This is the third post on kanji whose origin pertained to religious matters. We have looked at kanji that contain 示 and a bushu shimesuhen, both of which came from an altar. In this post we are going to explore kanji that originated from divination – – 卜占外貼店点訃赴 and 兆跳挑逃眺桃.
1. The kanji 卜 “divination”
The kanji 卜 is not among the Joyo kanji. But it appeared in many kanji as a component. In oracle bone style (a) and (b), in brown, bronze ware style (c), in green, and seal style (d), in red, the two lines signified cracks (vertical and horizontal) that appeared on a heated underside shell of a turtle or tortoise or a piece of animal bone that was used for divination. On the back of a bone heat was applied to a small hole that had been drilled in advance, and heat cracks that appeared were read as oracle on the topic that a ruler was seeking. The kanji 卜 meant “oracle; divination.”
The kun-yomi 卜う /urana’u/ means “to tell someone’s fortune; forecast.” The on-yomi /boku/ is in 卜辞 (“inscription on bones and tortoise carapaces” /bokuji/), synonymous to oracle bone style writing.
The kanji 占 “divination; to occupy”
The kanji 占 in oracle bone style (a) was comprisee of a bone with divination cracks (卜), and a mouth (口) at the bottom. In (b), the two components in (a) were in an enclosure. It meant “oracle; divination.” The kanji 占 means “to tell someone’s fortune; divine.” Another interpretation of the bottom 口 is an “area,” which meant asking a deity which area one should take. From that it also meant “to occupy.”
The kun-yomi 占い /uranai/ means “fortune telling,” and is in 星占い (“horoscope” /hoshiu’ranai/). Another kun-yomi 占める /shime’ru/ means “to occupy; hold; make up” and 買い占める (“to buy out; buy up” /kaishime’ru/). The on-yomi /sen/ is in 占有地 (“occupied land” /sen-yu’uchi/), 独占 (“monopoly” /dokusen/) and 占拠する (“to occupy” /se’nkyo-suru/).
The kanji 外 “outside; others; to take out”
For the kanji 外, the oracle bone style writing had 工, which was probably used phonetically, and 卜 “oracle.” The left side of the bronze ware style writing and seal style writing had an early moon (夕), which would appear outside, or a piece of meat (月) offering for divination. The divination appeared on the surface or outside the bone. The kanji 外 means “outside; exterior,” and its extention “others; else; to take out.”
The kun-yomi 外 /so’to/ means “outside.” Another kun-yomi 外 /hoka/ means “others; else.” The third kun-yomi /hazusu/ means “to take out; omit.” The on-yomi /gai/ is in 外国 (“foreign country” /gaikoku/), 以外 (“other than; except” /i’gai/) and 予想外 (“unexpectedly” /yoso’ogai/). Another on-yomi /ge/ is in 外科医 (“surgeon” /geka’i/).
The kanji 貼 “to stick; paste”
The seal style writing was comprised of 貝 “cowry,” and 占, which was used phonetically for /choo; ten/. Together they meant “to stick on; affix over something.” The kanji 貼 means “to stick; paste.” The kanji 貼 was added to the Joyo kanji in 2010, and before that 張 was used instead.
The kun-yomi 貼る /haru/ means “to stick; paste.” The on-yomi /ten/ is in 貼付する (“to paste” /tenpu-suru/).
The kanji 店 “store; shop”
There is no ancient writing. The kanji 店 is comprised of 广, a bushu madare “a house with one side open for easy access,” and 占, which was used phonetically for /ten/. Together they meant a kiosk or a place to put things. The kanji 店 means “shop; store.”
The kun-yomi 店 /mise’/ means “store; shop.” The on-yomi /ten/ is in 店内 (“inside a store” /te’nnai/) and 閉店時間 (“store’s closing time” /heetenji’kan/).
The kanji 点 “small dot; point; to add a small note”
For the kanji 点, the left side in seal style was the same as 黒 “black,” which had a chimney with soot and two fires. The right side占 was used phonetically for /ten/ to mean “small dot.” Together they signified “small (black) dots.” Adding small points also gave the meaning “score.” The kyuji 點, in blue, had 黑 and 占. In kanji “black” was dropped except the “fire” underneath 占 as a bushu renga/rekka. The kanji 点 means “small dot; point; to add a small note.”
There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ten/ is in 点 (“points; dot” /ten/), 点火する (“to light a fire; ignite” /tenka-suru/, 点検 (“inspection; overhaul” /tenken/) and 点滴 (“drip-feed” /tenteki/).
