I am planning to discuss various types of measuring tools for grains or liquid in this and the next posts. Needless to say food is important in any civilization at any point of history, but when the primary source of levy was grains the fact that there were a number of kanji to measure food makes sense to me.
The kanji 量 “mass; to measure”
In oracle bone style, in brown, in bronze, and in bronze ware style, in brown, the top round shape signified an opening of a bag tied below. It signified a scale to weigh a bag of grain. What was weighed meant “mass; amount.” In Old style, in purple, and seal style, in red, 土 “dirt” was added at the bottom, and the bottom shape became 里. It is similar to the history of kanji such a 重 “heavy” and 動 “to move.” The kanji 量 means “mass, amount.”
The kun-yomi 量る /haka’ru/ means “to measure; weigh.” The on-yomi /ryoo/ is in 量 (“quantity; amount; column” /ryoo/), 分量 (“dose; quantity” /bunryo’o/), 測量 (“location survey; surverying” /sokuryoo/), 重量制限 (“weight limit” /juuryoo-se’egen/), 感慨無量 (“deep emotion; one’s mind is filled with a thousand emotions” /kangai-muryoo/) and 力量 (“ability; power; craftsmanship” /rikiryo’o/).
The kanji 糧 “food; nourishment”
In bronze ware style it had a bag tied in the middle with an opening on top, which was the same as 量 “a scale to measure grains.” The bottom was probably “rice.” Together rice measured meant “food; provisions.” In seal style 米 was placed on the left side of 量 as a bushu komehen. The kanji 糧 means “food; provisions.”
The kun-yomi 糧 /kate’/ means “provisions; food,” as in 心の糧 (“nourishment for one’s mind” /kokoro-no-ka’te/) and 日々の糧 (“earn one’s daily bread” /hi’bi-no-kate/). The on-yomi /ryoo/ is in 食糧 /shokuryoo/) and 食糧自給率 “the food-self-sufficiency rate” /shokuryoo-jikyu’uritsu/).
The kanji 両 “both; two”
One view of the origin is that the symmetrical shape was “a scale.” Another takes it as “a gourd split in two with dry seeds inside” and the third one is that it was “a handle of a horse carrier to pull two horses.” The kyuji 兩, (d) in blue, reflected (c) in seal style which had a line at the top. Ryo was a unit of currency in gold before Meiji, based on its weight. It is also used as a counter of train cars in railway. The kanji 両 means “two; double; both; a car of train; ryo (a old unit of currency).”
There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ryoo/ is in 両方 (“both” /ryoohoo/), 両立する (“to be compatible with ; coexist with” /ryooritsu-suru/), 両面 (“both sides” /ryoomen/), 両親 (“parents” /ryo’oshin/), 両人 (“the two people; couple” /ryo’onin/), 十両編成 (“ten-car train” /juuryoo-he’nsee/), 両替 (“exchange of money” /ryoogae/) and 百両 (“a hundred ryo” /hyaku’ryoo/).
The kanji 斗 “dipper; measuring ladle”
In bronze ware style and seal style it was “a ladle with a handle for scooping rice wine,” and was used phonetically for /to/. It was used as a unit of volume. One to in Japan was 18 liters. The kanji 斗 means “ladle; dipper; measurement unit for liquid.”
The kun-yomi /masu’/ means “a dipper,” and it is in 北斗七星 (“the Great Bear; the Big Dipper” /hokuto-shichi’see/)and 漏斗 (“funnel” /ro’oto/).
The kanji 料 “food; fee; provisions”
In bronze ware style it is comprised of “rice grains” (米) and “a measuring ladle” (斗). Together they meant “measured amount of food.” An official measure food to charge a fee. The kanji 料 means “to measure; food; fee; provisions.”
There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ryoo/ is in 料金 (“fee; charge; fair” /ryo’okin/), 手数料 (“handling fee” /tesu’uryoo/), 入場料 (“admission fee” /nyuujo’oryoo/), 無料 (“free of charge” /muryoo/), 送料 (“sending fee; postage” /sooryo’o/), 有料 (“charge; fee” /yuuryoo/), 料亭 (“Japanese style restaurant” /ryootee/).
The kanji 科 “section; department; charge; penalty; conviction”
The seal style writing comprised “a rice plant” (禾), which became a bushu nogihen in kanji, and “a measuring ladle” (斗). Various types of grains such as rice were sorted out using a measuring ladle and were classified. It meant “classification; section; department.” Authorities also measured an appropriate amount of fee and penalty, and it meant “to charge a penalty; conviction.” The kanji 科 means “section; department; charge; penalty; conviction.”
There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ka/ is in 科学 (“sicence” /ka’gaku/), 科学者 (“scientist” /kaga’kusha/), 眼科医 (“an ophthalmologist; eye specialist” /ganka’i/), 科目 (“subject” /kamoku/) and 前科 (“criminal records” /ze’nka/).
The kanji 斜 “diagonal; slanted”
The seal style writing comprised 余, which was used phonetically for /yo; sha/, and 斗 “a measuring ladle.” When one scoops liquid using a ladle, the ladle is held diagonally. From that the kanji 斜 means “diagonal; slanted.”
The kun-yomi 斜め /nana’me/ means “diagonal; slanted.” The on-yomi /sha/ is in 斜線 (“oblique line” /shasen/), 傾斜する (“to incline” /keesha-suru/), 斜面 (“slope” /sha’men/) and 斜陽産業 (“declining industry” /shayoosa’ngyoo/).
The kanji 升 “dipper; measuring ladle”
In the two oracle bone style writings we can see grains or liquid that this measuring ladle was scooping up. It is very similar to 斗. In bronze ware style a dot inside the cup still signified that it was not empty. 4 in seal style the three diagonal lines was simplified to one in kanji 升. One sho was 1.8 liters. The kanji 升 means “sho,” a pre-metric measurement system for liquid.
The kun-yomi 升 /masu/ means “box; private seating section.” The on-yomi /shoo/ is in 一升 (1.8 liters)
- The kanji 昇 “to rise; ascend”
There is no ancient writing. The seal style writing comprised 日 “sun,” and the bottom 升 was used phonetically for /shoo/ to mean “rise.” Together the kanji 昇 meant “to rise; ascend.”
The kun-yomi 昇る /noboru/ means “to rise; ascend.” The on-yomi /shoo/ is in 上昇する (“to soar” /jooshoo-suru/), 昇華する (“to sublimate” /shooka-suru/), 昇天 (“ascension; death” /shooten/) and昇進 (“promotion; move up” /shooshin/).
There is one more shape that describes a measuring apparatus that I would like to explore. We shall start the next posting with that. Thank you very much for your reading. — Noriko [September 23, 2017]