The Kanji 主注柱住筆律書粛津- “lamp” and “brush”


As one of the last categories of the origins of kanji we have been looking at things  around the living area. In this post we are going to look at the kanji that originated from “a burning lamp” (主) – 主注柱住 and “a writing brush” (聿) – 筆律書粛津.

  1. The kanji 主 “master; main; primary”

History of Kanji 主For the kanji 主 the oracle bone style writing, in brown, was “a flame” on top of 木 “wood,” signifying “a torch” (used outside). The bronze ware writing, in green, was “a flame” alone. In seal style, in red, it became “a burning oil wick on a long-stem oil lamp holder” inside a house. A fire was important and symbolized “the master of a house.” The kanji 主 means “master; main; primary.” [the composition of the kanji 主: 丶 and 王]

There are three different kun-yomi: 主 /a’ruji/ means “master; proprietor”; a second kun-yomi 主な /o’mo-na/ means “major; primary”; and a third kun-yomi /nu’shi/ is in 家主 (“landlord; owner of a house” /ya’nushi/), 飼い主 (“owner of a pet” /ka’inushi/) and 雇用主 (“employer” /koyo’onushu/). The on-yomi /shu/ is in 主人公 (“main character” /shuji’nkoo/), 主義 (“principle; ideology” /shu’gi/), 主観的な (“subjective” /shukanteki-na/), 主体的な (“independent; active” /shutaiteki-na/) and 主客転倒 (“mistaking the means for the end; putting the cart before the horse” /shu’kakutentoo). Another kun-yomi /zu/ comes from a go-on reading and is in 丸坊主 (“shaven head’ bald” /marubo’ozu/).

  1. The kanji 注 “to pour; pay (attention)”

History of Kanji 注For the kanji 注 the seal style writing comprised “water; liquid” and 主 used phonetically for /chuu/ to mean “staying in one place.” Together they meant “a manner in which one poured lamp oil very carefully.” The kanji 注 meant “to pour; pay (attention).” [the composition of the kanji 注: 氵and 主]

The kun-yomi 注ぐ /sosogu/ means “to pour.” The on-yomi /chuu/ is in 注意する “careful; to watch out; to give warning” /chu’ui/), 注目 (“attention; recognition” /chuumoku/), 注文 (“order” /chuumon/) and 外注(“outsoursing” /gaichuu/).

  1. The kanji 柱 “pillar; column; support”

History of Kanji 柱The seal style of the kanji 柱 comprised 木 “tree; wood” and 主 used phonetically for /chuu/ to mean “something that does not move; main.” Together “wood that stayed in one place supporting the rest of a house” was “column.” The kanji 柱 means “pillar; column; support.” [the composition of the kanji 柱: 木 and 主]

The kun-yomi 柱 /hashira’/ means “column.” /-Bashira/ is in 大黒柱 (“the central pillar of a house; breadwinner” /daikokuba’shira/). The on-yomi /chuu/ is in 電柱 (“utility pole” /denchuu/).

  1. The kanji 住 “to live; reside”

There is no ancient writing for the kanji 住. The kanji 住 comprised イ, a bushu ninben “person; an act that one does,” and 主 used phonetically for /juu/ to mean “to stay in one place” like a lamp would. A place in which one stayed for a long time meant “to live; reside.” The kanji 住 means “to live; reside.” [the composition of the kanji 住: イand 主]

The kun-yomi 住む /su-mu/ means “to live,” and is in 住み込み (“a live-in” /sumikomi/). Another word to mean “to reside” is 住まう /suma’u/ and is in 住まい (“house; residence” /su’mai/). The on-yomi /juu/ is in 住所 (“address” /ju’usho/), 住民 (“resident” /juumin/), 住居 (“housing” /ju’ukyo/), 住宅地 (“residential area” /juuta’kuchi/) and 定住 (“long-term residency” /teejuu/).

