The Kanji 初袖襟裾裕・卒・経径軽茎


This is the third post on kanji that originated from a collar and mean “clothing” – 衣. We have seen in the last two posts that when used as a component in ancient writing a collar may appear as it was (衣) or split in two parts with another component in the middle. In kanji another shape was created –a bushu衤, which is called koromohen. In this post we are going to look at the kanji 初袖襟裾裕 with a koromohen, and 卒, which also came from a collar. Then we are going to look at kanji that had 巠 in kyuji that originated with a warp (straight threads placed vertically) set on a loom in weaving –経径軽茎.

The first two kanji 初 and 袖 have been discussed before, but here we look at them again from the standpoint of the development of a collar into different component shapes.

  1. The kanji 初 “first time; beginning”

History of Kanji 初All the ancient styles (oracle bone style, in brown, bronze ware style, in green, and seal style, in red) had the full shape of a collar (衣) on the left side and a knife (刀) on the right side. In order to make clothes, fabric first had to be cut. From that it meant “first time; beginning.” When 衣 appeared on the left side in kanji, it became 衤, a bushu koromohen “clothing.” /Koromo/ is the kun-yomi of the kanji 衣, as we saw last week. The shape 衤 is not to be confused with ネ, a bushu shimesuhen “religious matter,” which is related to the kanji 示 /shimesu/.  It is interesting to me to see how the two very different kanji 衣and 示 could end up with such similar shapes as bushu.



The stroke order of a bushu koromohen is shown on the right.  (For word samples, please refer to the earlier post.)

  1. The kanji 袖 “sleeve”

Thistory-of-kanji-%e8%a2%96he three writings for the kanji 袖 on the left demonstrate that there have been three different shapes for a collar and all meant the same thing – In one, (a), a collar was split into two, the top being the back of the neck and the bottom a front in which two sides meet; another one, (b), kept the original shape; and the third one as bushu had an abbreviated to衤(katakana ネ with an extra stroke as a fourth stroke added). The right side of (b) as well as that of  the kanji 袖 was 由 “coming out of” (a ripe gourd). When you put on clothes arms would come out of sleeves, and it meant “sleeve.”

  1. The kanji 襟 “collar”

History of Kanji 襟In the bronze ware style of the kanji 襟, inside the wide-open collar was 金, which was used phonetically for /kin/. It meant “collar.” In seal style the same two components 衣 and 金 were placed side by side.  In kanji the left side became a bushu koromohen and the right side was replaced by 禁, which was used phonetically for /kin/ to mean “to close.” The kanji 襟 means “collar.”

The kun-yomi 襟 /eri’/ means “collar,” and is in 襟巻き (“muffler; neck scarf” /eri’maki/). The on-yomi /kin/ is in 開襟シャツ (“open-necked shirt” /kaikinsha’tsu/) and the expression 胸襟を開く (“to open one’s heart; have a heart-to-heart talk with someone” /kyookin-o hira’ku/).

  1. The kanji 裾 “hem; foothills of mountain”

History of Kanji 裾The seal style writing of the kanji 裾 was comprised of koromohen and 居, which was used phonetically for /kyo/. It appears that the meaning was originally inclusive of parts of clothing, such as the hem, the bottom of clothes, the collar, the sleeve and the edge of the front panel of clothes. But now the kanji 裾 is used only for “the bottom of clothes; hem; skirts”

The kun-yomi 裾 /suso/ means “bottom of clothes; hem” and is in 山裾 (“foothills of mountain” /yamasuso/) and in 裾模様 (“kimono with design on the skirt” /susomo’yoo/). There is no practical word using the on-yomi.

  1. The kanji 裕 “leeway; plentiful; room”

History of Kanji 裕For the kanji 裕 in bronze ware style a collar that was opened wide had 谷.  Several kanji that contain谷 are difficult to explain from the origins, because their ancient writings do not appear to have come from the same source. Rather than going into unsolved issues in my mind, I am going to leave it as being used phonetically for “roomy; ample.” Together the original meaning of “roomy; loose clothes” came to be used more generally to mean “leeway; plentiful; room.”

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /yuu/ is in 余裕 (“additional coverage; room” /yoyuu/) and 裕福な (“rich; wealthy well-to-do” /yu’uhukuna/).