The kanji 訃 “the news of someone’s death”
There is no ancient writing. The kanji 訃 is comprised of 言 “word; language,” and 卜, which was used phonetically for /hu/. Together they meant “the news of someone’s death.”
There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /hu/ is in 訃報 (“the news of someone’s death; obituary” /huhoo/).
The kanji 赴 “to go somewhere for a new post”
For the kanji 赴, the seal style writing was comprised of 走 “to run,” and 卜, which was used phonetically for /hu/ to mean “the news of someone’s death.” Together they originally meant “to tell” and “to rush in a distance.” From that the kanji 赴 means “to go somewhere at a distance; proceed; head for (a destination).”
The kun-yomi /omomu’ku/ means “to proceed; head for (a destination).” The on-yomi /hu/ is in 赴任する (“to go to start a new post” /hunin-suru/).
9. The kanji 兆 “sign; omen; trillion”
For the kanji 兆 (a) in Old style and (b) in seal style was a pictograph of a oracle bone writing, possibly signifying the whole image of a tortoise shell with cracks. It meant “sign; indication; omen.” 兆 is also used to mean “trillion.”
The kun-yomi /kizashi/ means “indication; omen.” The on-yomi /choo/ means 予兆 “omen; indication,” 吉兆 (“auspicious sign” /kicchoo/) and 二兆円 /nichooen/ “two trillion yen.
10. The kanji 逃 “to run away; evade”
For the kanji 逃 the bronze ware style writing had a crossroad on the left, and crosses scattered, which was also used phonetically for /too/. The way in which a crack ran through rapidly in divination was similar to soldiers in defeat in a battle running away in all directions. It meant “to run away.” The seal style writing was comprised of 辵 “to move forward” and 兆, which was used phonetically for /choo/. From “a hasty retreat” the kanji 逃 meant “to run away; dodge; evade.”
The kun-yomi /nigeru/ means “to run away.” Another kun-yomi /nogare’ru/ means “to evade; miss.” The on-yomi /too/ is in 逃亡する (“to run away; fly” /tooboo-suru/) and 逃走する (“to escape” /toosoo-suru/).
11. The kanji 跳 “to leap; jump”
The seal style writing was comprised of 足 “leg” and 兆, which was used phonetically for /choo/ to mean “leaping,” from the manner in which cracks appeared in a heated bone in divination. Together from legs leaping up and down, the kanji 跳 means “to leap; jump.”
The kun-yomi 跳ぶ /tobu/ means “to leap; bound; vault.” The on-yomi /choo/ is in 跳躍 (“spring; jump; leap” /chooyaku/).
12. The kanji 挑 “to challenge; confront; go after”
The seal style writing was comprised of “hand”and 兆, which was used phonetically for /choo/ to mean “to bend.” Together they meant a hand bending something forcefully which met a push back. The kanji 挑 means “to challenge; confront; go after.”
The kun-yomi 挑む /ido’mu/ means “ to challenge.” The on-yomi /choo/ is in 挑戦 (“challenge” /choosen/) and 挑発する (“to provoke” /choohatsu-suru/).
13. The kanji 眺 “view”
The seal style writing was comprised of 目 “eye” and兆, which was used phonetically for /choo/ to mean “to disperse.” Together they meant “to look at a distance; see.”
The kun-yomi 眺める /nagame’ru/ means “to look; examine,” and is in 眺めがいい (“to have a good view” /nagame’-ga i’i/). The on-yomi /choo/ is in 眺望 (“view; lookout” /chooboo/).
14. The kanji 桃 “peach”
The seal style writing of the kanji 桃 was comprised of 木 “tree” and 兆, which was used phonetically for /too/ to mean something to split in half. Together they meant “peach.”
The kun-yomi 桃 /momo/ means “peach,” and is in 桃色 (“pink” /momoiro/). The on-yomi /too/ is in 白桃 (“white peach” /hakutoo/).
The two shapes that came from oracle bone writings, 卜 and 兆, were in the midst of the very things we are exploring –writings on oracle bones. They had been buried in the ground for over three thousand years and were fragile and broken to pieces. Being the oldest writing that connects to kanji, oracle bones provide crucial clues for us to conjecture about how each kanji was created in the extraordinarily imaginative minds of ancient creators.
We shall continue in the next post our exploration of kanji having religious origins. Thank you very much for your reading. -Noriko [May 27, 2017]