In this and next few posts we are going to explore kanji that pertained to religious matter. The kanji we look at in this post are示宗禁祭際察擦崇奈, which originated from an altar table.
The kanji 示 “to display; indicate”
For the kanji 示, in oracle bone style, in brown, it was an altar table with an offering placed above. An altar was where the god showed his message. From that it meant “to show; demonstrate.” In seal style, in red, a line was added on each side of the stand. Setsumon’s explanation of these three lines was the sun, the moon and a star by which the god showed himself to people.
The kun-yomi shimesu means “to show; display; indicate.” The on-yomi /ji/ is in 表示する (“to display” /hyooji-suru/), 暗示 (“hint; indication; suggestion” /anji/), 展示場 (“exhibition hall; show room” /tenjijoo/), 示談 (“out of court settlement; private settlement” /ji’dan/) and 指示する (“ton instruct; order” /shi’ji-suru/). Another on-yomi /Shi/ is in 示唆する (“to suggest” /shi’sa-suru/).
The kanji 宗 “religion; sect; head of a group”
For the kanji 宗, in oracle bone style it was an altar table inside a house or shrine. In bronze ware style, in green, and seal style the altar table had three lines. Together they meant “religious belief,” and “the head or founder of a religious group; group.”
There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /shuu/ is used in the sense of Bhuddist practice such as 宗教 (“religion” /shu’ukyoo/), 改宗 (“conversion of one’s religion” /kaishuu/) and 宗旨 (“tenets of of a religious sect” /shu’ushi/). Another on-yomi /soo/ is used in the sense of “a group of people” such as 宗家 (“head of family” /so’oke/) and 宗廟 (“ancestral mausoleu” /soobyoo/).
The kanji 禁 “to prohibit”
In seal style of the kanji 禁, the top had two trees that signified “forest.” The bottom was “altar table,” signifying something sacred. Together they signified a sacred forest that was forbidden to enter. From that it meant “to prohibit; forbid.”
There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /kin/ is in 禁止する (“to prohibit” /kinshi-suru/), 禁句 (“tabooed word or phrase” /kinku/), 禁断 (“strict prohibition” /kindan/), あゆ漁の解禁 (“the opening of an ayu fish fishing season” /ayu’ryoo-no kaikin/) and 立ち入り禁止 (“Off-limit; Closed to the public” /tachiiri-kinshi.)
The kanji 祭 “festival; feast day”
For the kanji 祭, (a) in oracle bone style was comprised of a “hand” on the left sprinkling “rice wine” over an offering of a “piece of meat” on the right to sanctify it. (b) was the mirror image of (a). In (c) and (d) in bronze ware style an altar table replaced the sanctifying rice wine. (e) in seal style remained in kanji. (The top left of the kanji is not タ “moon” but has two short strokes inside, from 肉.) The kanji 祭 meant “celebration; festival.”
The kun-yomi 祭り or 祭 /matsuri/ means “festival; celebration,” and is in 祭り上げる (“to set someone on a pedestal” /matsuriage’ru/). The on-yomi /sai/ is in 祭日 (“holiday” /saijitu), 司祭 (“Catholic priest or clergy” /shi’sai/), 映画祭 (“film festival” /eega’sai/) and 感謝祭 (“Thanksgiving Day” /kansha’sai/).
The kanji 際 “boundary; edge of an area; contact”
In the seal style writing of the kanji 際, an earthen wall for a boundary was added to the left of 祭 “celebration of a god.” The area where the god and people come to meet was edge of an area; contact. In kanji the left side became simplified to 阝, a bushu kozatohen. The kanji 際 meant “boundary; edge of an area; contact.”
The kun-yomi 際 /kiwa’/ means “side; edge; verge,” and /-giwa/ is in 窓際 (“window side” /madogiwa/), 間際に (“just before; at the brink” /ma’giwa/) and 出際に (“at the moment of going out” /degiwa-ni/) and 手際よく (“skillfully; deftly” /tekigayo’ku/). The on-yomi /sai/ is in 国際的 (“international” /kokusaiteki/), 交際する (“to go steady; socialize with” /koosai-suru/) and 実際 (“truly; indeed; in point of fact” /jissai/). /-Zai/ is in 分際 (“position; social standing” /bunzai/).
The kanji 察 “to perceive; conjecture”
The seal style writing was comprised of 宀 “house” and 祭 “celebration of a god.” In a house that enshrined a god one looked for a god’s will carefully and reflected on it. The religious meaning was dropped and the kanji 察 means “to perceive; look thoroughly; conjecture.”
There is no kun-yomi. On-yomi /satsu/ is in 観察 (“observation; supervision” /kansatsu/), 警察 (“police station; constabulary; police” /keesatsu/), 察する (“to perceive; gather” /sassuru/), 察知する (“infer from; gather from” /sa’cchi-suru/) and 洞察力 (“insight” /doosatsu’ryoku/).
The kanji 擦 “to rub; scrub; scour”
The kanji 擦 was created much later, so no ancient writing existed. The kanji 擦 is comprised of 扌, a bushu tehen “an act that one does using a hand” and 察, which was used phonetically for /satsu/. Together they meant a hand rubbing something. The kanji 擦 meant “to rub; scrub; scour.”
The kun-yomi 擦る /su’ru/ means “to rub; scrub; scour” and 擦れる (“to be rubbed; be worn” /sure’ru/), and is in 擦り切れる (“to be worn out; become threadbare” /surikire’ru/). The on-yomi /sa’tsu/ is in 摩擦 (“friction; rubbing” /masatsu/).
The kanji 崇 “high; to revere”
The seal style writing of the kanji 崇 was comprised of 山 “mountain” that signified “high” and 宗, which was used phonetically for /suu/ to mean “main.” Together from the highest mountain in the mountain range, it meant “high; supreme.”
The kun-yomi /agame’ru/ means “to hold someone in reverence; adore.” The on-yomi /suu/ is in 崇高な (“lofty; sublime; grand” /suukoo-na/) and 崇拝する (“to worship; idolize” /suuhai-suru/).
The kanji 奈 “(interrogative)”
The seal style writing was comprised of 木 “tree” and 示 “altar table.” Together they meant the name of a tree. It was used for an interrogative word. The Correct writing 柰 reflected the seal style, but in kanji the top became 大. The kanji 奈 was used for “how; why” in some kanbun-style writing, but is no longer used except in a very limited word related to Buddhism.
The use of the kanji 奈 is quite limited. There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /na/ is in 奈落 (“Hell; the infernal regions; a trap cellar in a theater” /naraku/) and in a proper noun 奈良 (“Nara” /na’ra/), the old capitol of Japan before Kyoto.
The component 示 in the kanji 票標漂 did not come from an altar table but came from “fire.” In the next post we are going to explore kanji that contain ネ, a bushu shimesuhen, which came from 示. Thank you very much for your reading. -Noriko [May 14, 2017]