary  around the property. Inside the boundary were two connected houses (呂). Together they meant “military encampment.” Business was conducted there, and it meant “to conduct business or live one’s life.” For sample words, please refer to the earlier post.

12. The kanji 蛍 “firefly”

History of Kanji 蛍One last kanji for our three posts on “fire” is the kanji 蛍 “firefly.” There is no ancient writing for 蛍. The kyujitai is 螢. The top had two fires and a boundary together phonetically for /kei/ and signifying “lights circling around.” The bottom was 虫 “bug; worm; insect.”  An illuminating bug that circles around is a firefly. The kanji 蛍 means “firefly.”

The kun-yomi is 蛍 (“firefly” /hotaru/). The on-yomi /ke’i/ is in 蛍光灯 (“florescent light” /keekootoo/).

In the next several posts we continue kanji for nature. [June 4, 2016 Japan time]