The Kanji 季委年秋愁祖税秀禿殻穀-のぎへん(1)


In this and next posts, we are going to explore kanji that contain 禾. History of Kanji 禾禾 is not used as a kanji in Japanese but it is useful for us to start this topic. In oracle bone style, (a) and (b) in brown, and bronze ware style, (c) and (d) in green, it was a rice plant in which the top was bent downward because its crop was full and heavy. It meant “rice plant.” After a stylized ten style writing, (e) in red, the drooped crop became a short slant in kanji. When it is used on the left side it is called a bushu nogihen.

We start with three kanji 季委年 that, in their origin, was made up of a human (child, woman and man) and a rice plant.

  1. The kanji 季 “season; quarter”

History of Kanji 季For the kanji 季 in all the three ancient styles, the top was rice plant with drooping crops, and the bottom was a child. A child signified “small.” It was also used to mean “youngest child.” In the current use, 季 is used mostly to mean “season; quarterly.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ki/ is in 季節 (“season” /ki’setsu/), 四季 (“four seasons” /shi’ki/) and 季語 (“season word in haiku poem” /ki’go/).

  1. The kanji 委 “pliant; to entrust”

History of Kanji 委For the kanji 委, the oracle bone style writing had a rice plant on the left and a woman on the right. A woman was in a pliant kneeling position, which gave the meaning of something pliant, flexible or “to comply easily.” From that, it also meant “to entrust.”

The kun-yomi 委ねる /yudane’ru/ means “to entrust.” The on-yomi /i/ is in 委任する (“to charge someone with a matter; authorize” /inin-suru/), 委任状 (“proxy” /ininjoo/), 委員会 (“committee” /ii’nkai/), 委託する (“to leave something in trust with someone; entrust” /itaku-suru/) and 委細 (“details” /i’sai/).

  1. The kanji 年 “year; annual”

History of Kanji 年It is not eady to see 禾 in the kanji 年, or even a “person“ in it. But the ancient writing samples in all three styles tell us the same story on the origin. In oracle bone style (a) and (b) had a person standing with his hand in front, which was the same as the origin of the kanji 人 “person.” The top was a rice plant with a drooping top. The same composition was seen in bronze ware style (c) and (d) and in ten style (e). The cycle of harvesting rice crops was yearly. From that the kanji 年 meant “year; annual; age.”

If you wonder why in these three writings, a child, a woman and a man had a rice plant on the head, Shirakawa offers his explanation – In these three kanji 禾 was a headdress that a woman, child or man wore in a votive dance in a harvest ritual.

The kun-yomi /toshi’/ is in 年 “year,” 今年 (“this year” /kotoshi/), 年寄り (“old person” /toshiyo’ri/), and 年頃の (“marriageable age” /toshigoro-no/). The on-yomi /ne’n/ is in 去年 (“last year” /kyo’nen/), 来年 (“next year” /rainen/), 年代 (“era; decade”/nendai/) and 年末 (“end of year” /nenmatsu/).

  1. The kanji 租 “tax”

History of Kanji 租In ten style of the kanji 祖, the right side (且) signified “to stack up.” A pile of rice plants got assessed for taxation. The kanji 祖 meant “tax; levy.”

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /so/ is in 租税 (“taxes” /so’zee/) and 租借地 (“leased territory; leasehold” /sosha’kuchi/).

  1. The kanji 税 “tax”

History of Kanji 税For the kanji 税 in ten style the right side was the same as the kanji 脱, which meant “something leaving; to come off.” With the left side a bushu nogihen “rice plants,” they meant “a part of one’s harvest leaving or taking away”-that was “tax; levy.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ze’e/ is in 税金 (“tax” /zeekin/), 所得税 (“income tax” /shotoku’zee/), 納税 (“payment of tax” /noozee/), 関税 (“tariff” /kanzee/), 税務署 (“taxation office” /zeemusho/) and 税率 (“rate of taxation” /zeeritsu/).

  1. The kanji 秋 “autumn; fall”

History of Kanji 秋For the kanji 秋, in oracle bone style (a) was a bug that ate rice. (b) had a fire at the bottom of the bug. I cannot figure out what the right bottom shape in (c) was. The fire signified heat to dry crops, or burning bugs that ate grains. In ten style, the left side was a “fire” and the right side was “rice plant with crop.” The season of harvesting crops is autumn. It meant “autumn; fall.” In kanji, the positions of the two components switched.

The kun-yomi /a’ki/ means “autumn; fall.” The on-yomi /shu’u/ is in 立秋 (“the first day of autumn by the lunar calendar” /risshuu/), 秋分の日 (“Automnal Equinox Day – September 22 or 23” /shuubun-no-hi/). It is a national holiday. The expression 春秋に富む /shunjuu-ni-to’mu/ means “many years to live; young.” Another common expression 一日千秋の思い /ichinichi senshuu-no-omo’i/ means “waiting impatiently for.”