  1. The kanji 卒 “soldier; sudden; rash; to end”

History of Kanji 卒The kanji 卒 has seemingly different meanings, and that may have affected the interpretations of its origin. In both bronze ware style and seal style, it was a collar that had a slanted line. One view is that the slanted line across the right and left front panels of clothes that were closed signified that soldiers wore the same clothes that were given to them. From that the kanji 卒 meant “low-ranking soldiers.” Another view is that a deceased person’s collar was tied so that the spirit would not stray out – thus the slanted line signified “tied tightly.” The kanji 卒meant “sudden death,” and this sudden happening gave the meaning “rash; hasty.” It also meant “to end after one does everything to be done.”  The kanji became 亠, two 人 and 十. The kanji 卒 means “low-ranking solder; sudden; to end.”

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /sotu/ is in 兵卒 (“private (soldier); enlisted man” /heesotsu/), 卒業 (“graduation” /sotsugyoo/), 軽率な (“careless; hasty,without serious thought” /keesotsu-na/). /Sot/- is in 卒中 (“stroke; apoplectic seizure” /socchuu/) and 卒倒する (“to faint; fall unconscious” /sottoo-suru/).

Now we move on to other shapes that are related to fabric or clothes. We begin with the shape 巠 in kyuji (I do not have the kanji for the shinji, which is 又 and 土.)

  1. The kanji 経 “to pass through; experience; sutra”

History of Kanji 経The first kanji is 経. In bronze ware style, (a), a loom that had threads (warps) was placed vertically to the wooden frame. In weaving, warp has to be placed straight so that other threads (the weft) can pass through to make a cloth. So it signified “straight; to go through.” In (b) a skein of threads was added. In (c) in seal style the threads were three wavy lines and the wooden frame became 工 ”craft” at the bottom. The kyuji 經, in blue, reflected seal style. Experience is something one goes through, so it means “experience.” A Buddhist sutra is a long continuous chanting, and the kanji also is used to mean “sutra.”  In shinjitai, the right became the kanji 又 and 土. The kanji 経 means “to go through; (time) passes; Buddhist sutra.”

The kun-yomi 経る means “(time) passes; to experience; go through.” The on-yomi /kee/ is in 経験 (“experience” /keeken/), 経済 (“economy” /ke’ezai/), 経緯 (“detail of history; longitude and latitude” /ke’ei/), 経歴 (“personal history” /keereki/), 経理 (“accounting” /ke’eri/). Another on-yomi /kyoo/ is in 経典 (“sacred scripture” /kyooten/) and お経 (“Buddhist sutra” /okyoo/).

  1. The kanji径 “pathway; straight line connecting two points”

For the kanji 径 in seal style the left side was a “crossroad.” The right side 巠 signified “lines that go strait.” The shortest way to get somewhere is a straight line, which would involve narrow path, not a major road. It meant “narrow path; pathway.” 径 is a line that connects two points, and a straight line that goes through circle is also 径. The kyuji 徑 reflected seal style. In shinjitai the right side became the kanji 又 and 土.

The kun-yomi /michi’/ is in 小径 (“pathway” /komichi/), 直径 (“diameter” /chokkee/) and 半径 (“semidiameter; radius” /ha’nkee/).

  1. The kanji 軽 “light; frivolous”

History of Kanji 軽For the kanji 軽 in seal style the left side was a “wheel; military vehicle.” The right side 巠 was used phonetically for /kee/ to mean “light.”  It meant a military vehicle that was not transporting heavy equipment. From that it meant “light.” The kyuji 輕 reflected seal style.

The kun-yomi /karui/ means “light.” /-Garu/ is in 身軽に (“lightly; with agility” /migaru-ni/), 手軽な (“easy; offhand; convenient” /tegaru-na/), 軽々しい (“thoughtlessly; frivolous; imprudent” /karugarushi’i/). The on-yomi /kee/ is in 軽量 (“light-weight” /keeryoo/), 軽視する (“to make light of” /ke’eshi-suru/) and 軽蔑する (“to scorn; contempt” /keebetsu-suru/).

  1. The kanji 茎 “stem; stalk”

History of Kanji 茎For the kanji 茎 the seal style writing was comprised of 艸 “plant; grass” and 巠 “something straight across.” The part of a plant that was straight was a stem. It meant “stem.” The kanji 茎 means “stem; stalk.”

The kun-yomi /kuki/ means “stem; stalk.” The on-yomi /kee/ is in 地下茎 (“subterranean stem” /chika’kee/), a rather specialized word for a gardener and vegetable grower.

In the next post, we are probably going to look at kanji that contain 巾, and perhaps a few more if we finish with the topic of threads and cloth.  For people who reside in Japan, please enjoy ゴールデンウィーク (“Golden Week” /goorudenwi’iku/) — consecutive holidays from April 29 (originally Showa Emperor’s old birthday, eventually renamed as Showa Day) through May 5 (Children’s day).  Thank you very much for your reading.  -Noriko [April 30, 2017]

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