The Kanji 社礼福祉禅祝禍祖 — しめすへん (ネ)

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In the last post (The Kanji 示宗禁祭際察擦崇奈–“altar table”) we looked at kanji that contain a component 示 “an altar table with offerings,” where the will of a god was viewed to appear — thus signified “pertaining to religious matter.” In this post we are going to explore kanji in which the original altar table changed to ネ, a bushu shimesuhen “religious matter” in shinji — the kanji 社礼福祉禅祝禍祖.

  1. The kanji 社 “shrine; company of people; corporation”

History of Kanji 社

sThe oracle bone style writing for the kanji 社, in brown, was a pack of dirt placed on the ground with sprinkles of rice wine that was sanctifying the ground. It meant the god of the earth or a place of worship or a shrine. In bronze ware style, in green, it was the same as 土  “soil; earth; ground” (the bulge indicated a pack of dirt). In seal style, in red, an altar table was added to the left. The kyuji, in blue, reflected seal style. In shinji 社, 示 on the left side changed to ネ, a bushu shimesuhen. A place of worship was where many people congregated, and 社 also meant “company of people,” and, in Japanese, “corporation.” The kanji 社 means “shrine; company of people; corporation.”

The kun-yomi 社 /ya’shiro/ means “shrine.” The on-yomi /sha/ is in 社会 (“society” /sha’kai/), 会社 (“corporation” /kaisha/), 結社 (“establishment; organization” /kessha/), 社交的 (“sociable; gregarious” /shakooteki/) and 社会人 (“member of society; working adult” /shaka’ijin/).

  1. The kanji 礼 “propriety; a bow”

History of Kanji 礼For the kanji 礼 in (a) in bronze ware style, the top was two strings of cowries strung together or jewelries, and the bottom was a tall container. Together they meant abundant offering to a deity. The two Old style writings, in purple, came from an entirely different origin– (b) was an altar table with the offering on top, and (c) had a person kneeling to worship added on the right side. It meant “propriety (of ceremony).” (d) in seal style was comprised of 示 and 豊, which came from (a). The kyuji 禮, (e), reflected seal style (d), and is still used in formal occasions. The shinji uses 礼, in line with Old style (b) and (c).  The kanji 礼 means “propriety; a bow.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi 礼 /re’e/ means “salute; bow,” and is in 一礼する (“to make a light bow to” /ichiree-suru/), 敬礼 (“salute” /keeree/), 失礼 (“discourtesy; impoliteness /shitsu’ree/), 礼儀正しい (“gracious; civilized; well-mannered” /reegitadashi’i/) and 儀礼的な (“ceremonious” /gireetekina/).

  1. The kanji 福 “blessing; good luck”

History of Kanji 福For the kanji 福, (a) in oracle bone style was comprised of an altar table at the top left and a rice wine cask that was raised by two hands. Placing a full wine cask on the altar, one prayed for blessing from the god. (b) ddid not have two hands. In bronze ware style, (c) and (d) had an altar table and a wine cask that was filled with wine (the cross at the bottom indicated that it was not empty.)  In seal style (e) reflected (c), in line with the general arrangement of a semantic-phonetic formation of kanji (keisei-moji) –a left component for meaning and a right component for sound. The kanji 福 meant “blessing; good luck.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi 福 /huku/ means “blessing; good fortune,” and is in 祝福 (“benediction; blessing” /shukuhuku/), 幸福な (“happy” /koohukuna/), 福音 (“the Christian gospel; good tidings” /hukuin/) and 福袋 (“grab bag; mystery shopping bag” /hukubu’kuro/).

  1. The kanji 祉 “blessing”

History of Kanji 祉The oracle bone style writing of the kanji 祉 had an altar table for “deity,” and 止 was used phonetically for /shi/ to mean “to remain.” Together they meant “the god’s blessing remained.”  The kanji 祉 means “blessing; happiness given by a god,” but in the current Japanese the use is limited to the word 福祉.  There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /shi/ is in 福祉 (“welfare; well-being” /huku’shi/).

  1. The kanji 禅 “Zen sect; to pass on a throne peacefully”

History of Kanji 禅The seal style writing of the kanji 禅 was comprised of an altar table, signifying “worshipping,” and 單, which was used phonetically for /tan; zen/. Together they originally meant a platform or a raised area where a deity was worshipped. Following a god’s will one passed on a throne to someone else peacefully, and it meant “to pass on power peacefully.”  Later on it also came to be used to mean a Buddhist sect. In shinji the left side 示 became ネ a bushu shimesuhen. The kanji 禅 means “Zen sect; to vacate a throne (peacefully).”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /zen/ is in 禅宗 (“Zen sect of Buddhism” /zenshuu/) and 座禅を組む (“to sit in Zen meditation” /zazen-o ku’mu/).  The word 禅譲 (“peaceful evacuation of a throne” /zenjoo/) is a highly specialized word.

  1. The kanji 祝 “to celebrate”

History of Kanji 祝For the kanji 祝 the writing in oracle bone style, bronze were style and seal style all was comprised of 示 “altar table” and 兄 “elder brother;  elder person.” Together from an elder person worshipping and celebrating the god, the kanji 祝 meant “to celebrate.”

The kun-yomi 祝い /iwai/ means “celebration,” and is in 祝い酒 (“celebration drink” /iwai’zake/). The on-yomi /shuku/ is in 祝賀会 (“celebratory party” /shukuga’kai/). Another on-yomi /shuu/ is in 祝言 (“marriage ceremony” /shu’ugen/) and 祝儀 (“tip on celebratory occasion” /shu’ugi/).

  1. The kanji 禍 “misfortune; calamity”

History of Kanji 禍For the kanji 禍 what the shape in oracle bone style was about is not clear. The source from which I have taken this writing (Shirakawa) does not appear to be addressing it. The bronze ware style writing was comprised of an altar table and bones of a deceased (咼). Together they meant “affliction; catastrophe.” The kanji 禍 meant “misfortune; calamity.”

The kun-yomi 禍 /wazawai/ means “calamity.” The on-yomi /ka/ is in 戦禍 (“the turmoil of war; wartime chaos” /se’nka/) and 舌禍 (“unfortunate slip of the tongue” /ze’kka/).

  1. The kanji 祖 “ancestor”

History of Kanji 祖In oracle bone style (a) was an altar table and a stack of similar things. They could be ancestral tombstones or representations of many ancestors to be worshipped at an altar. In (b) and in bronze ware style (c) an altar table disappeared, but in (d) in seal style it reappeared. The kanji 祖 means “ancestor.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /so/ is in 先祖 (“forefather; ancestor” /so’sen/), 祖先 (“ancestor; ascendant” /so’sen/), 祖国 (“mother country” /so’koku/), 祖父 (“grandfather” /so’hu/), 祖母 (“grandmother” /so’bo/) and 元祖 (“originator; founder” /ga’nso/).

All the kanji that contain a bushu shimesuhen that we looked had 示 in most of the ancient writing through as recent as kyuji. It is only in shinji that, when 示 was placed on the left side of kanji, it became a bushu shimesuhen. Other kanji such as 神, 視 and 祈 have been previously discussed. We will continue to explore more kanji that pertained or still pertain to religious matters.  Thank you very much for your reading.  – Noriko [May 20, 2917]

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