  1. The kanji 愁 “grief; sadness”

History of Kanji 愁For the kanji 愁 in ten style the top was same as 秋, and was used phonetically for /shu’u/. The bottom was a heart. Together they meant “to grieve; be distressed.”

The kun-yomi 愁い /ure’i/ means “grief; distress; concern” and is in 愁い顔 (“worried sad look” /ureigao/). The on-yomi /shu’u/ is in 旅愁 (“loneliness on a journey” /ryoshuu/). The commonly used expression to say someone whose family member died is ご愁傷様です /goshuushoo-sam-desu/ (“I am sorry for your loss; Please accept my sincere sympathy”).

  1. The kanji 秀 “excellence”

History of Kanji 秀For the kanji 秀 in ten style the top was a rice plant and the bottom was a rice plant grown long. It was the time before grain was taken out and was the best time. From that it meant “excellent.” In kanji the bottom became 乃.

The on-yomi /hiide’ru/ means “to excel; excellent.” The on-yomi /shu’u/ is in 秀才 (“genius” /shuusai” and 優秀な (“superior; excellent” /yuushuu-na/).

History of Kanji 禿The kanji 禿 ”baldness” — The kanji 禿 is not a Joyo kanji, but it is worthwhile to note the similarity and dissimilarity between the kanji 秀 and 禿. In ten style the bottom signified an empty hull after grain was taken out. Later on the meaning of “not having” was extended to mean “not having hair, baldness.” The kun-yomi /ha’ge/ means “baldness,” and is in 禿げ山 (“treeless mountain” /hageyama/). [The explanation of 秀 and 禿 is based on Shirakawa, and there are other views.]

  1. The kanji 殻 “hull; husk; shell”

History of Kanji 殻The next kanji 殻 was also related to “hull” after grain was taken out of rice plants. In each of the two oracle bone style writings shown on the left, the left side was a hand holding a tool that was used to pound rice plants. The right side was an “empty hull.” Together they meant a rice plant after it was pounded to remove the grain, “hull.” The positions were reversed in ten style, which was reflected in the kanji. The kanji 殻 meant “shell; hull; shell.”

The kun-yomi 殻 /kara’/ means “hull; husk: shell” and is in 卵の殻 (“egg shell” /tama’go-no kara/). /-Gara/ is in 貝殻 (“shell” /kaiga’ra/) and 煙草の吸い殻 (“cigarette butts” /tabako-no-suigara/). The on-yomi /ka’ku/ is in 地殻 (“the crust of the earth” /chikaku/), as in 地殻変動 (“crustal activity” /chikakuhe’ndoo/).

  1. The kanji 穀 “grain”

History of Kanji 穀When we compare the two kanji 殻 and 穀 in ten style, we notice that they are identical except that 穀 had 禾 at the bottom left. One threshed grain by pounding down by hand using a tool. The kanji 穀 means “grains.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /kaku/ is in 穀物 (“grain; cereal” /koku’motsu/), 脱穀機 (“threshing mashine” /dakkoku’ki/) and 穀倉地帯 (“granary; farm belt” /kokusoochi’tai/).

We will continue our exploration of kanji that contain a bushu nogihen in the next post. [August 28, 2016]

The Kanji 茂芋苗葉世莫慕幕募墓漠膜模-くさかんむり(2)


In this post we are continuing with kanji that contain a bushu kusakanmuri “plant; grass”—the kanji 茂・芋・苗・葉世 and 莫慕幕募墓漠膜模.

  1. The kanji 茂 “to grow densely; thicket”

History of Kanji 茂For the kanji 茂, in ten style, in red, the bottom 戊 originally came from “halberd,” but it was only used phonetically here to mean “to cover.” Together with “plants” at the top, they meant plants growing densely. The kanji 茂 meant “to grow thick; become dense.”

The kun-yomi 茂る /shige‘ru/ means “to grow thick,” and is in 木の茂み (“thicket” /shigemi/). The on-yomi /mo/ is in 繁茂 (“thick growth” /ha’nmo/).

  1. The kanji 芋 “potato”

History of Kanji 芋In ten style of the kanji 芋 had 于at the bottom. We have looked at the shape 于in the kanji 宇in connection with a bushu ukanmuri in the earlier post (The Kanji 家宇宙宮官管館–うかんむり on June 13, 2015). 于 was described as “large bent shape.” In the writing 芋, a large round shape plant meant “potato.”

The kun-yomi /imo’/ means “potato,” and is in 里芋 (“taro root” /satoimo/), 長芋 (“Chinese yam” /nagaimo/). Other types of potatoes such as ジャガイモand サツマイモ (“sweet potato” /satsumaimo/.) are usually written in hiragana or katakana.

3 The kanji 苗 “seedling”

History of Kanji 苗For the kanji 苗 in ten style it had “plants” at the top and “rice paddies” at the bottom. Together they meant “seedling.”

