In this post we are going to explore kanji that contain 生, which came from a plant emerging from the ground – 生姓牲性産醒, and kanji that share 青, a compound shape of 生 “fresh” and a “well” (丹) – 青晴清情精請.
The kanji 生 “life; to be born; person; raw”
For the kanji 生, in oracle bone style, in brown, it was a plant coming out of the ground. It signified “to emerge; grow; life.” In bronze ware, in green, and ten style, in red, a short line was on “soil.” (We recall that in the kanji 土 the short horizontal stroke came from an emphasis.) From the meaning “an emerging plant” it meant “raw; life,” and from something that has a life it also meant a “person.” In kanji, a short slanted stroke was further added on the upper left, in the same manner as the kanji 先 and 朱. The kanji 生 meant “life; to be born; person; raw.”
The kun-yomi 生きる /iki’ru/ means “to live a life; sustain a life.” Another kun-yomi生 /na’ma/ means “raw,” and is in 生々しい (“vivid” /namanamashi’i/). The third kun-yomi /ki/ is in 生一本な (“straightforward; honest” /ki i’ppon-na/). The on-yomi /se’e/ is in 生活 (“living” /seekatsu/), 発生する (“to occur; break out” /hassee-suru/), 生年月日 (“date of birth” /seenenga’ppi/), and /ze’e/ is in 平生 (“ordinarily; usually” /heezee/). Another on-yomi /sho’o/ is in 一生 (“one’s entire life” /isshoo/). /-Jo’o/ is in 養生する (“care of one’s health; recuperation” /yo’ojoo-suru/).
The kanji 姓 “surname”
For the kanji 姓 (a) in oracle bone style, next to the emerging plant to signify “living life” was a woman kneeling down. Together they signified the female lineage of family, which was a way to group families. In bronze ware style, (b) was 生 only, and (c) had a “person” in addition to 生. In ten style “person” changed to “woman,” a bushu onnahen. The kanji 姓 means “surname.”
There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /se’e/ is in 姓名 (“full name” /se’emee/) and 旧姓 (“maiden name” /kyuusee/).
The kanji 牲 “sacrificial”
For the kanji 牲, the left side of (a) in oracle bone style was a sheep (the horns curved outward usually meant a sheep). On the other hand (b) in bronze ware style and (c) in ten style had a “cow.” In either case, it meant “sacrificial animals.” A cow is a larger animal than a sheep. A live cow made a much appreciated sacrificial offering in a religious rite. The kanji 牲 meant “sacrifice.”
There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /se’e/ is in 犠牲になる (“to sacrifice oneself” /gisee-ni-na’ru/.)
The kanji 性 “nature; gender; sex”
For the kanji 性, In ten style the left side was a bushu risshinben “heart,” and the right side was “life.” Together they meant “a heart that one was born with” or “innate nature.” From that it meant “natural character; gender; sex.” The kun-yomi 性 /sa’ga/ means “one’s nature; destiny.” The on-yomi /se’e/ 性 means “gender; sex,” and is in 性質 (“one’s disposition; character” /seeshitsu/), 性急な (“impatient; hasty” /seekyuu-na/), 異性 (“opposite sex” /i’see/). Another on-yomi /sho’o/ is in 性分 (“temperament” /shoobun/) and 本性 (“true nature” /ho’nshoo/).
The kanji 産 “to produce; birth”
For the kanji 産, in bronze ware style the top (文) signified a pretty pattern. The soft angle on the left (厂) signified a forehead and the bottom (生) was an emerging life. Together they meant a beautiful pattern that was placed on the forehead of a newborn child, or the birth of a beautiful child. It means “to give birth” or “to produce; product.” The shape 文 at the top was kept through the time of kyujitai, in blue, but in shinjitai it changed to 立.
The kun-yomi 産む /umu/ means “to produce; to give birth to.” The on-yomi /sa’n/ is in お産 (“childbirth” /osan/), 出産 (“childbirth” /shussan/), 国産 (“domestic product” /kokusan.), 財産 (“estate; fortune; property” /za’isan/), 石油産出国 (“oil producing country” /sekiyu-sanshutsu’koku/) and 倒産 (“bankruptcy” /toosan/).
The kanji 醒 “awake; to sober up”
For the kanji 醒 in ten style the left side (酉) was “a cask for fermented liquid, such as rice wine.” The right side had 日 “sun” or something bright and 生, which together made up the kanji 星 “star.” We have looked at the history of the kanji 星 earlier. [The kanji 暮晩免星晶早旬 – 日 (2) on February 28, 2016] Its history is shown on the right. In 醒 both sides, 酉 and 星, together meant “to sober up from being drunk,” that is “to awaken; have clear awareness.” The kun-yomi 醒める /same’ru/ means “to awaken; sober” and is in 興醒め (“kill-joy; wet blanket” /kyoozame/), and 酔いを醒ます (“to make oneself sober” /yoi’-o sama’su). The on-yomi /su’i/ is in 覚醒剤 (“chemical stimulants; drugs” /kakuse’ezai/).
