Last several posts, we have been exploring kanji that originated from a sharp-edged object. We have looked at kanji that have 刀刂王士斤刃 and 召. In this and next few posts we are going to look at kanji that originated from戈 “halberd.” The shape 戈 appears as a component in a surprisingly large number of kanji. In this post we are going to look at the kanji 戈戒械成城誠伐閥我.
Seal Style for Ten Style; From this post on I am going to use the term “seal style” for “ten style 篆文,” I have stayed away from the term seal style because using it as a seal engraving was not its original use. But I have decided to go along with the custom in English.
The kanji 戈 “halberd”
The kanji 戈 is not Joyo kanji, but it has a long important history in the history of kanji. 戈 is read as /ho’ko/ (and its on-yomi is /ka/), which is translated as “halberd” in English. A halberd is a weapon that has two functions, thrusting and cutting. In the history of oracle bone style, (a) and (b) in brown, we see a long vertical line with a short line crossing near the top. According to Shirakawa Setsumon explained that the short line was a flat blade that was shown sideways. The picture of 戈 on the right is taken from Shirakawa (2004). (I am writing with some trepidation because having been raised and educated in an extremely pacifist atmosphere of Post-war Japan, knowledge of weapons never came to me.) My simple understanding from this is that 戈 came from a spear which had a flat-blade axe attached to it on the side.
Another point is that (a), (b) and (c) had a stand to place a halberd upward, which suggests that it was in a ceremony. (c) in bronze ware style had an ornament hanging down from the top. We can imagine that the more a soldier achieved in battle the more decorated his halberd became. In (d) in bronze ware style, in green, and (e) in seal style, in red, the long line became bent and a short intersecting diagonal line was added. I am imagining that these halberds were placed tilted forward at a ceremony, and the short line was a support for that. The kanji reflected the seal style writing. These ancient writings give us a lot to think about regarding the kanji 戈.
As a component, 戈 comes on the right side and is called /hokozu’kuri/ (ほこづくり). It appears in many kanji contributing meanings such as “under threat of a weapon,” “to cut” and others, as we will see, as well as a phonetic role as /ka; kai; ki/.
The kanji 戒 “to admonish”
The oracle bone style writing for the kanji 戒 had a halberd standing straight up in the center and a hand on each side. They meant raising a halberd with both hands “to guard against; keep a look out for.” In the bronze ware writing, in green, a halberd was raised by two hands and pushed to the right. In seal style, in red, the halberd was placed on top of the two hands. In kanji two hands holding up the halberd became the shape 廾. The kanji 戒 meant “to admonish; guard against.”
The kun-yomi 戒める /imashime’ru/ means “to admonish,” and is in 戒めを守る (“to follow stern advise/lesson” /imashime-o mamo’ru/). The on-reading /ka’i/ is in 僧侶の戒律 (“religious precepts of priests,” /so’oryo-no kairitsu/), 十戒 (“the Ten Commandments” /jikkai/), 懲戒処分 (“disciplinary punishment” /chookai-sho’bun/) and 警戒する (“to look out; guard” /keekai-suru/). Having the threat of a halberd in their origins, words that use 戒 have a strong sense of a warning to adhere to what one is instructed to do.
3. The kanji 械 “machine; gadget”
The seal style writing had 木 “tree; wood” on the left side. The top of the right side 戒 was used phonetically for /ka’i/, and meant “to admonish.” Together they meant a wooden gadget that shackled a criminal’s hands. The meaning of handcuffs dropped, and it was used to mean something mechanical. The kanji 械 meant “gadget; machine” in general.
There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ka’i/ is in 機械 “machine” and 器械 “instrument,” both of which have the same pronunciation /kika’i/.
The kanji 成 “to accomplish; complete”
For the kanji 成 in oracle bone style and bronze ware style it had an axe attached to a halberd. The short line below that was a decoration to mark the completion of making a new halberd. Thus, it meant “to complete.” In seal style the inside was the shape of a nail, which may have signified “pounding,” and in kanji it became a hooked shape.The kanji 成 meant “to complete; accomplish; comprise.”