The kun-yomi /na’e/ means “seedling,” and is in 苗木 (“seedling; nursery tree” /naegi/). Another kun-yomi /nawa/ is in 苗代 (“bed for rice plant seedling” /nawashiro/). The on-yomi /myo’o/ is in 苗字 (“one’s family name” /myo’oji/).

  1. The next kanji 葉 “leaf”

History of Kanji 葉For the kanji 葉 in oracle bone style, in brown, it was a tree with new growth or leaves at the tip of tree limbs. In bronze ware style the growing top was emphasized, keeping it separate from the tree. In ten style “plants; grass” were added at the top, and the middle was similar to the kanji 世, in which a tree was branching out. Together they meant “leaf.” A leaf is flat. So, it is also used for “something flat.” The word 言葉 /kotoba’/ comes from a Yamato-kotoba koto-no-ha “a leaf of the language.”

The kun-yomi /ha/ is in 木の葉 /ko’noha; ki’noha/), and is in 葉っぱ (“leaf” in casual style /happa/) and 葉書 (“postcard” /hagaki/). /-Ba/ is in 落ち葉 (“fallen leaf” /o’chiba/). The on-yomi /yoo/ is in 葉緑素 (“chlorophyll” /yooryo’kuso/). The expression 枝葉末節 /shi’yoo massetsu/ means ”trifling details.”

While we recognize the shape 世 in the kanji 葉, let us look at the kanji 世.

  1. The kanji 世 “generation; world”

History of Kanji 世In bronze ware style, the shape of three branches with bulges signified new growth or new generation. Generations of people live together in the world. The kanji 世means “generation; world.”

The kun-yomi /yo/ means “world,” and is in この世 (“this world; the present life” /konoyo/), あの世 (“the next world; the world of the dead” /anoyo’/), 世の中 (“life; the times; the world” /yono’naka/). The on-yomi /se/ is in 世界 (“world” /se’kai/), 世代 (“generation’ /se’dai/). /-See/ is in 一世紀 (“one century; first century” /isse’eki/), 三世 (“third generation” /sa’nsee/).

The next eight kanji contain the common component 莫. Six months ago when we were exploring kanji with 日“sun,” we discussed the component 莫 in the kanji 暮 “dusk; sundown.” [The kanji 暮晩免星晶早旬 – 日 (2) in the February 28, 2016 post] Because there are a number of kanji that contain 莫, we are going to revisit 莫 first.

  1. The kanji 莫 “nothing; vast; vague”

History of Kanji 莫History of Kanji 暮(frame)The ancient writing shown on the left for the kanji 莫 were the same as the kanji 暮 shown on the right in a box. In all of the ancient writings, (a) and (b) in oracle bone style, (b) in bronze ware style and (c) in ten style, the sun, in the center, was about to go down behind tall grass. It originally meant “dusk; sundown.” Then as the writing came to be used to mean “nothing,” they needed a new writing that expressed “dusk; sundown.” So by adding another “sun” the kanji 暮 was created. The kanji 莫 meant “nothing,” and when used as a component, 莫 was used phonetically for /bo; mo; baku; maku/ to mean “invisible; vague.”

The kanji 莫 is not a Joyo kanji. The only frequently used word that contains 莫 in Japanese is 莫大な (“huge; immense; enormous” /bakudai-na/) as in 莫大な負債 (“immense amount of debt” /bakudai-na husai/). There is no kun-yomi.

  1. The kanji 慕 “to yearn for; adore”

History of Kanji 慕For the kanji 慕 a couple of bronze ware style writings, (a) and (b), are shown here. It had a “heart” below “the sun disappearing behind tall grasses,” signifying “not visible.” What was in one’s mind could not be seen either. Together they originally signified “seeking for something in an unclear vast area,” thus “to consult; seek ideas.” Later the meaning changed to mean “to yearn for; adore.” In kanji, (d), the chambers of the heart took the shape of four short strokes, with the second one longer. This shape is called a bushu shitagokoro. (The bushu shitagokoro is in limited use, and another Joyo kanji that contains a bushu shitagokoro is the kanji 添 “to play along; accompany.”)

The kun-yomi 慕う /shita’u/ means “to yearn for; make an idol of someone.” The on-yomi /bo/ is in 慕情 (affection; longing” /bojoo/), 恋慕 (“tender emotion; love” /re’nbo/), both of which are not particularly for everyday use.

  1. The kanji 幕 “drapery; curtain”

History of Kanji 幕For the kanji 幕, in ten style the bottom was “drapery; cloth.” The top was used phonetically as well as to mean “to hide; cover.” Together it meant a military tent. A military headquarters in a battlefield had drapery around it, and the word 幕府 /ba’kuhu/ “shogunate government; bakufu government” comes from it.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /maku’/ is in 幕 (“hanging screen (on a stage); act (in a play)” /maku’/’) and is in 幕開け (“beginning” /makuake/). 幕の内弁当 /maku-no-uchi- be’ntoo/ is a box lunch packed with many different small pieces of food. It originated from a lunch box that people ate between acts of a play. Another on-yomi /ba’ku/ is in 幕末 (“final years of the Tokugawa bakufu” /bakumatsu/) and 幕僚 (“military staff” /bakuryoo/).

