The Kanji 実貫慣賛鎖価賜唄- Cowrie (2)


This is the second post on kanji that originated from precious cowries — the kanji 実(實)貫慣賛鎖朋価賜唄. We also touch upon ‘a strand of small cowries” in kanji, such as 小少朋豊.

  1. The kanji 実 “substance; nut; berry; reality”

History of Kanji 実The top of (a) and (b) in bronze ware style, in green, was a house or a family mausoleum. The top of the inside, 毌, meant “small cowries pierced through and strung together,” and the bottom 貝 was “cowrie,” signifying valuable items or money. Valuable offerings at a mausoleum signified fullness of wealth having “substance” and wealth displayed, signifying “real; actual.” It also came to be used to mean “fruit; nut; berry.” The kyuji 實, (e) in blue, reflected (d) in seal style, in red. In shinji 実, the inside of the bushu ukanmuri was replaced by a much simpler shape that had no meaning attached. The kanji 実 means “substance; contents; fruit; nut; berry; contents; reality.”

The kun-yomi 実 /mi/ means “fruit; nut; berry; substance; ingredient,” as in 実がなる (“to produce a crop or fruit” /mi-ga-na’ru/). The verb 実る/mino’ru/ means “to ripen; show results.” The on-yomi /jitu/ is in 実は (“as a matter of fact; in truth” /jitsu’-wa/), 現実 (“actuality; a hard fact” /genjitsu/), 実現する (“to realize; materialize; come true” /jitsugen-suru/), 実務 (“practical business; administrative work” /ji’tsumu/) and 誠実な (”sincere; truthful” /seejitsu-na/). /Jit-/ is in 実際に (“really; truly; in practice” /jissai-ni/).

  1. The kanji 貫 “to pierce through; penetrate”

History of Kanji 貫The kanji 貫 was a component of the kyuji of the kanji 実 above, but the earliest writing appears to be in seal style. So I suspect that this kanji was derived from the kanji 實. (If that is the case it is a curious reverse process.) The top 毌 of the seal style writing came from two cowries pierced through, and was used phonetically for /kan/. With the bottom 貝 “cowrie,” they meant “to pierce through; penetrate; carry through.”

The kun-yomi 貫く /tsuranu’ku/ means “to pass through; pierce; keep (one’s faith),” and is in 貫き通す (“to stick with; follow” /tsuranukito’osu/). The on-yomi /kan/ is in 貫通する (“boring through” /kantsuu-suru/), 初志貫徹 (“carrying out one’s original intention” /sho’shi kantetsu/). The word 一貫 (“consistency” /ikkan/) forms various compound word or phrase, such as 一貫教育 (“all-through education; education that has a unified program of elementary and secondary schools” /ikkan kyo’oiku/), 一貫作業 (“work in a continuous process; integrated linear operation of work” /ikkan sa’gyoo/) and 終始一貫して (“be consistent from beginning to end” /shu’ushi ikkan-shite/).

  1. The kanji 慣 “to become used to; familiar”

History of Kanji 慣The seal style writing of the kanji 慣 comprised扌, a bushu tehen “hand; an act that one does using a hand,” and 貫, which was used phonetically for /kan/ to mean “linking things.” Together they signified “to accumulate.” Doing things many times makes one’s mind being accustomed to it, and in kanji the left side was replaced by忄, a bushu risshinben “heart.” The kanji 慣 means “to become used to; custom.”

The kun-yomi 慣れる /nare’ru/ means “to become used to; grow accustomed to,” and is also in 場慣れする (“to be used to a situation” /banare-suru/) and 耳慣れた (“familiar” /miminareta/). The on-yomi /kan/ is in 習慣 (“(personal) habit; custom” /shuukan/), 慣習 (“(social) custom” /kanshuu/), 慣例 (“general practice; precident” /kanree/), 慣性 (“inertia” /ka’nsee/) and 生活習慣病 (life-style related disease” /seekatsu shuukanbyoo/).

  1. The kanji 賛 “to agree”

History of Kanji 賛The top of the kanji 賛 in seal style, (a), was used phonetically for /shin; san/ to mean “offer; present.” The bottom was 貝 “cowrie.” Together they meant “to present valuable goods at an audience or meeting.” The kyuji (c) had two 先 at the top, which in kanji was replaced by two 夫. The kanji 賛 means “to present; help; laud.”

