The Kanji 義儀犠感減威滅 –戈 “halberd” (2)


This is the second post on kanji that contain 戈 “halberd/battle-axe/broad-blade axe.” We are going to look at the kanji 義儀犠威戚感滅. There are a number of kanji that originated from a halberd, including 我 戉 and 戊. In the past any kanji that had 戈 was put in more or less a single bag of “a halberd or halberd-like weapon.” But I am curious now whether these were represented differently in their oracle bone style and bronze ware style writings. The answer may not be as clear as I would like, but it is worthwhile to satisfy our curiosity.

history-of-kanji-%e6%88%91Review of 我–Before the holiday season posts on Christmas day and New Year’s Day, in the post entitled The kanji 戈戒械成城誠伐閥我-戈halberd (1), we looked at the kanji 我 “I (first person pronoun)” as the last kanji. The kanji 我was borrowed kanji and had little relationship with its origin. Its origin was the shape of a saw-like halberd or a saw. The history is shown on the right. We saw a three-pronged shape attached to a long stick or a halberd. The writing was a pictograph of a pronged weapon or saw.

  1. The kanji 義 “just; morality; significance; meaning.”

history-of-kanji-%e7%be%a9For the kanji 義 (a) and (b) in oracle bone style, in brown, were very similar to (a) and (b) for the kanji 我, except one point – The top of the vertical line had sheep’s curled horns.  In bronze ware style, in green, the sheep got separated from the bottom. The bottom of 12 writings had three or more prongs on the left, as in (c) and (d). Only two of them had the shape without prongs, as in (e), and that was an axe. Since the overwhelming number had a prong shape, we can comfortably conclude that the bottom of the kanji 義 was a saw-like object or a saw. 羊 “sheep” and 我 “saw” together meant cutting a sacrificial sheep with a saw to prepare for an offering to a god. What is suitable for a god meant “morality; just.” Explaining “what is just” also gave the meaning “significance; meaning.” So the kanji 義 meant “just; morality; significance; meaning.”

The kanji 議 — Later on, 義 phonetically for /gi/ and and 言 “words; language” together made a new kanji 議. From two sides together “discussing what is right” the kanji 議 meant “to discuss.”

  1. The kanji 儀 “ceremony; affair; matter”

history-of-kanji-%e5%84%80The bronze ware style of the kanji 儀 was the same as (c) and (d) for 義. That suggests that the meanings of 儀 was originally a part of 義.  In seal style, in red, , a bushu ninben “standing person,” was added to 義 that was used phonetically for /gi/. Together they signified a person’s righteous deed. A right way of doing by a righteous person became the meaning “protocol; ceremony; affair.” The kanji 儀 meant “ceremony; affair; matter.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /gi/ is in 儀礼 (“ceremony” /giree/), 行儀がいい (“well-mannered” /gyoogi’-ga ii/) and 祝儀 (“celebration; festivity; tips on happy occasion” /shu’ugi/).

  1. The kanji 犠 “sacrifice”

history-of-kanji-%e7%8a%a0The left side of the seal style writing of the kanji 犠was 牛 “cow,” which sometimes signified animals in general. In kanji the right side is 義, but in seal style the bottom had something else added. What this addition meant is not clear. From the original meaning of 義 “a sheep to be cut with a saw for an offering” and 牛 together meant “sacrificial animal; sacrifice.”

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /gi/ is in犠牲になる (“to be sacrificed; fall prey for” /gisee-ni-na’ru/) and犠牲者 (“victim” /gise’esha/.)

history-of-kanji-%e5%92%b8The kanji 咸— The kanji 感and 減share the same shape 咸. The history of 咸, which is not a Joyo kanji, is shown on the right. In oracle bone style, (a) and (b), the top, some sort of halberd (戈), had a large axe. Underneath was a mouth  (口). Together making someone close his mouth by giving a shock of a threat of an axe or weapon” meant “to contain.”

  1. The kanji 感 “to feel”

history-of-kanji-%e6%84%9fFor the kanji 感, the seal style writing had 咸 at the top, which was used phonetically for /kan/ to mean “to contain,” and 心 “heart” at the bottom. Together they signified what was contained inside one’s heart — “to feel; emotion; feeing.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ka’n/ is in 感じる (“to feel” /kanjiru/), 感情 (“emotion” /kanjoo/) and 感謝 (“gratitude” /kansha-suru/).

  1. The kanji 減 “to reduce”

history-of-kanji-%e6%b8%9bFor the kanji 減 the bronze ware style writing had a stream of water on the left, and the right side was a battle-axe and a mouth, signifying “to confine.” Together they meant that closing the mouth of a stream reduced the amount of the flow of water. The kanji 減 meant “to reduce.”

The kun-yomi is in 減らす /herasu/ means “to reduce; make less” and its intransitive counterpart verb 減る /heru/ “to decrease.”  The on-yomi /ge’n/ is in 加減する(“to adjust” /kagen-suru/), 湯加減 (“bath temperature” /yuka’gen/), 軽減 (“reduction” /keegen/) and 減速 (“slowing down” /gensoku/).

history-of-kanji-%e6%88%89The kanji 戉 “broad-blade axe”– In oracle bone style, (a) and (b) were a battle-axe in mirror images. In bronze ware style, (c) had a broad curved blade whereas (d) was a long straight blade. In seal style the blade curled up at the end. It became the kanji 戉. When a bushu kanehen 金 “metal” was added it became 鉞 “broad-blade (curved) axe.” (Neither 戉 nor 鉞 is Joyo kanji, but a phonetic feature /e’tsu/ is used in the Joyo kanji 越.) Shirakawa viewed that the kanji 王 was a king’s ornamental axe with the blade side at the bottom (without a handle). In bronze ware style some had a thick curved blade. [Oracle Bone Writings at Tokyo National Museum and the Kanji 王旺皇士仕 on November 13, 2016]

  1. The kanji 威 “(personal) dignity; prestige”

history-of-kanji-%e5%a8%81For the kanji 威, the two bronze ware style writings had a broad-blade axe or battle-axe (戉) and a woman (女) underneath. Together a woman under the threat of a weapon signified “to threaten” or “authority.”

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /i/ is in 権威 (“authority” /ke’n-i/), 威嚇する (“to threaten” /ikaku-suru/) and 威容 (“commanding appearance” /iyoo/).

  1. The kanji 滅 “to run out; die away”

history-of-kanji-%e6%bb%85The seal style writing of the kanji 滅 hada bushu sanzui  “water.” The right side had a 戉 “broad blade battle-axe” and 火 “fire” inside, and was used phonetically for /betsu/ to mean “to exhaust; run out.” Both sides together signified water running out. From that the kanji 滅 meant “to run out; die away.”

The kun-yomi 滅ぼす /horobo’su/ means “to destroy” and its intransitive verb 滅びる (“to die away; be destroyed” /horobi’ru/). The on-yomi /me’tsu/ is in 点滅する (“to flicker” /tenmetsu-suru/), 滅亡 (“extinction” /metsuboo/), 支離滅裂な (incoherent; disconnected /shi’ri-metsuretsu-na/) and 滅法 (“exceedingly” /meppo’o/), as in 滅法強い (“extremely strong” /meppo’o tsuyo’i/).

We will continue with this topic in the next post. –Noriko  (January 8, 2017)

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