  1. The kanji 募 “to recruit; raising fund”

History of Kanji 募For the kanji 募, in ten style, the bottom was “plough” signifying “man power.” The top was used phonetically to signify “unspecified wide area.” Together they meant “to search widely; to recruit people; to raise money.”

The kun-yomi /tsuno’ru/ means “to raise money; recruit personnel.” The on-yomi /bo/ is in 募集 (“recruit; taking an application” /boshuu/), 応募する (“to apply (for a job” /oobo-suru/) 公募する (“to invite contribution or application from the public” /kobo-suru/) and 募金 (“fund-raising” /bokin/).

  1. The kanji 墓 “tomb;grave”

History of Kanji 墓For the kanji 墓, in ten style the bottom was土 “soil; ground.” Burying the deceased underneath the ground made them invisible or hidden. From that it meant a “tomb.”

The kun-yomi /haka’/ means “tomb; grave,” and is in 墓参り (“paying a visit to a tomb” /hakama’iri/). The on-yomi /bo/ is in 墓地 (“cemetery” /bo’chi/) and 墓碑 (“tombstone” /bohi/).

In the above four kanji (慕幕募墓) the accompanying component was placed under 莫. In the next three kanji (漠膜模), the accompanying component was placed on the left side.

  1. The kanji 漠 “vast; vague; desert”

History of Kanji 漠For the kanji 漠 in ten style the left side was a bushu sanzui “water.” Drifting sand moves like running water. Together with 莫 “vast,” they meant “vast area of drifting sand; desert.” Another view is that the meaning 莫 “nothing” and “water” together meant “a place that had no water,” which was “desert.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ba’ku/ is in 砂漠 (“desert” /sabaku/) and 漠然と (“vaguely; obscurely; hazy” /bakuzen-to/).

12 The kanji 膜 “membrane”

History of Kanji 膜For the kun-yomi 膜 the ten style had a bushu nikuzuki “flesh” on the left side. The right side 莫 had the meaning “to cover; drapery.” Together they meant “membrane.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /maku/ is in 鼓膜 (“eardrum” /komaku/), 粘膜 (“membrane” /ne’nmaku/) and 網膜 (“retina” /mo’omaku/).

  1. The kanji 模 “model; prescribed form; to copy”

History of Kanji 模For the kanji 模, the ten style had a tree on the left side. The right side was used phonetically for /mo/. A mold was made with pieces of wood. From that it meant “model; to model.” The kanji “model; prescribed form; to copy.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /mo/ is in 模型 (“model; dummy” /mokee/), 模様 (“pattern; design” /moyoo/), 模造品 (“imitation” /mozoohin/) and 規模 (“scale; magnitude” /ki’bo/).

Other kanji that contain a bushu kusakanmuri that we have discussed earlier include: 藏・葬・英・花・華・蒸・薫.  A search function on the Previous Post page can help you to find the post. [August 20, 2016]

The Kanji 草芝菌茶苦苛何荷若諾荒慌-くさかんむり(1)


In his post we are going to explore kanji that contain a bushu kusakanmuri (艹・艸) “plant; grass”.

History of Kanji 艸In the traditional kanji dictionary, the bushu kusakanmuri was listed as six strokes or four stokes. We can see why it was classified as six strokes in the kanji 艸 “grass; plant,” which is not used in Japanese. In ten style, it was two plants growing. When used as a bushu before a shinjitai, it was two short 十 , thus a four-stroke bushu. Now it is a three-stroke bushu.

  1. The kanji 草 “grass; weed; informal”

History of Kanji 草For the kanji 草, (a) in stone-engraved style, in green, is a horse chestnut acorn surrounded by grass in all directions. It meant “grass; weed.” In ten style (b), in red, the grass remained only at the top and the acorn became a dominant shape. Grass emerging on the ground also gave the meaning “beginning” and “informal.”

The kun-yomi /kusa’/ means “grass; weeds,” and is in 道草 /michikusa/ “loitering on the way,” as in 道草を食う (“to loiter on the way; waste time” /michikusa-o-ku’u/), and 枯れ草 (“withered grass; dried grass” /karekusa/). The on-yomi /so’o/ is in 雑草 (“weed” /zasso/), 草案 (“draft” /sooan/), 起草する (“to draw up a proposal” /kisoo-suru/), 草稿 (“draft; manuscript” /sookoo/), 一年草 (“annual herb; annual flower” /ichinensoo/) and 除草剤 (“herbicide” /joso’ozai/).

The kanji 花 — After the kanji 草, one would expect to see the kanji 花 “flower.” But we have already discussed it, so please read the earlier posting on the kanji 花 and 華. (The kanji 北背死化花真-Posture (4) [April 5, 2015])

  1. 芝 “lawn grass”

History of Kanji 芝For the kanji 芝, in ten style the top was grass and the bottom was a footprint signifying “to go out.“ It was originally a fast-growing mushroom or herb that was believed to help longevity. The kanji 芝 meant “grass; turf grass.”