The kun-yomi 成る /na’ru/ means “to complete; accomplish; become,” and is in 成し遂げる (“to carry out successfully” /nashitoge’ru/). 漢字の成り立ち /kanji-no-naritachi/ means “how kanji came to be what it is now” and it is what we are exploring in this blog. The on-yomi /se’e/ is in 成功する (“to succeed” /seekoo-suru/), 成果 (“result; accomplishment” /se’eka/) and 成長 (“one’s growth” /seechoo/). Another on-yomi /jo’o/ is a go-on and thus in Buddhist words such as 成仏する (“entering Nirvana; to die in peace” /jo’obutsu-suru/).
The kanji 城 “caste; fortress”
For the kanji 城, we have two very different bronze ware style writings. The left one had a tall tower on the left and a halberd on the right. The second one had the soil (土) underneath a halberd. A tall structure or fortress on the ground that had weapons to protect it meant “castle; fortress.” In seal style, the soil moved to the left and became a bushu tsuchihen “soil; ground.” The right side had a halberd and something to pound (丁). The kanji 城 “castle” is comprised of a bushu tsuchihen and the kanji 成.
The kanji 誠 “sincerity; loyalty”
The seal style writing for 誠 had 言, a bushu gonben “word; language,” on the left. The right side 成 gave the sound /se’e/ to mean “to complete; become.” From the meaning of “one’s words becomes one’s deeds,” the kanji 誠 meant “sincerity, loyalty.”
The kun-yomi /makoto/ means “sincerity; loyalty,” and is in a phrase 誠にありがとうございました (“We sincerely thank you” /makotoni ari’gatoogozaimashita/). The on-yomi /see/ is in 誠実な (“trustworthy; faithful” /seejitsu-na/), 忠誠心 (“loyalty” /chuuse’eshin/) and 誠意を込める (“to put good faith” /se’ei-o kome’ru/).
The kanji 伐 “to cut down; attack”
When I first realized that the writings in oracle bone style and bronze ware style for the kanji 伐 were all a scene in which a halberd was crossing a person’s neck, I felt a little uneasy. This was no longer just a threat, but cutting someone’s head off! Fortunately, the gruesome meaning was dropped, and in seal style a person (ｲ) was detached from a halberd. The kanji 伐 meant “to cut down; attack.”
The kun-yomi 伐る /ki’ru/ is used for cutting a tree. The on-yomi /ba’tsu/ is in (木を) 伐採する (“to cut down a tree” /bassai-suru/) and 乱伐 (“reckless deforestation” /ranbatsu-suru/).
The kanji 閥 “clique; faction”
The seal style of 閥 had 門 “two closed doors” and 伐 inside, which was used phonetically for /ba’tsu/ to mean “commendation; honoring.” Together they signified a house or family which received commendation, and from that it meant a group of people who band together exclusively. The kanji 閥 meant “clique; faction.”
There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ba’tsu/ is in 軍閥 (“military faction; warlord clique” /gunbatsu/), 財閥 (“industrial/financial conglomerate” /zaibatsu/) and 学閥 (“academic clique” /gakubatsu/).
9. The kanji 我 “I; me”
Here is another type of halberd. For the kanji 我, in bronze ware style the left side of a halberd had a three prong-like shape. It has been explained as a saw-like blade attached to a halberd or a saw. The origin of the kanji 義, which contains 我 at the bottom, was given as proof that a saw that was used to cut a sacrificial sheep [Shirakawa]. It was borrowed to mean “I, me; oneself” in oracle bone style time, and has no relevance to the origin being a halberd.
We will continue with this topic. Next Sunday being Christmas Day, I am going to take the day off from writing an article on kanji history. Thank you very much. –Noriko [December 18, 2016; revised on January 6, 2017]