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.
The kanji 金 “metal; gold; money”
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”
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.
The kanji 銅 “copper”
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”
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.”
The kanji 銀 “silver”
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.
The kanji 鉄 “iron”
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.
The kanji 鉛 “lead”
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/).
The kanji 鋼 “steel”
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”
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. 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/).
The kanji 鐘 “bell”
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/).
The kanji 銭 “money”
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]