The kun-yomi /shiba/ means “turf grass; lawn grass,” 芝刈り (“cutting lawn grass” /shibakari/) and also in 芝居 (“(theatrical) play” /shibai/). There is no commonly used on-yomi word.

  1. The Kanji 菌 “fungus; bacteria”

History of Kanji 菌For the kanji 菌, in ten style below “grass; plant” was an enclosure with 禾 inside, which was used phonetically for /kin/ that meant “densely built up.” Together they originally meant mushrooms, which grew in a lump on soil or decayed trees. The kanji 菌 means “fungus; bacteria.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ki’n/ is in 細菌 (“bacteria; microbe” /saikin/) and ばい菌 (“germ; bacteria” /baikin/), 殺菌 (“disinfection; sterilization” /sakkin/) and 抗菌 (“antimicrobial” /kookin/).

  1. The Kanji 茶 “tea”

History of Kanji 茶For the kanji 茶, in olden days another kanji that had 余 underneath was used. The ten style writing shown on the left was for this kanji, and it meant “bitter.” Since the Tang dynasty in China, it was used to mean a short tree whose leaves made bitter drinking, which was “tea.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /cha/ is in お茶 “tea,” There are many words relating to tea — 煎茶 (“(quality) green leaf tea” /se’ncha/), ほうじ茶 (“roasted tea” /hooji’cha/), 抹茶 (“powder tea for tea ceremony” /maccha/), 新茶 (“first-crop tea,” which has a mild subtle taste. /shincha/), 紅茶 (“black tea” /koocha/), 緑茶 (“green tea” /ryokucha/), and in the expression 茶番劇 (“farce” /chaba’ngeki/). Another on-yomi /sa/ is in 喫茶店 (“tea house; cafe” /kissaten/), 日常茶飯事 (“daily occurrence; a matter of no importance” /nichijoosaha’nji/) and 茶道 (“art of Japanese tea ceremony” /sa’doo/).

  1. The kanji 苦 “hard; baffling; bitter”

History of Kanji 苦For the kanji 苦, the ten style writing consisted of grass at the top and 古 at the bottom, which was used phonetically. It originally meant a very bitter plant called /nigana/. It was extended to mean “touch; hard.”

The kun-yomi 苦しい /kurushi’i/ means “hard; tough; baffling,” and /-gu/ is in 見苦しい (“unseemly; displeasing” /migurushi’i/) and 寝苦しい (“cannot sleep well; to have an uneasy sleep” /negurushi’i/). Another kun-yomi 苦い /niga’i/ means “bitter,” and is in 苦み (“bitter taste” /nigami/) and 苦々しく思う (“to feel bitter; to feel acrimonious” /niganigashi’ku omo’u/). The kun-yomi /ku/ is in 苦労 (“hardship” /ku’roo/), 苦笑する (“to smile a wry smile” /kushoo-suru/), 生活苦 (“hardship of life” /seekatsu’ku/), and in the expression 悪戦苦闘する (“to struggle desperately; fight against heavy odds” /akusenkutoo-suru/).

  1. The kanji 苛 “severe; relentless”

History of Kanji 苛For the kanji 苛 in bronze ware style, in green, underneath “plants” was 可 that was used phonetically. 可 had 口 “mouth,” where voice comes out through a bent passage, signifying an utterance made with some reluctance. Kanjigen explains that 苛 was a plant that irritated the throat, which gave the meaning “an act that causes severe friction or impact.” From “short grass” (Setsumon), Shirakawa explains that rampantly grown grass gave the meaning crude and violent. The kanji 苛 means “severe; crude.”

There is no kun-yomi in the official Joyo kanji, but it is often used for 苛め (“bulling” /ijime/). The on-yomi /ka/ is in 苛酷な (“extremely hard; severe” /kakoku-na/) and 苛烈な(“relentless; severe” /karetsu-na/).

  1. The Kanji 何 “what” and the kanji 荷 “burden”

The kanji 荷 and 何 were closely related, so let us look at 何 first.

HIstory of Kanji 何For the kanji 何, in oracle bone style, in brown, it was a picture of a person carrying a halberd. In bronze ware style (a) and (b), it was a person carrying some load on his shoulder. 何 originally meant “to carry a load on the shoulder.” At the same time the right side 可 had the meaning “pang (of conscience)” and “questioning.” From that the writing 何 came to be used to mean “what” or an interrogative word.

The kun-yomi /na’ni/ means “what,” and is in 何人 (“person of what nationality” /nani’jin/), 何はともあれ (“at any rate” /na’niwa to’moare/), 何事も (“every matter” /nanigotomo/). /Na’n/ is 何時 (“what time” /na’nji/), 何日 (“what day” /na’nnichi/). The on-yomi /ka/ is not used.