The next five kanji contain 聿 “a writing brush” -筆律書粛津

  1. The kanji 筆 “a writing brush”

History of Kanji 筆For the kanji 筆 (a), (b) and (c) had “a writing brush held by a hand.” It meant “a writing brush.” In (d) “bamboo” (竹) was added at the top to mean the brush itself, differentiating from act of writing. A writing brush usually had a bamboo handle. The kanji 筆 means “a writing brush.” [the composition of the kanji 筆: 竹かんむり and 聿]

The kun-yomi /hude/ means “writing brush” and is in 筆使い (“one’s handling of a brush; touch; technique” /udezu’kai/), 絵筆 (“paintbrush; an artist’s brush” /e’hude/), 筆まめな (“facile with the pen” /hudemame-na/), 筆が立つ (“good writer” /hude-ga-ta’tsu/). The on-yomi /hitsu/ means 筆記用具 (“writing materials” /hikkiyo‘ogu/) and 万年筆 (“fountain pen” /manne’nhitsu/). /-Pitsu/ is in 鉛筆 (“pencil” /enpitsu/), 達筆な (“skillful penmanship” /tappitsu-na/) and 執筆者 (‘the author; the writer” /shippitsu’sha)

  1. The kanji 律 “law; rules that one follows”

History of Kanji 律For the kanji 律 the oracle bone writing comprised “a crossroad” signifying “a way to go or to conduct oneself” and “a hand holding a writing brush straight up.” Together they meant “to conduct oneself in an upright manner as prescribed in a rule.” The kanji 律 means “law; rules that one follows.” [the composition of the kanji 律: 彳 and聿]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ritsu/ is in法律 (“law” /hooritsu/), 律する (“to measure; govern” /rissuru/), 戒律 (“religious percept” /kairitsu/) 一律に (“uniformly; across the board” /ichiritsu-ni/), 不文律 (“unwritten rule” /hubu’nritsu/) and 規律正しい (“disciplined; well-ordered” /kiritsutada’shii/). Another on-yomi /richi/ is a go-on reading and is in 律儀な (“upright; conscientious” /ri’chigi-na/).

  1. The kanji 書 “to write; writing; documents”

History of Kanji 書For the kanji 書in the bronze ware style and seal style writings the top was “a hand holding a writing brush upright” (聿). The bottom (者) was used phonetically for /sha/ to mean “to copy.” The kanji 書 means “to write; writing; scripture.” [the composition of the kanji 書: 聿 except the middle vertical line does not go through and 日]

The kun-yomi 書く /ka-ku/ means “to write” and is in 書留 (“registered mail” /kakitome/).  -/Ga/ is in 下書き (“draft” /shitagaki/), 横書き (“horizontal writing” /yokogaki/), 上書き (“overwriting” /uwagaki/) and 肩書き (“title of one’s position” /katagaki/). The on-yomi /sho/ is in 書類 (“documents” /shorui/) and 文書で (“in writing; on paper” /bu’nsho-de/), 聖書 (“the Bible” /se’esho/), 書記 (“secretary” /shoki/) and 白書 (“White paper –comprehensive report by the government” /ha’kusho/).

  1. The kanji 粛 “solemn; quiet; prudent”

History of Kanji 粛For the kanji 粛 (a) in oracle bone style had “a writing brush” and “a pair of compasses for drawing a circle.” Together they meant “drawing a picture on bronze ware.” In (b) and (c) in bronze ware style the brush was not present. (d) in Old style, in purple, comprised “a writing brush,” “a heart” and something else (possibly 勺 for phonetic use of /shaku/). Adding a picture to a bronze ware was serious work. From that the kanji 粛 meant “solemn; gravely harsh.” The kyuji, in blue, (f), reflected (e) in seal style. In kanji the bottom was replaced by 米, but had no relevance to the meaning “rice.” The kanji 粛 means “solemn; quiet; prudent.” [the composition of the kanji 粛: hard to describe]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /shuku/ is in 静粛に (“silently; in an orderly manner”  /seeshuku-ni/), 自粛 (“voluntary restraint” /jishuku/) and 粛清 (“purge; cleanup” /shukusee/).

  1. The kanji 津 “shoal; landing”

History of Kanji 津For the kanji 津 the bronze ware style and Old style comprised “water” “a bird” and “a boat.” A bird alighting on a boat in water signified “a boat landing area.” In seal style the right side became a writing brush dripping ink or liquid droplets on the lower left side signifying an area with little water, and it was used phonetically for /shin/. The kanji 津 means “shoal; landing.” [the composition of the kanji 津: 氵and聿]

The kun-yomi /tsu/ is in 津波 (“tidal wave; tsunami” /tsunami/). The on-yomi /shin/ is in 興味津々 (“of absorbing interest; having a keen interest” /kyo’omi shinshin/).

In the next post we are going to look at kanji including those that originated from musical instruments.  Thank you very much for your reading.  -Noriko [March 17, 2018]

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