The kanji 青 “blue; clean; young”
For the kanji 青 in bronze ware style the top was used phonetically to mean “fresh; new.” The bottom was “cinnabar in a well,” which by itself became the kanji 丹 (“cinnabar; red”). The history of the kanji 丹 is shown on the right. (a) in bronze ware style and (b) in bronze ware style it was a square well to dig up a cinnabar, which was used to make vermillion. In 青 the dot in the middle was interpreted as the reflection of clean water in the well. From that the top 生 and 丹 together (“clean fresh water in a well”) meant “blue; clean; young.” The kyujitai reflected 丹, but in shinjitai it was replaced by 月.
The kun-yomi /ao’i/ means “blue; inexperienced,” and in 青々とした (“vividly green; fresh and green” /aoa’otoshita/), 青臭い (“smelling like freshly cut grass; inexperienced” /aokusa’i/) and 青二才 (“green youth” /aoni’sai/). The on-yomi /se’e/ is in 青少年 (“young people the youth” /seesho’oen/).
The kanji 晴 “clear sky”
In the writing in Setsumon the left side was “moon” and the right side was used phonetically to mean “clear.” Together they signified a clear sky after a rainfall at night. In kanji the left side became 日 “sun,” and the right side was 青 “clean and clear.” The kanji 晴 means “clear blue sky.”
The kun-yomi 晴れ /hare’/ means “clear weather” and is in 晴れる /hare’ru/ means “to clear up,” 疑いを晴らす (“to clear suspicion on someone” /utagai-o hara’su/) and 気が晴れ晴れとしない (“to be in low spirits; feel depressed” /ki-ga hare’bare-to shinai). The on-yomi /se’e/ is in 晴天 (“fine weather” /seeten/) and 快晴 (“bright and clear weather” /kaisee/).
The kanji 清 “pure; clean”
For the kanji 清, in ten style the left side was a bushu sanzui “water,” and the right side was 青 “clear; blue.” Together they meant “pure.” In kyujitai a remnant of 丹 was seen at the bottom right, but it was replaced by 月 in shinjitai.
The kun-yomi 清い /kiyo’i/ means “pure.” Another kun-yomi /suga/ is in 清々しい (“refreshing; invigorating” /sugasugashi’i/). The on-yomi /se’e/ is in 清潔な (“clean; sanitary” /seeketsu-na/), 清算する (“to settle an account” /seesan-suru/) and 清掃する (“to clean” /seesoo-suru/).
The kanji 情 “feeling; emotion”
For the kanji 情, In ten style the left side was a bushu risshinben “heart” and the right was 青 “freshness.” Together “what emerged in one’s heart afresh” meant “feeling; emotion.” It also included circumstances that caused an emotion.
The kun-yomi /na’sake/ means “pity” and is in 情けない (“regrettable; pitiful” /nasakena’i/). The on-yomi /jo’o/ is in 愛情 (“love” /aijoo/), 情熱 (“passion” /joonetsu), 同情 (“sympathy” /doojoo/), 事情 (“circumstances” /jijoo/) and 政治情勢 (“political situations” /seejijo’osee/).
The kanji 精 “essence”
For the kanji 精 in ten style, the left side 米 was rice grain. The right side 青 was used phonetically to mean “to select.” Select good grain gave something “pure; the essence.” The sense of purity was also extended to the state of mind and soul. The kanji 精 meant “pure;the essence; spirit; mind; soul.”
There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /se’s/ is in 精米 (“rice milling” /seemai/), 精神 (“spirit; mind; soul” /se’eshin/), and 精鋭の (“picked; elite” /seeee-no/). Another on-yomi /sho’o/ is in 精進料理 (“vegetarian cooking originated from Buddhist diet” /shoojinryo’ori/).
The kanji 請 “to request; undertake”
For the kanji 請, the ten style writing consisted of a bushu gonben “word; language” and 青, which was used phonetically to mean “to have an audience with.” Together they originally meant “to request audience; request guidance.” The kanji 請 means “to request; undertake.”
The kun-yomi 請ける /uke’ru/ means “to undertake,” and is in 請け負 (“undertaker; contract” /ukeoi/). The on-yomi /se’e/ is in 請願書 (“written petition” /seegansho/) and 請求書 (“bill; charges” /seekyuusho/).
In the previous two posts we looked at a bushu kusakanmuri, which came from plants growing. In this post we have added that 生 also came from a plant. The differences are that 生 had 土 “soil” and an extra slant at the top to signify emergence of life. A bushu kurakanmuri had two plants, signifying “many.” We will continue to look at more kanji that came from a plant in the next few posts. Thank you very much for your reading. -Noriko [September 11, 2016]