  1. The kanji 荷 “load; burden”

History of Kanji 荷Because the writing 何 was taken to mean “interrogative,” a new kanji to express its original meaning “load” was needed.” In ten style, the top was explained in Setsumon as lotus leaves. Lotus leaves are flat on an upright stem, like someone carrying a load on the shoulder. The kanji 荷 means “to carry over shoulder; burden.”

The kun-yomi /ni’/ 荷 means “load; burden; freight,” and is in 荷造りする (“to pack” /nizu’kuri-suru/), 重荷 (“heavy burden” /omoni/), 荷物 (“baggage” /ni’motsu/), 手荷物 (“carry-on baggage” /teni’motsu/). The on-yomi /ka/ is in 出荷する (“to ship out (merchandise)” /shukka-suru/).

  1. The kanji 若 “young; a little”

History of Kanji 若For the kanji 若, in oracle bone style (a) and bronze ware style (b) and (c) it was a young woman with long hair dancing, possibly in a prayer dance. From her pliant posture it meant “young.” In ten style, the top became plants, a hand in the middle, and a mouth at the bottom. The kanji consists of a bushu kusakanmuri and the kanji 右, and meant “young.”

The kun-yomi /waka/ means “young,” and is in 若い (“young” /waka’i/), 若返る (“to feel young again; to be rejuvenated” /wakaga’eru/), 若々しい (“young and fresh” /wakawakashi’i/). The on-yomi /ja’ku/ is in 若年層 (“younger generation” /jakune’nsoo/), 若干 (“a little; a few” /jakkan/), 若輩 (“young and immature” /jakuhai/).

  1. The kanji 諾 “to consent”

History of Kanji 諾For the kanji 諾, the bronze ware style writings, (a) and (b), were very similar to the bronze ware style writing (c) in 若. Shirakawa explained that the god’s response appeared when a medium is in trance. From that it meant “to grant; consent.” The  Kadokawa dictionary explains that a gonben “word” and 若 “compliant” together signified “to give consent.”

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /da’ku/ is in 承諾する (“to comply; give one’s consent” /shoodaku-suru/), 快諾する (“to give a ready consent” /kaidaku-suru/), and 内諾 (“informal consent” /naidaku/).

  1. The kanji 荒 “rough; dreary”

History of Kanji 荒For the kanji 荒, grasses at the top and a body whose hairs still attached signified a body in the wilderness due to starvation. It is a desolate scene. From that the kanji 荒 means “rough; violent.”

The kun-yomi /arai/ means “rough; violent,” and is in 手荒な (“harsh; rough” /teara-na/), 荒っぽい (“rough; crude; careless”/arappo’i/). The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 荒涼たる (“dreary; desolate; bleak” /kooryoota’ru/), 荒廃した (“disused and abandoned” /koohai-shita/), and in the expression 荒唐無稽な (“nonsensical; absurd” /kootoomukee-na/).

  1. The kanji 慌 ”to be flustered; become disconcerted)

The kanji 慌 does not have an ancient writing. The left side is a bushu risshinben “heart.” The right side 荒 was used phonetically to meant “unclear.” Together they meant that one looses a state of mind, “to be flustered; become disconcerted; panic.”

The kun-yomi 慌てる /awateru/ means “to be flustered,” and is in 大慌てで “in a frantic haste; in a mad rush”/ooa’wate-de/ and 慌て者 (“careless person; a rash person” /awatemono/). The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 恐慌 (“panic”/kyookoo/), 金融恐慌 (financial panic” /kinyuukyo’okoo/).

We are going to have another post next week on kanji with kusakanmuri. [August 14, 2016]

The Kanji 樹橋喬交郊校村沈枕桜松柳- 木 “tree” (4)


This is the fourth posting on kanji that contain 木. We are going to look at the kanji 樹橋喬交郊校村沈枕桜松柳.

  1. The kanji 樹 “tree”

History of Kanji 樹For the kanji 樹, the left side of one ten style writing, in red, had a drum on the left and a hand on the right. The sound of a drum expelled evil while planting seedlings and trees. Another view is that the left side was a tall-legged tray with branches at the top, and the right side was hand holding it. In the second ten style writing a tree was added. The kanji 樹 means “tree” or “to plant a tree.” It is also used to mean “to establish.”

The kun-yomi 樹 /ki/ means “tree.” The on-yomi /ju/ is in 樹木 (“tree” /ju’moku/), 果樹園 (“orchard” /kaju’en/), 樹立する (“to establish” /juritsu-suru) and 大樹 (“big tree” /ta’iju/) as in the expression 寄らば大樹の陰 “If you want shelter, choose a big tree; if you want to turn to someone, choose the powerful.” /yora’ba taiju-no ka’ge/).

  1. The kanji 橋 “bridge”

The right side 喬 of the kanji 橋 was used phonetically to mean “tall tower; tall structure.” Even though the kanji 喬 is not a Joyo kanji, it had earlier writings that 橋 did not have, so let us look at the history of the kanji 喬 first.

