In his post we are going to explore kanji that contain a bushu kusakanmuri (艹・艸) “plant; grass”.
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.
- The kanji 草 “grass; weed; informal”
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])
- 芝 “lawn grass”
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.
- The Kanji 菌 “fungus; bacteria”
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/).
- The Kanji 茶 “tea”
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/).
- The kanji 苦 “hard; baffling; bitter”
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/).
- The kanji 苛 “severe; relentless”
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/).
- The Kanji 何 “what” and the kanji 荷 “burden”
The kanji 荷 and 何 were closely related, so let us look at 何 first.
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.
- The kanji 荷 “load; burden”
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/).
- The kanji 若 “young; a little”
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/).
- The kanji 諾 “to consent”
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/).
- The kanji 荒 “rough; dreary”
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/).
- 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]