Interestingly, despite of the shape at the top in (a), (b) in the green box, which came from a seal made during the Chin Han era, had two strands of small cowries, which signified valuable things. I would imagine that this might have been due to a decorative and creative element that a seal maker chose to make it more auspicious.

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /san/ is in 賛成する (“to agree” /sansee-suru/), 賛同する (“to approve of; subscribe to” /sandoo-suru/) and 協賛会社 (“support company” /kyoosan-ga’isha.)

  1. The kanji 鎖 “chain; link; to shut down”

History of Kanji 鎖For the kanji 鎖, the left side of the seal style writing was 金 “metal.” The right side comprised small shells at the top (小) and 貝 at the bottom, and was used phonetically for /sa/. Together small metal things linked together meant “chain” and “to lock down.” The top right component小flipped upside down and became a shape called sakasashoo “flipped 小.” (This flipping of 小 in shinji happened in other kanji such as 消.) The kanji 鎖 means “chain” and “to lock.”

The kun-yomi 鎖 /kusari/ means “chain.” The on-yomi /sa/ is in 鎖国 (“national isolation; national seclusion” /sakoku/) and 閉鎖する (“to shut down” /heesa-suru/).

Notes on the origin of the kanji 小 and 少

History of Kanji 少For a long time I treated the origin of 小 as just small markers, rather than having a specific origin. But after going over kanji such as 貫, 鎖, 朋 in the context of cowries that ancient people valued, the account by Shirakawa, which explains that those were small shells, makes some sense to me now. History of Kanji 小 In the bronze ware style writing (b) for the kanji 少, shown on the left, the last long stroke of the kanji is viewed as a string that would have linked the small cowries. The history of the kanji 小 is shown on the right.

History of Kanji 朋To have a better image of the small cowries that were made into strands, the history of the kanji 朋 shown on the right may be helpful. The kanji 朋is not a Joyo kanji but we are familiar with it because it is used in a given name. In the kanji 豊 “abundance” might have had two strands of cowries that were among offerings on an altar table (Ochiai 2014: 236).

  1. The kanji 価 “value”

History of Kanji 価For the kanji 価, the right side in seal style had “person.” The right side 賈 comprised “cover” (襾) and “cowrie” (貝), and was used phonetically for /ka/ to mean “to sell and buy.” A value is something people apply. The kyuji 價 was replaced by 価. The kanji 価 means “value; price.”

The kun-yomi /atai/ means “value.” The on-yomi /ka/ is in 価値 (“value” /ka’chi/), 価格 (“price” /kakaku/), 定価 (“fixed price; manufacturer’s suggested price” /teeka/) and 地価 (“land value; land price” /chi’ka/).

  1. The kanji 賜 “to bestow; confer”

History of Kanji 賜The kanji 賜 is not a daily kanji that we would need at all. It describes an act of giving by royalty. (a) in oracle bone style had a rice wine pitcher pouring wine in a wine cup. An emperor giving a cup of wine out of a wine pitcher called shaku (爵) personally meant “to confer; bestow.” (b) in oracle bone style and (c) and (d) in bronze ware style was for 易. The origin of 易 could have been the sun’s ray and a lizard on the right, but the association is not clear. In seal style (e), 貝 was added to mean a valuable thing.  The kanji 賜 means “to bestow; confer.”

The kun-yomi 賜る /tamawa’ru/ means “to bestow; confer by a king.” The on-yomi /shi/ is in 賜杯 (“trophy given by an emperor” /shihai/) and 恩賜財団 (“royal endowment foundation” /onshiza’idan/).

  1. The kanji 唄 “folk song; song”

There is no ancient writing for the kanji 唄. The kanji is comprised of 口 “mouth; speaking,” and 貝, which is used phonetically for /bai/. It was a phonetic rendition of a Sanskrit word pathaka, which meant chanting in praise of Buddha’s virtues. In Japanese it is used for “popular song.”  The kanji 唄 means “folk song; song.”

The kun-yomi 唄 /uta’/ means “song; folk song.” There is no on-yomi.

The ancient writings for 貝 and 鼎 looked very much like each other, and sometimes they appear to be mingled. In the next post, we shall be exploring kanji that originated from a bronze ware cooking pot with three or four legs that was used to cook sacrificial animal meat for an offering in ancestral worship. Thank you very much for your reading.  — Noriko [June 24, 2017]

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