The kanji 喬 “high; tall”

History of Kanji 喬For the kanji 喬, the bottom of bronze ware style, in green, and ten style had a tower with an arch, which became the kanji 高 “high; tall” in other development. The question is what was the top because that presumably became the slanted short stroke. The Setsumon’s explanation of (d) was that 喬 was made up of 夭 and 高, and it meant “tall and tilted at the top.” (夭 came from “a person tilting his head.”) Referring to earlier writings in bronze ware style, Shirakawa says it was tree branches placed at the top of a tower gate as a spell to prevent evil from coming through.  No other reference that I have explains bronze ware style writings.

Well, I was hoping that the bronze style writing for 喬 would shed light on 橋, but it was not as I had hoped. The two bronze ware style writings (b) and (c) had something bent above a high tower, so it fits with the meaning of 喬 “high; tall.” 喬 appears in other kanji — 矯 in 歯の矯正 (“orthodontic treatment; correcting teeth” /ha’-no kyoosee/); 嬌 in 愛嬌 (“charm” /aikyo’o/); and 僑 in 華僑 (“Chinese expatriate; overseas Chinese” /ka’kyoo/).

History of Kanji 橋Back to our kanji 橋. The ten style writing for 橋 was 木 and 喬 together. The two component木 “wood” and 喬 “tall; high” together signified a bent wooden structure in a high place, that is a “bridge.” The kun-yomi 橋 /hashi’/ means ‘bridge,” and is in 橋渡しする (“to mediate” /hashiwatashi-suru/). The on-yomi /kyo’o/ is in 鉄橋 (“iron bridge” for railroad /tekkyoo/) and 歩道橋 (“pedestrian bridge” /hodookyoo/).

  1. The kanji 校 “school; to check”

Before we look at the kanji 校, let us look at the kanji 交 and 郊, which contain the right side of the kanji 校.

The kanji 交

History of Kanji 交For the kanji 交, the oracle bone style writing, in brown, showed a person crossing his legs. “Crossing legs” gave the meaning “to mix; cross; mingle.”

The kun-yomi 交わる /majiwa’ru/ means “to intersect; keep company.” The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 交通 (“traffic” /kootsuu/), 交換する (“to exchange” /kookan-suru/), 交互に (“alternately” /ko’ogo-ni/), 交代する(“to take turns” /kootai-suru/), 交流する (“to interchange; mingle” /kooryuu-suru/).

The kanji 郊 “suburb”

History of Kanji 郊The kanji 郊 could have been discussed earlier together with other kanji with a bushu oozato [The Kanji 都者郡君群部郵郷–おおざと on November 8, 2015]. For the kanji 郊 in ten style the left side was 交 “to mix; mingle” and the right side was 邑 “village.” (The top signified an area and the bottom a person; together an area where there were people meant “village.”) The outskirts of a village are “surburbs.” The kanji 郊 meant “suburbs.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 郊外 (“suburbs” /ko’ogai/) and 近郊 (“outskirts; area close to town” /kinkoo/)

History of Kanji 校Now we are ready to look at the kanji 校. By adding 木 “wood” it created a totally different meaning — a pair of shackles over a prisoner’s ankles or neck. Crossing also gave the meaning “to check; compare.” A school is where knowledge gets exchanged between teachers and students, so 校 also meant “school.” Piling logs in an interlocking manner makes a wall, and a house. A military installation had a crossed-log wall or fence, and from that 校 was also used to mean “military officer.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ko’o/ is in 学校 (“school” /gakkoo/), 校舎 (“school building” /ko’osha/), 校正 (“proofreading” /koosee/) and 将校 (“commissioned officer” /sho’okoo/).

In Japan, 校倉造り “cross-log structure” is read as /azekurazu’kuri/. It was a building method in which triangle-shaped lumbers were assembled at both ends interlocking with another set. For Japanese the word azekurazukuri immediately takes us to the Shosoin Repository (正倉院 /shooso’oin/) in Todaiji Temple 東大寺 in Nara 奈良, which dates back to the mid-ninth century. In this photo of azekurazukuri, we can see how apt is the kanji 校 — which consisted of 木 “wood” and 交 “to cross; interlock”– to describe log-cabin style building for the then-existing Japanese word.

  1. The kanji 村 “village”

History of Kanji 村Here is another kanji for “village.” The kanji 村 originally was 邨. The left side of the ten style writing, 屯, “fringe,” was from threads gathered and tied, and signified “encampment; a band of people.” The right side 邑 was a village, as we have seen before. Together they meant “village.” The kanji 村 originally meant “field and villages,” but its use as “village” goes back a long time. The right side 寸 was used phonetically.

The kun-yomi 村 /mura’/ means “village.” The on-yomi /so’n/ is in 村長 (“village chief” /so’nchoo/), 農村 (“farming village” /nooson/), 漁村 (“fishing village” /gyoson/) and 市町村 (“cities, towns and villages” /shicho’oson/).

