The Kanji 黄横広拡鉱矢知侯候喉- 黄 “fire arrow” and 矢 “arrow”


In this post we are going to look at the kanji that originated from “fire arrow” (黄) – 黄横広拡鉱 −, and “arrow” (矢) – 矢知侯候喉.

  1. The kanji 黄 “yellow; golden”

history-of-kanji-%e9%bb%84%e8%89%b2For the kanji 黄 in oracle bone style, in brown, bronze ware style, in green, and seal style, in red, it was a fire arrow with an arrowhead at the top, combustible materials in the middle and feathers at the bottom. When a fire arrow was shot, it illuminated an area. The yellow color of this light became the meaning of this kanji. The kanji 黄 meant “yellow; golden.”

The kun-yomi 黄 /ki/ means “yellow,” and is in 黄色 (“yellow” /kiiro/), 黄緑色 (“light green” /kimidoriiro/) and 卵の黄身 (“egg yolk” /tama’go-no kimi/). The on-yomi /oo/ is in 黄金の (“golden” /oogon-no/) and 卵黄 (“egg yolk” /ran-oo/). Another on-yomi /koo/ is in 黄葉 (“yellowing of autumn leaves” /kooyoo/) and 黄河 (“the Yellow River (in China)” /ko’oga/). (The word 黄金色 is also read as /koganeiro/.  /ko/ is listed as a kun-yomi on the Joyo kanji list.)

  1. The kanji 横 “side; sideways; wicked; wrong”

history-of-kanji-%e6%a8%aaFor the kanji 横, the bronze ware style writing was the same as 黄. In seal style 木 “wood” was added on the left, and the right side was used phonetically for /oo/, and meant “sideways,” from a fire arrow illuminating both sides as it traveled. Together they signified a piece of wood placed sideways as a latch on a gate. From that it meant “side; sideways.” Something that goes sideways could be going outside the legitimate areas, thus, it also meant “wicked; wrong.”

The kun-yomi 横 /yoko/ means “side; sideways,” and is in 真横 (“right next to; side” /mayoko/), 縦と横 (“length and width” /ta’te-to yoko/), 横這い (“leveling off” /yokobai/), 横槍を入れる (“to butt in; interrupt” /yokoyari-o-ireru/), 横流しする (“to sell illegally” /yokonagashi-suru/). The on-yomi /oo/ is in 横断歩道 (“pedestrian crossing” /oodanho’doo/), 縦横に (“in every direction; crisscrossing” /juuo’o ni/), 横暴な (“oppressive; tyrannical” /ooboo-na/) and 横領 (“embezzlement; misappropriation” /ooryoo/).

  1. The kanji 広 “wide; spacious”

history-of-kanji-%e5%ba%83For the kanji 広, in (a) in oracle bone style the top was a house, and the inside was a fire arrow that signified “wide.” (b) and (c) in bronze ware style had a house with one side open, which (d) in seal style became 广, a bushu gandare “house with one side open.” In shinjitai (f)  the inside of the kyujitai (e) 廣 was replaced by a katakana ム, which is one of the simplifying shapes.  The kanji 広 meant “wide; spacious.”

The kun-yomi /hiro’i/ means “wide; spacious,” and is in 広場 (“open area” /hi’roba/).  /-Biro/ is in 手広くやる (“do business extensively” /tebiroku yaru/).  The on-yomi /koo/ is in 広告 (“advertisement” /kookoku/) and 広報 (“public information; public relations PR” /ko’ohoo; koohoo/).

  1. The kanji 拡 “to widen”

history-of-kanji-%e6%8b%a1For The kanji 拡, the seal style had扌, a bushu tehen “act that one does by hand.” Together with the kanji 廣 “wide” they meant “to widen.” The kyujitai 擴 was simplified to 拡. By an agent of action ,“hand,” the kanji 拡 is used as a verb, whereas 広 was an adjective.  Until the 2010 revision of Joyo kanji (that is, 1981 version), the kun-yomi /hiro/ was not in Joyo kanji, and 広 was often used. So we see both 広げる and 拡げる in print.

The kun-yomi 拡げる /hirogeru/ means “to widen,” as a transitive verb.  The on-yomi /kaku/ is in 拡張する (“to expand” /kakuchoo-suru/) and 拡大 (“enlargement” /kakudai/).

  1. The kanji 鉱 “ore; mineral”

history-of-kanji-%e9%89%b1For the kanji 鉱 Old style was shown in gray. The seal style writing had 石 “rock” on the left, and the right side 黄 was used phonetically for /koo/. Together they meant “ore; mineral; rock.” In kyujitai 鑛, the left side became 金, a bushu kanehen “metal; mineral,” and the right side became 廣 with a madare, which was further replaced by 広 in shinjitai. The kanji 鉱 means “ore; mineral.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /koo/ is in 鉱山 (“mine” /ko’ozan/), 鉱物 (“minerals” /ko’obutsu/) and 炭鉱 (“coal mine” /tankoo/).

The next 15 or so kanji that we are going to look at in this and next posts deal with an arrow, 矢, and its variants.

  1. The kanji 矢 “arrow”

history-of-kanji-%e7%9f%a2For the kanji 矢, in oracle bone style and bronze ware style it was an arrow with an arrowhead at the top and feathers at the bottom. The seal style writing became much less an image of an arrow. In kanji a short slanted stroke emphasized the arrowhead. The kanji 矢 meant “arrow.”