The next kanji is 枕. The kanji 枕 does not have an ancient writing earlier than ten style, but another kanji 沈 provides us with both oracle bone and bronze ware style samples. Let us look at the kanji 沈 first.

 5. The kanji 沈 “to sink; drop down”

History of Kanji 沈For the kanji 沈, the two oracle bone style writings had a sacrificial cow in a river for a rite. From that it meant “to sink; drop down.” The right side of the bronze ware style writing looks to me like a person with a bar across the neck. This reminds me of a yoke around the neck to indicate the center of a body in the origin of the kanji 央.  [The Kanji 大太天夫央英映笑-Posture (1) on March 14, 2015.]

The kun-yomi 沈む /shizumu/ means “to sink.” The on-yomi /chi’n/ is in 沈下する (“to sink” /chinka-suru/), 沈殿 (“sedimentation” /chinden/), 沈黙 (“silence” /chinmoku/) and 意気消沈する (“to get discouraged greatly” /i’ki shoochin-suru/).

  1. The kanji 枕 “pillow”

History of Kanji 枕For the kanji 枕, the right side was used phonetically for /chi’n/. Shirakawa explains that the right side was a person lying down. Together a wooden item one used to sleep on meant a “pillow.” Kanjigen took its explanation for the kanji 沈 in the oracle bone style, referring to “a cow in river water.” It also says that the horizontal short line on the right side was a wooden piece to press down a person on the shoulder, and that something one used above the shoulder when lying down meant “pillow.”

The kun-yomi 枕 /ma’kura/ means “pillow; lead-in talk,” and is in 枕詞 (“set epithet” in classical Japanese poetry /makurako’toba/), 枕元 (“one’s bedside” /makura’moto/) and 腕枕する (“to use one’s arm as a pillow” /udema’kura-suru/). There is no on-yomi.

  1. The kanji 桜 “cherry tree; cherry blossom”

History of Kanji 桜For the kanji 桜 in ten style, the right side was used phonetically. It signified a tree that bore small fruits like beads in a necklace (two 貝) that a woman wore. The fruit was called /yusura’ume/. In Japan it is used to mean /sakura/ “cherry (blossom) tree” for flower viewing. The kyujitai reflected ten style, but in shinjitai, the right top had been replaced by a simpler short katakana /tsu/ ツ. Cherry as a fruit is called /sakuranbo/.

The kun-yomi 桜 /sakura/ means “cherry tree; cherry blossom.” /-Zakura/ is in 夜桜 (“cherry-blossoms viewed in the evening” /yoza’kura/). Customarily 桜桃 “cherry” is read as /sakuranbo/.

  1. The kanji 松 “pine tree”

History of Kanji 松For the kanji 松 we have two ten style writings here. In (a) the right side 公 was phonetically used. The top of (b) had the shape of 容, but its role is not clear. 松 meant “pine tree.” Kadokawa explains that 公 was used phonetically to mean a pointed knife, and that a tree with pointed leaves meant pine tree. Kanjigen explains that 公 phonetically meant “letting through,” and that a tree with narrow leaves that left gaps was a pine tree. A pine tree is evergreen and grows tall and strong. In Japan pine trees are appreciated as auspicious trees. Customarily 松明 is read as /taimatsu/ and means “torch.” Pine and its resin burn well with bright light.

The kun-yomi /ma’tsu/ means “pine tree,” and is in 松林 “pine tree grove.” The on-yomi /sho’o/ is in 松竹梅 (“pine-bamboo-plum auspicious arrangement” /shoochiku’bai/).

  1. The kanji 柳 “willow tree”

History of Kanji 柳For the kanji 柳 all three ancient writings consisted of a tree at the top and the shape that would become 卯 in kanji. What was the bottom shape, which eventually became the right side of the kanji 柳? The Kadokawa dictionary says that it was used phonetically and to mean “to flow” like 流, and that branches swinging in the wind were a “willow tree.” Kanjigen explains that the right side was the original writing for 留, which meant to stop everything from slipping, and that the kanji 柳 meant the leaves were slipping like they were flowing. Shirakawa treated it as phonetic use of 留.

The kun-yomi /yanagi/ means “willow tree.” The on-yomi /ryuu/ is in 川柳 (“senryu verse, 5-7-5- syllable comical verse” /se’nryuu/). The proverb 柳の下にどじょうは二匹いない /yanagi-no-shita’-ni dojoo-wa ni’hiki inai” means “you cannot expect the same luck simply because you got it before; a fox isn’t caught twice in the same snare.”

Other kanji that contain 木 that we have already discussed include: 材・相・想・箱・植・根・枚・板・構・栄・検・親・梅. A click on “Previous Posts and Search” on the front page will take you to any of these kanji. In the next post we are going to move onto another shape, most likely a bushu kurakanmuri “plants.”  [August 6, 2016]