The kun-yomi 矢 /ya’/ means “arrow,” and is in 弓矢 (“bow and arrow” /yumi’ya/). The expression 白羽の矢が当たる means (“the choice falls on (someone)” /shiraha-no-ya’-ga-ataru). The on-yomi /shi/ is in the expression 一矢報いる (“to shoot back; give a small blow back; retaliate” /i’sshi mukuiru/) and 嚆矢 (“beginning” /ko’oshi/).

A personal note on the word 嚆矢 — Having lived away from Japan so many years and spending my reading time mostly on linguistics and others written in English I had less chance to encounter complex or less frequently used words in Japanese. One day while I was keeping company with my then-90-year-old mother in her room in Japan and working on my materials, I was looking for on-reading words for 矢 /shi/. I found 嚆矢 /ko’oshi/, a word that I had never used myself, and had to look up how to read it. Then, I felt a funny urge to say to my mother, “Mother, do you know what /ko’oshi/ with the kanji /ya/ means?” For a moment she looked puzzled, probably thinking that I was testing her mental ability in her advanced age. My unassuming soft-spoken mother answered, “Do you mean the word for beginning?” After a pause she picked up a pen and started scribbling down the word in kanji on a piece of paper. I had to smile at her with pride and amazement.

I was a product of post-war education in which kanji were simplified, prose made plain and complex words pushed away. It was only in high school that we studied classical Japanese. On the other hand someone who was schooled for fewer years in the Taisho and early Showa eras received an education that equipped her to read much better. Undoubtedly my not living in Japan had something to do with it, but nonetheless it was a humbling experience. At the same time it made me think about the quality of the language education that I received after the post-war national language reform.

(Incidentally the kanji 嚆 means “(whistling) sound of an arrow being shot” and is non-Joyo kanji.)

  1. The kanji 知 “to know”

history-of-kanji-%e7%9f%a5For the kanji 短, the seal style writing had 矢 “arrow,” which also meant “to vow.” The right side, 口 “mouth,” signified “word; language.” Together they signified “to vow to a god.”  Knowledge was what the god gave. From that the kanji 知 meant “to know.”

The kun-yomi 知 /shiru/ means “to know.” The on-yomi /chi/ is in 知人 (“acquaintance” /chijin/), 知事 (“prefectural governor” /chi’ji/), 承知する (“to consent to; accept; know” /shoochi-suru/), 熟知する (“to know well; have thorough knowledge of” /ju’kuchi-suru/), 知能 (“intelligence; mental faculties” /chi’noo/), 知覚 (“perception; sensory” /chikaku/), 周知の (“common knowledge” /shu’uchi-no/) and 機知に富んだ (“witty; resourceful” /ki’chi-ni-tonda/).

The next two kanji 侯 and 候 share the same origin and their developments were intertwined.

  1. The kanji 侯 “(feudal) lord; marquis”

history-of-kanji-%e4%be%afFor the kanji 侯, (a) in oracle bone style and (b) and (c) in bronze ware style had an arrow under a canopy or target range, signifying “to shoot an arrow.” In (d) in seal style, a person bending his back foward to watch out was added at the top. Together they meant the title of a person who oversaw shooting arrows against an enemy – “feudal lord; lord.” Later on it became one of the five levels of titles in the order of 公侯伯子男 based on Confucious. The kanji 侯 meant “lord; marquis.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /koo/ is in 諸侯 (“feudal lords” /sho’koo/) and 侯爵 (“marquisa” /ko’oshaku/).

  1. The kanji 候 “scout; climate; be”

history-of-kanji-%e5%80%99For the kanji 候 the bronze ware style writing had an arrow and a house or canopy, the same components as 侯. In seal style, in addition to a person crouching watching out at the top (侯), another person (イ) was added on the left side. This was to differentiate the two meanings that 侯 originally had – “lord” from shooting arrows, and “to watch for a sign of an enemy; scout,” the latter of which became the meaning of the kanji 候 “to peep; watch for a sign.” Weather or climate was something one judged or forecast from atmospheric signs, so it was used to discuss season or weather. In classical Japanese, 候 /sooro’o/ meant “to be” for /~de aru/ in old epistolary style.  The kanji 候 meant “to scout; climate; be.”

The kun-yomi 候 /sooro’o/ is a classic verb “to be.” The on-yomi /koo/ is in 気候 (“climate” /kikoo/), 天候 (“weather” /tenkoo/), 斥候 (“scout” /sekkoo/), 候文 (“old epistolary style writing in classical Japanese” /sooro’obun/) and 居候 (“a person living in someone’s else’s house without paying; free loader” /isooroo/).

  1. The kanji 喉 “throat”

history-of-kanji-%e5%96%89For the kanji 喉, the seal style writing had 口 “mouth” next to the shape (d) in 侯, which was used phonetically for /koo/. Together they meant “throat.”

The kun-yomi 喉 /no’do/ means “throat.” The on-yomi /koo/ is 耳鼻咽喉科 (“ear nose and throat specialist; otolaryngology” /ji’bi inkooka.) and 喉頭炎 (“laryngitis” /kooto’oen/).

In the next post we continue to add more kanji with 矢 and introduce its variants. Thank you very much for your reading.  –Noriko [February 19. 2017]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s